Welsh ask: Are your sheep fit for purpose?

Are your sheep fit for purpose? That was the question posed to a Welsh sheep breeding group and discussion group members by innovative farmer Peter Baber recently.

Baber was taking part in a series of sales and marketing training events organised by HCC - Meat Promotion Wales for performance-recorded breeders.

Peter shared his farming philosophy that his sheep must keep him and that he should not be keeping the sheep and that the rams and ewes should be fit for purpose and hence profitable. Members heard how Peter manages his flock of 750 Texel, Suffolk and easier-managed composite breed ewes on a 120ha grassland unit in Christow near Exeter, by working smarter and not harder, having established a market for his performance-recorded animals.

Having first selected ewes that are fertile, easy lambing, good mothers, which produce vigorous lambs, are milky and produce lambs that have the potential to grow fast and produce a good carcase, he is now moving towards ewes that are easier to manage and is operating a closed flock or buying from a known source when necessary.

Peter highlighted the importance of ram selection to breeders as they actually represent "half the flock", so selecting the wrong ram can have detrimental effects on that year's lamb crop. He believes that rams should only be selected using EBVs and showed that a performance-recorded ram, serving over 100 ewes per year over five years, could earn breeders an extra £1,723 compared to an unrecorded ram.

In preparation for this year's breeding season, HCC is supporting breeders who wish to improve their sales and marketing techniques in order to inform and encourage potential buyers to look at the benefits of performance-recorded stock.

HCC also supports a range of services which enable Welsh breeders to record the performance of their stock and to take full advantage of the benefits of genetic improvement - this includes support for performance-recording for Maternal and Longwool breeds.