Aberdale x Herdwick lamb trial resultsSaturday 12 November 2011
Impressed with the quality of crossbred lambs reared in marginal areas (from the Herdwick draft ewe and Texel ram) - Innovis agreed to participate in a project to determine the potential of a Herdwick / Aberdale cross.
A meeting organised by Cumbria Farmer Network for farmers in Copeland and Allerdale looked at the results of the lamb trial - the Herdwick valued on Cumbrian fells for its heritage, hardiness, adaptation and low maintenance; and the Aberdale for being hardy, well conformed and based on British Texel breeding, bred for maternal traits and carrying the naturally occurring Inverdale™ prolificacy gene which was originally discovered in a flock in New Zealand.
Twenty one people attended Mitchells Auction at Cockermouth in October to hear more. The meeting began with a presentation by Amanda Carson, secretary of the Sheep Breeders Association who set up the Herdwick Development Group in 2010 to promote and improve Herdwick sheep.
As the leading supplier of breeding technologies for the UK sheep industry, Innovis utilise the best UK bloodlines to produce exceptional sire lines, aiming to reduce disease, lameness, worming resistance, while producing easy care, efficient progeny with good meat quality, for both hill, marginal and lowland breeders. Initially tups are sold or leased on a twelve-month contract.
Innovis Aberdale crossbred ewe lambs carry the best carcass and maternal traits, offering commercial lamb producers the opportunity to maintain or increase production outputs from a prolific but compact ewe that is capable of rearing twins off grass, achieving 180-200% lambing percentage without the need for autumn flushing while utilising marginal land. They are suited to outdoor lambing on a low input grass based systems and produce lambs with fast growth rates off grass and finished lambs in the top carcass specification and yield.
Initially 170 Herdwick draft ewes were put to two Aberdale rams with 70 Herdwick ewes put to a commercial Texel ram for comparison. Lambing took place in April 2011 and a lambing percentage of 135 was realised with lively lambs up on their feet and quick to suck.
At an open day in July, farmers saw Aberdale rams and Herdwick drafts (7 – 8 yrs old) with their Aberdale and Texel cross lambs. The birth weights had been recorded and the performance of both breeds of lambs have since been recorded over the season.
Texel lambs were generally bigger at birth but results showed that Aberdale-cross lambs were bigger at weaning, with an average weight gain of 4 kilos over the Texel cross bred lambs.
Amanda concluded that trials will continue using a Charolais x Beltex ram over the Herdwick x Aberdale female lambs.
While there are significant advantages to using the Aberdale Ram, there is one disadvantage in that any female lambs carrying the Aberdale gene when crossed with an Aberdale ram, 50% may be infertile. Therefore the use of the Aberdale ram has to be carefully planned within a flock.