Texels at the heart of South West Sheep and west country sheep sector
Texel genetics are at the core of the successful sheep industry in the south west of England, with pedigree Texel ram registrations rising by more than 8.5% in the last five years alongside a 14% increase in Society membership within the region in the same period.
This has helped cement the breed as the most popular terminal sire in the south west of England and the largest progressive collaborative breeding organisation in the UK sheep sector.
John Yates, chief executive of The British Texel Sheep Society which represents more than 2000 members, said Texel breeders in the south west of England continue to provide innovation for the benefit of their commercial customers.
“Flocks such as the Quick family's flock Loosebeare Manor which will host South West Sheep this year are very much in touch with the needs of the commercial sector and include a variety of technologies, balanced with sound stockmanship in their breeding programmes ensuring benefits to their commercial customers at the grass roots. This delivers long-term benefits for commercial flocks and is backed up by the breed’s unique ability to thrive in the wide range of farming systems and climatic conditions found in this part of England.”
The Quick’s large sheep enterprise is heavily influenced by top quality Texel genetics, with the farm running a pedigree Texel flock producing proven rams predominantly for the shearling trade, for both their own use and for sale to other sheep producers the length and breadth of the UK. Loosebeare genetics also feature in many of the breed’s key bloodlines, with Loosebeare gimmers also proving popular at many of the Society auctions held at major auction markets from August, explained Mr Yates.
“This year, Paul Quick will also be the judge at the prestigious flagship Scottish National Sale held at Lanark in late August, providing him an opportunity to pitch his keen eye for quality stock from the breeds finest flocks. The Quick family continues to innovate in their flock management, improving grassland to maximise production from forage at the same time as reducing reliance on bought-in feeds.
“Furthermore, Texel breeders in the region, along with their colleagues in the rest of the UK are currently taking part in an innovative project to develop the next generation of EBVs for a range of health traits, the first of which will be mastitis,” said Mr Yates.
“Through the establishment of a network of Phenotyping Farms across the UK Texel breeders are working with SRUC to uncover the genetic element behind mastitis and will also expand previous work by the society on footrot incidence. This will help commercial farmers have a better understanding of these two diseases and its causes and provide them with proven Texel genetics for important maternal traits. Ideal for producers using Texel rams in crossbred female production or rearing replacements for pure Texel flocks,” he explained.
“This work in the exciting and emerging area of genomics will pioneer in the development of an EBV for mastitis and footrot incidence, both important areas of flock health for commercial farmers.
“With Texel cross ewes making up 12.5% of the GB national crossbred ewe flock the influence of the breed is both physically and financially massive for the industry and any improvements made by Texel breeders will be felt in commercial flocks the length and breadth of the UK,” he added.
The breed’s dominance is due largely to its ability to adapt and thrive in a range of climates and farming systems across the country, explained Mr Yates.
“Through use of their innate stockmanship skills and keenness to take up new technology,Texel breeders have increased both growth rates and muscle depth in the breed, with performance recorded Texel lambs increasing their breeding potential by 1kg at 21 weeeks of age in recent years. This has enabled commercial farmers to produce fast growing, well fleshed lambs with excellent conformation.
“As a result today’s Texel rams have a better lean meat to fat ratio than ever before, with these valuable traits conferred to their progeny no matter the dam breed. Texel sired lambs are, therefore, eagerly sought after by both butchers and processors for both the domestic and export trade,” said Mr Yates.
“Texel breeders are committed to continuing to develop the breed and the Society fully supports its breeders and the enhancement of the Texel performance recording programme to deliver sheep best suited to modern commercial sheep production at all levels in the industry.”
Texels’ genomic innovation targets reduced antibiotic use
Groundbreaking work being undertaken by the Texel Sheep Society on the genetics behind mastitis and footrot in sheep will provide crucial support for the industry as it drives to reduce its reliance on antibiotics in future.
The Society’s landmark genomic research project, which is being undertaken in conjunction with Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), is aiming to identify the genetic variations responsible for resistance to both these key economic diseases, explained Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates.
“The economic and welfare impacts of both these diseases cannot be overstated, with estimates suggesting each case of footrot costing more than £8/ewe, with further lost productivity costs amounting to up to £3/ewe.
