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Joanne Pugh met sheep farmers Charles Harding and Peter Baber at Mr Harding’s farm in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, to find out about a new group of breeders that will be exhibiting at Sheep 2008.
Having announced its inception at ScotSheep in early June, the Premier Suffolk Breeders (PSB) will exhibit for the first time at the NSA Sheep Event.
There has long been an elite breeding group linked to the Suffolk Sheep Society – the Suffolk Sire Reference Scheme (SSRS) – but this new group replaces that, bringing with it revised targets and a clear marketing strategy.
Most of this revolves around giving a clearer message to its target audience of commercial sheep farmers, letting them know PSB members can supply rams suited to commercial enterprises.
Peter Baber, a South West sheep farmer and first chairman of PSB, said he did not feel it was a case that SSRS had not been producing what commercial farmers wanted, rather it had not promoted the fact well enough.
Also, commercial producers’ needs had changed since the creation of SSRS, with the supply and cost of labour becoming a far greater concern, while science had moved forward to enable selection for new traits, he said.
Therefore, moving on from SSRS gave them the opportunity to embrace all that and approach the market afresh.
There are currently 30 PSB members, most of them transfers from SSRS, with an open invitation to any other Suffolk breeders that want to join.
Membership is no walk in the park as the group has a strong commitment to performance recording and recording of many of the newer management traits is mandatory. This is something they will not compromise on, seeing it as the strongest tool they have for producing top rams.
“We’re in the game of promoting performance recording as an essential part of producing rams fit for purpose,” said Mr Baber.
Charles Harding, current president of the Suffolk Sheep Society and keen member of PSB, said SSRS had produced high genetic merit rams with superior growth rates and carcase traits and PSB would continue that work.