3 April 1998

£12m funding for sheep work

IMPROVED carcass quality while retaining maternal performance should be the outcome of a new £1.2m sheep breeding project funded by MAFF and the MLC.

The project, to be run at the Welsh Institute of Rural Studies, Aberystwyth, ADAS Pwllpeiran and Rosemaund, SAC and the Roslin Institute, aims to provide information to promote genetic improvement of carcass quality in crossing sheep and their progeny.

According to ADAS Rosemaunds Mervyn Davies, the first phase of the project will establish genetic linkage between a number of Bluefaced Leicester flocks in the breeds sire reference scheme which will supply performance-recorded crossing rams.

Rams will be mated with 4500 hill ewes over a three-year period, with Mule wether lambs assessed for growth and carcass traits using a combination of ultrasound scanning to measure fat, muscle depth and carcass dissection.

Ewe lambs will be retained for breeding in the second phase and their performance assessed over three lambings. "Reproductive rate, maternal ability and health status will be monitored, and the progeny – from terminal sires – checked for growth and carcass quality," explains Mr Davies.

The information will be used to develop a multi-trait selection index, which can be used by breeders of crossing sheep to improve carcass quality, while maintaining maternal performance.