The five-year results of sheep genetic improvement project RamCompare have revealed the top traits from performance-recorded rams to drive flock productivity. RamCompare data ranks rams for specific traits such as scan weight (growth rate) or muscle depth. The breeding research project demonstrates how commercial producers can use specific estimated breeding values (EBVs) to identify rams with a high genetic potential to boost flock profitability.

Phase 2 of the RamCompare project was completed in December with funding recently secured to develop a third phase over the next five years.


RamCompare uses nominated performance-recorded rams from various terminal sire breeds on commercial farms across the UK. To date, the joint levy-funded project has recorded the performance of over 26,000 lambs sired by 280 rams through artificial insemination and natural mating over five breeding seasons. Signet breeding manager Sam Boon urges breeders to focus on those traits that deliver the greatest profit to their system and source recorded rams with the right EBVs to deliver them. “Within the groups of high genetic merit sires used we have identified differences in progeny values worth £4-£6/lamb, providing farmers with the opportunity to enhance flock profitability through careful ram selection," Boon said.
"This equates to £1200-£1500/ram during their working lifetime. Few rams can do it all; some will excel for carcase conformation, others for speed of finish.
"Producers should therefore evaluate their system and determine which sires have the potential to make the biggest financial impact.” Despite the challenges that arose in 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic, the project was still able to complete full abattoir datasets from each farm and collect ultrasound scanning data from most of them.

However, unfortunately, due to the restrictions, the Shearforce evaluations were not able to be completed this season. The Shearforce breeding value provides an indication of meat tenderness and this table will be updated later when access to the lab can resume.

Carcases were dissected to assess primal yields at a fixed weight to provide specific breeding values for the carcase weights, front, middle and haunch. The UK sheep industry shows an extensive range of genetic variation with a wealth of opportunities, with six different breeds topping at least one of the RamCompare leader tables. The full results can be viewed online on the RamCompare website. The key findings are shown as an economic value to demonstrate the financial gain achieved on these commercial systems due to careful ram selection.