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.
Summary of meeting with Practical Systems Oz
Appears in Livestock
Well it has been a very busy eventful few days so my apologies for not keeping up with my write up – as I write this I am having a cup of coffee in a vey small little village ship in the middle of the countryside of New south Wales being 6 hours into a 8 hour drive to get to my next appointment. It’s a funny fact of life that distances seem to be mean different things to Australians, in 8 hours you can drive from one small town to the next, so an 8 hour drive means little to them. It is amusing to remind them that in England 8 hours will virtually take you from one end of the country to another!
Having had the opportunity on Thursday and Friday to spend time at the University of New England (UNE) and being able to collect my thoughts via my walk on Saturday I decided on Sunday to sit down and make some proper notes so I managed to spend most of Sunday reviewing Australian estimated Breeding values (ABV) pulling together a lot of information and trying to collate in into a readable form – the upshot of this work is I should be able to use a lot of the information in my final report.
Monday I had the opportunity in the morning to visit a company called Practical systems, Practical systems develop software solutions to aid in the collection of the EBV’s and I thought it would be a interesting exercise to benchmark the Australian software against our own British software “farmIT 3000” it was reassuring to note that the UK equivalent software was almost identical in terms of functionality and very similar in terms of appearance etc in short there was little difference in the products.
Hardware proved to be a little different The southern hemisphere do have access to a windows based PDA computer that is extremely rugged – Very similar in terms of functionailty to our current Psion Pro’s however available at a fraction of the cost - only a few hundred dollars, that is definitely something I will be taking back to my own business as a way of reducing capital expenditure on equipment. For those interested the company that make them are http://aceeca.com/store/ with a UK distributor http://www.varlink.co.uk/productslist/keywords/aceeca+1500 - it seems a shame I just bought those Psions!
Looking more broadly as an industry, if we can reduce the cost of the hardware element I think we will remove some of the barriers to people starting recording their own flocks or take a small interest to start recording traits for their own use even without formally submitting them to a recording company.