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Texels set to add £23m/year to sheep industry

A combination of continued genetic improvement within the breed and greater use of the breed for maternal purposes in GB flocks means the financial impact of the Texel breed is set to grow in the coming years, according to a recent study.

The research, undertaken by Tim Byrne, Peter Amer and Tom Kirk of AbacusBio on behalf of the Texel Sheep Society, estimates the annual financial benefits of genetic improvement in the the GB national flock as a result of increased use of Texel genetics at £23.1m, a total of £244.2m in the 20 years from 2016 to 2035.

British Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates said the findings of the report will be used by the Society Board to expand the breed development plan and membership services. These  should give Texel breeders a good steer on future breed direction to meet the needs of commercial producers, as well as reinforcing the need for ongoing research in the sheep industry as a whole.

“The study included an analysis of genetic trends in performance-recorded and non-recorded Texel flocks and the scale of use of the breed in commercial flocks,” he explained.

“The Society continually monitors the position of the breed within the UK industry. This is not purely on the level of pedigree registrations, but also on commercial use of the breed across the diverse UK sheep industry. We are not as fortunate as the beef industry that has annual BCMS records published, so we have to use different methods to obtain accurate, objective measures of the use of the breed.”

“The Texel breed excels in many areas within the UK industry, but the way the breed is used today is changing and it is essential to ensure we understand its influence and adapt the information that we provide and exchange with our breeders accordingly.”

For example, according to the data, in 2015 an estimated 56% of Texel rams used were rams from which replacements were retained, while in 1996 this figure was 30%. This is backed up by industry census figures which show that more than 12.5% of ewes in the national flock are by Texel sires.

Historically, said Mr Yates, the Texel breed’s influence on the industry has come from its use as a terminal sire. “However, that is quickly changing as an increased number of commercial farmers recognise the quality of the breed’s maternal traits. The use of Texel rams to breed replacements results in additional benefits to the industry, captured through maternal trait genetic trend improvements,” he added.

“Additionally, most of the benefits derived from using Texel sired females have, in the past, come as a result of improved terminal traits. The breed’s increasing importance as a sire of female replacements will, in future, have a growing influence on future breed development strategies.”

“Ongoing genomic research projects in a number of health traits which are sire influenced maternal traits, such as mastitis and footrot, will aid these developments,” he added.

Explaining the results of the research to a meeting of the Texel Society’s breed development committee, Tim Byrne of AbacusBio said the calculation of future benefits of the Texel breed came as a result of following the recent trends (over the last five years) of both increased market penetration and also accelerating rates of genetic progress in economically important traits. These trends were assumed in the model to continue over the next ten years, beyond which the genetic trend was assumed zero. This provides a conservative, discounted estimate of the breed’s future industry influence.

“Continued increases in matings per ram and further expansion of the Texel breed, in particular for maternal purposes, position the breed to continue to deliver significant economic benefits to the GB sheep industry,” said Dr Byrne.

While the historic benefits of the Texel breed to GB sheep farmers have been significant and are estimated to have totalled £197m from 1996 to 2015, the outlook is brighter due to an increased trend of use in Texel sires from pedigree flocks. “In 1996 it was estimated that only 29% of Texel rams were from pedigree flocks, in 2015 that figure was estimated at 48%, increasing the flow of genetic improvement from the pedigree sector to commercial producers.

“This is significant as the research found that using a pedigree Texel ram as opposed to a commercially produced one is worth more than £20 a ram a year. On top of this using a performance recorded ram as opposed to a non-recorded ram adds an estimated £63 a ram a year to a commercial producers bottom line, significantly increasing the income a ram can generate over a four year working life.

“Indeed, with about 100,000 Texel rams being used every year in the GB sheep industry, the total annual benefit could be more than £6m across the industry and when adding together the benefits of using a pedigree ram and a performance recorded pedigree ram the cumulative benefit is as much as £10m a year across the industry,” explained Dr Byrne.

“This latest, independent, research also offered further analysis of industry generated census data, and included an additional survey of Texel breeders. As such, the findings represent the views of Texel breeders and offer clearer guidance about future research and development priorities.”

Dr Byrne said the survey of Texel breeders identified that, despite the trend for commercial producers to retain Texel sired female replacements, terminal traits were clearly regarded as strengths of the Texel breed.

“The most highly regarded strength was shown to be carcase meat yield (for 96% of respondents), followed by growth rate (87%), lamb vigour and survival (86%) and the ability to differentiate between breed type in the live market (85%).

