Sheep Breeders Round Table online conference 2021

The Sheep Breeders Round Table (SBRT) will take place between Monday 15 and  Friday 19 November 2021. SBRT is an industry initiative, with collaboration from AHDB Beef & Lamb, AgriSearch, the National Sheep Association (NSA), Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). It is open to anyone with an interest in sheep production and always attracts a varied audience of farmers, breeders, researchers and vets. Register your attendance today via the links below.


Monday 15 November 12.00 – 13.30

Welcome from Charles Sercombe, SBRT Chairman

Session one: Back to basics - practical guide on why and how to use EBVs within your commercial flock

Host: AHDB               Chairman: Emma Steele and Leah Shanks, AHDB

Participate in a back-to-basics discussion on why estimated breeding values (EBVs) are relevant to every commercial sheep breeding business. Dewi Jones, Innovis, will shed light on how sheep end up with figures (EBVs) and how to interpret them. Dewi will be accompanied by two commercial sheep farmers, one with a terminal sire focus and one with a maternal breeding focus, both who use EBVs in their businesses. Together they will explain the benefits they see on-farm and give a really practical guide on how they incorporate recorded genetics into their flocks. This will be an interactive session with opportunity to put questions to the panel. Confused by EBVs? Don’t know where to start? Don’t know what they mean? Think they are only relevant for pedigree breeders? Then this is a session for you!

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Monday 15 November 19.00 – 21.00

Session two: Breeding more efficient ewes

Host: AHDB               Chairman: Prof Mike Coffey, Professor of Livestock Informatics

Part one: Multi-breed evaluation for maternal breeds

Samuel Boon, AHDB, will be talking about recent research and the planned launch of a new, multi-breed evaluation for maternal breeds. The new model will include updated breeding values for parasite resistance and new breeding values for traits like lamb survival, longevity, mature weight and body condition score in an approach that seeks to optimise performance, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the national flock. George Cullimore has a Signet Recorded Lleyn flock located near Bath. George will talk about the opportunities that exist to breed for parasite resistance and the opportunities this new analysis provides for his business.      

Part two: Enhancing maternal performance – New Zealand

Sharon McIntyre, Genetic Evaluation Technical Manager for Beef and Lamb New Zealand, works closely with SIL (the sheep recording service in NZ) in the creation and delivery of new technical services. She will talk about the latest developments in enhancing maternal performance in NZ, including current thinking with regard to ewe mature size and longevity.

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Tuesday 16 November 19.00 – 21.00

Session three: Innovative technology to support the sheep sector

Host: Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC)           Chairman: John Richards, HCC

Part one: Hill Ram Scheme – Adding value to the hill flock

The Hill Ram Scheme brings the latest technology to hill flocks in Wales with the aim of strengthening the Welsh sheep sector through long-term genetic improvement. This is achieved by utilising DNA parentage technology to understand their flock’s genetic performance – allowing farmers to improve their flocks and meet market requirements with little to no change to their extensive systems and also creating a critical mass of performance-recorded hill flocks within Wales’ stratified sheep system. Join Janet Roden, sheep geneticist, together with Irwel Jones a Hill Ram Scheme participant to discuss how performance recording can add value to the hill flock.

Part two: Maternal trait development using genomic data

John McEwan, is a principal scientist at AgResearch in New Zealand, specialising in sheep genomics. He will join us to discuss how the use of genomic data, through DNA analysis, can improve maternal traits in the Southern Hemisphere and how this can be applied to the UK sheep industry.

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Wednesday 17 November 19.00 – 21.00

Session four: Terminal sire breeding and new ways to sell stock

Host: Quality Meat Scotland (QMS)    Chairman: Bruce McConachie and Beth Alexander, QMS

Part one: Terminal sire breeding and the role of CT scanning

Selecting terminal sire traits in breeding sheep is no easy task. Computed Tomography (CT) scanning is one tool to help inform decisions. Scanning using CT is a more accurate method for identifying characteristics which cannot be measured by ultrasound and allows, among other things, better identification of the best animals in a flock for breeding. Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) runs a CT scanning service for sheep, and Nicola Lambe from SRUC will be joined by two breeders, Scott Brown and Irene Fowlie, both utilising this service to discuss how it is beneficial to their operation.                                                            

Part two: Marketing of sheep during Covid and beyond

Covid-19 has forced us to adapt many elements of our day-to-day lives, and the 2020 tup sale season was one like no other, with many sales taking place online. QMS will be joined by two breeders, Neil McGowan and John Scott who have adapted to on-farm marketing of sheep.

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Thursday 18 November 19.00 – 21.00

Session five: Future proofing your sheep business

Host: AgriSearch       Chairman: Jason Rankin, AgriSearch, and Edward Adamson, AgriSearch Sheep Advisory Committee

This session will cover four distinct areas.

  • RamCompare feed efficiency study - Naomi Rutherford will explain the results of the feed efficiency trials conducted at Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Hillsborough as part of the RamCompare NI project.
  • Lessons from 15 years of on-farm maternal sheep breeding studies - Aurélie Aubry, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), will provide an overview of long-term breeding studies conducted on commercial sheep farms across Northern Ireland.
  • Targeted Selective Treatment (TST) of anthelmintics – Eric Morgan from Queen’s University will be joined by John Martin, project sheep farmer, to explain the new European Innovation Partnership (EIP) project and provide a summary of the first year experience of implementing TST practices on farm and its impact.
  • Accelerating Ruminant Carbon Zero (ARCZero) – John Gilliland (Devenish, Group Lead) will be joined by Roger Bell, project sheep farmer, to discuss the initial findings of a European Innovation Partnership (EIP) project aimed at accelerating livestock’s pathway to net carbon zero involving a group of seven farmers across Northern Ireland.

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Friday 19 November 12.00 – 13.30

Session six: Breeding sheep for the future – genetics to meet the requirements of farmers, society and policymakers

Host: National Sheep Association (NSA)      Chairman: Dan Phipps, NSA Chairman

Part one: A view from overseas

Denis Gautier, Institut de l'Élevage, France, will look at the role of innovative technology to progress genetics. He will explain how ‘The Digital Farm’ evaluates innovative technology for breeders and commercial sheep farmers.

Part two: The UK agenda - Can genetics keep everyone happy?

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, will provide an overview on breeding for meat, wool and milk, environmental targets and societal expectations around a managed rural environment. his is followed by a facilitated discussion led by Dan Phipps, NSA Chairman, involving sheep breeders from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Summary from the week and closing comments from Charles Sercombe, SBRT Chairman.

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