Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waidalerams Newsletter August 2012

It’s that time again, well a bit earlier as I am hoping to get this out by the end of this month. Our last 18 months (until the beginning of August) has just been amazing, hardly had to irrigate for two summers, regularly rain, grass growing (occasionally a little dry). If I farm for another 20 years I somewhat doubt we’ll have another run like that. However 1 August, it literally wet itself; on our place we had about 15 inches in 15 days, some areas a few kms away 18 plus inches in same time. Just a bloody nightmare, never seen it so wet, had to spread the ewes out early just to avoid sleepy sickness, as breaks just turn into mud in minutes. Only good thing is I am losing some guts by having to walk up and down hills in the mud to shift breaks. My hoggets were looking amazing, the ewe hoggets and terminal ram hoggets are now brown with massive mud dags, and they have just had a gutful of mud and rain. Fortunately got Romneys shorn, bit late but done and they look good. Hopefully it’s over and things dry up and the amazing waidalerams will not only be the part but also look the goods as well come November!!!!!

Our Fourth On Farm Sale will be at 3pm on Wednesday 28 November 2012 with around 160 plus Rams being put up for sale: approximately 60 Romneys, 50 Southdowns, 50 South Suffolks, half dozen Suftex rams and perhaps a Lincoln or two. I believe that quality wise they will be the best I have put up to date: Romneys are again very good; consistent type, good wool and good fertility. The Southdowns should be the best line-up I have offered for sale for a few years, (I had two sires that bred well in the same season, who would have thought!!). South Suffolks again good meaty terminal sires. For those who haven’t attended my sale before, I do hope you can find the time and the inclination to come and have a look and if nothing else have a beer and sausage on me, the more the merrier.

One thing I would add, in my opinion naturally, is that you will struggle to find a line of rams with consistently better hindquarters than what I have got, that’s in all my breeds, it’s because I do place a lot of emphasis on this. The only way to achieve it is through stockmanship, there is no reliable statistic, breeding value or measurement that tells you if a ram has got a good hindquarter, it comes down to assessing by eye, the length, width, carry out and depth and then breeding for it, yes stockmanship, which as I have stated before is sadly lacking with some breeders these days!!! If the meat companies ever legitimately (as opposed to saying they do) get around to paying a real premium for meat yield, hindquarter will be a big part of it, given it’s a substantial part of the carcass and the second most expensive cut (behind the loin).

On Line Sale: Our Helmsman sale will be run in conjunction with AgOnline for the third straight year. Last year we sold 12 rams online as opposed to one the year before. It is certainly something that is growing and gaining credibility with an increasing number of farmers. Not only by those who cannot make it to the sale and decide to select their rams from the videos etc or alternatively those who look at the rams prior to the sale and then bid from home, but also those who do attend sale day, as some are doing their homework prior to the sale by looking at the videos and data and narrowing it down to those they want to look at on the day. All the performance data (including hopefully this year the weight of the ram around the time of videoing to give you a rough comparative gauge of his size) and 20 second videos (it should be high definition this year) of each ram will be On Line for viewing about 3 weeks prior to the sale. Note this year there will be a television in the corner of the woolshed whereby you can ask to view the video of the ram you maybe interested in to get a better idea as to how he may move.

The Helmsman auction is increasingly being accepted by farmers as a better way to buy rams (as opposed to a traditional auction) as clients (and I) believe it allows one to buy a more consistent line of rams, your not being forced to decide how much you might want to pay for, say your fourth pick, before your first comes up, as may occur with a traditional auction, you can access and bid on all rams up to the closing of the sale. From a vendors perspective I think it probably eliminates very high prices but spreads the money over more rams, which is fine by me. Again I reiterate I believe a helmsman auction run in conjunction with an online sale is the future direction for sale, despite the work involved!

I am presently getting a short video edited so that you can see how the sale actually works, with my dulcet tones being placed over the top to hopefully explain how it all works. I expect to have this on my website for viewing in a month or so and it may be loaded on the AgOnline site as well when the online auction goes live.

