Farm Ireland

Thursday 18 January 2018

Using flock recording

John Noonan

Flock recording is a serious component of many Scottish sheep farmer operations, and among the leaders in flock recording are Sandy, Ann and Tom Welsh of Mossfennin Farm, Broughton Biggar, Lanarkshire.

The Welshs farm 1,300ac, of which 200ac is enclosed green. The 600-ewe flock was all Blackface up to five years ago when they started to bring in 'easy care' sheep. The flock is now predominantly easy care, with all remaining Blackface ewes being mated to easy care rams this year.

Sandy, Ann and son Tom justified their decision to move to easy care sheep based on the fact that they shed all wool and are easy to manage, with only 2.5pc lambing difficulty.

Ann outlined some advantages of recording, including increasing carcass weight from 15kg to 18kg deadweight over a 10-year period, improving the number of twins born and moving finishing forward by two months.

All ewes are jumbo tagged and, at mating time, the ewes are single sire mated so as to identify the ram each lamb is out of. The lambs are tagged and weighed at birth, again at eight weeks and a third time at weaning. They are scanned for muscle depth, fat depth and are given an overall index that includes maternal traits.

High index ram lambs are given 50-60 ewes to increase genetic gain and get more information.

Rams are compared to large numbers of rams from across other flocks and are put into categories -- the top 5pc, top 10pc, top 25pc and the average.

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Irish Independent