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Genetics of lamb survival - Webinar 27th March 2020

Update: Webinar replaces Breeder Meetings

AHDB and HCC had organised a programme of breeder meetings with Forbes Brien, to discuss the genetics of lamb survival and other genetic topics.

Unfortunately we have had to postpone these meetings. However a Webinar took place at on Friday, 27th March to cover these topics.  


New thoughts on improving the ewe flock through genetic selection

In the last 40 years the knowledge and tools available to UK sheep producers to make better breeding decisions have made huge leaps forward. Breeding values for growth and carcase traits are widely available and maternal lines can easily be selected to increased prolificacy and maternal care.

With benefits to the sheep industry derived from genetic improvement exceeding £10.7 million per annum (AbacusBio Report, 2015), we have tackled many of the easy to measure traits within our sheep populations to breed ewes that are more profitable, more efficient and have a lower environmental footprint.

In recent years, AHDB funded research undertaken at SRUC has developed breeding values for traits that are harder to measure and less heritable – but extremely economically important. Breeding values for lamb survival, ewe longevity and health traits like parasite resistance are now available – but how can we make them more accurate and ultimately more valuable.

A fresh look at breeding for maternal traits – Forbes Brien

Dr Forbes Brien is an Associate Professor with the University of Adelaide. His career has seen him as both farm manager, extension officer and senior researcher. In recent years his research focus has looked at the genetic influences on lamb survival, as well as research for the Australian wool industry on breech strike. He also spent several years studying the impact of selection for growth and carcase traits upon the fatness of ewes and the resulting impact on their reproductive performance.

We are pleased to announce that AHDB have sponsored Forbes to speak at this year’s British Society of Animal Science Conference in Nottingham (30th March to 1st April 2020) to further our understanding of a number of issues, including

  • Genetic influences on lamb survival and ways we can improve the trait
  • The impact of changing lamb carcase traits upon ewe performance
  • The genetics of ewe behaviour
  • Optimum culling strategies

While visiting, he will also be delivering farmer meetings in conjunction with AHDB and HCC; and providing a webinar for those further away or lambing!

The one-day meetings are taking place in three locations;
  • POSTPONED Wednesday 25 March (1:30-4:00pm): The George Inn, Longbridge Deverill, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7DG
  • POSTPONED - Thursday 26 March (1:30-4:00pm): Welshpool Livestock Sales, Buttington Cross, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 8SR
  • POSTPONED - Friday 27 March (1:30-3:30pm): The British Charolais Cattle Society Ltd, Avenue M, Stoneleigh, Kenilworth, CV8 2RG (limited availability)

To book your place for any of the above meetings, please book online here, email [email protected] or call 01904 771218. Please specify any dietary requirements. Attendees must be over 16 years of age.

For those who can’t attend the meetings in person, there will also be a webinar running at 10am on Friday 27 March which can be booked HERE


Forbes is currently president elect for the 2021 conference of AAABG (Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics) For more information about Forbes head to

Forbes Brien is a key speaker at the British Society of Animal Science, BSAS, Conference in Nottingham, (30 March - 1 April), thanks to sponsorship provided by AHDB. 

While he is in the UK, he has kindly offered his time to speak at these breeder meetings we have arranged. We fully recognise for many farmers it stretches across lambing time and we are sorry this may limit your involvement. Please do book on the webinar if you can’t attend the meeting, which you can either listen to live or as a later recording at a time that suits you.

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