The 14 Romneys I take to the Feilding High Performance Romney Fair on 20 November 2012, will again be offered at AgOnline so you can bid on them, with the highest bid being the reserve on the day of the sale and as such if there is no higher bid at auction, then they will be knocked down to that bidder. Last year I averaged $1600 for these rams, with some being sold for a $1000 only, so they can be bloody good buying! As I said last year it would be easier for me to simply put these rams in my sale, but I believe in supporting a central fair that allows those looking for a good ram to go to the sale and buy a ram as opposed to having to visit every breeder to view their rams. However by putting them online as well it gives everyone access to these rams if they so desire. You could of course just get an agent to buy them for you if you wish!!

Visiting Clients: Each year I allocate a window to do all this and to date each year my best laid plans come unstuck; our recent water deluge has made it a nightmare and when you are running the place on your own, it just makes it difficult to get away. I have visited a few of you, but lots I have yet to do so. My plan now is hopefully October. I doubt I will get around everyone, but hopefully over a two to three year period I will. Again as I said last year this is extremely important for me to get the feedback about my rams, how they are doing under your management and on your country. It’s great to get good feedback, but the negative is probably more important so I know what might need addressing or is already being addressed by me in my breeding program. If you want to ensure I see you this year, give me a ring and I will make sure it happens, otherwise I will just turn up, if your home all well and good.

Amazing new developments in Waidale’s breeding program!!!!

Good heading, but the reality is we don’t have a brand new silver bullet; we are not using some new revolutionary gene test that will make you millions. The secret to the quality of our rams is consistency of quality which comes from stockmanship and the utilisation of science that actually helps breed better rams not simply market those rams: I still

• don’t drench the adult ewes (those that don’t handle it are culled, our pragmatic worm resistance program): and

• practice an extended drench program of 6 to 8 weeks on our lambs (except for those we cull and kill); and

• cull all year around for conformation constitution etc, all good breeders are always doing this; and

• only use sires that look as they should and have good SIL figures (a good ram with poor figures will not be used and similarly a poor ram with great figures will also not be used); and

• practice the dying art of stockmanship which ensures our flock is of a consistent type that reflects the type of sheep I should be breeding, i.e. good on feet legs, good jaw, good eyes, good colour, good length, good width, good depth, good hind quarters etc. Only sheep that look the part are kept, irrespective of how good its SIL figures maybe. You do this for long enough your phenotype will reflect the genotype, which greatly increases the likelihood that a ram you like the look of will actually pass on the production traits you see in that ram; and

• have all flocks (except the Lincolns) SIL recorded; and

• footrot and cold tolerance profile sires to ensure I am not using a dud ram; and

• eye muscle scan all rams I keep through the winter; and

• cull all Romney ewes that have two singles in a row; and

• mate our ewe hoggets for 18 days only; and

• tag all lambs at birth to ensure accurate pedigrees which in turn promotes greater accuracy in SIL figures; and

• wean in excess of 150%, more like 160 these days, almost irrespective of what they scan; and

• have an honest upfront attitude. I pride myself on my directness and my honesty; and

• have an extensive website, which details all of the above and more; its worth a look; and

• have an opinion on most things as you can probably tell from this news letter.

Wool: Who the hell knows what is happening here, it would seem that the economic crisis in Europe and the continual stuttering economy of the US is the principal reason for the 40% drop in prices from last year. (Just read an article in famers weekly suggesting manufacturers have a lot of finished product on hand they need to get rid of before stocking up on raw wool). Given that the exchange rate was high last year as well and there is still bugger all wool around the world, it seems ludicrous that the $5.10 I got for my second shear winter Romney wool last year is probably going to be in the vicinity of $3.10 to $3.20 this year (Note at this price the ewes still nett after shearing costs in excess of $15 a head per year, not as good as $29, but still a cheque worth having when you still have to shear them). Prior 2011 you often heard “I don’t get enough to cover shearing costs” my response to this was always “they must have crap wool on their sheep”. In my view if you still have to shear them, you may as well have good quality wool on them as it does pay, and contrary to what some people say (normally those selling sheep with little wool) you can breed a sheep with plenty of meat and wool, it’s not mutually exclusive!! If you do maintain a good fleece, then when things do hopefully turn around again, you are well positioned to take advantage of good prices. I maybe a bit biased being a passionate Romney breeder, but seriously I think it’s hard to dispute such pragmatism.