“In terms of selection criteria, some 56% of respondents considered health status to be extremely important, followed by ram structural traits that affect functionality (50% of respondents), saleability of offspring based on visual criteria (39%), and traits that define correct breed type (37%),” explained Dr Byrne.

Mr Yates added: “The growing importance of the maternal role of Texel genetics in the UK sheep flock indicates there are further opportunities for economic gain, through an increased focus on maternal ewe traits for breed improvement in the future. The Society’s first tranche of genomic research investigating the genetics behind both mastitis and footrot is paving the way for the development of genomic EBVs for both these traits, ensuring the breed meets the needs of commercial farmers in future.

“The potential impact of this research is worth millions of pounds for the industry and will give significant benefit to commercial producers across the UK. These are exciting times for Texel breeders, with access to the latest breeding tools and a clear focus of support and development available from the Society,” he explained.

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NADIS Parasite Forecast July 2016

NADIS Parasite Forecast and Video Case Study July 2016. Worms and anthelmintic resistance in lambs, blowfly strike, worms and lungworm in cattle.

In the July issue plan this season's control strategy. View.


Watch the Webinar for the July parasite forecast. View.


Video case study. View.

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New private sales initiative for Texel breeders

Texel breeders are now able to list stock for sale via a dedicated web portal on the UK’s largest livestock trading website, SellMyLivestock.

This new initative, offered with the support of the Texel Sheep Society, will enable Society members to list stock on SellMyLivestock for just £3.50 per listing and reach an audience of more than 4000 registered users. 

SellMyLivestock commercial director Andrew Loftus explains that the dedicated space within the SellMyLivestock website will enable potential buyers to find Texel sheep more easily than if they are contained in the main listing. “SellMyLivestock is growing every day, with increasing numbers of potential buyers searching the site for stock to suit their requirements. Texel breeders will be able to take advantage of this growing audience and showcase their stock to a UK audience at the click of a button,” he said.

“By loading stock for sale through the dedicated Texel Society portal the sheep will be displayed with associated Texel Society branding”

Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates said the new marketing opportunity, available to all Society members, was another added value offering which will enable breeders to better market their stock. “With the ever advancing pace of digital communication and marketing this is another tool in the marketing armoury of Texel breeders and will enable them to connect with potential customers across the UK who may previously have struggled to find stock suited to their requirements. Our successful catalogued sales continue to go from strength to strength with over 12,000 pedigree stock catalogued last year, however, with this new facility available for members, this initiative provides an additional complement fro members.”

Online listings will cost Texel Society members just £3.50, with no commission charged on sales transactions and all payments for stock handled directly between the vendor and the buyer.

 Visit the Society home page and click on the Sellmylivestock link, or choose the society branding as an option if visiting Sellmylivestock directly.

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NADIS Disease Alert June 2016

NADIS June Disease Alert - Heat Stress in Cows and Gastroenteritis in Sheep

Disease Alert Webinar

As the weather warms up this month's webinar discusses how to manage heat stress in dairy cattle, and also how to balance worming strategies in sheep whilst preventing anthelmintic resistance.

Click here to view the webinar.


Disease Alert Summary

The disease alert topics include:

  • Heat stress in cows
  • Gastroenteritis in sheep

Click here to view the summary.

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Positive feedback for Texels at South Sheep

South Sheep 2016 at Tisbury, Wiltshire, proved a successful event for the Texel Sheep Society.

A pair of shearling rams provided by Drayton Farm Partnership drew positive comments from visitors, with the breed’s carcass attributes well recognised by those attending.

Southern Texel Club chair Georgie Helyer said the event had been another good outing for the breed in the south following on from the successful Southern Focus Show at Royal Bath and West just a week earlier.

“Texels continue to be the terminal sire of choice for large numbers of sheep producers in southern England and the Society’s presence at events such as South Sheep is vital to maintain contact with our commercial customers.

“While not a particularly sheep dense part of the world, much of the ground sheep run on in this part of the country is poorer land unsuited to arable production and as such the breed’s ability to thrive off any available forage is key to its success.”

Mrs Helyer added that a good number of local breeders had helped support the stand throughout the day, taking the chance to chat to commercial producers visiting the event.

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Texels prove popular at ScotSheep

ScotSheep 2016 held at Blythe Bank, West Linton, was a tremendous success for the Texel Sheep Society, with the Society’s stand busy throughout the event with both pedigree and commercial breeders catching up with the latest breed developments

The stand showcased the early results from the Society’s groundbreaking genomics research project looking at the genetics of mastitis and footrot within the breed, something many event visitors were keen to learn more about, explained Society chief executive John Yates.

