20 March 1998

Proportion of flock on hill units has declined

THE proportion of the national flock in lowland and marginal flocks has increased over the last 15 years, while on hill units it has fallen, according to an MLC survey.

Results of the survey – Sheep Breeds 1996 – are based on 2590 replies to an MLC questionnaire sent to randomly selected sheep producers throughout Great Britain. The survey aims to compare breed development within the industry, with surveys previously carried out in 1971 and 1980.

According to MLC sheep specialist Jenny Anderson, dam influence has had little impact on total lamb production, but while the number of ewes mated has dropped, the number of lambs produced by each ewe increased from 0.95 in 1971 to 1.14 in 1996.

"In 1996, of all the lambs born, hill ewes produced 28.1%, terminal sire breeds 4.2% and the remaining purebred ewes produced 3.2%. However, cross bred lambs contributed most to sales, with Longwool cross hill breeds producing 40.3% of the total lamb crop."

According to the survey, the most popular cross bred ewe is the North Country Mule – 23% of the national flock – followed by Suffolk cross (7%), Texel cross (4%), and Welsh Mules (2%).

"Most popular purebred ewe is the Scottish Blackface, which forms 16% of the flock, followed by the Swaledale at 8%, Welsh Mountain at 7%, Beulah at 5% and North Country Cheviot at 3%."