Success as NZ reaches end of eight-year sheep breeding programme

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Success as NZ reaches end of eight-year sheep breeding programme

AFTER eight years of breeding, New Zealand’s Allan Richardson lays claim to the first sheep breed in the world to have breeding values calculated for tail length and bare skin on the tail.

Richardson, of Avalon Genetics in Otago, says the result is the Avalon Ultimate, a sheep marketed as a high performance, low input animal with Texel and Perendale genetics.

With most of their land between 1,300 and 1,640 feet altitude, the sheep experience cold wet winters with several snowfalls.

“This year, only a quarter of our ultimate lambs have been docked. Our aim is to have a whole flock that doesn’t need [to be] drenched, dagged or docked,” Richardson tells reporters.

“These new SIL breeding values will allow us to speed up our breeding programme for producing sheep with short bare tails that don’t need [to be] docked.”

Richardson began the project after researcher David Scobie at the AgResearch Institute found tail length was a heritable trait of up to 0.8 percent.

He says his flock produced 6,000 Ultimate lambs in 2017 and he is getting close to not having to dag or dock any of the flock. Wool grows on their tails, but it peels off, leaving bare skin.

Key traits of Avalon’s Ultimate sheep are: High fertility, survival, meat and growth for both maternal/terminal options; Bare breech and belly minimize dagging and shearing costs; Short bare tails don’t need to be docked, require less dagging and reduce flystrike; No docking means less costs, less animal and people stress, mis-mothering and improved animal welfare; Strong parasite resistance and facial eczema tolerance; Less animal welfare challenges before and during lambing.

“We know genetically that in a high input traditional system our sheep are ranked in the top five per cent of New Zealand genetics,” Richardson says on his website. “In a low input system, we believe our genetics are 40-per-cent to 60-percent better than comparable worm resistant genetics.”

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