The Hill Ram Scheme has been launched by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) to strengthen the Welsh sheep sector through long term genetic improvement.
The scheme is the first of its kind in the UK and is intended to encourage more Welsh hill farmers to use performance-recorded rams to help produce lambs that meet market specifications for a wide range of markets at home and abroad.
The Hill Ram Scheme is a 5-year project as part of the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
It is just one of three projects within the Red Meat Development Programme which aims to improve efficiency and strengthen Wales’ important red meat industry.
7 leader flocks have been recruited for the first year of the project and more flocks will join the project over the next 5 years, with a target of 35 flocks participating by the end of the project.
The leader flocks are a core and geographically diverse network of hill farmers who produce a variety of native hill sheep breeds, including north Wales mountain type and improved Welsh. They will help mentor new recruits in the coming years by sharing their initial experience of the scheme.
Farmers taking part in the project will be using the latest technology, including DNA parentage, to monitor and record genetic data and key performance indicators within the flock. They will receive support and training throughout the scheme to market their flocks and establish a performance recorded hill ram sale.
HCC’s Gwawr Parry, who leads the Hill Ram Scheme explained ‘Typically Welsh hill flocks produce lighter lambs; traditional markets for these lambs have declined in recent years. The use of improved genetics in hill flocks will allow farmers to target growth and finishing – ultimately producing lambs that suit a wider range of markets’
‘In a traditionally stratified system hill ewes form a significant part of lowland production and so through identification of the elite genetics in the hill flock the benefits will cascade throughout the Welsh lamb industry’
‘Additionally, by increasing the overall efficiency of hill sheep systems, farms will be more financially resilient and have the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions.’
Gwawr continued ‘we’re very excited to get this project underway and believe it will have significant impact for Welsh hill farmers and the Welsh sheep industry overall.’