MORE innovative use of crossbreeding within the British sheep industry was one of the most significant findings in the latest Sheep Breed Survey.

The survey provides a unique insight into how the agricultural industry has changed over 50 years.

The number of crossbred ewes in the national flock increased from 56 per cent to 58 per cent, indicating a small reduction in purebred ewe numbers compared to 2012. The three main hill ewe breeds (Scottish Blackface, Welsh Mountain and Swaledale) have dominated the purebreeding sector over the last decade, but the survey shows all three are now declining in number.The size and number of hill flocks producing recognised crossbreeds (such as the mule or halfbred) are also in decline. The main types of Mule ewe (North Country, Welsh and Scottish) currently makeup 18.8 per cent of the national flock, but crossbreeds of other types now contribute significantly to the crossbred ewe population.