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.
To date four commercial Lleyn partner flocks in Perth, Shropshire, Leicestershire and Devon have been recruited for the programme. In total these flocks are providing 1160 ewes to the project, ranging from 160 – 400 per flock. To serve these ewes, 35 pedigree, recorded ram lambs from 10 flocks have been procured and along with AI sires these rams will produce about 1800 slaughter lambs to be analysed next year.
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 last year 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.
Looking ahead, this year an additional two flocks in Dumfries and Fife, with more than 300 Scotch Mule ewes have been recruited. The Society has purchased 26 pedigree recorded shearlings from eight flocks, and these along with AI sires, will cover the 1130 ewes to be mated this year, aiming to produce at least 1800 slaughter lambs next year.