Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 24 September 2017

Trials show variations within pedigree rams breeds

Pictured is James Walker, Croom, Co Limerick, the champion young handler at the Irish Texel Growvite All Ireland Championships at Clonmel Show with Brian Hanthorn, Armagh, judge. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
Pictured is James Walker, Croom, Co Limerick, the champion young handler at the Irish Texel Growvite All Ireland Championships at Clonmel Show with Brian Hanthorn, Armagh, judge. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Trials of more than 40 pedigree rams across seven different breeds have revealed that there are bigger differences in performances within breeds than between them.

Adjusted 40-day weighings showed that the average weight for lambs sired by Texel, Suffolk, Charollais, Lleyn, Vendeen and Belclare rams is almost identical, with a range of 14.1kgs to 14.8kgs. The only group of lambs to break the 15kg barrier were sired by Bluefaced Leicester rams.

"This proves that the variation across breeds is not significant," said Sheep Ireland's Éamon Wall.

"It is only when we look within breeds that we can see major variations, with up to 7kg between the top and bottom performing sires. While ewe influence up to 40 days is hugely significant, the wild variation between sires within breeds is certainly food for thought," said the breeding specialist.

Mr Wall added that the weaning weights that were being collected over the coming weeks would give a more accurate picture of the rams' genetic potential.

Traits

Lambing difficulty was another one of the key traits analysed, defined as a ewe being unable to lamb without intervention.

While Wall said that every breed had individual rams that scored poorly on this, some rams had very negative scores, with two animals resulting in 19pc and 17pc of their progeny requiring assistance.

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"But there were also rams within the same breed at the other end of the spectrum, where 0pc lambing difficulty was recorded," said Mr Wall.

"The degree of variation is almost hard to believe, and it cannot be detected by the naked eye.

"The easiest way for farmers to avoid difficult lambers is by using high accuracy €uro-Star rams with good indexes for these traits.

"Even if they aren't able to buy rams that come out of these trials, their progeny will also be a good bet because of the heritability of these traits," Wall added.

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