Upland farmers acting to improve productivity of hill flocks

A new project aiming to improve the productivity of hill flocks will be launched at an event on 22 August in North Yorkshire.

With the help of AHDB, the North York Moors Swaledale Breeders have secured EIP AGRI funding through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), administered by Defra, to set up an Operational Group. The group is looking to improve carcase traits of Swaledale sheep, develop a template for hill sheep performance recording and improve hill lamb finishing systems.

The event is free to attend and will give delegates chance to hear more about the project, which will use electronic identification (EID), digital weigh scales and ultrasound scanning technologies to develop new ways of collecting data to inform genetic evaluations for carcase traits in hill sheep.

The project will involve using Swaledale sheep which are identified as having better carcase traits (loin, hind leg and shoulder) within a structured breeding programme to improve carcase quality and consistency. Lambs from this programme will be assessed through different finishing systems to identify which systems are most profitable.

Steve Dunkley, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Senior Manager, said: “This is an innovative project which is looking to address some of the challenges hill farms have with performance recording. The producers involved are developing solutions that other hill producers can adopt, while also improving the carcase traits of their Swaledale sheep so they can meet the demands of the market.”

Tim Dunn, chair of the North York Swaledale Breeders group, said: “After breeding Swaledale sheep for many years, we feel a need to build on the many qualities the breed has. With increased focus on meeting market specification, it is important we keep pace with other breeds and this work to improve carcase traits will help us stay at the forefront of sheep breeding in the UK.”

The event will also include an overview of estimated breeding vales (EBVs) and how to use them from Steve West, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager, and independent sheep consultant Kate Philips will talk about health considerations for sheep breeding and lamb finishing work.

The work of the North York Moors Swaledale Group forms part of AHDB’s Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange. This supports the delivery of AHDB’s 2017-2020 strategy ‘Inspiring Success’ which sets out priorities for the organisation over the next three years, one of which is driving greater on-farm uptake of superior genetics.

To register your free place, ring the AHDB Events Hub on 01904 771212 or email ku.gr1506242556o.bdh1506242556a@stn1506242556eve.e1506242556k1506242556

To download the press release, click here.