Wools of New Zealand: I see they are trying to get farmers to invest in this now with some prospectus about to come out. I find this a bit laughable because I think originally this was indeed an entity that belonged to us all at the outset, but then it was sold to WPI (effectively Pggw), but I think there was a condition that it could not be owned by a private company, hence with the failure of WPI it was placed in trust and not taken over by Pggw. If I am right as to the above then it’s a bit farcical that we are now being asked to invest in it again.

Mobile CT Scanner: As a councillor on New Zealand Sheep breeders I was delegated the task to find out about the possibility of obtaining and operating a mobile CT Scanner in New Zealand. There is presently one operating in Scotland. If we can pull it off and perhaps expedite the way it is done, then it has the potential to make a significant difference to the sheep industry as a whole, as hopefully the accessibility and cost would not be prohibitive as it is realistically at present. I would like to think that Ct scanning all my ram hoggets instead of eye muscle scanning (which of course simply provides you with a gauge of the eye muscle and nothing more) would then become an option and therefore as you should be scanning a statistically reliable sample of each sire’s progeny, you will get genetic information about the animal as opposed to what most people get now by simply doing one or two; namely getting confirmation or otherwise of what you see, but no genotypic information. We are still trying to ascertain the specifics of the Scotland operation to determine if it will be economically feasible, but here’s hoping.

Ovita and Snip Chip Sheep 5K: My views on the Sheep 50K snip chip are set out in the appendix to this newsletter, basically it’s a waste of time at present, breeders who presently use it, use it for marketing purposes not for breeding better sheep. However NZ Romney is working closely with Ovita to provide DNA samples of all Romney sires from our Meat yield trials in both the North and South Island and encouraging all our Members on SIL to supply DNA samples from all their sires. The aim of this is to provide a wider database to get the get the accuracy up from its present approximate 45% on the various traits to hopefully in time above 75% or more and to develop new traits including facial eczema. At that point I most certainly would use it based on such accuracy because it should enable me to make significant genetics given it’s more likely to be right than wrong as it presently is.

Footrot Gene-Marker Test: The following I took out of Dr Jon Hickfords recent Lincoln University newsletter which I thought may assist some farmers to understand this test better:

“Our original gene-marker test is now being used in eleven countries. With the last two wetter seasons in New Zealand there have been a lot of reports of increased footrot, especially in the usually “lower” rainfall regions (i.e. under 650mm). Farmers who have never, or only rarely had any footrot issues, have seen the disease active for the first time in many years. As an example, one apparently “footrot-free” farm had us test for the presence of Dichelobacter nodosus on several occasions. Unfortunately for them, the organism was present. It needs to be said again, that the footrot gene-marker cannot guarantee you sheep that are footrot resistant. They are “on average more tolerant”. We choose the wording carefully, as even sheep that we rate as 1,1 can, and some do, get footrot. Equally, a few 5,5 sheep may never get footrot. The reason for this is that footrot tolerance has a low to moderate heritability. Some recent heritability estimates are around 20%, which means 80% of variability in the trait is environmental in origin. While we believe that our gene test explains some of the genetic variation it certainly doesn’t explain all of it! This doesn’t mean the gene test is ineffective, just that breeding for improved footrot tolerance is a challenge. Breeders’ …….. who just selected for footrot tolerance by culling affected sheep, took many years to establish their robust flocks. This stated, when we tested their flocks, we very rarely found any sheep with either 4 or 5 scores and a very high proportion of 1-scoring animals. Our advice to users of the test remains therefore to work away from sheep with 4 or 5 scores, either by culling, using the genetics in a terminal-sire system, or by mating to ewes with better scores……. We do not promulgate the argument that 1,1 rams are “bomb-proof”, just that “on average” they are less likely to get footrot than animals with higher scores.”

