Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Study to Take Look at State of Sheep Industry

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Study to Take Look at State of Sheep Industry

Article excerpt

Byline: SURVEY Karen Dent ? 0191 201 6243 ? karen.dent@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE BIGGEST sheep survey in a decade has started, with the aim of finding out how the sector is evolving in the UK.

Eblex, which is funding the Signet-organised survey along with Meat Promotion Wales, is urging as many producers as possible to take part.

The study will look at issues such as what the most popular breeds are, what forage crops farmers use and what is the most popular time for selling lambs.

Organisers plan to pull together regional pictures of sheep producers' behaviour, so that targeted help and information can be provided.

Previously, intermittent sheep breed surveys were carried out between 1971 and 2003, providing information on how breeds were changing. In 2003 the survey documented new breeds that were not recorded in previous surveys, a decline in farm, flock and sheep numbers, and a rise in popularity of continental and crossbred ewes.

Eblex livestock scientist Poppy Frater said: "The breeding structure of the industry continues to change as we strive to become more efficient and keep up with changing consumer demands.

We have therefore reinstated the tradition of the sheep breed survey so we can get a clear picture of the state of the UK industry in 2012.

"Most UK sheep farmers will have received a questionnaire and we would urge everyone to complete and return it so that the results are as accurate and robust as possible."

The survey has been posted to all producers registered with the British Wool Marketing Board and should arrive by mid-December. Farmers are asked to return them by January 14.

Meanwhile, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is urging the industry to work together to assess the risk of Schmallenberg disease, which is now in its second year.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker, said: "Anecdotal reports from France and other areas of Europe suggest Schmallenberg may be causing more problems in its second year than expected, possibly because livestock does not develop the level of immunity anticipated. …

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