RamCompare 

RamCompare will investigate the inclusion of commercial data in sheep genetic evaluations.

It will enable the performance of progeny by different rams to be compared under commercial conditions; therefore it will be an important step in allowing animals to be compared irrespective of breed. Rams from five different terminal sire breeds will be used across six large commercial flocks.

RamCompare is a pilot to trial strategies for data capture and will be similar to central progeny tests that are taking place in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. 

The RamCompare project, which began in May, will work along the supply chain to get lamb performance data from farms and abattoirs included in genetic evaluation. The project is a pilot to trial strategies for data capture and will be similar to central progeny tests that are taking place in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

The two-year pilot project is financed by AHDB Beef and Lamb, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), Quality Meat Scotland and Agrisearch, with support provided by the Sainsbury’s ‘Big Data’ Agriculture R&D Grant Scheme, Randall Parker Foods, Dunbia and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

The first stage of the project will involve developing a network of six commercial farms that will use artificial insemination (AI) and single-sire mating to produce a crop of over 500 lambs per farm per year. In the UK the sire of most slaughter lambs is not known at present, so this approach will enable sire information to be collected. These farms have now been selected and details can be found on the RamCompare website at www.ramcompare.com

67 rams from five breeds – Texel, Suffolk, Charollais, Hampshire Down and Meatlinc – will be tested across these flocks over the 2016 and 2017 lambing seasons. The rams will be representative of the top 20 per cent of their breed based on their estimated breeding values (EBVs) and the AI sires will have good linkage with other pedigree flocks.

Data from their lambs will be collected through to slaughter. This data will be evaluated to see whether its inclusion in the rams’ genetic evaluations identifies differences between sires and improves their accuracy. A ranking of the tested rams, based on commercially important traits, will be generated at the end of 2017.

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