March 28, 2010

Sheep breeds in New Zealand

By Dr Clive Dalton

Early arrivals in NZ

On 22 May 1773, Captain James Cook dropped off a couple of Merino sheep in Sheep's Cove in the Marlborough Sounds. He had picked them up during his stopover at the Cape of Good Hope, and had great hopes for them in their new home. But they didn't last 24 hours and probably died of eating tutu.

It was Samuel Marsden who really got the New Zealand sheep industry going by introducing Merinos from Australia, to his mission station at Waimate North in 1814. The first Merinos arrived in Australia (13 of them) in 1797 from the flock of King George III ('Farmer George').

Governor Hobson brought in another importation from Australia in 1838.

The Merino has the most amazing history of any sheep in the world.
These Merino hoggets are on Havelah Station in NSW, Australia

Mana island
The first major shipment of Merinos were landed on Mana Island in 1834 and later transferred to the Wairarapa. Importations increased from Australia as more land was taken up for grazing after 1840. Farmers soon found that Merinos were ideally a dry-country sheep thriving better in the South Island high country whereas the wetter North Island hills caused wool faults, footrot, internal parasites and dags.

Later British immigrants brought sheep with them, and for a number of years just about every British breed of sheep came to New Zealand, many of them like the Scottish Blackface failing to survive for a variety of reasons.

Dual purpose breeds – meat & wool
Later in the 19th Century demand for meat increased, first locally but with refrigeration after 1882, meat became a major export to Britain. So ‘dual-purpose’ (meat and wool) breeds became popular, and the Merino retreated into the role of a specialist fine-wood breed for the drier South Island high country.

The Romney Marsh from Kent in UK was imported in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a classical dual-purpose breed, and adapted well to become New Zealand’s most important sheep breed, making an enormous contribution to the nation’s wealth.

Meat breeds
As part of this development, specialist meat breeds from Britain became more popular, originally called ‘Down breeds’ in UK as they were developed on the Downs of Southern England. These breeds, (the Southdown is the classical example), became the basis of the export ‘New Zealand or Canterbury lamb’ that is world recognised for ‘quality’ to this day.

The were used and still are to cross on to other breeds and crosses and all their progeny go for meat. For this reason, they are called ‘terminal sires’ where they are the last to be used in a breeding programme.

Breeds 'made in NZ'
New Zealand farmers started to demand other traits in their sheep, especially more lean meat and fertility, and this led to the development of ‘new’ breeds, produced from crossbreeding. Examples are the Corriedale, Coopworth, Perendale, Borderdale, Dorset Down and South Suffolk.

Then in the 1980s and 1990s, new breeds were introduced from Europe to improve fertility (Finnish Landrace) and meat (Texel), as well as milk production (East Friesian), and these were crossed on to existing breeds to produce what were called ‘composites’. This is the way commercial sheep farmers can quickly respond to changing market demands. Other breeds from the Middle East were also imported in the 1990s to research their potential for the live sheep trade.

Rare breeds - Heritage breeds
These are sheep that have been recovered from remote areas or New Zealand offshore islands where they have been placed to provide meat for shipwrecked sailors, or were farmed before it got too arduous for the people who left them behind. Some are derived from sheep that missed the muster so have been feral for many decades.

The preservation of these sheep breeds, and other breeds of livestock, is managed by 'The Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz).

WOOL BREEDS
MERINO


Superfine Merino ram at Omarama Field Day

Mature body weight (ewes): 35-45kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 3.5-5kg
  • Staple length: 65-100mm
  • Fibre diameter: 19-24 microns
Fertility: 70-100%
Administration: NZ Merino Stud Breeders. (www.merino.co.nz). Booroola Sheep Society of New Zealand.

The Merino in New Zealand is now mainly farmed in the South Island high country where, despite low overall demand for wool, Merino breeders through efficient marketing, have retained a premium demand for their superfine wool used in men's suiting and outdoor and fashion clothing.

Merinos have low-medium body weight, are 'light boned', have pink skin around the face and ears and pure white wool. Wrinkles unfortunately were introduced by American breeders who wrongly believed they would increase surface area and hence fleece weight.

Although skin wrinkles have been greatly reduced, they still cause welfare problems when mulesing is used to remove britch wrinkles to avoid dags and blowfly attacks. New Zealand Merinos are less wrinkly than Australian strains, and although mulesing is not illegal, it's not advised.

