Welsh Hill Ram Scheme opens to new entrants

Welsh hill farmers have a second chance to join an innovative sheep genetic-improvement scheme, one year on from its launch in 2019.

The Hill Ram Scheme, run by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), aims to improve flock efficiency by recording performance using DNA parentage technology.

Participants receive support with DNA sampling, training to help understand and interpret the genetic evaluation results, and a range of other specialist advice.

See also: Swaledale breeders embark on performance-recording project

Last year’s successful launch saw 29 flocks take part and HCC is now hoping to recruit a further 20 farms in the scheme’s second year.

Expressions of interest to join the scheme in 2020 can be lodged until 31 March.

Scheme co-ordinator Gwawr Parry of HCC explained that the initiative gave farmers the ability to target flock efficiency and performance with little or no change to their systems.

Ms Parry added that the scheme wasn’t suited only to those looking to breed and sell rams. “Farmers can use the DNA technology to target various components of flock performance,” she said.

“As well as breeding rams with known and enhanced estimated breeding values (EBVs), participants are focusing on lamb weight gain, improving ewe performance and enhancing overall flock efficiency.”

“Ultimately, farmers can make use of the data and results from the scheme to suit their own systems and business aims,” she added.

Rhidian Glyn, who farms near Machynlleth in Powys, runs one of seven leader flocks in the scheme and he explained his reasons for joining.

‘‘I am hoping to improve ewe efficiency. It will mean stronger performers and their progeny can be easily identified.

“Just as importantly, the bottom performers can be pulled from the breeding nucleus,” Mr Glyn said.

How to take part

The application deadline to take part in 2020 is 31 March.

A form to submit expressions of interest is available on the HCC website.

Phone HCC: 01970 625050

Email: info@hybucig.cymru

HCC has also produced a short YouTube video explaining how the scheme works.

Scheme Funding

The Hill Ram Scheme is part of the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.