‘Multi-purpose Sheep’ breeding for the first time in Wales
Innovative project aims to add value to Welsh wool.
Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig, a project by Menter Môn, has launched an innovative pilot project focusing on breeding new versatile sheep in an attempt to improve wool quality.
The aim of ‘Multi-purpose Sheep’ is to improve the quality of Welsh wool produced on farms in Gwynedd, without compromising the quality and productivity of lamb.
Semen from a Merino ram named Charlie was imported last year from Australia and used to artificially inseminate 60 Romney sheep on two farms in Gwynedd.
Betsan Siencyn, Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig Senior Projects Officer said:
“This scheme is the first of its kind in Wales as we seek to breed lambs with a much better quality of wool without compromising the meat. If the scheme is a success, the findings can be shared with farmers across the country, and it can be demonstrated that the wool can have added value, and an additional source of income could be generated. This is crucial as many in the industry face the future with uncertainty.”
The project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. It’s also part funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Gwynedd Council.
The new lambs have arrived over the last few weeks and are now being monitored regularly by the team focusing on growing rates, characteristics, and wool samples. These traits will also be monitored in Welsh Mountain sheep and lamb control groups to compare the progress of the versatile breed with a breed native to north west Wales.
Two farms in Gwynedd are part of the ‘Multi-purpose Sheep’ scheme – Arwel Jones, Blaen Cwm Farm, Corwen and John and Gillian Williams, Parlla Isa Farm in Tywyn. The Williams family said:
“It’s a very exciting project, and it’s great to be part of it. If this scheme is successful, we can then ensure that Wales goes on to produce a far more useful breed in terms of wool and meat, and as a result, there is a chance for the industry to receive many more benefits. ”
The project is the result of a report commissioned by Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig in 2019 as it became apparent that wool prices are extremely low.
It concluded that craftspeople had to import high quality fleece and wool as they were not available locally. There are no versatile sheep breeds in Wales, so this project will allow farmers to experiment and see how they can add value to Welsh wool.
Another project by Menter Môn is Made with Wool. It is a project that seeks to realise the potential of Welsh wool. Elen Parry is the project manager:
“We are very much hoping that this scheme will be a huge success. It will mean that Welsh farmers can produce lambs with a much higher quality of wool, which in turn will increase the number of end uses for the wool, increasing demand and hopefully the price. The main aim of this will be to increase the price farmers get for their wool. It’s a pretty worrying time for the wool industry in Wales, and that’s what our Made with Wool project is all about. By developing schemes such as this one with versatile sheep breeding, it is going to enable the relevant research to be done and ensure a future for this important industry in Wales without compromising the meat industry that is already so successful here”