The Hill Ram Scheme aimed at strengthening the Welsh sheep sector through long term genetic improvement has been launched by has been launched by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

The scheme is the first of its kind in the UK and is intended to encourage more Welsh hill farmers to use performance-recorded rams to help produce lambs that meet market specifications for a wide range of markets at home and abroad.

The scheme is a five-year project and seven leader flocks have been recruited for the first year of the project. More flocks will join the project over the next five years, with a target of 35 flocks participating by the end.

The leader flocks are a core and geographically diverse network of hill farmers who produce a variety of native hill sheep breeds, including north Wales mountain type and improved Welsh. They will help mentor new recruits in the coming years by sharing their initial experience of the scheme.

Farmers taking part in the project will be using the latest technology, including DNA parentage, to monitor and record genetic data and key performance indicators within the flock. They will receive support and training throughout the scheme to market their flocks and establish a performance recorded hill ram sale.

HCC’s Gwawr Parry, who leads the Hill Ram Scheme, explained: "Typically Welsh hill flocks 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.

"In a traditionally stratified system hill ewes form a significant part of lowland production and so through identification of the elite genetics in the hill flock the benefits will cascade throughout the Welsh lamb industry.

"Additionally, by increasing the overall efficiency of hill sheep systems, farms will be more financially resilient and have the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions."

A series of open meetings on the hill ram scheme will be held throughout February at the following venues:

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, please email or phone 01970 626050.