Meat Companies: I have to say that I am not too impressed with them at the moment, I appreciate that the state of Europe and the high exchange rate was and is a reason why the schedule price dropped so drastically last season and will be considerably less this season. However the cynic in me questions whether the price was dropping quicker than it should this last year so the meat companies, who were active in the store lamb market (who all paid ridicolous prices early on for store lambs) could recover some of their losses from its very own shareholders, you and me. My neighbour had in excess of 5000 lambs grazing for CMP, for which the schedule would have to of been $7 or better for those lambs to break even, but the schedule was no where near that when killed. If it had been a farmer who overpaid for those store lambs, it would only be that farmer who suffered the loss, not all of the cooperative shareholders if the cynic in me is correct. I think they should keep out of the store lamb market, they can link buyers to sellers, but leave the rest up to them.

I am an alliance supplier, but my loyalty is being severely tested in recent times. They claim to give you a meat yield premium, but their drafters last season had a piece of paper to show you how if x% of the line you draft meet the yielding threshold, then their schedule would be competitive with SFF. In other words it’s not a premium they adjust the schedule to simply keep what they pay in line with principally SFF’s schedule.

I was also assured prior to last year’s season that the yield grading would be changed for this upcoming season to a system whereby you would get paid a separate premium for meeting shoulder, loin and hindquarter thresholds, one would not been dependent on hitting the threshold of the other, but it seems these may have been words uttered to simply placate me at the time. I do think this is very important so as to ensure that the emphasis is on the more expensive cuts i.e. the loin and hindquarter; because at present if you fail on the shoulder (the cheapest cut of the carcass) you don’t get any premium for loin or hindquarter even if you exceed the threshold. We need to ensure that we maintain the right shaped sheep and focus on the expensive cuts and not end up with sheep with massive shoulders that we have spent the last 20 years trying to fine down simply to get this so called “yield premium”.

The other issue with the Alliance’s alleged premium is they have two different rates, last year $4.50 up to 80% of lambs that yield; over 80% of a line yielding you got $6 a lamb. One justification for this was the handling of such lines, surely this is farcical, presumably the chain is computerised and as such all carcasses that meet the yield thresholds are just automatically sent to differing store locations? Secondly the other justification put forward for a staggered premium is that its supposed to create a greater incentive to have more lambs meet the yield threshold, if you are getting paid a premium I fail to see how an extra $1.50 makes you strive any harder to reach the magic target of 80%: we all want to make as much as we can so naturally you are always trying to breed better meat yielding animals are you not?.

Finally I wish the meat companies would issue contracts which are the same for all who have lambs killed in the same week and not have different prices for traders or third party suppliers (who aren’t even shareholders). I personally would sign a contract to supply lambs at a price less than a competitive processor if I knew the company I supply was treating everyone the same; as I would back that company to do a good job and reap any reward as a pool payment later on. We have to address this ridicolous procurement system we have and it has to be done while lamb is worth something, not when it’s worth nothing and no one gives a stuff about it. This last year the way the schedule dropped it reminded me of the petrol companies, how they all seem to do the same thing at the same time, amazing!!!

Romneys Today: Twenty five years ago Romney breeders were probably a bit arrogant, they did not take heed of the market, they were too big, slab sided, woolly headed and low in fertility. The corporate breeders (as I call them) were quick to meet the market at that time producing a smaller open faced Romney that produced more lambs (some by some dubious means). As a consequence hundreds of traditional Romney breeders went by the way; they could not sell their rams as they weren’t what the market wanted.

