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The event’s headline debate, UK Genetics are Fit for Purpose, resulted in delegates voting against the motion, with many suggesting UK genetics were a good base to work from, but imported genetics, even from foreign strains of UK breeds, may be needed as UK genetics couldn’t be adapted fast enough to suit the rapidly changing industry.
Speaking against the motion, Suffolk breeder Robyn Hulme told delegates he’d sourced genetics from New Zealand for that very reason. “Most UK sheep farms, on the evidence of levy board costings aren’t currently profitable. The only way to make a profit is to cut out unnecessary costs such as labour and feed. This is what New Zealand producers did more than 20 years ago, and importing means we can short cut to the end result. “But standing up for UK genetics, Lleyn breeder Neil McGowan said if breeders focused on the economically important traits they could adapt UK sheep to suit the modern industry. “The right sheep are here we just have to find them. UK sheep are already adapted to our environment and have the carcass traits our market demands, we just need to adapt them slightly to maximise the profit opportunities they offer.”
Meanwhile, Dewi Jones, chief executive of breeding company Innovis, said unless commercial farmers got a grip of their costs of production it wouldn’t matter what genetics they were given. “Farmers need to start managing their farms not their sheep. Get the grassland management right and then put stock on it, rather than adapting farm management to suit the sheep.”
The Hulme family has long been associated with pedigree Suffolks, having years of success at shows and sales with its Crosemanor flock. But a switch in focus means that is no longer the priority – in fact, having imported genetics from New Zealand, they could not be moving further away from their traditional bloodlines. JOANNE PUGH found out more.
Having spent decades building a reputation for producing and selling pedigree Suffolks, it may come as a shock to many that the Hulme family has completely changed its breeding goals.
Gone are the days of producing the type of Suffolks that brought them so much success in showring over the years – instead the focus is working with genetics that will ‘do a job for the commercial producer’.
With the number of commercial farmers buying Crosemanor stock dropping significantly from the late 1990s, that is something the family feels it had been failing to do before.
Things started out well in 1952 when the late Stanley Hulme established the Crosemanor flock in the village of Cockshutt, Ellesmere, Shropshire, and gained momentum when son Robyn joined the business in 1977.