The results from the first stage of RamCompare were released at the Sheep Breeders Round Table held at Eastwood near Nottingham. Angela Calvert reports.
Over the two past breeding seasons as part of RamCompare, the UK’s first commercial progeny trial for terminal sire rams, more than 4000 ewes have been mated with 70 rams from a mix of five terminal sire breeds.
The progeny have been recorded for a number of traits from birth to slaughter including DNA testing of all 7000 plus lambs. In addition, saleable meat yield and tenderness scores were collected from a proportion of the lambs.
One aim of the project was to compare the performance of progeny by rams of different breeds for a range of traits. From the data produced so far a series of reports have been generated which rank the leading sires used in the trial for traits including eight-week weight, scan weight, muscle depth, fat depth, carcase weight, carcase conformation, carcase fat class and overall carcase merit.
View the reports here www.ramcompare.com
Three of the estimated breeding values (EBVs); carcase conformation, carcase fat and carcase weight, are new to UK genetic evaluations and reported here for the first time. A days to slaughter EBV is being developed. Other on-farm data such as ultrasound measurement of muscle and fat depth has been used to enhance existing EBVs.
Sam Boon from Signet pointed out that caution should be taken in making comparisons between breeds: “The results only rank the performance of animals in the trial. It is not a competition between breeds. In some cases animals in the top 1 per cent of the breed were put forward and for other breeds animals only in the top 25 per cent so a direct comparison cannot be made.
“However, most breeds were represented at the top of the table for each trait. All breeds had positive areas and areas where improvements can be made. “Within breeds some rams performed well for traits not usually regarded as strong points for that breed.”
Liz Genever, AHDB beef and lamb livestock scientist explained that one of the driving forces behind the project is to get a larger proportion of lambs to hit market specification. She said: “We have proved that by collecting data in this way we can feed carcase traits into genetic valuations. These new EBVs ultimately will help farmers to select rams which will produce the type of lamb they are aiming for.”
The RamCompare results will be updated in May 2018 with the inclusion of 1,500 carcase records for lambs born in late spring 2017. The trial will continue for the next three production years involving eight commercial farms across the UK and one research farm in Northern Ireland and will be extended in include the Blue Texel, Bleu du Maine, Poll Dorset and Beltex breeds.
Data from RamCompare will also filter into Signet Breeding Service’s combined breed analysis (CBA) which is to be introduced in February 2018.
What has been learnt from RamCompare