Ewe research could boost UK sheep trade

Research into the genetics of ewe longevity could give the UK sheep industry a £4.35 million boost, according to Eblex.

The one-year research, funded by the English beef and sheep levy body, will be carried out through Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Eblex explained: “Replacing ewes within the flock is expensive, whether they are bought in or home-bred. The average replacement rate within the UK flock is 20-25% per year and is affected by many factors, including culling policies on farm and death rates. Finding genetic solutions to increase the productive lifespan of ewes on farm and reduce the number of replacements required will be financially beneficial to commercial farmers, with the economic value of improving flock longevity estimated to be £1-£1.50 per ewe per annum.”

Dr Joanne Conington, SRUC livestock geneticist, said: “Improving productive lifespan in our sheep flock increases maternal efficiency and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, as fewer replacement ewe lambs are required.

“By identifying and avoiding the use of under-performing families and strains of sheep, and by highlighting good ‘maternal’ rams for breeding, farmers can better select their breeding stock with the additional breeding tools that it is hoped this project will deliver.”

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