28 November 1997

Sheep producers cannot ignore customers demands

Winter Fair visitors to the MLC stand will be told that

customers for draft ewes, breeding stock and finished

lambs are all demanding better quality sheep

THE winners of the first Welsh Sheep Strategy travel scholarship will be named at the event.

They will be funded to spend five or six weeks studying sheep breeding, research, extension work and marketing in New Zealand.

The scholarship scheme is seen as a key component of the MLC co-ordinated strategy, which is described as "a co-ordinated action plan for the genetic improvement of the Welsh sheep flock". This uses mainly EU Objective 5b funding to emulate similar flock and breed improvement work carried out in the southern hemisphere.

Nine group breeding schemes and eight hill ram performance tests came under one umbrella during the three-year phase one of the strategy. A second successful application for Eurocash will consolidate and extend what has been achieved to date. It will also bring rapid progress on hill farms through the use of backfat and eye muscle depth scanning to create superior nucleus flocks from which replacements and rams are selected.

The utilisation of sire referencing, AI and embryo transfer will be increased. There will be cash for research, especially at the Welsh Institute of Rural Studies, Aberystwyth, where three group breeding schemes and three central performance tests are based.

Winter fair visitors to the MLC stand will be told that they cannot afford to ignore the fact that customers for draft ewes, breeding stock and finished lambs are all demanding better quality sheep.

They will be urged to see the Welsh Sheep Strategy as a blueprint for the industry to move towards providing what different markets require.

"The message will be that the structure is in place, and it has a firm financial base for the next five years," says Huw Thomas, MLCs Welsh regional manager. "Flockmasters can choose to get involved at any level from flock recording to multiple ovulation and embryo transfer. The important thing is that they accept the need to get involved."

Above: Scanning rams on performance test as part of Welsh Sheep Strategy. Left: Huw Thomas says flockmasters can get involved at any level.