3 July 1998

Cash for Scots sheep

A SCHEME to improve the quality of Blackface and Cheviot sheep in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland was announced at last weeks Royal Highland Show.

Scottish farm minister Lord Sewel said £600,000 of government and EU money would be injected over four years. Further help, largely in staff and support work, is coming from MLC, the two breed societies, and individual farmers.

"The target is to recruit 100 Blackface flocks and 100 Cheviot flocks each with a nucleus of 75 ewes selected on ultrasound scanning as well as breed character," said Alistair Donaldson, head of MLC in Scotland.

Top tups would be selected from flocks within the Signet recording scheme. Participating farmers would pay a membership fee of £125 in the first year rising to £300 by year four. AI and shared sires would be used to speed the programme of breed improvement, he said.

"We expect genetic gain worth about £30m in terms of improved meat yield within 10 to 15 years," said Mr Donaldson.

He explained that the reason the initiative was being taken in only the Highlands and Islands was because the area qualified for special EU development aid, a measure which included farm marketing schemes.