Innovative project aims to add value to Welsh wool
An innovative pilot project has launched in Gwynedd, which is breeding new versatile sheep to improve the quality of Welsh wool.
Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig, a project by Menter Môn, is breeding ‘Multi-purpose Sheep’ to improve the quality of the wool without compromising the quality and productivity of lamb and sheep meat.
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.
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.
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.
Two farms in Gwynedd are part of the ‘Multi-purpose Sheep’ pilot – 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, the project manager said: “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”
For project updates follow Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig on Twitter, Instagam or Facebook.
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Sounds like a good idea but one can only hope that it flies before the Tory Aus/NZ trade deal kills off welsh sheep farming.
Corwen – Gwynedd!!
Okay, but assuming you shear the sheep for as long as you can before killing them, you just end up with slightly tastier mutton.
If you kill them when they are still juvenile, you don’t. Get to shear them again. I’m sure it makes sense to someone. Just not to me!