Robert Hodgkins - Using genomic selection technology to advance the development of a ovine maternal breeding line
31 year old Sheep farmer from West Sussex.
Locks Farm is a tenanted 1,400 acre farm, most of which is situated within the South Downs National Park. 90% of our grassland in permanent pasture and is the farmed under the South Downs ESA regime where no fertiliser or chemical is permitted, therefore there is very little we can do to manipulate or extend our grazing season.
Productivity of some of the swards would be considered very low – the ESA agreement stipulates an annual maximum stocking rate of 3 ewes per acre. The farm rises up to 783ft above sea level, and field contours range from flat ground at home to steep banks upon the downs.
We are large commercial family run sheep farm running 3000 plus NZ Romney ewes. The farm is a spread out unit (25 miles round trip to visit every flock) on good to mediocre grassland, land class 3-5. We operate a single breed, closed flock and take great care and interest in selecting future progeny to make shepherding as enjoyable and stress free as possible. We are one of the largest Signet recorded flocks in the country, single sire mating and recording over 1500 ewes and there progeny per year. We sell high quality, NZ Romney rams and females, this year we have sold around 110 2 tooth rams, and all of the breeding females (800+) we had for sale.
Several ideas seen for new ways to use EID on sheep
Appears in Livestock
System used to identify likely parentage of lambs To summarise EID everything - set up race with hurdles to get into and out of a water trough - As the sheep with her lambs move through the hurdles to get to the water all there RFID's are recorded, over time a statistical model is built up and this means you can link EID's together! This also works by making sheep walk through a race to get between fields or put it around hay or feeders etc. Takes a couple of weeks to train ewes so most people using it set it up permanently around their water trough - It’s a neat little idea I think! Combine this with a little wind turbine to provide a 12v supply and you could put it in even the most remote fields.
Remote weight monitoring
Along similar lines is a system I saw that uses the same idea but makes the ewes walk over a weight scale so you can measure weight throughout the year (called Walk over weighing or WOW) imagine being able to monitor true live weight gains of lambs post weaning, combined with grass growth data you should be able to use it for monitoring when animals need worming. I will have to get my thinking cap on to design an English system!