Centre of Excellence for UK Farming

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Sustainable efficient production in farming and food

The SLP Project – Evaluating Sustainable Lamb Production

Project Title

The SLP Project – Evaluating Sustainable Lamb Production

Aim and Objectives

Development and evaluation of a new systems approach to facilitate improvements to the economic competitiveness of lamb production in Wales.

This project aims to develop and evaluate the genetic and environment factors associated with a new integrated system based on the increased prolificacy of smaller, more efficient breeding ewes carrying the Inverdale gene.  It will provide objective benchmarkmanagement information on both livestock and grassland production and efficiency and the resulting production/ processing output in order to ensure that maximum benefits can be accrued throughout the supply chain.

Background

The project aims to combine the advances in sheep breeding and strategic use of different grassland types. Grazing less improved areas with breeding ewes and capitalising on the benefits of the latest varieties of grasses and clover for lamb finishing, the project is working with commercial farmers across Wales jointly with industry partners.

Looking to minimise cost and maximise returns through strategic use of the different grassland areas on the farm during the sheep year, the work will help farmers to evaluate and develop efficient and environmentally friendly systems of sheep production that meet market needs.

Traditionally, many ewes are flushed pre-tupping to achieve optimum lambing percentage by increasing ovulation rate and minimising early embryonic death. Ewes carrying the Inverdale gene, recently introduced into Wales, do not have the same need for an increased plane of nutrition over the pre-tupping /tupping period.

The project aims to find out more about the genetic and environmental factors involved in systems based on the sheep with the Inverdale gene and to benchmark management information on both the sheep and the grassland production efficiency by taking a good look at the costs and returns.

Detailed studies at the IBERS university farms comparing two breed types and lambing systems will complement work with five commercial farmers across Wales with a range of systems and breed types. Working with the Grassland Development Centre and the Farm Business Survey, the commercial farmers will be working together and monitoring their sheep systems from tupping to slaughter to be able to quantify the benefits of including the Inverdale gene, and of applying the best practice management techniques to both ewe types and to lamb finishing from home grown high quality forage on their farms.

A key element of this project is to link the research development at IBERS with commercial farm practice and to make sure all involved are able to fully participate in developing sustainable lamb production systems for Wales.

Relevance to the objectives of the CEUKF

The project fits perfectly the core theme of the Centre of excellence, namely the focus on sustainable and efficient production: In this case improving the efficiency and economics of lamb production, combined with optimising the grassland management system

Results will contribute to the central knowledge hub and help provide information to promote best practice

Project Lead / Team

Dr Christina Marley, Project Manager 01970 823084 cvm@aber.ac.uk

Dr Heather McCalman, Grassland Development Centre, 01970 823026 hym@aber.ac.uk

Jan Newman, Project Co-ordinator 01970 823085 jln@aber.ac.uk

LINK to Project web site: www.aber.ac.uk/slp

Funding

This project has received funding through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007 – 2013 which is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development

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