Thursday, July 7, 2022

NZ sheep genetics could improve British sheep industry

Research commissioned by leading British retailer Marks & Spencer suggests New Zealand sheep genetics could improve British sheep industry efficiency.

“For a number of years commercial volatility has seen increasing numbers of sheep producers leaving the industry in the UK,” Marks & Spencer’s head of agriculture and fisheries sourcing Steve McLean said.

“We commissioned this work as one of our PaceSetter projects within our Farming for the Future programme.”

A lamb trial was undertaken on two upland flocks by Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

The trial compared a typical British production system of Mule and Texel x Mule ewes with Highlander and Highlander x Blackface ewes to represent different replacement breeding strategies.

The research found that replacing Texel rams with Primera resulted in faster growth rates and a higher proportion of high-value cuts, while switching from Mule to Highlander ewes offered the opportunity to develop a more sustainable lamb supply chain.

“The Highlander ewe showed excellent fertility and rearing ability and the Primera-sired lambs portrayed superior growth rates and had higher wholesale value,” AFBI scientist Dr Ronald Annett said.

“Hopefully this study will make UK farmers think about what drives their returns. It highlights the importance of production efficiency, rather than focusing solely on lamb price or carcass conformation.”

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