“Without doubt the Society’s drive down the genomics route has captured the minds of sheep producers and many visitors spent time understanding how the research results could impact on their business in future.”

Alongside this the stand also had an excellent display of sheep courtesy of Andy Barr, Quothquan, Biggar, with a pen of Cheviot cross ewes rearing twin Texel prime lambs drawing many compliments throughout the day.

The Society’s competition to win a Ritchie weigh crate was also popular among visitors, with the four late March born lambs weighing in at 132Kg, with three successful entries out of the 340 received on the day now going forward to the prize draw at the Sheep Event Malvern. Mr Yates said the feedback from those attending the event was that Texels continue to perform commercially, outpacing other breeds and crosses as both terminal sires and replacement females.

“It was fitting that the Texel presence at the event proved popular with Blythe Bank having been the quarantine farm for the first Texels imported in to the UK more than 40 years ago.

“Those first Texel importations were driven by innovative farmers looking to provide a novel solution to industry problems of their day, notably the desire for leaner carcasses with greater conformation.

“The work being done by the Society today with genomics is very much a continuation of that pioneering outlook and once again seeks to provide commercial farmers with tools and a modern breed to help them run more efficient, sustainable sheep businesses,” he added.

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Cambwell flock's recording progress recognised by QMS

Biggar, Lanarkshire-based Texel breeders Robert and Joyce Laird are the 2016 winners of the Johnston Carmichael Trophy for the best recorded flock in Scotland.

The Laird family’s Cambwell flock, one of the oldest Texel flocks in the UK, has been performance recorded for the past 30 years, with huge genetic improvements seen in recent years thanks to careful recording and analysing of data, followed up by excellent management decisions and good husbandry.

The Lairds farm about 400 acres of mostly LFA grassland where they run 60 suckler cows, 80 pedigree Texels and 240 commercial ewes. "We use recorded Angus bulls on the suckler herd and sell the steers deadweight. I think you really see the value of performance recording from the carcases and can see the genetic improvements. I have adopted the same principle with the sheep and can easily see the benefits to the flock," said Mr Laird.

The Lairds are particularly keen on positive fat and muscle EBVs. "Growth is important too, but I feel that performance recording can be too geared towards growth rates. I am mindful of keeping easy-fleshed, medium-sized sheep, which is what the commercial market wants."

Mr Laird is convinced there is a link between positive fat and longevity and has seen improvements in his flock in many areas such as growth, milk, fleshing ability and longevity. Indeed he has some ewes which are eight years old.

The Lairds have also paid great attention to detail in terms of the health of both flocks which are scrapie monitored and MV accredited. This, along with the performance recording, has opened up the world market to them and the first shipment of 10 Cambwell Texels were exported to Switzerland in 2014.

Last year they sent 26 sheep to Holland, Switzerland and Italy and have benefitted from semen sales to Brazil, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Canada and the US.

About 40 tup lambs and 20 shearlings are sold in Britain each year with their best price in 2003 being 50,000gns for Cambwell Jacobite. Last year the shearlings averaged £800 and the lambs £1000. They also sell surplus females as in-lamb gimmers and these have sold to a top of 16,000gns.

Some of the home-bred Texels are used on the commercial flock which has the same high health status as the pedigree flock. “As a result we have a good market for breeding females as recipient ewes. Therefore, we select for growth and female traits as well as fast finishing," observed Mr Laird. The wether lambs are sold through Lanark market or on the hook and are mostly U grades with some R at an average of 21kg deadweight.

The flock is also one of the first to be involved with the Texel genomics project which aims to identify genes resistant to foot rot and mastitis."When you see the genetic improvements the dairy, beef and pig industries have achieved over the years through recording, there is no reason for it not to work with sheep - it is the same science and mindset. I am delighted to receive this trophy from QMS which recognises the gains my flock has made thanks to recording."

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Margaret Mulligan - Brague Texels

The Society has been informed that Margaret Mulligan – Brague Texels, passed away on May 25th. Our condolences go to Robert and the Mulligan family at this sad time.

A funeral will take place on Friday 27th May at 12.30 at the Loughbrickland Presbyterian Church,  80 Ballynanny Rd, Banbridge,  BT32 4LB

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Win a weight crate with Texels

The Texel Sheep Society is offering farmers attending two major sheep industry events, ScotSheep. West Linton, and The Sheep Event, Malvern, the chance to win a weigh crate to help with selecting lambs to meet target specification.

