A number of research and development projects are underway which will deliver added value for members and commercial customers in the years to come.
Video Image Analysis project
This project aims to deliver novel phenotypes for carcass merit and animal health and integrate these into the Texel breeding programme. Health and performance data from the nucleus of pedigree Texel phenotyping farms, and thousands of related crossbred animals, sourced from commercial producer flocks, will be combined with new, innovative visual imaging technology and meat hygiene data at slaughter. Ultimately the project aims to effectively turn the conventional breeding ‘pyramid’ upside down by using commercial data to influence selection in the pedigree nucleus flocks.
In the first year about 1500 lambs have been produced by 1160 ewes. Early slaughter results indicate lambs are grading extremely well.
As we enter the second year, one flock has withdrawn from the trial, but we have two new flocks joining the three remaining flocks from year one. This gives us a total of five project flocks this year, contributing 200-400 ewes per flock to give a total of 1200 ewes in the project. The flocks are located in England, Scotland and Wales and represent a range of production systems.
To sire next year’s project lambs, 36 new performance-recorded Texel sires have been procured for the project this year, originating from 11 Texel flocks located in England, Scotland and Wales. This brings the total number of AI and natural mating sires used in this project to 80 over two years.
Taste vs Waste project
This project aims to identify the type of sheep that lay down less carcass fat while delivering a tastier product. Around 58% of UK lambs meet the desired market specification, however, the use of modern breeding methods and technologies, as well as accurate information can improve this figure. Working with SRUC’s computerised tomography (CT) scanner and the traceability system in a major meat processor’s abattoir, is allowing individual carcass feedback data on thousands of lambs from Scotch Mule ewes mated to pedigree, performance recorded Texel Rams to be collected. There are financial and environmental benefits to this work. Firstly, reducing the amount of carcass fat will improve feed conversion efficiency and, secondly, there will be more high quality meat for the plate and less waste in the bin.
From the two flocks used in 2017 more than 1100 project lambs, by 26 different sires, have been born. Of these, more than 400 have been fully processed with around 700 still to finish.
In the second year more than 1700 lambs have been born to 1130 ewes mated to 40 natural and AI sires. A total of 57 sires have been used in this project over two years, spread across three commercial farms and SRUC’s Barony flock. Lambs have been finished at all four of the project farms and they continue to grade extremely well.