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Fast finishing Hampshire Downs now finish faster

By Bridget Lloyd, RamCompare Project Manager

New AHDB research shows clear advances in the Hampshire Down breed, with selection for growth leading to both an increase in carcase weight and a reduction in days to slaughter.

In performance recorded flocks we use estimated breeding values (EBVs) to demonstrate a ram’s genetic potential for carcase traits; this provides an important way to demonstrate a ram’s economic worth. Recent research looking at the genetic relationship between the traits we measure in pedigree flocks and those we measure at the abattoir show positive genetic trends for the breed in these important attributes, with improvements in growth rates (assessed as the Scan Weight EBV) leading to both a reduction in days to slaughter (faster finishing lambs) and an increase in carcase weight, both of which are important economic traits for the commercial lamb producer.

The graph below shows the relationship between these EBVs and shows the improvements made in recent years.


  • Scan Weight EBV – has increased by 3kg since since 2010
  • Days to Slaughter EBV – shows progeny are finishing 4 days faster than in 2010
  • Carcase Weight EBV – indicates carcase weights are increasing. They have increased by about a quarter of a kilogram since 2010 and the rate of improvement is increasing.

RamCompare, the national progeny test, supports Hampshire Down breeders that performance record their flocks within Signet providing evidence of how Hampshire Down sires with high EBVs perform on commercial farms and has enabled the development of more accurate predictors for carcase value.

Complimenting the long-standing breeding values for Scan Weight, Muscle Depth and Fat Depth, we have a series of new breeding values which include Days to Slaughter, Carcase Weight, Conformation and Fat Class. Since the combined breed evaluation update last spring, these abattoir derived traits are published for all performance recorded rams. 

This analysis provides sound marketing information for pedigree breeders demonstrating an accurate and unbiased way to compare the genetic potential of different animals. Individual breeding traits can be used as evidence to reassure commercial ram buyers and clearly confirms the progress being achieved within the breed.

Due to the keen involvement of Hampshire Down breeders supporting the RamCompare project we have tested 62 Hampshire Down sires and collected data from birth to slaughter from over 9,500 of their progeny. Please continue to support our national progeny test through nominating your rams to RamCompare for use this season!

About the author

Bridget Lloyd

Bridget Lloyd – RamCompare Project Coordinator

After finishing university, Bridget worked on two well-known sheep research projects operating out of Aberystwyth University; the Longwool project and the Welsh Sheep Strategy.

In the year 2000, Bridget took a leading role in Cymru Breeding Services, (later Innovis and now known as AB Europe). Bridget was centre manager specialising in ovine fertility, operating a stud for 100 rams and coordinating four vet teams. She has specialised in ovine fertility and has worked closely with pedigree sheep and their breeders throughout her career.

With an extensive background in the sheep industry she now runs RamCompare. Her main responsibility is to liaise with project farms and abattoirs to ensure the data submitted is accurate and delivered on time, as well as co-ordinating the communication plan and ram nominations....and hundreds of other things.