|Recording Your Flock|
|What you need to know|
|What you need to do|
|What you want to achieve|
|Costs and Benefits|
So you want to start recording your flock!
- What you need to know
- What you need to do
- What you want to achieve
- What will it cost and what benefits can you expect
- How you get started
1 - What you need to know
Because the results generated from Performance Recording come from both the physical performance of each animal, and the performance of their close family relations, e.g siblings, half-sibs, parents, grand parents and aunts and uncles, it is helpful if you have at least some idea of the parentage of the animals in your flock. Initially this is not always possible particularly if your flock is not pedigree, but it is really helpful if you can even identify the ewes to their respective fathers.
In some cases even this is not possible, but do not let it deter you, you will get there but it may take an extra year or two before the accuracies of the figures come up to a meaningful level. (In UK sheep flocks, accuracy rates of over 60% are acceptable in most traits) Accuracies vary depending on the traits you are looking at. Because litter size and maternal ability are not as highly heritable as some of the other traits, for example growth rate, the accuracies for these traits always appear to lag behind. However the sooner you start the better the accuracies you get in your flock.
2 - What you need to do
Before the tups go out with the ewes in the first year of recording, you should compile a register of all the ewes you are going to record. Put as much information as you can in this register. Note the individual ewe's age, whether she was born as a single, a twin or a multiple if possible and all the information you can gather on the tup she is to be mated with. Many people choose to put distance readable tags in their ewes as this can save a lot of
time and trouble at lambing, particularly if you are lambing outside.
Pregnacy scanning is advisable but not essential.
At lambing time each lamb has to be individually identified and correlated to its parents. (The Scottish Sheep Strategy will supply showerproof lambing diaries) Date of birth must be recorded, whether single, twin or multiple, also the number of lambs survivng from each parturition. The sex of the lamb must be noted down, and it is useful if you can weigh the lambs at birth. Again it is recognised that this is not always practical or possible but we would encourage people to try to do this. This information should be sent to whoever is doing the calculations for your particular flock as soon as possible after lambing is finished.
About nine or ten weeks after the start of lambing, the lambs need to be weighed, the weights recorded and once more the information sent to the organisation who is providing the sevice. If the lambs are run in different groups this should be noted and the information passed on to the service provider. This operation can often fit in with other management tasks, when you will be gathering the sheep for some other job.
The next time that you need to do anything is at weaning or when the lambs are averaging about 21 weeks of age. This is the time the lambs are weighed and an ultra sound scan is done to measure the muscle depth and the fat depth over the loin.
The gimmers which you are going to introduce to your flock should be weighed prior to being introduced to the tup for the first time.
Many breeders record most of this information for their own use at the moment so it should not be too onerous, particularly for pedigree flocks.
3 - What you want to achieve
Most people have a vision of what they want their flock to be like and what market they are aiming for. Everybody, however, wants their flock to be profitable and the majority of people feel that they must still keep on trying to improve what they are doing.
Many pedigree breeders are extremely able and have been successful in breeding what they think is their ideal sheep through visual appearance and reference to blood lines or pedigrees. However there are traits in sheep which have significant economic value which cannot be detected by eye alone.
In a commercial situation it has been proved time and time again that it is the total weight of lamb sold each year which has the biggest impact on the profitabilty of the enterprise.
The traits which are measured and used to calculate the overall index are
- Eight Week weight
- Mature Weight
- Litter size
- Maternal Ability
- Scan Weight
- Muscle Depth
- Fat Depth
Many people use the individual traits to help them achieve their aim, and this often means that the ideal sheep for their purpose at the time does not necessariliy need to have a very high index.
4. What will it cost and what benefits can you expect?
Signet charges £120 per flock, irrespective of size, plus £3/ewe. This means for a 20 ewe flock the costs are £180, and for a 50 ewe flock £270.
Scanning is an extra cost and although it is not essential it is advisable to do it for the first few years to establish a ranking within your flock.
Scanning is done by an independant contractor and his rule of thumb charges are £175 for a visit and the first 100 lambs. Any number of lambs over 100 will be negotiable.
Most people see recording as a tool to assist in the selling of tups, but that is only one of the benefits. There is no doubt that more and more of the commercial producers who are buying tups every year are looking for sheep with good figures and many people are now looking for more naturaly produced tups sourced privately. This can prove to be a great saving in time , feed and commision. There are several producers of tups who price them on their figures and this appears to be a system which is gaining popularity
The real benefit is harder to evaluate, but is in the long term much more significant. The performance of the ewes in the flock will improve year on year. Results from The Focus Farm trials show conclusively that daughters of High Index tups outperform their flock mates in terms of number of lambs reared, weight of lamb reared and speed of reaching finishing weight. Because these gains come from genetic improvement they are cumulative and sustainable.
5 -Getting started
Contact the Strategy and your information will be forwarded to Signet. You will then be sent a form to list your ewes and stock tups. Fill it in and return it as soon as possible.
The lambing stationery will then be sent to you, which again you have to fill in and return. We are working on getting electronic data transfer to reduce the amount of paper work but that is not available just yet. It is better if you return the lambing data before the 8 week weighing as this data will trigger the generation of a pre-printed list of the lambs to be weighed.
After the 8 week weights are received you will get a provisional set of figures for each individual sheep. This can be used to assist in making provisional breeding selections. After the submission of the weaning weights and the scanning data you will get the final set of results.
Willie Wilson, Scanner 07740611545