Ram and ewe in a field© Tim Scrivener

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is urging farmers to take part in a study to investigate claims as to why rams are not lasting long enough in commercial systems.

Following growing concerns from its members the NSA said it was using funding from the Animal Welfare Foundation to investigate the longevity of breeding males and the reasons for deaths and culling in the UK.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker says he hopes the study will enable the association to provide members with practical solutions.

See also: NSA reopens service connecting sheep farmers and students

“It is important for NSA to listen and respond to what our members are telling us, but with this particular situation the lack of information means we are unable to pinpoint practical on-farm solutions for them.

“That is why we thought it was so important to bring together a group of experts and get to the bottom of it – but we cannot do that without the help of farmers to find out exactly what is happening on farm.”

Independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings, who is involved in the study, says there is no data available on how long rams should last in commercial flocks.

“Estimates of cost range from £1 a lamb sired to more than £7 but we want to find out what is going on on-farm with the long-term aim of increasing the number of lambs each ram sires in its lifetime and, therefore, reducing the cost.”

To help farmers are being asked to complete a quick ram longevity survey, on-farm management and the main problems encountered.