Texels in Quebec - The Calerotex story

Author Paul Cardyn
Page 3 of 3

New Challlenge: Rouge de l'Ouest

In 2001 we saved a small group of a new breed: the Rouge de l'Ouest. They came looking for us and we just could not avoid taking on the challenge. They combine the maternal and terminal qualities, all in one breed.

We took a foundation flock under our wing to continue quarantine and worked through with AI & ET to prevent their extinction in America as it is the only flock of this breed on the continent. Close to a hundred females plus rams form the flock now and we are committed to develop and promote them as we are sure that they can contribute with their qualities to the development of the sheep industry in Canada. A Rouge de l'Ouest ram used to cover our Romanov ewes produced some very interesting F1s, these, bred to a Texel sire produced some exceptional carcasses. But this is not the place to talk about another breed, just to explain that we have had to cut the number of our Texels to make room for this new breed.

The tools of our trade

Over the years we have used different tools on our almost closed flock. To name a few: ROP (now called Genovis), scanning for back fat & loin eye area, genotyping for scrapie resistance, OPP and Johne's disease testing, laparoscopic Ai and embryo transfer, strict culling based on genetic indices and of course the good old stockman's eye for conformation.

Rotation and quick replacement of the rams for a rapid turnover of the gentics. At least four different rams are used at any breeding season in order to keep a good genetic diversity.

Suggestions to fellow Texel breeders

Apparently only three Texel flocks in all of Canada are on genetic improvement programs ( Genovis in Que and SFIP in Ontario ) I find that very insufficient and to the detriment of the breed. If we want to improve our genetics and boost our sales of breeding stock we have to be able to provide breeding stock that looks appealing to the eye and also have the data to back it up. Here in Quebec terminal sire buyers are demanding indices, EPDs, EBVs etc... It is a great tool for genetic improvement and if all purebred breeders used it, it would help select the best individuals for breeding and to exchange with other purebred breeders as well.

Another aspect of the breed to improve upon is the prolificacy. We should select for ewes that regularly produce twins, this for two reasons: one because twins are smaller at birth making for easier lambings, second to improve profitability so that in years of low ram demand you can still turn a profit with meat sales. We have had a few ewes that gave us triplets more than once and are working on improvig the prolificity of our Texels by keeping mostly twins for breeding and although it is a trait of low heritability it is important to work on it.

We keep in mind that sheep breeding, although a hobby that has become a passion, serves no purpose if we forget that ultimately the consumer is the final judge of our product. We have to breed sheep that help the commercial producer make a living by putting out the best possible product at the lesser cost with the best quality. The Texel does just that: it adds high quality meat on the existing maternal breeds, meat that is tender and with less losses from fat and bone. Their high conversion rate on lower quality forage helps keep the costs down.