Everything you need to know about the Hampshire Down ram as more breeders switch to 'profitable' breed

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At a time of immense change in the UK sheep industry, both in terms of support payments and the industry’s role in the wider UK economy, ram selection for a commercial enterprise has an increasingly important role to play.

The selection of a terminal sire has to guarantee to increase efficiency and ultimately profitability of the sheep enterprise.

The Hampshire Down has prided itself on its ability to sire lambs that grow quickly and are proven to finish well on a variety of systems. Lambs are also born with a good covering of wool and are quick to suckle, making their survival chances much better than some other breeds. Farmers continually report having more living lambs to market than from other terminal sires, another commercial benefit of using the Hampshire and one so often overlooked when tempted to focus purely on carcass alone.

Having the benefit of all the native traits ensures that the Hampshire Down Ram will last for many seasons and give the commercial breeder a significant return on investment. Over his lifetime he will work significantly longer than other terminal sire breeds covering a high number of ewes each season.

Investing in Hampshire Down ram pays dividendsInvesting in Hampshire Down ram pays dividends
Investing in Hampshire Down ram pays dividends

Improved carcass weights, coupled with fast growth also make the Hampshire Down the ideal cross for any of the maternal breeds. When crossed onto a Lleyn ewe for example, the Hampshire Down shortens finishing times of prime lambs considerably.

The implications of this are significant and are often the main consideration of commercial farmers choosing to use a Hampshire Down. These lambs are more efficient; they will reach target weight earlier, thereby freeing up grazing for the rest of the flock, hitting an earlier market and reducing inputs, including labour and vet and med.

These good lamb early growth rates are supported by the recent results of the Ram Compare project. This data also backs up the claim that the Hampshire Down cross lambs are first and fastest to finish from grass on commercial systems.

In the recently published results of AHDBs’ RamCompare project, it was proven that Hampshire Down sired lambs finished quicker than any other terminal sire. The table shows the results for Daysto-Slaughter, with Hampshire Down sired lambs outperformed any other breed.

Figures from AHDBFigures from AHDB
Figures from AHDB

Commercial breeders switching to Hampshire Down rams are reaping the rewards seeing Hampshire Down lambs regularly being drawn in earlier slaughter batches, adding to the long-term profitability of their business.

Continued performance recording through AHDB/Signet - National Terminal Sire Evaluation has accelerated the genetic progress significantly over the last 10 years, with breeders selecting for growth and muscling. This has meant that Hampshire Down rams have become leaner creating animals with a reduced overall fat content whilst retaining enough cover to finish more easily than their continental competitors.

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