RamCompare Project will help Welsh flocks to forge ahead

This summer has seen a major project to promote the efficiency and profitability of the lamb industry gather pace. Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is one of 14 organisations involved in an initiative to develop a combined breed analysis of rams across the UK – the ‘RamCompare’ project.

At the moment, combined-breed genetic evaluations are currently available in several countries including Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, but not in Britain. The RamCompare project is a major step towards rectifying this. Over two breeding seasons, 67 rams from five breeds are being tested. Between them, they will produce 6000 commercial lambs for data collection.

At the end of the project, lists of the top 25 rams based on the growth rates and carcase data of their progeny will be compiled. Rams of different breeds can then be a compared directly.

Now that the project has been running for a year, data is starting to come through, and early analysis has shown a promising amount of variation, with some sires excelling and progeny growing quickly.

Gwawr Parry, HCC’s Industry Development Officer, explains how RamCompare will help the profitability of Wales’s sheep farms. “The project aims to help sheep producers identify which genes have the biggest impact on speed of finishing and carcase value, as well as identifying the degree of difference between breeding lines for new traits like saleable meat yield and tenderness,” says Gwawr.

Six farms across Britain have been chosen as test locations for the RamCompare project, including Beili Ficer near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire. In addition, several breeders in Wales have supplied rams for the project.

“Lambing the ewes down to the four different terminal breeds gave us an interesting insight as shepherds,” said Claire Williams of Beili Ficer. “We have been able to make our own observations regarding the different birth traits. Sion and I are looking forward to the next stage of tracking the lambs’ performance, through to slaughter and receiving the data back.”