Performance recording can be a useful tool in flock management and genetric selection, but like many things the information you only get out what you put in. The more reliable the data used to make the calculations the better the information will be.
To get the maximum benefit from performance recording your flock the Texel Sheep Society recommends the following protocol be adopted:
Activity – Record and submit weights for all shearling ewes when the rams are put in
Why? – This allows mature size of ewes to be monitored/selected for. Smaller ewes can be more efficient by producing more Kg of lamb/hectare, plus stocking density can be higher = more £ return
Activity – Record birth weights of all lambs and record all dead lambs
Why? – Allows the correct treatment of the lambs in the analysis (single/twin/triplet) and allows the ewe litter size to be accurately calculated. Birth weight submission also makes it possible to identify lines that lamb easier thus potentially reducing workload at a busy time.
Activity – Record eight week weights of all lambs (done between 42 and 84 days of age)
Why? – Allows the maternal ability of the ewe to be calculated (i.e. its milking ability), plus provides an indication of the lamb’s growth rate while on its mother.
Activity – Record 21 week weights and ultrasound scan all lambs
Why? – Allows the individual lamb’s growth rate to be calculated. Selecting for high scan weights will produce faster growing lambs. Ultrasound scanning allows accurate back fat and loin muscle depth to be assessed allowing exceptional animals to be identified. This information can be used to inform breeding decisions or as a marketing tool if the animal is to be sold.
Activity – CT scanning of selected ram lambs at 21 weeks
Why? – This step is optional, but highly valuable as the additional insight provided from the CT scanner is truly amazing. You will know the killing out % of the lamb without actually killing the animal. Values are calculated for bone, fat and muscle and the output allows breeding decisions to be made as it is a great way to identify exceptional animals that can be used for home use or that can be sold to others looking for those particular carcass attributes.
Activity – Use management groups to ensure data is treated correctly
Why? – If you have lambs within your flock that are managed differently, then ensure they are identified and that weight data is submitted in different management groups. Examples of where management groups could be used are if you have a show team that is being fed differently, or if you have a group of lambs that have experienced severe orf or other health issues. An additional management group prevents these animals being compared against the “normal” group and will ensure their performance is not inaccurately calculated.
Activity – Record all animals
Why? – Unless you record all lambs you will be selectively recording and this will supress your top achievers. Within the analysis there needs to be a range of good, bad and ugly. This range provides the real context within which your “top performers” can be identified and treated accordingly.
As we move rapidly into a genomic world the importance of collecting these measurements or phenotypes has never been more important. Genomics is based on the power of numbers and these numbers are the large data sets collected by the performance recording community. Without extensive data collection the full power of genomics cannot be harnessed as scale is vital.
The Society fully recognises the benefits as well as the disruptive potential of genomics and has produced a breed development strategy to ensure that genomics can be leveraged by its membership in a fair and considered way that benefits the future of the breed.