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Breed Enhancement

Hello fellow Wiltshire Horn Breeders!!

    Just a few lines here about The Signet Breeders Group. For those of you who do not know about this it is an independent scheme run by the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) to improve genetic gain in sheep and cattle promoting growth rates, litter size, maternal ability and reducing inbreeding etc. It provides a dedicated website for those seeking stock and comparing traits. Once initial paperwork is done it is not particularly onerous to collect data needed for the computer programme to work out results.

    The data needed are the sires used on which ewes, an eight week weight and a 21 week weight (A lot of you will already be collecting this information for your own records anyway!).  Other information such as birth weights etc can be supplied if time allows but not a necessity.

    This model is currently used through many breeds of sheep and similar models are used abroad and have had great success in keeping these breeds continually improving. This keeps the breeds in the window as Terminal Sires etc and does not let them fail to be commercial thus only becoming rare breed hobby sheep with a limited genetic base. The Hampshire Down has been one of the many success stories.

    I am sure there are many in our society that wish to see the Wiltshire Horn go forward with good breeding and technology hand  in hand. It has been proven many times in trials by exposing lifelong sheep breeders to selections of rams that eye alone cannot see and pick out the best Genetic stock. Many articles in the Farmers Guardian and the Farmers weekly along with other books and press publications are out there to prove this.

    There is already a pro-active group within the Wiltshire Horn Society who meet once a year, share a linkage ram and who have already made great improvements over the time they have been recording (see graphs below). We would welcome new participants as the more involved the quicker the Genetic improvement (who would not want to use a Ram that will give a crop of lambs with carcasses 2-3kg-if not heavier-of good muscle and not fat at slaughter. This soon puts more £’s in the bank!).

     At the start a set number of ewes and rams were needed to participate in the scheme but now smaller groups  can be entered as multiplier flocks so why not give Sam Boon the main consultant  and his team a call/email to get started and for any advice (address and phone below). Also other Signet breeders would give help and advice and a pointer in the right direction to anyone getting started. As a bonus there is also a cash incentive from the Wilshire Society which you can enquire about. So why not help keep our breed improving, going forward, growing and staying in the commercial window and making the Wiltshires more profitable to keep! As you prepare for lambing give this some thought and research and why not join in?
    Wishing you all a good lambing and hope those who have lambed have had a good one. Let’s hope it’s an enjoyable sheep year!  

The Wiltshire Horn Signet Group.

Current Membership:-


Trading Name





N & M J Ashwin


BS35 4HN

01454 632313


Campbell W Tweed

Co Antrim

BT40 2RW

028 2858 3405


Jean Burke



01726 882204


George Gruzelier


PL14 4QP

01579 326158


York King Ltd


BA13 4NS

07979 904886


St Just Farms Ltd



01722 718216


S E W Temple



01524 37695


Andrew Mogridge



01279 876421

Read on for further information:-

By Anna Bowen, Signet Breeding Consultant

The aim of the Wiltshire Horn recording programme
Wiltshire Horn recording is carried out by Signet Breeding Services in line with many other sheep breeds. The aim of recording is to promote and facilitate ongoing sustainable improvements in performance.
Why recording is important in sheep breeding programmes
By collecting data on birth weights, growth rates, ultrasound scanning information and other indicators of performance, Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) can be produced for many desirable and economically important traits. These EBVs show the genetic potential for each trait and are valued by both pedigree and commercial breeders, thus maintaining and generating demand for the Wiltshire Horn as both a terminal sire and a maternal sire, producing more productive female replacements.
Why the index has been updated this year
The Wiltshire Horn breeding index combines EBVs for Litter Size, Maternal Ability, Mature Size, Eight Week Weight, Scan Weight and Fat Depth. This combination provides an easier tool for ranking animals and comparing their genetic potential for a single overall breeding objective, assessed by looking at lots of different EBVs.
Within the index each EBV is assigned a weighting depending on how important it is perceived to be for the intended use of the Wiltshire Horn, and for overall breed improvement.
Previously the Maternal Ability EBV was weighted at 72.1% of the index, meaning that animals with a very high maternal ability EBV value received what was felt to be a disproportionally high index.
The new index drops the weighting of the Maternal Ability EBV to 52.73% (so it is still very important), whist increasing the index weightings applied to the Eight Week Weight and Muscle Depth EBVs in particular.
The new index is therefore more closely correlated to growth rate, carcase traits and prolificacy – whilst still retaining a focus on maternal ability (the genes of milk production). Using the new Wiltshire Horn index will enable faster progress in terms of genetic gain for these traits. Maternal ability progress will be slightly slower but still highly significant.
Although the average index for Wiltshire Horns has not changed greatly it will be noted that the indexes for sheep with high EBVs for growth and carcase traits but lower Maternal Ability EBVs will have risen relative to their contemporaries.
Contact details about performance recording
For more information about Signet Breeding Services visit the website   call 024 7647 8829 or e-mail by directly