April 23, 2014

New Zealand agricultural history. No 5. Importing exotic sheep breeds

General attributes of breeds on the import wish list
Priority list 
Within  versus between breeds 

By Dr Clive Dalton
If you read the breed promotional blurb provided by breed organisations,  you have to wonder why we bother to have different breeds at all, as according to their promoters, all breeds are good at everything and can provide everything a farmer would ever want or need!

New Zealand's shopping list
The sheep breeds listed below are what the New Zealand sheep industry was supposed to  ‘want and need’ urgently in the 1970s, to boost the agricultural economy. 

Farmers were continually being told that the breeds they had were not capable of increasing production at the speed needed to meet the expanding export needs, so urgent action was needed.  This urgent action could only come through  the importation of 'exotic' sheep breeds from Britain and Europe.

Priority list
I’ve listed the breeds in what in the 1970s was a rough order of perceived need.  Maybe it would also be accurate to describe the breed order as being the ‘most talked about’ at the time - and it's remained that way since.

The star of the show - Finnish Landrace with lambs to spare!
Photo: Internet
  • Finnish Landrace: Range 260-270% lambing; ewes 50-70kg, rams 66-93kg; clean points and britch, lean carcass; wool very white, lustrous, good bulk, 26-32 microns. 
  •  East Friesian: Range 230-240% lambing; ewes 75-95kg, rams 102-125kg, highest milk producers 500-600Litres/210-230 days; large body size; lean carcass; clean points and britch; wool bulky medium white, 35-37 microns; staple length 120-160mm; mean fleece weight 4.5kg.
  • Oldenburg (German White Headed Mutton): large body size, Range 180-200% lambing; wool fiber diameter of 37- 41 microns and good crimp.  Fleece weight is 5.5 kg for ewes, and 7.4 kg for rams.
  •  Oxford Down: Large body size; ewes 65-80kg, rams 86-106kg; brown points; typical down type wool; mean fleece weight 3.8kg. Lambing % not quoted. 
  • Oxford Down in quarantine at Flock House. 
     Photo: Jim Essen
  • Gotland Pelt: Valued for the pelt from young lambs and fleece from older sheep for craft market.  Lambing % not quoted  
Gotland Pelt.  You have to wonder why anyone would put this sheep on the list. Photo from Internet.

Within  versus between breeds

When ever you consider breed differences, remember that differences within breeds are always greater that differences between breeds.  The environment (mainly feeding) has such a massive effect
on performance, that the performance levels quoted have to show a wide range.

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