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Press article April 2020

Producers are being urged to access online services to find breeding stock in the wake of Covid-19 closures

The cancellation of agricultural shows and breeding sales due to the measures and restrictions put in place as a result of the pandemic, has left sheep and cattle producers struggling to source their breeding stock in the usual way. With the new breeding season fast approaching, commercial producers can use to find breeding stock and local breeders.

The Signet website features several ways to search for breeding stock, including searches based on the genetic merit of Signet-recorded sheep and cattle. Lists of the leading sheep and cattle are also posted on the site.

A new sheep for sale section, which saw more than 100 sheep added in just 24 hours after the lockdown was announced, lists rams, ewes and semen that are for sale either at auctions or directly off farm. The breeder, breeding index and postcode of each animal is listed, allowing producers to easily refine their search. For further clarity, the search results return a full record of each animal’s estimated breeding values (EBVs).

Flock finder and herd finder allow producers to search for breeders in their region. Contact details for ram and bull breeders who record performance with Signet are listed. Commercial producers can quickly and easily find the flock or herd closest to them based on their postcode, as well as their EBVs.

AHDB’s Samuel Boon, who heads up Signet Breeding Services, says: “Signet is all about helping producers to improve their profit by improving the genetics of the flock or herd. Our new website has so many tools to help producers to find the right animal for their production system. The website is also proving to be even more useful in recent weeks due to the closure of breeding sales, with recent activity showing this is an important tool for producers in these challenging times.”

AHDB is reminding producers to act early to source breeding stock. To allow time for an MOT and a quarantine period, rams should be sourced at least ten weeks before mating. Plan for the coming breeding season by visiting

How you can use to find high index sheep and cattle

Exploring information when you know the identity of sheep and cattle

When you know the name or number of an animal use the ‘quick search’. For UK numbers you need to use the format: UK 0 xxxxxx. Every recorded animal has their own page, where you can find the following information:

  • Pedigree
  • Owner and breeder
  • Performance data (EBVs, Indexes and charts)

Understanding the charts

The genetic merit of animals are calculated as EBVs. The charts help you quickly assess and compare animals on their genetic merit without detailed knowledge of EBVs. Bars on the charts show the scale and direction of the genetic merit (bars to the right show desirable performance).

Breed benchmarks can help you compare animals to the rest of the breed. The top performing animals are in the top: 5%, 10% and 25% of a breed.

Indexes are the simplest way to select animals, which are values for animals calculated from several EBVs.

Learn how to find the best sheep and cattle for your farm

To search for animals that meet the specific requirements of your farm use the ‘EBV search’. Decide which traits are most important to your farm and set EBV or Index thresholds. You can search the whole breed or specific breeders, owners, ages and sexes.

The results show sheep (and their EBVs) that meet your criteria, which you can order using EBVs to find the top performing sheep in each trait.

Finding your nearest performance recorded flock or herd

Enter your postcode into our new ‘flock or herd finder’ to find your nearest performance recorded flocks and herds for a breed.

Discover a growing number of performance recorded animals for sale

You can easily find animals for sale using our ‘search sheep or cattle for sale’.  Select a breed and sale type of your choice (on-farm, auction or semen). Listings can be ordered by index, breeder or age, for more detailed information you can ‘click through’ to the sheep’s page to check all their information.

Explore breed results to quickly find the top performing sheep or cattle in a breed

Sheep are listed as:

  • Shearlings
  • Ram lambs
  • Stock sires

Cattle are listed as:

  • Sire summary
  • Promising young bulls


About the author

Samuel Boon

Samuel Boon

I am the Manager of Signet Breeding Services, within the AHDB.

Enthusiast on all things genetics to do with sheep and cattle and currently also supporting Bridget Lloyd in running the @RamCompare progeny test with ~18,000 lambs/annum.

I am also involved with the:-

  • Relaunch of Terminal Sire Breeding Programmes (Sheep)
  • AHDB lead for the Welsh Sheep Breeding Project run by HCC - working with Innovis, HCC and Janet Roden
  • Database design and development for this website
  • National Sheep Breeds Survey
  • Development of Carcase Trait EBVs in Beef Cattle
  • Formerly involved with the delivery of the Welsh Sheep Strategy, Northern Upland Sheep Strategy, Suckler Cow Project, Highlands and Islands Sheep Strategy

I can be followed on Twitter @SamBoonBreeding