The objective in Meatlinc selection remains constant and simple. It is to produce a Ram which, when crossed with commercial ewes, will produce lambs for slaughter that will show a PROFIT for the owner – and, moreover, a higher and more easily achieved level of profit than that likely using other Terminal Sire breeds.
How can that higher profit be realised ?
- By lambs that grow fast and get to slaughter weight earlier.
- By lambs that grow to between 19 and 21 kg dcw without getting over fat.
- By lambs that achieve good carcase quality grades.
It is essential to appreciate just how financially important these three features are:
- Getting to market two weeks earlier can be worth between £2 and £4 a head.
- Achieving an average of 20kg – as compared with being obliged to slaughter at 17kg – can be worth as much as £7 to £10 a head.
- Of course it is desirable to get good carcase grades – preferably U3L – and certainly not the lowest grades.
We can, and do, produce rams that enable the commercial producer to hit these three targets. But in addition, there are ways in which he can help himself. He must:
- Reduce his costs, especially that of labour. Here, "Easy Care" is an important element – see our page on this subject.
- Target lambing as the high point in reducing cost and increasing output. The Meatlinc breed is specifically selected to give trouble free, low labour, lambing. Easy Birth & Get Up & Go
- Make optimum use of grass and white clover and forage crops; and minimum use of nitrogen fertiliser. Use concentrates when necessary and desirable.
- Be sure to buy rams from recorded performance flocks. Buying 'pretty looking' rams about which he knows nothing about quality is not the way to profit.
Selection Procedures for the Meatlinc Breed.
Going right back to the early 1960's the selection of the Meatlinc breed has been based on performance and not solely on physical appearance. Technology has of course advanced tremendously since then, and the Meatlinc breed has always been in the forefront of making maximum use of those changes.
Today, in 2007, the selection procedures – uniformly used across ALL Meatlinc flocks – are as follows:
- All recorded information is collected and analysed by Signet/MLC .
- All lambs are tag identified and weighed at birth.
- All lambs are weighed at 8 weeks.
- All lambs are weighed and ultrasonically scanned at 21 weeks.
- A selection of potential stud sires are sent to Edinburgh for Computed Tomography (CT) scanning.
All this is put together by Signet in a book for the whole breed as well as for each individual flock.
For each lamb, we have – Parentage; actual weights and measurements; and these are translated into "Estimated Breeding Values" (EBVs) for weight gain, for muscle and muscularity, fat levels, as well as for litter and maternal values. All this information is then condensed into a Performance Index which shows the Economic Value calculated from the EBVs.
Information is one thing – How we make use of it is much more important.
Firstly in September in each flock:
- Only those fully resistant to Scrapie are retained.
- The bottom 25% on Index are culled irrespective of looks.
- The remaining 75% are then all individually examined for physical characteristics – specifically for strength of back leg, sound feet, length and tightness of fleece. Any suspects are culled.
- The top performers are then assessed for use as potential stud sires.
Then, at the end of September, the potential stud sires from each flock are brought together to one location for, firstly, a group assessment and, secondly, for decision on circulation of sires around the flocks so as to maintain genetic uniformity.
All Meatlinc rams are sold as shearlings – so the following March and again in May, all rams are closely examined once more. Any that have not developed satisfactorily are culled.
The Sale List is then prepared and the following information is available for each ram, as an example:
All the above applies to both ram and ewe lambs. In addition, and of great importance, certain procedures are applied to ewes especially with relevance to easy lambing. ANY ewe that has to be helped at lambing is culled. Any ewes whose lambs do not Get Up and Go without help is culled. And that illustrates the importance that Meatlinc attaches to reducing costs at lambing time.
Also any ewe during the year that shows problems with feet or is a persistent scourer is culled.
Easy Care Characteristics
What is Easy Care?
Easy care is making the sheep self reliant and able to lamb unassisted.
Easy Care is the ability of newborn lambs to suck unaided.
Dr. John Vipold of SAC says that crossbred ewes put to the right terminal sire can also be easy care.
Of the many things effecting lamb vigor at birth, its sire has the greatest effect. Some ewes could add £5 per lamb to costs at lambing because their lambs failed to stand quickly and suck. In Meatlinc, we call this "get up and go".
Meatlincs are not bred for showing at ram fairs to win competitions, and have not been selected for 'bone and strong heads'. Strong sholder development is a hinderance to easy lambing. Meatlinc rams are bred from ewes selected for their ability to lamb unaided.
Meatlinc ewes are not overfed - overfeeding of concentrates masks ability of EBV's to reflect true conversion of grass to meat and parasite resistance. Overfeeding reduces ram life and ram mating ability, reducing ram to ewe ratios.
Meatlinc users consistantly say that
- The number of assisted births reduces dramatically
- Newly born lambs very quickly 'get up and go' and suck
- Ram life is surprisingly high
- Rams have the ability and desire to serve large numbers of ewes.