Researching how to manage large-scale breeding programmes in beef and sheep, Perthshire farmer Neil McGowan is travelling to North America and New Zealand as part of his 2015 Nuffield Scholarship. Aly Balsom asks him what it is he is hoping to learn during his tour.
Q: Your Nuffield travels are taking you across the globe to look at different breeding systems. Why did you decide to get off the farm and look abroad?
Q: Your pedigree Lleyn flock is already nationally recognised, so what are you specifically looking to improve in the flock?
I want to look at how breeders manage to cope with recording sheep flocks of 20,000 or 30,000 head and what benefits are in all the data. I specifically want to see how they record and select for parasite resistance.
We have made big progress in our flock as we have been doing faecal egg counts for 10 years. When we dung sampled 30 Lleyn rams 10 years ago, we noticed high egg counts on all lambs sired by one ram, while another’s offspring produced almost no eggs. It is about building genetic profiles in the flock and this comes down to sire selection.
This is part of making sheep a better lifestyle choice. Obviously there is also a need to limit the use of anthelmintics and preserve their use for the future.
Q: So it is all about improving efficiencies. How are you trying to do the same in the beef side of your business?
Q: How might UK beef selection change in the future?
Q: You are heading back to New Zealand in November. As well as worm resistance, what else are you going to look at while you are over there?