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New ‘multi-purpose’ sheep bred successfully

A new breed of sheep which produces high quality wool and meat has been successfully bred for the first time.

Semen from a Merino ram from Australia was used to artificially inseminate 35 Romney sheep on two farms in Gwynedd.

The project found that the “multi-purpose” lambs born subsequently delivered finer and softer wool without compromising on meat quality.

This extra source of income was crucial as the industry faces uncertainty, the Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig project said.

It added that throughout the past year, lambs have proved they can thrive in the UK environment without any welfare concerns.

Elen Parry from Made with Wool, which promotes Welsh wool, said the main aim of the project was to increase the price farmers get for their wool.

“It’s a worrying time for the wool industry in Wales,” she said.

“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 lambs’ growth rates, wool characteristics and samples, and meat quality were monitored, and the project found a big improvement in the multi-purpose lamb’s wool characteristics compared to a control group.

The Merino cross Romneys delivered wool that was was much finer than the farmers expected, especially considering they were only the first cross lambs.

Farmers John and Gillian Williams from Parlla Isa Farm in Tywyn who took part in the project said they were keen to increase the flock of 17 ewes to 300 in the future.

“The next test will be to see how the ewes cope during breeding,” they said.

“But given that the scheme has been a success so far, we’re hopeful we can go on to produce a far more useful breed in terms of wool and meat, and as a result, there is a chance to receive many more benefits.”

Source – BBC News

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