By Debbie James

More Welsh hill farmers are to be encouraged to use performance-recorded rams.

A five-year project has been launched by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) to achieve this.

There will be seven leader flocks on board for the first year and a target of 35 flocks by the end of the five years, with the aim of enhancing genetic improvement to help produce lambs that meet market specifications.

Participants will use the latest technology, such as DNA parentage, to record genetic data and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs). There are also plans for a performance-recorded hill ram sale to help farmers market their flocks.

The scheme organisers hope that the scheme will benefit the Welsh lamb industry as a whole with genetics from hill flocks filtering through to lowland flocks in the stratified system.

HCC’s Gwawr Parry, who leads the Hill Ram Scheme, said that Welsh hill flocks typically produce lighter lambs.

“Traditional markets for these lambs have declined in recent years. The use of improved genetics in hill flocks will allow farmers to target growth and finishing – ultimately producing lambs that suit a wider range of markets,’’ she said.

Increasing the efficiency of systems should enable farms to be more financially resilient and create the potential for farmers to lower greenhouse gas emissions, she added.

The scheme is part of the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-20, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh government.

For those interested in learning more, there are a series of meetings in February. The meeting dates and venues are:

February 7 – The Goat Inn, Bryncir, 7-9pm

February 12 – Eagles Hotel, Llanrwst, 7-9pm

February 13 – Royal Ship Hotel, Dolgellau, 7-9pm

February 19 – The Talbot, Tregaron, 7-9pm

February 20 – Whitehouse Country Inn, Sennybridge, 7-9pm

To register interest or for more information, email or phone 01970 626050.