North Yorkshire Swaledale Breeders’ Group unveil three year project findings

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

How to improve lamb growth rates, carcase quality and choose rams with traits that meet consumer demand will be showcased at a meeting in Goathland, Whitby on 2 October.

Findings from a three year project, formed by the North Yorkshire Moors Swaledale Breeders Group, will also look at how farmers can adopt upland hill performance recording techniques within their own flocks.

Sam Charlton, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager, said: “This is an innovative project which is looking to address some of the key challenges upland farmers face with performance recording sheep flocks. The producers involved are developing solutions that other hill producers can adopt, whilst also improving the carcase traits of their Swaledale sheep so they can meet the growing demands of the market. It has been a privilege working with this enthusiastic group of farmers and we are delighted to now share the results with the wider industry.”

On 2 October, farmer Mark Graham and the rest of the Swaledale Breeders’ group will be hosting the final open day for the project. On the day, some of the Swaledale sheep used in the project will be available for viewing and live demonstrations including sheep scanning, and lamb selection. There will also be a butchery demonstration.  

In 2016, with the help of AHDB, the North Yorkshire Moors Swaledale Breeders’ group secured EIP AGRI funding through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), which is administered by Defra. The project has involved selecting Swaledale rams, which are identified as having better carcase traits (using loin, hind leg and shoulder), within a structured breeding programme to improve carcase quality and consistency.

“Lamb finishing has been monitored on three of the group member’s farms and on a specialist lamb finishing unit. We have highlighted some major differences between sires in terms of lamb growth rate and carcase quality and have some interesting findings to share with regards to pattern of growth in Swale lambs,” said Kate Phillips, Independent Sheep Consultant for the group.

The group of Swaledale farmers was determined to test the practical challenges of performance recording in the uplands and through working with Signet Breeding Services, the group has successfully demonstrated significant performance differences between Swaledale rams. “This means the breed now have the ability to select breeding lines that not only represent breed type, but whose progeny will also excel in growth and carcase characteristics,” said Emma Steele from Signet Breeding services.

Tim Dunn, Chair of the North Yorkshire Swaledale Breeders group, said: “After breeding Swaledale sheep for many years, we feel a need to maintain and build on the many qualities the breed has. With the continued focus on meeting market requirements, it is important we keep pace with other breeds and this work to improve carcase traits will help us stay at the forefront of sheep breeding in the UK.”

The work of the North Yorkshire Moors Swaledale Group forms part of AHDB’s Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange.

To find out more about the event visit our website