Merinos are late maturing, so surplus lambs grow slowly to light weights, and cast-for-age ewes are of low meat value. High country farmers who eat their own 'Merino mutton' from wethers up to 7-year-old, claim that it has great flavour but needs plenty of time in the oven.

Fertility in the high country is low as is lamb survival, and on difficult farms, lambing is often delayed until ewes are three years of age.

Merinos farmed on more fertile green pastures are prone to footrot, their toes grow long and they need drenching for internal parasites which under present costs makes then uneconomic to farm.

BOOROOLA MERINO
The introduction of the Booroola strain of Merino from Australia in the 1970s greatly increased fertility, but multiple births were often a disadvantage in difficult environments. Irrigation has allowed the low ground on some high country farms to grow improved pasture which has been used to finish lambs bred from Merino ewes (especially the Booroola) by meat sires.


DRYSDALE


Drysdale rams

Mature body weight (ewe): 50-70kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 5-7 kg
  • Staple length: 200-300mm
  • Fibre diameter: 40 microns plus
Fertility: 90-120%
Administration:

Dr F.W. Dry of Massey College in the 1930s - 1940s discovered a gene in Romneys that produced a strong coarse hairy (medullated) fleece, large curved horns in rams and small horns in ewes. He named it the 'N' gene (after the Neilson farm of discovery), and the breed was named the Drysdale after Dry. Under strict control of a carpet company, the breed multiplied into commercial numbers in the 1970s to supply their mills. It has now almost disappeared due to the demise of the woolen carpet trade.

Dr F.W. Dry taking wool samples from a Drysdale ram during a stay
at Whatawhata Research Station in the 1970s.


The breed has all the other growth and carcass traits of the Romney, but must be shorn twice a year as full fleece wool is too long for processing. Its freedom from pigmented fibres allows it to be dyed a full range of colours.

Other coarse-woolled breeds
The success of the Drysdale for carpet wools, removing the need to import Scottish Blackface wool which was bad for pigmented fibres, encouraged farmers to look for other 'hairy' genes. From this came the Tukidale and the Carpetmaster. Remnants of these breeds are now very hard to locate.

BLACK & COLOURED

Black and coloured sheep - from a mainly Romney base

Coloured sheep have always been found in small numbers in all breeds, but it wasn't until there was an interest in natural coloured fibres in New Zealand in the 1970s that an organisation was formed to research their genetics and market their wool. Search my blog for details of the genetics of coloured sheep.

This is now done through the Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders' Association. (www.colouredsheep.org.nz)

The wool from all breeds is available, and the feral sheep of Merino origin from offshore islands are an important part of the mix.
So there are many dual purpose breeds represented in the range of black and coloured sheep. The wool is used mainly for home spinning and weaving.


DUAL PURPOSE BREEDS ( Meat & wool)
ROMNEY


Romney two-tooth rams - 2010 model

Mature body weight (ewe): 50-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 4.5-6kg
  • Staple length: 125-175mm
  • Fibre diameter: 33-37 microns
Fertility: 100-140%
Administration: Romney New Zealand. New Zealand Romney Sheep Breeders' Association Inc.
(www.romneysheep.org.nz)

The original sheep from Romney Marsh in Kent have been through many changes in their time in New Zealand. They came as large open-faced sheep, with bare points and then were changed into small blockey animals in response to demand for meat conformation. They were then covered all over in wool on their legs and heads to the extent that they were 'wool blind' and could not see. This was in response to high wool prices where breeders believed (wrongly) that the total fleece weight would be increased by this change. It only increased work in crutching, dagging and wigging (removing wool from the face).

Today's 'New Zealand Romney' is more like a vastly improved model of the original 1860s Kent sheep, and is the best example of a modern dual-purpose breed farmed over a wide range of environments from fertile lowland to hard hill country in both islands. It has been bred for 'easy care' management to meet the needs of today's sheep farmers.

Ewes have increased greatly in size, weight and fertility, and purebred Romney lambs grow rapidly with good meat conformation. Romney wool is used widely in the carpet and furnishing trade. Shearers are now complaining that today's Romneys, along with some other breeds are getting too heavy to handle.

Romney composites
The Finn is the most popular breed to have been mixed with the Romney to increase fertility, followed by the East Friesian to add more milk production to feed the extra lambs.

