April 23, 2014

New Zealand agricultural history. No 16. Importing exotic sheep breeds

Importation of exotic sheep breeds
Second MAF importation
Quarantine station at Hopuhopu
Veterinary inspection
MAFQual veterinarian Peter Hoyle

 Dr Clive Dalton

Hopuhopu quarantine station
Hamilton MAFQual veterinarian Peter Hoyle’s  memories

 I was new boy on the block and had some experience in quarantine while working in the UK as a state veterinarian. So I got the job nobody else wanted, to provide veterinary supervision of the Hopuhopu quarantine station for the sheep imported from Finland and Denmark as embryos. 

With members of the Ruakura Genetics team, we thrashed out some rules of procedure and structural requirements to ensure a credible disease confinement programme. 
Photo: Peter Hoyle, happily retired in Vanuatu 2014 where there is no sheep.  Local dogs cleaned up the last few!

The Hopuhopu property owned by Tainui was known to be infected with Ovine Johne’s Disease (OJD), and we devised a programme to attempt to clear infection ahead of the imported animals arrival, as we needed to import local sheep onto the station to be embryo recipients during the intensive multiplication phase.   So another programme was devised to try to avoid importing OJD with these Romney recipient ewes.

MAFTech technical officer Ian Malthus, rattling the feed bucket 
to move the sheep at Hopuhopu

The imported purebred exotic breed sheep arrived as weaners from Somes Island and had never been out of doors.  They were accustomed to being hand fed so the easiest way to get them to go places was to walk in front and rattle a bucket. They had never seen a dog before, and the first dog they met got a very thorough physical going over by them - much to the dog’s embarrassment and disgust.

  • My duties involved regular visits for the following jobs: 
  • For animal health and examination of sick and dead animals.   
  •  For veterinary oversight of the embryo transfers done at the multiplication stage in the Hopuhopu woolshed surgery.
  • To advise on routine disease control measures.
  • To advise on quarantine procedures.
  • In the final stages, to supervise the post mortem examination of the entire original imported purebreds at the Ruakura Abattoir.  Here we found that all our efforts to eliminate OJD had failed, but there was no evidence of Scrapie from examination of brain tissue.
Peter Hoyle providing post-operative care to sheep after Embryo Transfer.  21 March 1986.  Photo by Jaap Jasperse, NZ Farmer magazine

I remember one incident when I arrived on the station and found a ewe acting very strangely and making me suspect that it could be Scrapie.  To my relief, I found that she had been overdosed with oestrogen, which explained her odd behavior. Finding scrapie at that stage would have been the mother and father of all disasters!

Alan Julian
With another sick sheep, specialist veterinary pathologist Alain Julian then at the Ruakura Animal Health Lab diagnosed a rare genetic kidney disease (Mesangiocapillary Glomerulonephritis) from samples I submitted taken from a Finn lamb. 

Alan sent sections of the kidney to Dr Dick Barlow in Scotland and they confirmed the disease.  The good news was that it was not Scrapie!  
We also had problems with Necrotic Laryngitis in the Texels at Hopuhopu. This can be nasty and lead to death by suffocation.  It is also called 'chronic ovine laryngitis' caused by a bacterium with the monika of 'Fusobacterium necrophorum'

Other breeds of sheep can get this too.  Feeding too much dry feed can bring it on - and the sheep were fed plenty of that on the station to keep them growing.

Photos from  Hopuhopu  provided by Mike Wolland, Technical Officer at Hopuhopu

One of the many ammunition bunkers on the Hopuhopu army training area.

Truck washing  after sheep arrived from Soames Island maximum quarantine station

Hopuhopu quarantine station needed facilities for handling sheep and wool and doing surgery. 

MAF Technicians Graham Hasard (left) and Mike Wolland preparing recipient ewes for embryo transfer.  Photo by Jaap Jasperse of NZ Farmer, 21 March, 1986.

Operating on embryo recipients in Hophopu woolshed surgery.  Photo by Jaap Jasperse of NZ Farmer, 21 March, 1986.

Mike Wolland and Texel ram at Hopuhopu quarantine station

 Farmer reactions to the Texels
But my most telling memory was the reaction of  visiting sheep farmers, in particular the Perendale breeders when the saw the Texels for the first time. In no time they were queuing up to put their names down to purchase some when quarantine was finalised. They probably recognised the Cheviot in the Texel which was also part of the Perendale too, so thought there would be good ‘nicking’ among the genes of the two breeds.

Quality Texel rams that every farmer wanted, especially Perendale breeders.

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