Stronger tups increase producers' return, trial confirms

Recent trials by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) have confirmed that sheep producers can increase their return by using tups which can sire stronger lambs that reach market specification at a younger age.

The Scottish Sheep Strategy trialled different breeds of tups to find out which breeds had the genetic potential to sire more efficient offspring. It found that producers selecting High Index Suffolk tups, whose lambs grow quickly, could boost margins by around £2 - £3 per lamb.

Maime Paterson, chairman of the Scottish Sheep Strategy, said: “Over the previous four years we used four different breeds of tup on six farms operating different management and marketing strategies and proved conclusively that High Index tups consistently outperform tups selected in the traditional manner by £5 per ewe mated per annum.

“This figure was achieved by a combination of factors, each contributing to the overall margin. The lambs were slightly heavier and had slightly better conformation. They also reached target weight and cover at a younger age and had a better survival rate.

“We felt it was important to then run a trial to see whether or not the same benefits could be shown in this type of faster finishing system.”  

Three farms were used as Suffolk focus farms, with the average return of high performance sire amounting to £2.69/lamb compared with farm choice sires, where the genetic merit is unknown. However, the benefit varied on each farm, from £1.19/lamb on the Morrisons Farm to £3.13/lamb at Wellheads Farm and £3.91/lamb at Kings Arms.

Rod McKenzie, Scottish Sheep Strategy development manager, said: “Once more we have proved that on different farms, with different constraints, there is a consistency and reliability in using High Index tups which rewards the lamb producer handsomely.

“It is now looking as if the price for finished lamb has plateaued and, with costs of production continuing to rise, an increase of £2 - £3 per lamb is very significant.”

The Scottish Sheep Strategy was set up to increase the uptake of breeding technologies within the Scottish sheep industry, in order to reduce production costs and improve the quality and consistency of Scotch lamb.

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