The Texel has also been added so composites are available with varying proportions of these breeds. Some farmers are marketing them under the name of Romex.

Romney composites - 3/4 Romney and 1/4 Finn



COOPWORTH


Coopworth two-tooth ewes

Mature body weight (ewe): 50-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 4.5-6kg
  • Staple length: 125-175mm
  • Fibre diameter: 35-39 microns
Fertility: 110-140%
Administration: Coopworth Sheep Society of New Zealand. (www.coopworth.org.nz)

The Coopworth was developed at Lincoln College in Canterbury from research work by Professor Ian Coop and Mr Vern Clarke in the 1970s. The aim was to get more fertility into the Romney by crossing with the Border Leicester, and the Coopworth was the result of interbreeding and selection for performance within the first cross or F1, with great emphasis on fertility.

Modern Coopworths are large sheep with high fertility and they do best on good lowland or fertile hill country. Lambs mature early and have a good carcass conformation. Hogget mating is common. Wool is typical 'crossbred' and has similar end uses to Romney.

Many Coopworth flocks, especially with an infusion of Finn now produce up to 30% triplets, and at this level, there can be around 5% of ewes having quads. Triplets are left on the ewe but quads are definitely not wanted as at least one lamb has be to removed and often euthanased.



Coopworth with triplets

Coopworth with quads - low birth weight and high mortality are major
problems with quads
.

Coopworth composites
It is getting harder to find straight-bred Coopworths, as many have been used as a base to breed composites with the Finn and East Friesian breeds.

The breed of these ewes are from a Border Leicester X Romney base
with some Finn mixed in.
They could be loosely called Coopworth composites.


PERENDALE


Perendale mixed-age ewes


Mature body weight (ewe): 50-70kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 4-6kg
  • Staple length: 125-175mm
  • Fibre diameter: 35-39 microns
Fertility: 110-160%
Administration: Perendale Sheep Society of New Zealand. (perendalenz.com)

The Perendale was developed at Massey College by Professor Peren in the 197os to produce a sheep that would be more productive on hill country than the Romney of the day. Cheviot rams were crossed on to Romney ewes and the crossbreds were interbred with selection for performance, especially easy-care lambing.


Perendale two-tooth rams.
Their Cheviot ancestors are still obvious.


Perendales are the ideal sheep for steep hill country, as they move well and are easy to shepherd - by experienced staff. They are not idea for small lifestyle blocks as they are too active. Their lambs grow well and have good meat conformation. Their wool is valuable for its 'bulk' or 'spring' in the staple which is used in carpets and garments.


Perendale composites

ROMDALE
When some Perendale breeders wanted to put more wool, body size and carcass on their sheep, they used the Romney and interbred the cross bred and called it a Romdale.


Romdale hoggets

The Perendale has not been used much to make up composites.


CORRIEDALE


Corriedale rams in full wool

Mature body weight (ewe): 60-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 4.5-6.5kg
  • Staple length: 75-125mm
  • Fibre diameter: 28-33 microns
Fertility: 90-130%
Administration: New Zealand Sheep Breeders' Association.

The Corriedale could be described as the first New Zealand breed to be developed from crossing the Merino with English Longwool breeds (Lincoln and English Leicester). It was bred to produce meat and wool from the drier, easier South Island hill country and was officially recognised as a breed in 1911. It has been widely exported to South and North America, the Falklands and Australia.

Lambs grow well for meat and the medium-micron wool is used for medium-weight garments, worsteds and knitting yarns.


NEW ZEALAND HALFBRED

Mature body weight (ewe): 60-75kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 4- 5kg
  • Staple length: 75-110mm
  • Fibre diameter: 25-31+ microns
Fertility: 100-120%
Administration:

Developed like the Corriedale from crossing and interbreeding the English Leicester and the Lincoln on the Merino. It has more Merino traits than the Corriedale. Their performance is similar to the Corriedale.


BORDER LEICESTER


Two Border Leicester rams

Mature body weight (ewe): 60-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 4.5-6kg
  • Staple length: 150-200mm
  • Fibre diameter: 37-40 microns
Fertility: 110-170%
Administration: New Zealand Sheep Breeders' Association.

The Border Leicester was bred from the English Leicester in the Scottish Borders, and there is little doubt (from its dominant Roman nose) that the Cheviot played a part in its development.
It is not farmed as a dual purpose breed as such, but is used mainly as a 'crossing sire' to add fertility, good frame and carcass to crossbred progeny. It was an early import to New Zealand in 1859.

