Some New Rams

Over the last few years, we’ve noticed summers in our area are consistently getting hotter. This is changing our situation in regards to sheep and blowflies and we are now dealing with flystrike on a regular basis in our flock. At first this seemed like an anomaly, but it’s looking more like a trend that will continue; now that the blowfly population has moved in, it’s unlikely it will leave.

We are also interested in growing wool a bit more seriously, which has mainly been a sideline to our lamb production. We’d like to grow more, higher quality wool, and we are working on ways to market it directly to the public.

All this gives us an opportunity to alter the makeup of our flock. After lots of careful research we have bought some Merino rams of the “SRS” (soft rolling skin) type. 30 years ago a CSIRO researcher named Jim Watts was working with merino genetics which went against the established wisdom that good quality, fine wool required small, wrinkly skinned sheep. Over many years of selective breeding, he was able to achieve a merino with a large frame, plain body and a lot of very fine wool. These sheep are naturally resistant to flystrike, don’t require mulesing, and have much improved maternal characteristics (merinos are notorious for being lousy mothers.)

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As an old establishment, full of tradition and the typical resistance to any change, the wool industry ridiculed and pilloried these new merinos for 20 years; however there were breeders who persisted with it and produced very good results.

The other thing we like about our new rams is that they look similar in shape to the Poll Dorsett rams we use to produce our meat lambs. We are hoping that in a couple of years we can just breed merino sheep and use the wethers for meat, which will simplify the sheep portion of our operation. Merinos are also easier to manage in terms of fencing, as they don’t seem to have the goat-like escaping abilities of the cross bred variety.

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