As with all aspects of Sheep Ireland we are constantly looking for ways to improve the LambPlus programme with the main driver of change being breeder feedback. Every day we receive feedback from breeders with their suggestions of how things could be done better, and we go to great efforts to take all of these suggestions into consideration when making changes to the programme.
One change that was implemented on the back of breeder feedback was the introduction of the Data Quality Index (DQI) in 2015. The DQI was introduced as a tool to rate flocks based on the quality and quantity of data they recorded allowing breeders to identify areas of data recording that need more attention and also to reward those flock that were data recording to a very high standard. The DQI measures the level of completeness, timeliness and quality of data recorded which is critical to the success of the breed improvement strategy and the accuracy of the evaluations we produce. The DQI has become a central part of the LambPlus programme with breeders engaging very well with the DQI and using it as a tool to improve and promote their flock. After 5 years of the DQI we can now see that the flocks that have higher DQI scores are making more genetic gain on both the replacement and terminal index, highlighting the gains to be made from improved and consistent data recording.
As with any system there is always room for improvement and following many discussions with breeders it was decided that despite the DQI working well for the majority of breeders, it was not working so well for mixed flocks with both pedigree and commercial sheep. For this reason, it was decided to split the DQI for mixed flocks into a pedigree DQI and a commercial DQI. Breeders with both pedigree and commercial sheep will now automatically get a DQI for each flock. The main benefit of this is that breeders can record their commercial animals on LambPlus without affecting their pedigree DQI. It is not feasible for many breeders to record the same level of data on their commercial flock as their pedigree flock which up to now would have negatively affected their DQI.
Breeders with a pedigree and commercial flock will now receive two separate DQIs and will also receive two separate lists of suggestions of how to improve each DQI. It is hoped that this change will encourage more breeders to record their commercial animals while also improving the pedigree DQI of those already doing so. The new commercial DQI is adapted to better suit commercial data recording with traits such as muscle and fat scanning being replaced by drafting weight to better reflect the differences in commercial and pedigree flock systems. The DQI has also been updated to better facilitate the different flock sizes. In the past very small or very large flocks found it difficult to meet all of the requirement for each trait but the new improved DQI will calculate a flocks DQI while taking flock size into account. We hope that these new changes will be a significant benefit to LambPlus users and will help improve the LambPlus programme for all.