In New Zealand, it has made major contributions to forming the Coopworth (BL x Romney) and Borderdale (BL x Corriedale). Wool is typical crossbred and is used in carpets and furnishings.


ENGLISH LEICESTER

English Leicester
Photo from NZ Sheep Breeders' Association website
www.nzsheep.co.nz

Mature body weight (ewe): 60-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 5-6kg
  • Staple length: 150-200mm
  • Fibre diameter: 37-40 microns
Fertility: 110-150%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

English Leicesters were developed from the Leicester Longwool in UK and came to New Zealand in 1843 where they were named the English Leicester to avoid confusion with the Border Leicester. They are now few in number and classed as heritage breeds. They made a major contribution in the past to increase both wool and meat production by crossing on to other breeds such as the Merino to produce the Corriedale.


LINCOLN
Mature body weight (ewe): 60-75kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 7- 12kg
  • Staple length: 175-250mm
  • Fibre diameter: 37-41+ microns
Fertility: 100-120%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The Lincoln is one of the oldest breeds of long wool sheep and was recognised in UK in 1749.
It was brought to New Zealand in 1862 and was the main breed before the turn of the century, used to produce heavy fleeces and large carcasses. Through crossbreeding, these traits were incorporated in other breeds such as the Corriedale and the Polwarth.

The strong lustrous and low-crimp wool was used for carpets. In full fleece a sheep would be wool blind due to the amount of wool on the face and head. It is very similar in looks to the English Leicester. It is now classed as a heritage breed.


CHEVIOT


Cheviot mixed-age ewes at Whatawhata Research Station 1980
The shearers hated these sheep and the feelings were mutual!

Mature body weight (ewe): 55-70kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2-3kg
  • Staple length: 75-120mm
  • Fibre diameter: 28-33 microns
Fertility: 90-120%
Administration: Cheviot Sheep Society of New Zealand.

The Cheviot was one of the first UK breeds of sheep to be introduced into New Zealand (1845). Further importations arrived in 1857, 1890 and 1937.

It was an ideal 'pioneering' sheep to break in new country after the bush had been cleared and burned. It is not farmed any more in commercial flocks as a dual purpose breed, but is found more in small studs where rams are sold for use as meat sires. Its main contribution to New Zealand has been to produce the Perendale.

It's the most active of all sheep, and needs skilled shepherding with very restricted use of the huntaway dog. It's best handled with heading dogs and the Border Collie evolved in the same Scottish Border Cheviot hills as the Cheviot sheep.

Fleece weights are low and the wool has traditionally been used for knitwear. Its helical crimp is important in adding bulk and resilience to carpets.

Cheviot ewes on their native heath in winter coming for their feed.
Photo by shepherd Helen Brown at Chatto in the Cheviot Hills.
By kind permission - Helen Brown.

POLWARTH

Mature body weight (ewe): 50-65kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 5.5- 6.0kg
  • Staple length: 75-110mm
  • Fibre diameter: 23-25 microns
Fertility: 100-120%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The Polwarth was produced in Australia by crossing the Lincoln on to the Merino with the aim of producing a dual purpose sheep with major emphasis on mid-micron wool. The breed was brought to New Zealand in the early 1900s to be farmed mainly in the south island drier hill country. The end use of Polwarth wool is in the worsted trade and for fine knitwear.


FINNSHEEP

Finnsheep
Photo from NZ Sheep Breeders' Ass0ciation website

www.nzsheep.co.nz

Mature body weight (ewe): 50-70kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2.5- 4kg
  • Staple length: 75-125mm
  • Fibre diameter: 25-27 microns
Fertility: 175-250%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The Finnish Landrace (now called Finnsheep) was imported into New Zealand in the 1980s by the government to boost fertility in the national flock. It was classed as a dual purpose breed and its wool was predicted to extend the range of the NZ clip,by its white lustrous fibre used in furnishings. Its main contribution now is in putting fertility into composites where one quarter is the most popular proportion. It is claimed to be resistant to Facial Eczema.

Sheep in restricted quarantine at Hophopu Research Station in the 1980s after release from maximum quarantine. The Finns are obvious by their short tails.


