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Practical pointers

Practical pointers

Please play your part in helping to ensure accurate recording:

Record all lambs

Ensure that you record the details of the entire litter for any ewe’s lambing, including dead lambs. Do not just submit the lambs you think are good or that you want to retain. Include all fostering and embryo transfer details.

Weigh crates

Keep these in good condition and oil them before use. Check that they are weighing accurately by using a couple of 20kg bags of feed. It is important that the weights are accurate between 15 and 45 kgs at 8 weeks of age rather than worrying that the indicator needle always returns to zero.

Weigh sheets

Weigh lambs between the ages of 42 and 84 days of age to ensure that an adjusted 8 week weight is calculated. A weight at 8 weeks indicates that the ewe has reared a lamb and is used for the calculation of both 8 week and Maternal Ability EBVs. Usually a flock can find one day to weigh all lambs. If your lambing is protracted, or you lamb in two distinct periods, you may have to weigh later lambs on a later weigh day. Always work out the latest day to weigh by adding 84 days to the date the first lamb was born.

Weights

Whether you submit on a paper-based weigh sheet, online or by farm software, please remember to indicate the weigh date/s and whether the weights are in lbs or kgs. It may seem obvious to you but a series of weights around 35-45 could be either lbs or kgs depending on breeding, feeding and management.

8 week weight results

This is an important data set, whether you use it for selection and culling purposes, or just for checking the data we hold on the database is accurate:

  • Check all lambs alive in your flock are listed and are the correct sex
  • Check that lamb dates of birth are correct
  • Check that each lamb has a sire and dam and they are correct
  • Where any lamb does not have a sire or dam, inform TSS of any missing information
  • Check all lambs have an adjusted 8 week weight, if not, check your own records to ensure that they were weighed and within the correct age range
  • Check all lambs have an adjusted 8 week weight, if not, check your own records to ensure that they were weighed and within the correct age range
  • All adjusted 8 week weights will be expressed in kgs, irrespective of whether they were submitted in lbs or kgs. Check that the weights look correct
  • Check that the stock sire identities are accurate
  • Use the ram progeny list to check that stock rams used in your flock over time have not been mistakenly recorded under more than one identity
  • If you want the ram name listed, inform the Society of the missing information
Ultrasound Scanning

If you have submitted your lambing data in plenty of time, the technician will have received an electronic file of your flock. As each lamb is scanned the identity and sex is cross-checked and ensures another point of validation. When completed, the technician will leave a printout of the raw data showing all the lambs in your flock, sire and dam of lamb, and the scanning information including age at scan, weight, muscle and fat depths.

  • Identify any different management groups accurately. Early and late lambing groups may need scanning at different dates. Show teams may have been fed differently, you must inform your scanner to ensure that lambs have been managed in separate feeding groups.
  • Rear lambs in as large a contemporary group as possible. Recording small numbers of lambs, or having them evaluated within several small groups means elite lambs are less likely to stand out. If small groups have to be used ensure the scanner is aware of them.
  • Ensure the lambs are heavy enough to scan. Lambs are recommended to be between 35 – 40kg.
  • Check that there is a muscle and fat depth present for all lambs scanned.
  • Check the sire and dam is correct for each lamb.
Final results

If you have taken steps above to check your data, the final result printout should not need further checking for data accuracy and can confidently be used to aid selection decisions.

If you have not received an earlier printout, please follow the checklists above.

Using EBVs to make the best breeding decisions
Breeding evaluations are relatively risk averse, depending on good quality data to identify animals that are truly genetically superior. Don’t select sheep on EBVs alone, as this provides no guide to structural soundness, but equally don’t select them entirely “by eye”.

Set flock breeding objectives – then identify EBVs of importance
Before making any breeding decisions consider your breeding objectives and the strengths and weakness within the flock.

Select high EBV ewe lambs
Some flocks draft the ewe lambs they like the look of into a pen and then deselect those with poor EBVs; others select those with the highest EBVs and then cull those they don’t like. Both approaches should achieve the same objective.

Cull low EBV stock ewes
In established flocks the regular replacement of older, low EBV stock ewes with high EBV shearlings will greatly increase rates of genetic gain. In new flocks the culling of stock ewes on their EBVs should be carried out with more caution, as less may be known about their true breeding potential, particularly for maternal traits.

Consider using homebred ram lambs
These may be your best source of genetics. If usually sold as shearlings they may also provide a cost effective mating solution.

Mate the top stock ewes with care
Only those ewes in the Top 20% of your flock are likely to produce a future stock ram worthy of use in the home flock. It is vital you get these ewes mated to the right sire. Occasionally a breeder puts all of their best ewes to a new unknown sire, this is a massive risk – which rarely pays off.

Using well-known rams
Consider using at least one well-known (from a recording point of view) sire. The performance of their progeny will enable more accurate comparisons to be made to other recording flocks. This might involve exchanging or sharing recorded rams with other flocks.

Testing rams
Test “unknown” rams as fairly as possible; ensure their progeny are born at the same time as those by other well recorded sires. Ensure they produce at least 10-15 fully weight recorded progeny in any year, more in large flocks.

Use Accuracy Values
Accuracy Values indicate the likelihood that an EBV will change over time. They are useful when assessing the breeding potential of sheep from less well recorded flocks.

All of these decisions should form part of an integrated breeding plan that also needs to minimise increases in rates of inbreeding.

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