To be in with a chance of winning the Ritchie weigh crate valued at £900 visitors to the events will need to visit the Texel Sheep Society stand and take part in the relevant competition.

At ScotSheep this will be a ‘Guess the Weight’ competition, while at The Sheep Event it will be Stockjudging competition, explained Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates.

“With lamb prices coming under pressure early in the season this year the ability to accurately weigh lambs and market stock suited to processors needs has never been greater.

"As the UK's most popular terminal sire breed the Texel is clearly meeting the needs of the current market. But there are always new challenges around the corner and in challenging conditions it is important that prime lamb producers do all they can to meet the needs of processors and in turn consumers,” he added.

“Lamb buyers are becoming ever more specific about the lambs they require for their customers and presenting lambs at the right weight and fat cover is essential to maximising returns. It is all too easy to allow lambs to gain a few extra kilos in the hope of the extra weight cancelling out lower prices, but this can be a false hope, with heavier lambs often discounted for being overfat or overweight.

"Selling lambs of the right weight and with the excellent conformation offered by the Texel breed is a sure way to gain premium prices," said Mr Yates.

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Texel genomic research to be showcased at ScotSheep

Sheep farmers attending next week's Scotsheep 2016 at Blythbank farm, West Linton, will be able to learn about the early results from ground breaking genomic research undertaken by the British Texel Sheep Society. It is fortuitous that these early stage results are being showcased at Blyth Bank, said Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates, with the farm having been the quarantine farm for the first Texels imported in the country more than 40 years ago.


“Those first Texel importations were driven by innovative farmers looking to provide a novel solution to industry problems of their day, notably the desire for leaner carcasses with greater conformation.

“The work being done by the Society today with genomics is very much a continuation of that pioneering outlook and once again seeks to provide commercial farmers with tools and a modern breed to help them run more efficient, sustainable sheep businesses,” he added.

“The research, which has initially focussed on health traits, has delivered meaningful results. Although the initial 18 month project data collection runs until August, the early outcomes are encouraging, which will help support a new platform for delivery of genomic breeding values from the Society, the first to be available in the UK sheep industry.

“When we started this project we believed it would result in important developments for both the breed and the UK sheep industry and the results to date bear this out, supporting the development of our genomic reference population. This is  a valuable resource for the Society allowing for new services and new research opportunities”

Mr Yates said that once the full results had been collated and analysed this Autumn the development of genomic estimated breeding values (gEBVs) would follow. “gEBVs are calculated differently to conventional EBVs. Traditionally EBVs have been based on measured performance on farm and within a contemporary group.

However, gEBVs are calculated by using the animals DNA and comparing the individual to the large genomic reference population developed by the Texel Society. The critical link is the SNP key which allows a genomic value to be calculated; by using the animal’s DNA, the reference population and the specific trait measurements.

“This enables the prediction of an animal’s breeding merit and its ideally suited for traits that are often hard to measure, such as udder and foot health or carcass quality.

“The calculation of gEBVs does though rely on the continued collection of data from a wide section of the population, something the Texel Sheep Society will be undertaking through its network of pedigree phenotyping farms across the UK, explained Mr Yates.

The economic and welfare impacts of both mastitis and footrot on the industry cannot be overstated, with estimates suggesting each case of footrot costs more than £8/ewe, with further lost productivity costs amounting to up to £3/ewe, he said.

“Additionally, it is believed that the industry loses 7-12% of breeding ewes across all types of breeds a year due to intramammary infections. Both of these conditions can also cause significant welfare issue for affected sheep, something every farmer wants to avoid.”

As with all diseases, prevention is far better than cure, but due to the environmentally infective nature of both these diseases, prevention can be difficult, particularly in the case of mastitis, he said.

With Texel sired ewes making up more than 12.5% of the national flock and more than 30% of sires used the impact of the breed commercially is second to none, he added. “As a result the potential impact of this research is worth millions of pounds for the industry and will give significant benefit to commercial producers across the UK and, potentially, through the ever increasing number of exports, sheep industries across the globe.”

Mr Yates concluded: “The growing importance of the maternal role of Texel genetics in the UK sheep flock indicates there may be further opportunities for economic and genetic gain for the breed, through an increased focus on maternal ewe traits for breed improvement in the future. These are exciting times for Texel breeders, with access to the latest breeding tools and a clear focus of support and development available from the Society.”

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