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First Major Commercial Progeny Test for UK Sheep Industry

07 April 2015

UK – Genetic evaluations will soon include male sire information after an industry partnership, expected to improve sheep genetics, kicks off in May.

The pilot project, announced by EBLEX last week, hopes to eventually incorporate lamb performance data for rams, similar to progeny tests in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

RamCompare will use data from farms and abattoirs and is a two year project run by levy boards across the UK, foods companies and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

First of all, six commercial farms will produce in excess of 500 lambs per farm per year via artificial insemination from Texel, Suffolk, Charollais, Hampshire Down and Meatlinc breeds over the 2016-17 seasons.

A total of 67 rams will be used, each from the top 20 per cent of each breed, all with good linkage to pedigree flocks, according to EBLEX.

“Data from their lambs will be collected through to slaughter,” said an EBLEX press release.

“This data will be evaluated to see whether its inclusion in the rams’ genetic evaluations identifies differences between sires and improves their accuracy. A ranking of the tested rams, based on commercially important traits, will be generated at the end of 2017.”

RamCompare is a first for the UK, according to EBLEX breeding specialist Sam Boon.

“This will be the first time a commercial progeny test has been established in the UK on this scale," he said. 

“It will enable the performance of progeny by different rams to be compared under commercial conditions; therefore it will be an important step in allowing animals to be compared irrespective of breed.

“The ambition is that, in time, one genetic analysis will be produced that will encompass data for all terminal sire breeds.”

Top image via Shutterstock