But for those of us who are still breeding today, I believe a good analogy is how many farmers perceived the Southdowns in recent years, where up until a couple of years ago, the most common comment about this breed from farmers to me was “how they had changed so much in recent times: gone from a short small wasty animal to a bigger longer and leaner sheep” still quick maturing, truly a good terminal sire. My response was always the same: “there is no better incentive to change the breed than not being able to sell them, however Southdowns have actually been a very different breed for many years now, but it’s only in recent times that the majority of farmers have become aware of this.” I believe this is the case for the modern Romney, like Waidale Romneys: they are a medium sized sheep (not massive, but not small either as many Romneys have become too small, there is a happy medium), they are open faced while still maintaining good wool weights, fertility is no longer an issue (150, 160% weaning is common place these days) and yet they are still great mothers with good survivability and constitution. In other words over time I believe farmers will slowly realise that the modern Romney is so different from 25 years ago and has been for quite some time now and that they are in fact as good as if not better better sheep than a lot of corporate Romneys or indeed various crossbreds that have become common place in recent years.

Science and cross breeding: I have again added as an appendix my thoughts on this despite the fact I included it in my newsletter last year because this news letter is going to a number of people who did not get it last year and I think its very important that people think about the issues I raise, even if they don’t agree. I have updated it somewhat, but if you read it last year you may wish to skip it this year.

As you can tell this is not strictly speaking a newsletter, it’s more of a forum to express my thoughts and make people think. If we all express our views who knows what may develop from what initially maybe simply a throwaway comment. If there is anything in here that requires clarification or you would like to debate, please feel free to give me a call, I enjoy a good constructive debate.

The Catalogue will be uploaded at and live around 3 weeks before the actual sale date of 28 November 2012: all you will have to do is go to that site and click on the Waidalerams sale icon to get there. Those of you who would like a catalogue posted out to you, just forward me an email confirming the same with your postal address and I will ensure you get one. I hope to see you all at the sale and have a beer with you.

Yours Faithfully

Ike Williams

Appendix to Newsletter 2012:

Breeders using Science to sell rams, but not necessarily improve rams.

This is increasingly becoming more the norm than not, it annoys the hell out of me. You need to seriously question what some breeders dribble on about. A lot of the time it is simply a marketing tool to sell rams, but adds no value genetically to those rams. I am always evaluating the various things that come out to see if they will add value to my operation, a lot of it doesn’t stack up under critical evaluation:

Footrot and cold tolerance test: I Dna profile for this (although the threshold for cold tolerance needs to be lifted dramatically), but these are useful gene tests that do assist in providing a genetically better animal.

The following, I seriously question the merits of the test or how it is being used by breeders:

Worm Star test; its approx 80% about growth and 20% about worms, SIL gives you reliable data on growth rates so this is a total waste of time and a marketing gimmick

Carla Saliva test for worms: I got the information on this with the definite intention of doing my lambs, but after talking to a couple of colleagues, (one who has been involved with Agresearch for many years) I am fairly cynical as to whether this adds any value whatsoever to genetic heritability in my rams. I still to be convinced in 2012.

Sheep 50k Snip chip: This now costs in the vicinity $400 per ram (as opposed to 8 or 900) to get what? Take for example the number of lambs born breeding value via this chip, it has an accuracy of around 45%, yes that’s right 45%, so its wrong 55% of the time. If fertility is what you are looking for, find an honest breeder and ask what their track record is on fertility, for instance with our Romneys we have weaned around 150% for 10 years now; in recent years more like 160%, i.e. its tracking upwards. I have just read an article in the Strait furrow where it’s promoting this test, but to me its all marketing puffery, the most significant thing they don’t mention in the article is the accuracy of the test, I know it still is topping out at 45% accuracy on any trait, so ask yourself why would you use it. The Pfizer rep advised “that’s better than SIL” (for e.g. Nlbbv), which is correct but it still doesn’t make it any use does it?

