4 recording methods for sheep compared: which one is best for you?

Carmarthenshire sheep farmer and Aberystwyth University graduate Huw Williams completed a HCC scholarship in 2015 looking at how extensive systems in New Zealand and Australia were recording parentage.

Talking about his findings at Sheep Breeders, he compared four different systems and looked at which may best suit UK hill flocks.

See the comparison table and verdict below.

*Costings are based on an 800-ewe flock rearing 150%

What it is

How it works




DNA Shepherd

DNA is taken from ewes and rams prior to tupping

Then lambs are tagged at four weeks with DNA linked to the tag

  • Allows multi-sire mating
  • 99% accurate
  • Results within 4-6 weeks
  • Less intervention at lambing so lower labour requirements
  • Better utilisation of grass because groups can be mobbed
  • Farmer friendly with samples taken at tailing or vaccination
  • Rams produced/ tested in commercial environment
  • If two sisters are put to the same ram there can be discrepancies about which lamb came from which ewe
  • Costly


EID tracking

Ewes tagged and lambs tagged at four weeks

EID readers are placed at key points in the field (between water troughs) so tags are picked up as sheep walk through it

Over time the data matches ewe to her lamb

  • 85-93% allocation with DNA sampling showing this was 96% accurate
  • Helps identify better performing ewes with good mothering ability 


  • Mating groups must be known to determine sire




Tagging at birth

Lambs tagged at  birth with dam noted

  • You can score the mothering ability
  • Error rate of 5-10%
  • Labour intensive
  • Better suited to indoor lambing flocks
  • Ewes need to be mated by one sire so you know the sire parentage





Mothering up




At three weeks of age ewes and lambs are manually sorted to allocate parentage

  • Allows ewes to lamb without interference


  • Better for single lambs
  • Some lambs not given parentage


Mr Williams’ verdict:

  • Best for pedigree breeders: DNA because it is the most accurate
  • Best for commercial flocks: EID tracking

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