31 October 2023
Using the results from the ultrasound scanning we selected the rams for CT scanning and took them to the CT unit. Once the data returned it showed that we have got some of the top Hampshire’s in the country for their overall genetic merit. The benefit of using EBVs, is that it allows us to make direct comparisons to the genetics of sheep in other flocks and management systems. Our top three ram lambs have indexes (overall genetic merit) of 414, 381 and 352 which is fantastic for us to achieve. We are also look to be making progress in the spine length and eye muscle area of our sheep.
Through September we were able to get another few draws away, meaning by the end of the month we only have around 20% of the finishing lambs left on farm. The aim is to have the majority gone by the middle of November with only a few not so good doers left behind to carry over winter. They have graded well, with the majority Rs and Us which we find is perfect. This year we have been able to grow a good cover of grass and forage crops ahead of winter. We moved the mature ewes onto the fodder beet to give them time to get used to it and their rumens adjust ahead of tupping in November.
We also had the PAC trailer here this month, measuring 72 ewe lambs for their methane emissions. This is part of the Breed for CH4NGE project and will feed into the data for the three year project. It will be interesting to see what the results are. The project is looking at ewe and lamb performance and parasite resistance too, to help breed sheep with a reduced impact on the environment in the future.
As part of the project we have continued to blood test a selection of lambs for their parasite resistance. This looks at the level of IgA level in the blood, which is linked to the sheep’s immune response to worms. A higher IgA level, the more resistant the sheep. I think this is a very exciting trait and we have been using it for the past 3 years.
We have also got round to buying and selecting our rams for this year, the majority of the ewes will go to existing stock sires. For the Hampshire’s we tend to try and use a few of our top ram lambs too to gain the benefit of their high genetic merit. We have also purchased a ram lamb from the Sidwell flock as an outcross and help diversify our genetics. We also bought a new Lleyn shearling from the Stonehouse flock, 1547/2222330 which was selected for his maternal ability, litter size and parasite traits. We have also bought a handful of shedding ram lambs, these are to use on our ewe lambs with the potential to start a shedding flock to reduce inputs and costs. Using these on our ewe lambs, in theory means we will get the benefit of the genetic progress we have made in the Lleyn flock, with the input savings of shedding sheep, I am looking forward to seeing the results.