Lamb genetics project delivers positive results

The early results of an innovative research project to improve genetics in lambs have shown the initiative has gotten off to a strong start. 

RamCompare has been created to improve lamb genetics by including commercial data in genetic evaluation. Data analysis on the first crop of lambs is currently underway.

The six project farms that have been taking part in the programme have been closely watching the growth of the lambs, recording the animals’ weights at birth, eight weeks, 90 days and at sale.

“Early analysis has shown a pleasing amount of variation, with some sires excelling and progeny growing quickly,” commented project coordinator, Bridget Lloyd.

According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, more than 3,600 lambs were born in 2016, sired by 39 different rams registered for the project. The eight sires that were used via artificial insemination averaged 30 lambs each, while the number of lambs from each natural service ranged from 47 to 154. The aim was for each animal to sire 50 lambs, a target that was met in all but one group.

Top 25 lists will be produced for rams on test for eight-week weight, scan weight, muscle depth and fat depth estimated breeding values (EBVs). New EBVs will be created for when animals go to slaughter and for their carcase value. The list of rams will be published in November 2017.

“It is a busy time as we enter the second year of the programme,” added Lloyd. “The six project farms have been provided with four new rams to join natural service groups. The groups include some of last year’s rams to strengthen the linkage between years. All the newly selected rams have EBVs in the top 20% for their breed and will provide variety for other rams on test.”

In total, the project will have tested 68 rams over the two years.

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