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Ewe Longevity Could Save UK Farmers Over £4 Million

25 November 2014

UK – Increasing ewe longevity could be worth £4.35 million through higher productivity and reduced cull rates.

This is according to levy board EBLEX which is funding a Scotland Rural College (SRUC) project aiming to find the best way to include the productive lifespan of sheep in UK breeding evaluations.

Genetic solutions for ewe lifespan can hugely benefit farmers – by as much as £1- £1.50 per head - as rearing or replacing ewes is costly, said EBLEX.

Average replacement rate for UK farms is around 20 to 25 per cent.

“Improving productive lifespan in our sheep flock increases maternal efficiency and reduces greenhouse gas emissions as fewer replacement ewe lambs are required,” said Dr Joanne Conington, SRUC Livestock Geneticist.

Dr Conington, who is leading the research, highlighted that improving aspects of maternal performance is the key to reducing wastage and flock inefficiencies.

She said: “By identifying and avoiding the use of under-performing families and strains of sheep, and by highlighting good ‘maternal’ rams for breeding, farmers can better select their breeding stock with the additional breeding tools that it is hoped this project will deliver.”

The research will outline longevity and then determine if it is possible to use existing performance recording datasets to gather information about it. 

EBLEX Breeding Specialist Sam Boon is optimistic about the potential applications for this research.

He said: “In recent years there has been a massive increase in interest in the recording of maternal breeds and the purchase of Signet recorded rams to breed female replacements.

"These tools will build on this interest and place greater focus on the efficiency of performance within our sheep flocks.”

Initially three breeds, including the Poll Dorset, Lleyn and Texel, will be used because of the large data sets stored by Signet and all cover both maternal and terminal sire breeds.


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