The 2017 winner of the AHDB Beef & Lamb Better Returns Programme Improved Flock Award for Dorset sheep is the flock owned by Meakin & Body at Treweatha Farm in Cornwall. This award is presented to the English Signet performance recorded flock that makes the greatest improvement in the breeding potential of the lamb crop during the previous year.
The AHDB Better Returns Programme aims to highlight the financial impact that improved breeding and better lamb selection strategies can have on commercial flock profitability.
This award seeks to reward those breeders that are using Estimated Breeding Values to enhance the performance of their flocks and assist them to promote their achievement. The impact of performance recorded stock is significant and is increasing every year because of the activities of progressive farmers.
Susan Body has lived at Treweatha Farm since 1988 when her flock of Dorset sheep were established. She was originally attracted to the Dorset as a breed as they were something different and as they have the ability to lamb out of season, Susan was able to use that to her advantage. The longer grass growing season down in Cornwall also allows her to have her lambs finished before the main national crop.
Susan began performance recording as she wanted to improve her flock and to produce higher quality sheep with better carcase composition. Originally Susan’s Kerlow flock had 10 ewes involved with the Centurion Group Breeding Scheme, based at Lackham College,and once the Sire Reference Scheme had become established the Kerlow flock naturally developed into it and have gone from strength to strength since.
When selecting EBVs Susan aims for an overall ram that is not too extreme in any trait. She likes them fairly lean, not too fat, with good muscling quantities and early growth rates. Maternal traits are also important, as unlike many breeds the Dorset is usually pure bred and rarely used to cross onto other breeds. Therefore it must be ensured that they breed for Terminal sire and maternal traits.
Susan sells at the Sedgemoor Centurion Sale every year, this year she is taking two ram lambs and two ewe lambs and will occasionally sell off farm. She has found that people are becoming much more interested in the performance figures at these sales although it has taken a while for them to be appreciated.
When asked about the future Susan says that she is going to continue what she is doing, always trying to improve. She has recently reduced numbers which she believes will allow her to progress further. There is more time available to concentrate on the management and keep a closer eye on the flock.
Susan is delighted about winning the award and was very surprised, however she is thrilled that all her hard work has eventually come through. Susan used an excellent selection of sires for 2016, with one home bred tup coming in the top 1% of the breed (J1:W1685) and another home bred ram coming in the top 5% (J1:U1359). The other rams used all came within the top 10% of the breed. Susan would like to thank her husband John for all his help and support, especially for getting up at all hours during lambing time and a thanks to the Centurion Group for all the useful discussions that they have and all the support she has received.