Sir, – I read with interest John Vaughan’s letter (The SF, May 30) regarding performance recording and AHDB’s RamCompare project.

Much like John, I was intrigued to see that Grey Peel Learjet, a 15-year-old ram, ranked as one of the best performing animals in RamCompare.

John raised an important point about the value of slaughter progeny data in evaluations. Many have understood that there is some disparity between performance in pedigree flocks and commercial conditions, particularly when different traits are being measured or traits are being assessed in different ways.

Importantly, RamCompare – now in its final year – has created greater links between commercial abattoir data and performance recording, something the Texel Sheep Society has also been pushing ahead with in recent years through its own extensive R and D projects and continued support.

The Texel Society’s own projects have seen more than 5000 cross-bred lambs sired by performance recorded Texel rams assessed, with abattoir data on a range of traits used in the creation of new estimated breeding values (EBVs) which will be rolled out to Texel breeders.

Following the completion of these R and D projects in recent months, the society is exploiting its unique position by continuing to collect abattoir data derived from video image analysis (VIA) and incorporate it in texelplus evaluations.

This will ensure Texel breeders routinely have slaughter data supporting the EBVs and available into the future, even when RamCompare stops.

Additionally, recognising that Texels are the second most prevalent maternal breed, including both pure and cross-bred ewes, the society continues to support the collection of novel phenotypes of commercial value that impact on maternal performance.

This is a different approach to some breeds which just use the measure of eight-week weights and creates the potential for a separate Texel Maternal Index, usually only provided for maternal breeds.

Mr Vaughan also mentioned EBVs for survivability. The society fully supports the collection of data around lambing ease and has for a significant number of years promoted this to its members albeit with varying uptake.

Collecting this data accurately remains challenging. Furthermore, the society has, through its breed development strategy and support of R and D projects, collected data on a number of hard to measure traits to support assessment of maternal performance, including more than 4500 footrot and mastitis measurements from pedigree animals.

When combined with more than 10,000 genotypes, this will lead to new genomic breeding values (GBVs) becoming available to Texel breeders.

The society currently supports the Signet National Terminal Sire (NTS evaluation), whilst contracting directly with SRUC Egenes for the society’s own texelplus evaluations.

It is, as always, for individual breeders to decide on their own breeding programmes as best fits the requirements of their own flocks and those of their customers. The society focus continues to ensure that its membership is fully supported with the tools to achieve this.

John Yates

Chief executive

Texel Sheep Society.