“Additionally, it is believed that the industry loses 7-12% of breeding ewes 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, added Mr Yates.
“Crucially, most current treatment regimes for both footrot and mastitis rely heavily on antibiotics to eliminate infections. But with continuing pressure on farming to reduce its reliance on antibiotics in light of fears of antibiotic resistance the industry has to look at other control strategies.”
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.
“Using genomics, and furthering pioneering research work undertaken in footrot by the Society and SRUC nearly a decade ago, we aim to introduce genomic breeding values (GBVs) for both conditions to help both Texel breeders and the wider sheep industry by breeding sheep with inherent resistance to both mastitis and footrot.”
SRUC geneticist Joanne Conington says research done by the Texel Sheep Society and SRUC between 2005 and 2008 identified a number of gene variants responsible for resistance to footrot.
“We know there is a genetic basis to footrot, with a heritability of 20% and we also know how it is linked to a number of traits of economic importance. The challenge now is to expand our knowledge of the link between resistance to footrot with that for mastitis and their interactions with other traits to develop a genomic breeding value for the breed,” she explained.
“Collecting phenotypes across genetically well-connected flocks to fuel these genomic evaluations will enhance the accuracy of genomic breeding values,” she added. “Combining footrot and mastitis makes the Texel Society work unique and pioneering at an international level.”
Dr Conington recently published a study based on records collected in the Society’s previous footrot research, which showed there are many gene variants linked to footrot susceptibility, with no big ‘major genes’ playing a pivotal role.
“This is different to, for example scrapie resistance, and means that, for footrot, the use of genomic selection, where footrot records are combined with whole-genome data is likely to be the most effective method to breed sheep that have more resistant to the disease.”
As the UK sheep industry is heavily reliant on purchased breeding stock, most commercial farmers depend on sheep breeders undertaking genetic improvement on their behalf, she added. “The inclusion of ‘breeding for resistance’ into breeding programmes leads to a win-win situation for both better welfare as well higher economic return. This is as a result of having sheep more resistant to the disease, as well as lower contamination levels on the farm as a source of infection.”
“The pressure to reduce antibiotic use in farming will only increase and the sheep industry has to be ready to farm without reliance on antibiotics at some point in future. Already in New Zealand animals are being screened for antibiotic residues prior to slaughter, so the pressure is increasing on a worldwide level,” said Dr Conington.
By developing GBVs within the Texel breed, it is hoped that farmers will be able to breed stock with greater genetic resistance to both footrot and mastitis and deliver a triplefold benefit across the industry, added Mr Yates.
“Breeding stock with greater resistance to these key diseases will improve animal welfare, boost farmer returns and reduce reliance on antibiotics, cutting the chances of antibiotic resistance developing.
“This is a major benefit to everyone involved in the UK sheep industry and once again the Texel Sheep Society is putting itself at the forefront of supporting industry and developing the breed to the benefit of commercial producers.”
Successful Welsh Sheep for Texel Society
The first NSA event of the summer, Welsh Sheep, was a great success for the Texel Society, with the Society’s trade stand attracting a great crowd throughout the day and plenty of interest in the breed from existing and potential ram buyers as well as processors, auctioneers and lamb buyers.
The event saw the Society launch its new Primestock magazine, the latest issue of which contains a wide range of features demonstrating the breed’s ability to thrive across the UK, in a wide range of farming systems and environmental and climatic conditions.
With a great display of sheep kindly loaned by the Gibb family’s Bettonfield flock the Society was supported by the Shropshire and Borders Texel Breeders Club throughout the event, with more than 100 people entering the stock judging competition held on the day and in the process raising money for the Society’s inaugural national charity initiative, The Youth Cancer Trust, and the Club’s fundraising for the Welsh Air Ambulance.
Backing up the presence of the Society and the breed was the use of Texel sires on the host farm’s commercial flocks and also the presence of Texel cross lambs on a significant number of other trade stands at the events.
Additonally, the event’s inaugural ewe hogg show and sale saw a pair of Texel ewe hoggs from the Bennett family’s Plasucha flock win the class for Continental breed hoggs. This pair were by Kingledores Scaramouche and out of a Gyhros bred dam. They went on to sell for the top price of the day at 420gns.
