A Tale of Two Texels
Grey Peel Texel top for Carcase Value
Top ram for overall carcase merit in RamCompare this year is Grey Peel Lear Jet, HMF05019 bred by Maurice Hardy-Bishop. This ram was shown to have high genetic merit for carcase weight – and when taking into account the carcase grades of his progeny, he came out as the top ram for overall carcase merit.
Lear Jet was used at Mint and Mustard, one of the RamCompare enterprises based in Suffolk and run by Richard and Carol Parry. His genetic merit clearly suited this production system, where lambs are finished on forage over the winter. This ram was bred as part of a breeding programme that relies heavily on CT scanning and is a son of Handbank Jack the Lad, bred by the Payne family whose Handbank Texel rams have performed so well with carcase value traits throughout the RamCompare trials.
A tale of two Texels – Thinking about days to slaughter
RamCompare, launched the new Days to Slaughter EBV last year alongside those for primal meat yield and shear force (tenderness). The data from this farm shines light on another Texel ram, PAP1702436 bred in the Penygelli flock of Alwyn Phillips – with slightly lower overall genetic merit for carcase value – his EBV for Days to Slaughter is over 3 weeks earlier – the best for any Texel on test this year. While only half this genetic merit is passed to his offspring, this is still a significant difference.
Days to slaughter is less important on this farm, which has very low winter finishing costs – but in enterprises with higher costs – using creep feed or selling onto a falling market, using rams with superior breeding potential to get lambs finished quickly can have a massive financial impact. There are also less visible benefits from faster finishing; it reduces the risk of loss, enhances cash flow and reduces the grazing pressure on the rest of the flock, lifting the performance of other lambs through increased forage availability. Whilst some of these benefits are hard to measure, don’t discount the value of reducing days to slaughter – a trait that can be greatly influenced by selecting sires with high Scan Weight EBVs.
Penygelli genetics for growth and conformation
This success will come as no surprise to Alwyn, the breeder of PAP1702436 and long-time supporter of RamCompare. Decades of weight recording on what is very much a forage based system have dramatically lifted the growth rates of his flock. They are now some of the highest in the country, but carcase quality is important too and that is why he makes use of the CT scanning service to enhance carcase yield.
CT scanning to increase yield
Alwyn’s focus on CT scanning is certainly paying off, with two of the top ten rams for carcase conformation (out of 211 tested to date) coming from Penygelli. Each year Alwyn sends his best ram lambs to the CT unit, where he is able to get data on the yield of meat from the carcase, eye muscle area, spine length and even the number of chops. The use of the CT scanner, which has been strongly supported by HCC in Wales over the last decade, has really helped to drive his flock forward. Leading CT scanned ram lambs are used widely within the Penygelli flock, driving rates of genetic gain to support Alwyn’s commercial Texel ram buying customers in the future.
A breeders view of RamCompare
On hearing of his success Alwyn says “This project clearly shows the value of investing in high EBV rams. We cannot control market prices, but we can influence costs of production. Selling lambs three weeks earlier makes financial sense and reduces our carbon footprint".
"For our flock, commercial progeny testing is a great leveller which enables us to demonstrate the way that grass reared genetics perform – without the need for high levels of concentrate feeding. RamCompare has undoubtedly helped to raise our profile as Texel breeders, with recent interest from Europe, New Zealand and across the UK, however the important thing for me is to see this work completed."
"All my farming life I have seen good projects stopped before completion. RamCompare is by far the biggest scientific project carried out on commercial grass farms. In the short term it is helping farmers to understand and value the benefits of buying rams using EBVs, longer term it has massive potential to enhance carcase quality, reduce our environmental impact and develop new services, such as those associated with genomics." he concludes.
To find breeding values for Society registered performance recorded Texel sheep go to https://www.itexel.uk/