EAST FRIESIAN

Some of the original East Friesian imports.
Photo by kind permission of Dr Jock Allison

Mature body weight (ewe): 80-95kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 4-5kg
  • Staple length: 120-160mm
  • Fibre diameter: 35-37 microns
Fertility: 250- 280%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The East Friesian was imported into New Zealand in 1992 and released from quarantine for commercial sale in 1996. It was imported to add milk production genes and fertility to the national flock, and has been used mainly at add these traits to composites with the Romney and Coopworth.

The end use for wool is the carpet trade. Milk production averages 500-600 litres in 210-230 day lactations.


DOHNE MERINO

Dohne Merino Photo from Rare Breeds website
www.rarebreeds.co.nz


Mature body weight (ewe): 55-75kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2-3kg
  • Staple length: 75-1oomm
  • Fibre diameter: 27-32 microns
Fertility: 110-130%
Administration:

The Dohne was developed in South Africa from crossing two strains of Merino - the Australian Peppin and the German Mutton Merino in 1939. The breed society was formed in 1966 and the breed was introduced into New Zealand in 1988. The breed is free from wrinkles and has a good meat conformation along with fine wool.

MEAT BREEDS
SOUTHDOWN

Mature body weight (ewe): 50-70kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2-3kg
  • Staple length: 75-1oomm
  • Fibre diameter: 27-32 microns
Fertility: 110-130%
Administration: Southdown Sheep Society of New Zealand Inc.
Email: (southdown@slingshot.co.nz)

The Southdown has been the foundation of 'New Zealand lamb' or 'Canterbury lamb' since the start of refrigeration 1882. It has been the classical 'terminal sire' where all offspring mature early, grow fast and go for slaughter.

The breed has seen many changes in 'type' over the years when responding to changing meat markets. From the original imports from Britain, it was greatly reduced in size to meet the demand for small joints. Now the breed has changed back to larger sheep, again to meet a market where consumers buy oven-ready products and not joints any more.

Apart from being a specialist meat breed on its own, Southdowns have been important in contributing their meat qualities to other breeds through crossing and interbreeding to form new breeds.

Examples
  • South Dorset (Southdown x Dorset)
  • South Dorset Down (Southdown x Dorset Down)
  • South Suffolk (Southdown x Suffolk)
  • South Hampshire (Southdown x Hampshire)
Southdown wool is short stapled and bulky and was traditionally used in knitwear blends.


SUFFOLK


Sufflock ewe and lambs. Lambs are born black but start
to turn white after a few weeks old.


Mature body weight (ewe): 60-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2.5- 3kg
  • Staple length: 75-1oomm
  • Fibre diameter: 30-35 microns
Fertility: 110-150%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The Suffolk has been the most popular terminal meat sire breed in New Zealand, but is now losing this place to a large extent to the Polled Dorset.

The Suffolk is specialist heavy-weight prime lamb breed and the lambs are early maturing and grow fast to obtain early market premiums.

Mature mixed-age Sufflok ewes like these would now all be over 80kg

The wool was traditionally used for hand-knitting yarns, flannel and tweeds. At one time the black fibres in Suffolk wool were considered a problem when they got on to the carcass as they could be easily seen.

The Suffolk has been used to improve the size and meat potential of the Southdown in forming the South Suffolk.


SOUTH SUFFOLK


Mature body weight (ewe): 65-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2- 3kg
  • Staple length: 50-75mm
  • Fibre diameter: 27-33 microns
Fertility: 120-160%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association


The breed was developed in the 1930s to meet the demand for more lean meat and was registered in 1955. The bare head features of the Suffolk in the cross have removed a lot of the face wool from the Southdown, but the breed exhibits a good average of their parent breeds. The wool is typical 'down type, described as 'chalky' with no crimp and is used in knitwear.


POLL DORSET & DORSET HORN


Poll Dorset rams - these are now massive sheep with rams
weighing up near 100kg. Shearers are starting to complain!


Mature body weight (ewe): 70-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2- 3kg
  • Staple length: 75-100mm
  • Fibre diameter: 27-32 microns
Fertility: 120-160%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The Poll Dorset has become a very popular terminal sire for all dual purpose breeds and crosses, as over recent years, there has been intense selection by stud breeders to increase size, early lamb growth and lean carcasses.

The breed is also noted for early oestrus and out-of-season lambing, and ewes are also a popular choice for sheep milking enterprises.

The horns of the Poll Dorset in New Zealand were removed by crossing the Dorset Horn with the Corriedale and Ryeland, and then backcrossing to fix the breed type. It is also stated that the polling of the Dorset took place in Australia.

