As the sheep farming sector strives for improved profitability and sustainability there has never been a more important time to make the best use of the breeding technology available to the hill sector in Wales.
The Hill Ram Scheme is supporting this drive through performance recording hill flocks which has seen an increase in the number of performance recorded hill rams available to the industry.
Performance recording flocks ensures the best suited animal for the system which can have significant financial gains and is a long term sustainable solution for improving the overall performance of a farming business both economically and environmentally.
The Hill Ram Scheme is led by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and is one strand of the Red Meat Development Programme – a 5-year Welsh Government and European Union-funded initiative.
The 2021 sale season saw a significant increase in demand for performance recorded hill rams. From autumn 2019 to 2021, the number of performance recorded hill rams sold has seen an increase of over 140%.
The 2021 sales also saw a wider geographical spread, with rams being sought after and sold across all areas of Wales, from Snowdonia to the Brecon Beacons.
Great demand for Rams
Sean Jeffreys, Programme Officer at HCC commented, “2021 saw an additional group of Hill Ram Scheme flocks produce performance recorded yearlings, and these rams were met with a great demand throughout the country at a central sale, regional sales and directly from the farm.”
One Hill Ram Scheme breeder who sold recorded Welsh rams for the first time in 2021 was Glyn Williams who farms Cae Poeth in Llanuwchllyn.
Mr Williams said, “We’ve been vendors at Dolgellau ram sales for several years now, but 2021 was the first year where we were selling rams with Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs).
“Our target customers are commercially focused farmers, looking to produce prime lambs hitting market specification. The key traits we concentrate on at Cae Poeth are muscle and fat depth, and we hope to pass these traits onto our customers.”
Sean added, “These rams were sought after by both breeders and commercial producers alike. It is exciting to see readily available performance recorded rams in regional sales throughout the country, giving buyers the opportunity to buy rams with figures.
“Alongside the vitally important structural soundness, EBVs are an important tool that allows buyers to use genetic production focused traits that will benefit their flocks and continue driving improvements. It can be difficult to predict what a new ram will bring to a flock, but by having the data behind these rams it gives buyers reassurance that the animal should perform as expected.”
HCC’s Hill Ram Scheme is one of three 5-year projects in the Red Meat Development Programme which is funded by 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.