Welsh watch eastern flock

May 17, 1996

A Welsh University is helping improve the quality of sheep flocks in Estonia and Hungary in preparation for the European market.

Agriculture in parts of the former communist world is changing following the break-up of Soviet-style collective farms into privately owned small-holdings.

In countries such as Estonia farms can be just one or two hectares of land. Farmers have few animals, some have flocks of only six sheep, and not enough money for machinery to work the land to its full potential.

Estonian farmers have sought western help and at the request of the Royal Society, Bangor University's school of agriculture has established a joint sheep development programme with the Estonian Agricultural University at Tartu.

Bangor's project co-ordinator Ioan Ap Dewi said: "Our role will be to help the Estonians collate and analyse data relating to their sheep's wool, meat and breeding potential.

"From that analysis we will be able to select the best wool and meat producers and use them as the basis of a national breeding programme," he added.

The two-year research and training programme aims to pinpoint the optimum time of year for shearing and ensure that farmers can manage their animals effectively.

The Hungarian project has similar objectives, though on this occasion Bangor's school of agriculture was invited to participate by the British Council.

In addition to focusing on flock management and breeding, this project will also encompass sheep health and an evaluation of the quality of Hungarian pasture land.

Both Estonian and Hungarian farmers have lost their formerly secure market in Russia and are turning their attention to the European Union.

But in order to enter that market effectively their produce has to be of good quality. Enabling them to meet stringent western standards of sheep husbandry is Bangor's objective in participating in these projects.

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