Whereas the Poll Dorset is increasing in popularity as a terminal meat sire, the Dorset Horn is now moving into Heritage status.

Wool from these breeds is typical 'down' type used for hosiery, flannels and fine tweeds. Skins have been used in linings for boots.

DORSET DOWN

Mature body weight (ewe): 65-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2- 3kg
  • Staple length: 50-75mm
  • Fibre diameter: 26-29 microns
Fertility: 110-140%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The breed was developed in UK from crosses with the Southdown, Hampshire and local Dorset breeds and was established as a breed in New Zealand in 1947. It was imported as a meat breed with similar qualities for early maturing export lamb as the Poll Dorset and Suffolk.

The typical down type wool is used for felting and blending with other types for hosiery and fine knitting yarns.

HAMPSHIRE DOWN
Hampshire ram
Photo from NZ Sheep Breeders' Ass0ciation website

www.nzsheep.co.nz

Mature body weight (ewe): 65-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2- 3kg
  • Staple length: 50-75mm
  • Fibre diameter: 27-33 microns
Fertility: 120-160%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The Hampshire was bred in England from crosses of Southdown, Wiltshire horn and local Hampshire breeds and imported into New Zealand in 1861, with later importations from Australia.

It is another example of the classical down breeds with good early lamb growth and good meat conformation.

TEXEL

Texel ram


Mature body weight (ewe): 65-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 2- 3kg
  • Staple length: 75-110mm
  • Fibre diameter: 28-33 microns
Fertility: 110-130%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The Texel was developed on the Dutch island of Texel where it is a dual-purpose breed. Cheviot genes were mixed into the local sheep in its early development and these are still apparent in its physical looks. It was imported into New Zealand in 1990 to boost meat conformation and yield. It has been used in producing composite breeds to boost meat traits. The wool is typical bulky Cheviot type with similar end uses.


WILTSHIRE HORN


Horned Wiltshire ram (Photo compliments of breeder Lyle Millar)


Polled Wiltshire horn ewes showing shedding gene.

Fertility: 110-130%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

There are both horned and polled Wiltshires. In the horned flocks, rams have heavy horns and ewes have small horns. In some of the polled flocks ewe lambs develop small horns which can be removed.


OXFORD DOWN

Mature body weight (ewe): 65-80kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 3.5- 5kg
  • Staple length: 100-150mm
  • Fibre diameter: 33-37 microns
Fertility: 90-120%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The Oxford is the largest meat breed in UK and first came to New Zealand in 1906 but seemed to disappear. A new importation by MAF took place in 1980 and sheep were released from quarantine in 1990 for commercial use. They were imported this time to respond to a demand for large lean carcasses.

The wool is typical 'down' type with similar end uses as the other down breeds.


RYELAND


Mature body weight (ewe): 55-70kg
Wool:
  • Fleece weight: 3- 4kg
  • Staple length: 75-100mm
  • Fibre diameter: 28-33 microns
Fertility: 110-130%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association

The Ryeland evolved in UK as a dual purpose breed and was used as such when it came to New Zealand in 1901 and 1907. It then developed more as a meat breed and has been used as a terminal sire. It is now classed as a rare or heritage breed as numbers are very low. It was used to poll the Dorset Horn to produce the Poll Dorset.

The typical down wool is suitable for textiles, tweeds and hosiery.


DORPER



Photo from NZ Sheep Breeders' Ass0ciation website
www.nzsheep.co.nz

Mature body weight (ewe): 65-80kg
Fertility: 110-130%
Administration: New Zealand Sheepbreeders' Association


The Dorper was produced in South Africa in the 1930s by crossing and interbreeding the Dorset Horn and the Black Headed Persian, so sheep can be either all white or have a black head. They were bred as a meat sheep and shedding their wool for warm climates. They were introduced into New Zealand in the 1980s as a terminal sire meat breed for large carcasses.


OTHER BREEDS
AWASSI


Awassi ram.
Photo by kind permission of Kalev & Kathy Crossland

(email: xland@ihug.co.nz)

Information: Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)

The Awassi is a fat tailed sheep imported using embryos into New Zealand from Israel in 1991 and released from quarantine in 1995. The breed has potential for the live sheep export trade to the Middle East.


