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Thistleyhaugh Farm - Genetic influences on carcase conformation shine through

Thistleyhaugh Farm, Northumberland - Genetic influences on carcase conformation shine through

The speed with which lambs are finished off organic clover leys is extremely important to Duncan Nelless at Thistleyhaugh. In 2020, 852 lambs produced an average carcase weight of 18.6 kg at 102 days of age. However, the most interesting differences observed in this year’s data set relate to the genetic merit of his rams for carcase conformation.

A range of high-genetic-merit sires were used, with over half of the lamb crop grading U or better – but some sires far exceeded this benchmark. Top of the list was Foulrice Tempest, 18DG08105, nominated by Andrew and Jan Walton, Cheshire. Within Signet’s evaluations, he ranks highly for lean meat yield and gigot muscularity – two traits assessed using the CT scanner, which the Waltons proactively support and base their ram breeding strategy around. Over 90% of his lambs achieved the top two conformation grades.

His grandsire, Dalby Ranieri, 16PE04907, got 70% of his lambs in this category – but producing 19.2 kg carcases at 91 days of age, he became the highest-ranking ram at Thistleyhaugh for overall carcase merit. Producing lambs worth £3.22 above the flock average, Ranieri sits in the top 5% of Signet’s Terminal Sire Evaluation.

Splitting the pair, a high-index Blue Texel from Sue and Aubrey Andrews, with a Terminal Sire Index in the top 1% of the breed, was another of this year’s highest-ranking rams for carcase conformation.

Value of recorded rams at Thistleyhaugh Farm

  • Top sires for carcase merit = Generated an extra £3.41/lamb
  • Top sires for days to slaughter = Reduced finishing time by 4 days

Key message

Signet’s breeding values for growth and carcase traits clearly highlight the most profitable rams within this commercial enterprise.