Project code: S-10-05

Duration 4 years

Team and Leader Dr Lynne Dawson

Organisations Involved ARINI, Hillsborough

Background and Summary

Previous research has demonstrated that crossbred ewes have a role to play in improving output in the hill flock (Carson and Dawson, 2005).. To date results indicate that, relative to purebred Blackface ewes, Lleyn X Blackface ewes have the potential to increase the number of lambs born by 21%, number of lambs reared by 24% and lamb output at weaning by 24%.  Texel X Blackface and Swaledale X Blackface ewes also demonstrated increases in lamb output at weaning by 11% and 13% respectively. 

However, increased production must be considered alongside lifetime performance.  In the lowland flock, it has been demonstrated that Mule (Bluefaced Leicester X Blackface) ewes are more prolific than Texel X Blackface, Suffolk X Cheviot and Texel X Cheviot ewes (Dawson et al (2002).  However, the increased demands on the more prolific ewe resulted in a greater proportion being culled at a younger age.  While it is anticipated that the survival ability of crossbred ewes in the hill flock should be improved relative to purebred ewes due to hybrid vigour, further information is required on their lifetime performance including incidence of disease, feet problems, teeth development etc.

On the basis of this background information, this proposal aims to evaluate the lifetime performance of crossbred ewes established on six hill farms.  This will examine the ability of the ewes to rear their lambs and to monitor incidence of mastitis, prolapsed, lambing difficulty, feet problems, teeth loss, teeth wear and reasons for culling.


i)    Mate crossbred ewes on each of the farms (October 2005 to 2008)
ii)    Record performance at lambing – lambing difficulty, mothering ability, lamb survival
iii)   Monitor performance of ewes and lambs through to weaning including body condition of ewes, survivability of lambs, incidence of disease, feet problems, teeth development, culling rate.

Final report due AgriSearch December 2008.