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Finalist of Most Improved LambPlus Flock 2022 – Michael Clarke, Suffolks, Ballyhine

Michael Clarke is one of three finalists for this year’s Most Improved LambPlus Flock. The Ballyhine Suffolk  flock was established over 19 years ago and is located in Barntown, Co. Wexford. Michael has been performance recording with LambPlus since 2013 and lambed down 9 purebred Suffolk ewes in 2022. Michael was a participant of the Ovigen project which involved genotyping his flock of purebred Suffolks.

Since his participation in the Ovigen project, Michael has continued to genotype the majority of his breeding flock with 100% of his breeding ewes and stock rams being genotyped. This means that most of his flock have a genomic evaluation with the average accuracy of 61% on the Replacement index and average accuracy of 64% on the Terminal index of lambs born in 2022. Michael says that:

“genotyping my flock not only provides parentage verification but it produces more data which produces more accurate €urostars which gives my customers much more confidence when purchasing when they see high accuracy figures”

On average, Michaels Suffolk lambs are 5 star on the Replacement index and 4.6 €urostars on the Terminal index. Michael’s main customer is commercial farmers and he aims to produce lambs that are fast growing and produce good carcase while maintaining the Suffolk breed characteristics. When purchasing breeding rams for his flock, he selects rams that have high indexes particularly in both Replacement and Terminal as well as Survivability and Days to Slaughter indexes. He looks at the breeding indexes of his ewes to identify which index they may be weaker in, for example Survivability, and then pays particular attention on finding a ram that is high in the Survivability index. While looking at the breeding indexes when selecting breeding stock, Michael also pays as much attention to the character traits of the breed such as confirmation to ensure that the stock are visibly what he wants to breed.

Another area that Michael focuses on is genetic linkage and he entered a shared ram into the CPT program in,IE043113900915D, CZK1800915 in 2020 which greatly enhanced the accuracies of his breeding indexes. This ram is ranked the Top 2% of the Suffolk breed in both the Replacement (across-breed value of €1.44) and Terminal (across-breed value of €1.81) indexes as well as his Survivability index. It ranks in the Top 3% of the breed in Days to Slaughter with a trait value of  -8.5 days at 97% accuracy.

Michael boasts an impressive DQI of 93% which he puts down to his diligence in performance recording. The timeliness of his data recording on lambs from birth all the way through to scanning age are areas which he likes to put a lot of emphasis on as well as the quality of the data. Michael has Muscle & Fat Scanned nearly every year that he has been in LambPlus and this quality data all flows into the genetic evaluations of his lambs as well as maintaining his impressive flock DQI %. Michael says:

“recording performance information in a timely manner provides a true reflection of the performance of breeding stock”

Michael has maintained a DQI % of at least 90% or above since 2019 and this highlights the serious dedication that he puts into performance recording his flock to produce good quality breeding stock with reliable breeding indexes to his customers.

The overall winner of the Most Improved LambPlus flock will be announced at the Sheep Ireland Breeding Conference & Farm Walk on the 12th July. The winner will receive a cash prize of €500, an engraved trophy and bragging rights for the year ahead. The two other finalists will receive a cash prize of €250 and a framed award. FBD kindly sponsors the LambPlus awards. Flocks were selected based on a number of criteria including the genetic merit of the flock based on the Replacement & Terminal Index, the DQI of the flock and the Accuracy of the breeding values within the flock. These awards are to acknowledge the effort and contribution that these breeders are making to the National Sheep Industry.