KARAKUL

Karakul ewe.
Photo by kind permission of Michael Willis


Information: Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)

This is another Middle Eastern fat tailed breed where the fat spreads over the rump. It was imported into New Zealand and released from quarantine in 1994. The pelts of Karakul lambs produce the classical curly 'Persian lamb' used for hats and coat trimmings.

DAMARA
This breed originated in Namibia and has been imported into New Zealand with potential for export to the Middle East.

Awassi ram.
Photo by kind permission of Kalev & Kathy Crossland

(email: xland@ihug.co.nz)


GOTLAND PELT

This breed was imported to New Zealand by MAF in the 1980s from Scandinavia for research into the possibility of an export pelt trade.

Information: New Zealand Sheep Breeders' Association

HOKONUI
These are Merino type sheep that were found in the Hokonui hills in Southland, New Zealand. They can be white or coloured, the rams have large horns and the ewes are rarely horned.
Information: Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)


CHATHAM ISLAND
These clearly carry Merino genes and got themselves isolated on a corner of the main Island of the Chathams. They have been feral since the early 1900s. They are mostly white with long fleeces which suggests other breeds than the Merino. The rams have horns as have half of the ewes.


PITT ISLAND


Pitt Island ewes

These are coloured Merino type sheep that were released on Pitt Island in the Chatham Island group in New Zealand in the early 1900s by European settlers. Some of the sheep were removed in 1981 before the island was cleared of animals and are now kept as heritage sheep. They are all coloured and are self shedding.
Information: Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)

CAMPBELL ISLAND
Sheep were first put on to Campbell Island in 1895 with more arrivals in the early 1900s with the intention of farming them. The island was abandoned in 1931 with 4000 sheep left to run wild. From these feral sheep, ten were brought to New Zealand as heritage sheep in the late 1980s before the island was cleared of livestock. They are the only ferals known to hae mainly Merino blood.
Information: Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)

STEWART ISLAND
Sheep farming started on Stewart Island in 1874 and continued until the 1990s. These sheep were ferals that missed regular musters, and the remnants are now classed as heritage sheep.
They are of Merino origin, are coloured and have horns.
Information: Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)

ARAPAWA
These are also coloured Merino type sheep that have bred on Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds from sheep taken there in 1867 by early settlers. The sheep are of Merino types originating from Australia. Today's heritage sheep were derived from escapees on the island. They have a fine fleece which sheds if the feed levels are challenging.
Information: Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)

RAGLAN
These are a Romney that went feral on a peninsula in Raglan harbour. Twelve ewes and two rams were collected in 1976 by MAF scientists at Whatawhata Research Station. The small flock was sold in 2005 and the remnants are now kept as heritage sheep.
Information: Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)

OTHERS
Information: Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. (www.rarebreeds.co.nz)

The trust lists a number of other types of sheep which have been mainly escapees from farmed sheep.
  • Clarence River sheep: From the Clarence river reserve in the Marlborough Sounds.
  • Digger Hill sheep: From western Southland.
  • Herbert sheep: From the Herbert and Hampden areas of north Otago.
  • Mohaka sheep: From the Mohaka river area in Hawkes Bay.
  • Woodstock sheep: From Woodstock station near Oxford in south Canterbury.


3 comments:

  1. Thanks,

    it was really interesting to have all the types of sheep in NZ on one page. I enjoyed reading this and learnt a bit more about the Suffock sheep we have.

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  2. Greetings and thank you for the gentle page, for the information and links.
    It is the Passover season and I had been reading about the Exodus; the rate of travel the Awassi could go--16-35 km,/24 hours according to The FAO website on Bedouin flock management and Awassi sheep care.
    Here is the citation
    While 16 km is considered to be a fair rate of progress when migrating to more distant pastures, if pressed, flocks may be driven for as much as 35 km (21.7 miles) in 24 hours (Williamson, 1949)." http://www.fao.org/docrep/011/aj003e/AJ003E05.htm , FAO CORPORATE DOCUMENT REPOSITORY, 2. Flock management , paragraph 7, 1 JANUARY 2010, "The Awassi sheep with special reference to the improved dairy type..." The Awassi sheep with special reference to the improved dairy type, Series title: FAO Animal Production and Health Paper - 57, 1985, 295 pg, ISBN: 9251014140, AJ003/E

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  3. i have really enjoyed reading up on this site, easy to read and understand just fantastic really to give an idea of our sheep in our beautiful country!

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