Are EBV’s worth the paper they are printed on?
Why the picture of a Holstein bull on a sheep breeder’s website?
Well there are very few dairy farmers in the UK who would use a bull just because he looks pretty or has black and white in the right places..Around the country farmers pour over bull catalogues looking for bulls that have the genetics to improve their herd. This focus has lead to a 40% increase in milk per cow per year over the last 20 years. And yet, UK sheep farmers feel that this is all nonsense, that they have the a special second sight that allows them to know how good an animal is genetically by how it looks. This special vision means apparently, that they can tell often just by looking – (touching is a step too far!) how fast its lambs will grow and what level of fat cover, muscle depth etc they will have at slaughter or how milky they will be as mothers. What gains has this level of intuition brought the UK sheep industry? Do lambs fatten more quickly than they did 20 years ago? Are sheep farms any more efficient?? or in fact do they now take so long to fatten that the previously buoyant spring lamb trade is handicapped by the large numbers of last year’s hoggs that still haven’t finished at a year or more of age?
Performance recording is not a perfect tool but we have now been using it for 9 years to try and improve our flock It is the only available tool that lets you estimate the genetic potential of an animal correcting for its litter size, age, feeding and mother’s ability. You need to be patient as at first the figures don’t seem to match the sheep in front of you but our experience is that in time it all comes together.
Our aim is to produce fast growing sheep that slaughter out well and look good enough to win in the show ring. In addition, we want them to be able to compete at shows without feeding them lots of concentrates. We have made mistakes along the way and no doubt that will continue but that is sheep breeding. It also means that we have to select doubly hard: once for correct breed type and then on performance. That way not only can we be proud of how our sheep look and handle but we can be confident they will perform well wherever they go.
So are EBV’s worth the paper they are printed on? Hell yes but you need use them sensibly.