A farmer from the Cardiff area is one of 24 hill farmers who recently joined a major research project in Wales that aims to boost the performance of hill sheep flocks.

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC)’s hill ram scheme welcomed an additional 24 hill farmers to the project in 2020 which widens the representation of hill flocks and the geographical coverage of the project.

The scheme is designed to bring the latest technology to upland flocks in Wales with the aim of strengthening the Welsh sheep sector through long-term breeding improvement and smart use of data. Investing in breeding technology also has benefits for the environment, reducing emissions from agriculture.

The new flocks cover a range of different hill systems and sheep breeds and have been selected with the aim to reflect as many systems and breeds as possible.

Ben Williams, from Pentyrch near Cardiff runs a 550-acre farm with his family. They have around 800 south Wales Welsh mountain ewes. The family’s main motives are to increase the performance of the ewes, and to sell rams with estimated breeding values (EBVs).

Mr Williams explains: “The hill ram scheme has encouraged us to look deeper into the performance of our flock. We aim to identify the top performing ewes to breed our replacements, and reduce the amount of time finished lambs are on the farm. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Heather McCalman, HCC programme coordinator explains; “We are delighted with the interest shown in this hill genetic improvement project, and as a result, we have been able to have farmers with a range of hill sheep breeds from all across Wales.

“The hill sector is vitally important to the sheep industry in Wales and making genetic progress in these hill flocks will have a knock-on benefit for the whole sheep sector. This new group of flocks will be making a valuable contribution to the industry, alongside the existing members.”