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Oxfords in RamCompare project

What is RamCompare?

RamCompare is a large commercial progeny test, taking performance recorded rams from terminal sire breeds and testing their genetics under commercial conditions. The project has so far recorded 19,000 lambs from 211 sires on farms from across the country. Each lamb is electronically recorded through the year to track its performance and linked back to its parentage using AI and single sire mating. RamCompare lambs not only collect the same data as pedigree performance recording flocks, but the information from the abattoir is linked to each lamb and sire. This means that Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) can be calculated for:

· Carcase weight

· Carcase conformation

· Carcase fat class

· Days to slaughter

· Primal yields

· Tenderness

These EBVs relate directly to the profitability of a commercial sheep farmer and the project has shown that a ram’s genetics can improve a lamb’s carcase value by £3-5/ lamb and even reduce the average days to slaughter by up to 14 days. These differences add up over the lifetime of a ram to over £1,000 difference in output, for something as simple as making the right decision when selecting a ram.

The information from RamCompare has been used to update our understanding of genetics and update our evaluations. Using the EBVs and Indexes to select your pedigree stock means that you are selecting for improved commercial performance of the lambs that your rams go onto sire.

Weeton Flock

The autumn of 2020 saw Oxford Downs being used for the first time in RamCompare. Weeton White Walker, a three-year old ram with pedigree progeny on the ground from Andrew and Ruth Steele, was selected for his muscling and leanness. He is being used as a new naturalservice ram at Duncan Nelless’ Thistleyhaugh flock in Northumberland. White Walker has been mob mated since the 25th October to 200 commercial Lleyns with a Charollais, to allow easy identification and assignment of lamb parentage at birth.

Duncan runs a large organic flock, with a pedigree Lleyn flock lambing in April. The RamCompare ewes lamb from mid-March, for around six weeks and are turned out on high sugar clover-rich leys. The majority of ewes are sold from their mothers pre-weaning, with batches of over 100 lambs being drawn from around 10 weeks (early June), then being drawn fortnightly. The majority of lambs are sold by early September.

With the lambs due to hit the ground in March 2021, the results for the Oxford ram will be available in early 2022.

For more information about the RamCompare project head to

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