Fok wat de klant vraagt!

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In Engeland is de stok weer een goed in het spreekwoordelijke hoenderhok gegooid. De strijd tussen de showfokkers en de meer commercieel georiënteerde fokkerij is daar al lange tijd aan de gang. Ian McDougal, een Australische veearts en Charollais fokker, heeft op een grote 33bijeenkomst van schapenhouders fel uitgehaald naar de stamboeken. Niet de vet gemeste showdieren zouden de prijzen moeten winnen maar rammen die ieder jaar 100 tot 150 ooien dekken en dat 4 jaar zonder probleem doen. Lees meer over dit onderwerp in dit artikel.

“PEDIGREE ram breeders need to raise the expectations of the commercial farmers they are selling to and start marketing fit males capable of serving 100-150 ewes in three weeks every year for at least four years, said Ian McDougall.

Speaking to a room full of pedigree breeders, the Australian vet and Charollais breeder was not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, saying breed societies should re-educate judges so big, fat rams stopped winning shows.

This would discourage breeders from over-feeding rams, he said, arguing this was incredibly damaging to the health, fecundity and longevity of sires – see panel below.

Naturally grown, rather than over-fed rams, could be marketed as fit enough to serve many more ewes, and could be sold for more money.

One breeder in the audience said the fault lay with the commercial farmers for always paying top price for the biggest ram in the auction. But Mr McDougall told him to stop selling rams through the ring and do it from home instead.

“If it means big ram sales disappear, then so be it. Why spend all that money on performance recording and waste it by selling through the ring and not being able to tell the customer your story,” he said.

He argued rams reared in systems mirroring commercial enterprises (spring lambing and grass-based) with full performance data behind them were a great pull for customers.

Relationships

Mr McDougall said selling through a ring meant the breeder and customer might never meet, whereas selling off farm meant a relationship could be developed.

He encouraged sending out regular newsletters to existing and potential customers and ringing up after a sale to see how many ewes the ram had served.

George Fell, a Meatlinc breeder from Thorganby, York tells customers exactly how he breeds his rams and promotes the fact he CT scans most of his sheep (to know what is and isn’t working).

He values rams which are one of a twin that have a great scan at the age they would have been if they had done to slaughter. This is more indicative of the type of lambs they would throw, compared to a single ram scanned at an older age.

The Meatlinc has no breed society representing it, which was interesting at a conference where breed societies got a lot of flack.

A debate, in which six speakers were asked to give their opinion on whether UK genetics were ‘fit for purpose’, ended up being more about the people in charge of genetics (breed societies and breeders) than actual genetics.

One conference delegate said the ‘limiting factor’ was the farmer and genetics should be judged on their merit and not which breed they were from.

“Forget breed societies and breed good sheep,” he said.

Another delegate encouraged people to be ‘less precious about breeds’ and see the breed as a ‘convenient name’ you put on the outside of the package containing genes.

That was a comment Robyn Hulme appreciated, as the Suffolk Sheep Society was not initially impressed when he started importing New Zealand Suffolk genetics.

“Breed societies and shows are very insignificant in New Zealand, so they haven’t mixed that up with trying to make money for commercial farmers,” he said.

But Bluefaced Leicester and Swaledale breeder, David Raine, from Cumbria, argued the Kiwis had not been more clever with genetics, they had just culled harder.

He urged UK farmers to get a better handle on the genetics they already have and for breed societies to ‘relax a bit’ and allow breeders to produce what customers want, not what breed societies want.

Support

“Breed societies should support breeders who want to change the animal if it is for a good, commercial reason.

“We need to select within the pure line and slog, slog, slog, so we can make the most of hybrid vigour when crossing out of that line.”

Mr Raine was referring to the pure line of all breeds, not just terminal sires. He was not alone in suggesting the hill breeds were incredibly important for dam breeding and more needed to be done to understand those genetics.

Midlothian-based Bluefaced Leicester breeder, Derek Hall, agreed: “We have to stop hill farmers lagging behind. We need to get them to get their act together.”

There were plenty of calls for sheep farmers to work together better. One breeder in the audience said it was no good blaming breed societies for not facilitating that when most people in the room were involved in the breed societies they were so keen to criticise.

Lewis McClinton, of the Suffolk society, said it was hard to make changes when big prices were not paid for the best genes, but societies had to focus on the commercial farmer in order to be sustainable.

“You can’t drag everyone that way, but should leave the door open for them,” he said. “Losing market share will focus the mind.”

Mr Hulme predicted ‘two worlds’ of sheep breeding – one catering for the commercial farmer and one aimed at getting the best auction prices.

Breeding company, Innovis’ managing director, Dewi Jones’ vision for the future was commercial farmers regulating pedigree breeders, because EID would allow them to track which sires produced the best lambs.

“You can’t sell them a dodgy ram because they’ll know,” he said. “They will regulate what goes on.”

Mike Coffey of the SAC agreed with this, especially if abattoirs start passing information back to farmers about how individual lambs killed out. He said genetics would then be ‘sucked in’ by commercial farmers, rather than being ‘shoved on them’.”

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