By Debbie James

A sheep genetic improvement scheme aimed at Welsh hill farmers has opened for a second year.

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.

Last year’s launch saw 29 flocks take part. HCC is now hoping to recruit another 20 farms.

Gwawr Parry of HCC, who co-ordinates the scheme, said the initiative gave farmers the ability to target flock efficiency and performance with little or no change to their systems.

The scheme wasn’t aimed only to those looking to breed and sell rams, she pointed out.

“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.’’

Rhidian Glyn, who farms near Machynlleth, runs one of seven leader flocks in the scheme and hopes to improve ewe efficiency.

“It will mean stronger performers and their progeny can be easily identified,’’ he said.

“Just as importantly, the bottom performers can be pulled from the breeding nucleus.’’

The application deadline to take part in 2020 is March 31 – forms are available on the HCC website.