Grow and Go – A Meatlinc sire tops the latest RamCompare results for growth rate
One of the much admired rams at last year’s RamCompare open day at Hutts farm, near Ripon was a Meatlinc ram bred by George Fell. The latest RamCompare analysis shows he is actually the highest rated ram for growth rate that has ever been tested – as well as having one of the best breeding values for Days to Slaughter, a new breeding value developed by Signet Breeding Services as part of the project.
Don’t think growth rate, think days to slaughter
Looking at the complete dataset, the RamCompare project shows a strong relationship exists between a ram’s Scan Weight EBV, a breeding value used by ram buyers up and down the country to purchase rams, and the days taken for lambs to reach slaughter weight. Rams with high Scan Weight EBV’s consistently get lambs away more quickly.
Lambs by this Meatlinc sire (HRF:09012) had an average carcase weight of 19.45kg at 190 days of age, compared to the rest of the trial lambs at Hutts farm which averaged 18.83kg at 220days of age. The Meatlinc sired lambs finished on the clover rich leys of this organic farm achieved this nearly a month earlier.
Genetic gains from weight recording
For those of you who already have an interest in performance recording, the result won’t be a great surprise. The ram was selected on the basis of his breeding values and sits with the top 5% of a breed whose foundations have been firmly rooted in weight recording for the last four decades.
Since 1990, the average Scan Weight EBV for Meatlinc sheep has increased by over 10kg, which is a massive change in the genetic potential of the population.
While much of the breed’s progress has been made through a dedicated programme of weight recording and the use of ultrasound scanning technology to assess carcase attributes, the last decade has seen even faster gains through the widespread use of Computed Tomography (CT scanning). The CT scanner is used to assess muscle yield, carcase shape, spine length and even the number of chops. All of the sires used in the Meatlinc breeding programme are now CT scanned which means that every Meatlinc sale ram has a CT scanned sire and grandsires. This benefits both current Meatlinc buyers and the future breeding programme.
More Meatlinc achievements
Ram’s from Meatlinc breeders Clive and Jenny Richardson, George Allison and Richard Vines all feature in the latest RamCompare results – with three of the top five rams for Muscle Depth EBV, also being Meatlinc.
Muscling is as important to this group as growth rate, as they aim to produce a commercially reared ram that will produce progeny that grow and finish quickly and have a high yield of meat throughout the carcase.
Commercial Farmer Mark Exelby, who ran the trial at Hutts farm comments, “We have had Meatlinc rams here in the past so I am not unfamiliar with the breed and I was pleased to reintroduce them to the farm. We had noticed that the lambs from HRF:09012 were very thrifty at birth and weighed well at 8 and 12 weeks of age. We noticed at the time we were drawing lambs that there seemed to be plenty of Meatlinc sired lambs in the earlier groups when selecting finished lambs so I am not surprised to see he has done well. We look forward to watching the performance of the newest addition to Hutts Farm with George’s former stock sire HRF:09404 being used to produce this seasons lambs.
Breeder George Fell says “It’s great to see our focus on selecting for economically important traits, such as growth rate, having a really impact. Years of forage based selection has shown its worth on this forage based, organic system. Growth from grass is key to most sustainable sheep systems, and it’s great to see our Meatlinc rams helping commercial farmers achieve this. ”
Footnote from the Author, Samuel Boon:
This news would have delighted Henry Fell, the founder of the Meatlinc breed and George’s grandfather. Henry sadly passed away this month at the age of 90. Henry was a pioneer in the world of livestock breeders and years ahead of his time. His work lives on through the Meatlinc breeding programme and of course the books he wrote. He was well aware and very pleased about how well the Meatlinc were performing within RamCompare, when I met him last summer.