Myomax gene test: This is a Texel specific gene test only, so if someone is advertising Romneys with a single and/or double copy of this gene, then they are not Romneys at all, they are simply crossbreds: i.e. a Romney that has had a Texel put over it, it could be ½ Romney, ¾ Romney etc. Good luck to anyone who wants to do this, but I would ask that breeders don’t try and deceive Farmers by advertising them as Romneys because they are not!!!! There is at least one breeder I know of who is marketing rams with single and double copies of Myomax as Romneys not crossbreds. Similarly Suffolks advertised with the myomax gene are Suftexs (yes crossbreds).

Note myomax gene essentially means 10% more eye muscle than what the animal would already have, so be wary if the animal has a crap eye muscle in the first place, one copy of myomax will give you 10% more of crap, which is not a lot!. You don’t need myomax to get high yielding lambs, the RNZ meat yield trial has shown that, with lines of Romney lambs yielding 56 to 58%.

The other thing that I believe is happening from chasing very high yielding lambs and high eye muscle in particular is that the length of the loin and the hindquarter is shortening up; this is across all breeds, which results in lambs taken longer to kill. You need to maintain length in both areas as well as yield to get the best of both worlds. This is an issue because there aren’t any objective tests to measure this: it comes down to stockmanship, which as I have harped on before is a dying art amongst breeders.

Some of you may think I am arrogant in stating the following but I seriously believe that my stockmanship as to what constitutes a good animal is why my rams are as good as they are, consistent selection on phenotype (what they look like) over many years means their genotype, their genetic makeup, are more likely to breed true. If your animals are all different shapes and sizes, wool types etc, you are often taking a punt as to how a ram may breed, but if they are consistent over a long period of time, then its highly likely the ram will breed that way as well.

It’s stockmanship that gives you sustainable genetic gain (science shows it’s around 2.5%). If for example you improve your fertility by 10% in one cross, then it’s highly likely that to achieve that gain that you have gone backwards in other areas, perhaps meat yield, wool or survivability or all three. When breeding rams you are in it for the long haul, so you need to ensure that you maintain it all, while improving, which is why breeding is not simple, you need passion and to take a long term view of what you are trying to achieve.

CT Scanning: If you are CT scanning a decent sample size of every sire, i.e. say 25 sons, then this is good reliable information, but if you are just doing a few rams of different sires that you maybe using, then it’s meaningless, as it simply tells you that based on phenotype that ram may have a lot of meat (which presumably you could tell by looking at him), but genotype, i.e. genetically who knows as you have not tested enough of the sires progeny to find out. You need to ask more questions about claims of such scanning before deciding if it’s of any value to you

SIL ACE Index: High rankings on this Index can be good thing or can be very misleading. Firstly if an animal is a crossbred that is recorded, then as SIL makes no allowances for the effect of hybrid vigour then comparisons against purebreds are distorted. Hybrid vigour for example on average will give you a lift of 9% in fertility, 3% in survival, 6% in weaning weight, which has nothing to do with the sheep at all, it’s a direct result of crossing a breed, so someone claiming their Romneys rank well on SIL Ace when they have Texel through them, isn’t a genuine comparison is it? In reality all crossbreds in my opinion should be in separate ranking index to purebreds for this very reason, even the CPT trial results are somewhat distorted by comparing crossbreds against purebreds. You take the purebred yourself and then cross it over your different breed of ewes, you then accrue all those hybrid vigour gains.

Furthermore the more you tend to measure on SIL the more likely you will rank higher on SIL Ace, in other words it’s not necessarily a great guide as to what are the best sheep. A competitor of mine had nlbbv’s for his Romney rams that quite simply were amazing when one considered the dam’s lambing history: Ewes at Waidale with the same lambing history would have much poorer Nlbbvs; I raised this with Mark Young of SIL in 2010, who advised me that my competitor probably had a lot of dry ewes and/or a greater variation in the fertility performance of his ewes, which inevitably results in better breeding values for the better performing ewes in that flock. I reiterate my standard line with SIL “SIL is of use if you understand the problems with it”.