Texel Society Vacancy at the Stoneleigh Office
Texel Society announces a vacancy at the Stoneleigh office....
To view the details of the job vacancy click here
Texel 5 Nations 2015 for Young Texel Breeders
Texel 5 Nations 2015 for Young Texel Breeders - sign up to attend the event being hosted in E.I.R.E by the Southern Irish Texel Society.
TEXEL 5 Nations 2015
June 12th - 14th 2015
Open to Texel Young Breeders (18-35yrs)
Join the official Texel YDP Party taking part in the 5 Nations 2015
Hosted by the Southern Irish Texel Society and taking place in the Dublin area. They have put together a tremendous itinerary with something for everyone
£123 + your travel costs, this includes participation & transport for all the events taking place
and accommodation for the duration in Dublin.
(Payable to the Irish Texel Young Breeders Association)
MISS IT - MISS OUT - contact Duncan or Anna to reserve your place NOW!
Full itinerary available here
YDP Chairman - Duncan Mellin - Tel: 07540053431 - firstname.lastname@example.org
YDP Secretary - Anna Minnice-Hughes - Tel: 07979381285 - email@example.com
Deadlines for Signet Recording BLUP Run 1
Texel Members that Signet Record performance record are reminded the data deadline for the next forthcoming Texel breeding evaluation is 08/05/2015
Lambing information should be completed and sent to the Texel office urgently or uploaded through the members system on Basco.
Weight records that you wish to have included in this analysis must be received by Signet by noon on this date. Information can be posted, faxed (Fax: 0247 641 9071) or emailed firstname.lastname@example.org to the Signet office.
Corriecravie flock wins EBLEX most improved flock award
This year’s EBLEX most improved flock award for the recorded Texel flock showing the greatest genetic gain has been awarded to Paul and Anna Johnson’s Corriecravie flock, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire.
The Corrriecravie flock was established in 1988 with the intention of breeding rams for carcass and mobility, explains Paul Johnson. “Having successfully shown cattle at Christmas primestock shows for many years and with a small herd of pedigree Limousins at home, in order to become a carcass producer in the sheep world I was interested in the Texel.”
The couple decided to start Signet Recording in 2002 in a bid to increase selection knowledge. “I hoped that recording would help to speed up the selection process following restocking after foot-and-mouth, identifying important female lines and, provided the figures proved good enough, offering a significant marketing tool,” says Paul.
“It was also evident at the time that commercial flockmasters were more interested in performance figures for rams.
“I advise customers to look at the 20 week scan weight and muscle depth if their aim is to get well fleshed prime lambs away quickly. We have seen consistent improvements in these traits within the flock,” he adds.
“What is so pleasing about this award is that it has been won with 25 years of Corriecravie breeding on the female side back to one of our original ewes, Dolores, through her descendant Corriecravie Union Pacific,” he concludes.
Commenting on the win, Signet Breeding Services Manager Sam Boon says: “Rates of genetic improvement in Signet recorded Texel flocks are at an all-time high. The difference between the best high EBV breeding stock and average animals is increasing year on year.
“This means commercial producers have more to gain when investing in rams with superior performance genetics. Pedigree breeders can capitalise on these differences too and this is exactly what Paul and Anna have done.”
A full feature on the Corriecravie flock can be viewed here
Changes to AHPA services and exotic disease threat update
Following considerable recent changes at DEFRA’s Animal Health and Plant Health Agency (APHA) which was previously the AHVLA, NSA chief executive Phil Stocker provides an update on the current situation following the closure of AHVLA facilities and changes to disease surveillance.
“Following the inclusion of many third party providers, Amanda Carson, the lead vet in APHA’s small ruminant expert group surveillance intelligence unit, said she was confident a greater proportion of farm businesses in England and Wales had access (within a one-hour drive) to post mortem facilities now.
“The difference is that these are a combination of the remaining vet investigation (VI) centres, third party VI centres and third party carcase collection services. Everyone can find their nearest service provider at http://ahvla.defra.gov.uk/postcode/index.asp
“Importantly, the number of animals being submitted for post mortem (PM) remains relatively low, which makes it challenging for post mortem facilities to be provided to the industry and for APHA to monitor for novel and emerging diseases.
