April 23, 2014

New Zealand agricultural history. No 14. Importing exotic sheep

The Danish Texels  - what happened to them?

 By Dr Clive Dalton

Texels were in great demand by other sheep countries around the world in the 1970s -1980s once the news got out about their meat qualities, and it seems that the Danish Texels had a top reputation. 

Dr Leyden Baker (pictured right) who had the responsibility to source the Finn, Texel and Oxford Down breeds in Denmark and Finland for the NZ MAF second importation (via embryos and semen), tells what happened when the NZ team were finished with the sheep.

Sheep when ET programme finished
When the NZ team were finished doing ET on the sheep they purchased to harvest embryos, they couldn’t bring them to New Zealand, so they offered to return each ewe to their former owners, free of charge and in mint condition except for a scar on their bellies. 

As far as Leyden knew, the owners were not overly concerned about what had gone on inside the sheep, or the indignity of having been operated on.  No owner made any comment to either Leyden or Dr Robin Tervit who did the Embryo Transfer work.

Dr Peter O'hara
 This information is important, as with the later importations from the same sources, MAF's Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Peter O'Hara  said that the owners did voice concern, leading to MAF allowing more live animals into New Zealand to prevent surgery on them, provided they were slaughtered immediately after their time in quarantine.

Neither Leyden Baker nor Robin Tervit who had both worked closely with the breeders had heard of any dissatisfaction from owners of the sheep over this issue, so it makes you wonder how the complaint got back to Wellington and the CVO. 
American interest in Texels
Leyden had a good contact with his friend Dr Gordon Dickerson from Clay Centre Nebraska who he had worked with, and who had done a sabbatical at Ruakura Genetics.  Dickerson was one of the world’s pioneer geneticists who somehow had got wind of what Leyden had been doing, and that there could be a few spare Texels around that Leyden had already sorted out.  

 Dickerson came up with some nice US greenbacks and the deal was done to buy the Texels from the Danes. Leyden thought this was a great idea, as he knew the Clay Center folk had been watching what the Texel was doing in Canada and wanted a piece of the action.

Dual honour
So Leyden Baker says he can now claim the unrecognised honour of being the first person to introduce Texel sheep to both the USA and New Zealand!

 Animal Enterprises looking for sheep
The other point worth noting was the way that Animal Enterprises were able to benefit from Leyden’s leg-work in locating flocks in Denmark and Finland, and building on the good NZ public relations to buy sheep from 70% of the same flocks that MAFTech did for their importation.  That was a very smart move  but all above board!

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