Cross breeding: My thoughts on this for what is worth is that I don’t understand why people go and buy crossbred rams and put them over their capital flock to breed replacements.

In most instances:

• you miss out on the full benefit of hybrid vigour as the breeder in creating the cross gets the hybrid vigour in the ram he is selling to you (you may get something out of it if your maternal flock is not any of the breeds in the crossbred ram you are using).; and

• the crossbred rams come from the poorer performing purebred ewes that the breeder has; these breeders can say what they like but I only know of one guy who ensures that a proportion of his top ewes are used to produce the crossbred rams he sells, it’s a rarity. So in most cases you are buying inferior genetics; and

• you cannot be sure if the crossbred ram’s performance data and breeding values etc are the result of using good genetics or simply attributable to hybrid vigour. The hybrid vigour could mask inferior genetics because as stated above SIL does not make any allowances for hybrid vigour. Initially you may do alright, but 5 years down the track you will start to stagnate and few more years on you could be worse off than at the beginning!!

To me it makes much more sense to go and buy a purebred ram and put him over your capital flock and create the cross you are looking for. For example if you want Romdales and you have Romney ewes, then go and buy the best Perendale rams you can. You source the best genetics and true genetics; you get all the hybrid vigour. Later on if you think your capital flock is getting too far the other way, you go buy the best Romney rams you can. It requires a bit of drafting at mating, but that’s all, but to me it’s a no brainer. Note this argument is not as strong for terminals as generally the capital flock will be a different breed to what you are buying and of course you are cutting the heads off those lambs. You just need to be careful in evaluating the performance data and breeding values on those rams.

Note you can get a short term gain from simply just using very different bloodlines of the same breed, particularly with Romneys. For example if you have been using Wairere Romneys for 10 years, I am fairly confident that you will get productivity gains from using Waidale Romneys (almost irrespective of how good they are) for at least the first five years, as they are so different in blood lines (in effect hybrid vigour within the breed), the crunch time to determine how good the Waidale rams are is when Waidale rams are going over a flock that at least are half Waidale bloodlines (i.e. five years down the track. Naturally as we are talking about Waidale rams they are bound to deliver the production gains!!!

Crossbreeds that become closed flocks: What I am talking about here is a breed that starts from the crossing of other breeds, initially it’s a first cross, for example the Border Romney cross (which I think most people would accept is a great sheep so long as you can feed them well all the time), but later the first cross is crossed over first crosses and so on whereby you end up with what we know as the Coopworth, they become a closed flock where no more first crosses are created, in other words they stabilise it creating a new breed. Most Coopdale flocks are another example of this these days; similarly there are a number of composites, the Kelso I believe has been closed for a number of years, I am not sure about Tefroms. Romdales are normally simply first crosses (the rams that are sold at least are).

What one needs to be wary of with the closing off or stabilising of such breeds is the production from such sheep, the more generations you get into them, production can tend to wane over time, it maybe simply a levelling off as opposed to decreasing. Apart from the loss of hybrid vigour effects as your ewes become this other breed, the problem for the breeder is just a lack of genetic gene pool they have to select from, which inhibits their ability to make continuing genetic gains. The Coopworths were a classic example whereby it got to a point that the society actually allowed its breeders to go back and introduce a pure Romney or border etc to revitalise the breed, not everyone did this but a lot did. This is major issue for me in breeding Lincolns: there are so few around these days, it gives new meaning to line breeding, I am often treading water to maintain production, you don’t make the same progress, until you find that one ram that does improve production. Sometimes a breeder introduces a cross back in to offset this, however this is something a farmer can do themselves, if they do feel production is waning, for example I believe there is a good opportunity to put a cross of the modern Romney over coopdale, coopworth on indeed a composite ewes, and then go back over them with coopdale etc rams if want to maintain that type of sheep.