“APHA’s vision is for close working relationships between farmers and vets, supported by APHA’s VI services working on the more unusual and concerning cases, rather than routine losses. They believe this will work for the industry at a time when Government spending cuts have been far-reaching.
“Farmers should always liaise with their own vet for diagnostic work and when submitted carcasses to APHA for PM. Where a PM is carried out by a private vet for one of the new third party service providers (i.e. not your own vet), information about the farm is only ever shared with the third party and the farmer, not the vet doing the PM. APHA emphasised this point due to concerns in some areas of the country about work being sub-contracted.
“APHA is aware that farmers and private vets want more information on disease trends, endemic disease and information at on-farm level. It is trying to balance this demand with the fact that its primary concern is new disease threats and not long-established and endemic health problems that farms face. This is an area of work that NSA will continue to engage with APHA on and keep members updated.
“On the emerging disease front evidence suggests Schmallenberg is still circulating in the UK, despite no confirmed cases from this season’s lambing. It is possible that disease will follow a two/three year pattern as flocks acquire and lose natural immunity as new breeding females come through. Schmallenberg vaccines are not currently available in the UK, but manufacturers have assured APHA that they will be made available if needed.
“And Bluetongue is actively circulating in country south of the Alps and causing huge problems in Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, Greece and Spain. Movement of animals in Europe is, therefore, a huge risk and APHA’s monitoring of imported stock is vital.
“And additionally, APHA continues to carry out the statutory EU requirement for member states to monitor for scrapie. No cases of classical scrapie were found in 2014 and only 10 cases of atypical scrapie. This information is vital for ongoing work by NSA on relaxation of carcase splitting rules and TSE regulations,” added Mr Stocker.
NADIS - Parasite Forecast and Disease Alert - April 2015
Nematodirosis and coccidiosis in lambs, worm control in cattle, worming ewes and IBR - the NADIS April Webinar topics.
NADIS publishes a monthly Parasite Forecast for farmers and livestock keepers, based on detailed Met Office data. The Parasite Forecast outlines the parasitic challenge facing cattle and sheep in the different UK regions. This month's webinar focuses on the Nematodirus forecast and also worming of ewes and planning a worming strategy for calves.
Coccidiosis can be a problem in lambs at this time of year and can have significant economic and welfare implications. IBR is a highly infectious disease in cattle and even endemically infected herds should think carefully about how to manage this important condition. In this month’s webinar James Aitken, of Orchard Veterinary Group, explains the clinical signs, treatment and preventive strategies for these common conditions.
April webinars are now out - click here to view.
Texel sponsored Young Butcher wins at National Young Stars
Leciestershire-based young butcher Ben Greenfield scooped first prize in the butchery competition at last week's inaugural National Young Stars event, Malvern, in a close fought competition.
Ben, who works alongside his father Martin managing the family's 1000-ewe Texel cross ewes, was sponsored in the competition by the Texel Sheep Society and runs an on-farm butchery operation where he puts through 40 lambs a month for boxed lamb, Farmers Markets and restaurant clients.
Commenting on the judging procedure, judge Michael Alford said he was particularly impressed with the quality of the butchers in the competitions. “The standard of the competitors today was incredibly high and I’d be happy to employ either of them. Both the winner and the runner up have different areas of expertise, but on the day it was the quality of Ben’s display that set him apart as a winner.”
Ben will now take advantage of the opportunity of working for Michael Alford in his long established family business for a week as part of his winning prize.
The event saw more than 100 young farming enthusiasts between the age of 8 and 24 showcase their skills in marketing and presentation, livestock preparation, handling, auctioneering, butchering and general knowledge of the industry. Commenting on the event, chairman Neil Lloyd said: “For year one, the event has blown our expectations. The aim all along has been to be young people at the front of an event, as on so many occasions they’re last on the running order at a show and should be given the profile and credit they deserve.
“With more than 50 sponsors for the event, trade stands, universities and colleges in attendance and teams and individuals entered from all corners of the UK and overseas from Canada, it’s cemented itself as a headline event in the farming calendar.”