terminal sire

On a postcard in the Beautiful Farmyard set (“100 gorgeous portraits of chickens, cows, ducks, owls, pigeons, pigs, rabbits, sheep & tractors”), a Suffolk sheep, identified as “the leading terminal sire breed in the UK”. Terminal sire is obviously a technical term in animal breeding, but its meaning wasn’t obvious to me. Turns out that the breeding practice in question comes in two steps, and a Suffolk ram plays a crucial role in the second, terminal, step.

A Suffolk ram, 7 months old:

From Wikipedia:

Suffolk sheep are a black-faced, open-faced breed of domestic sheep raised primarily for meat.

They are mainly raised for wool and meat production especially when crossed with the progeny of a mountain ewe. For example, a purebred upland ewe such as a Welsh Mountain ewe, might be bred with a breeding sire Bluefaced Leicester ram. This is a Welsh Mule, one of many different types of half-bred ewes. The lamb produced when a half-bred ewe is crossed with a Suffolk ram (as well as with other terminal sire breeds such as Texel, Beltex or Charollais) is considered ideal for meat production, since they have unusually good conformation. The lamb has the easy-care benefits of a mountain ewe, as well as the excellent growth of the Suffolk ram.

So in step 1, cross-bred ewes (with hybrid vigor) are produced, and in step 2, they’re bred with Suffolk rams, producing animals for slaughter.

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