Self Sheering Sheep

I do not know where this will end but it is certainly worth a try.  The present stock has a low yield but breeding should be able to fix that.  It certainly can facilitate harvesting and it is no trick to work with the animals to collect wool and clean it.  Worse case it has to be partially integrated with manure processing also.

Low prices have made wool unattractive to farmers and a simple collection system would go a long way toward at least eliminating the cash cost of sheering.  The wool could be collected and simply stored for better markets without tying up cash.  We assume the animals proceed through the normal husbandry cycle and are converted to meat and other products.

Many other animals are natural high quality fiber producers and represent far more difficult sheering propositions.  Breeding for a convenient shedding cycle should be easy and would go a long way toward making these animals commercially attractive.

The self-shearing sheep that will save farmers thousands of pounds

Last updated at 2:12 AM on 11th April 2010

With rather tatty-looking fleeces, these animals could be forgiven for seeming a little sheepish about their appearance.

But they are actually one of the most advanced flocks in Britain - being among the country's first self-shearing sheep.

The animals have been specially bred to shed their winter coats naturally when spring arrives, saving farmers thousands of pounds a year. 

A new breed of self-shearing sheep shed their coats naturally in spring

Wool has fallen so dramatically in value recently that its sale no longer covers the cost of shearing - leaving the task no more than a nuisance for flock owners.

That led breeders to import rams from foreign varieties such as the Barbados Blackbelly, which sheds wool naturally, to create the new breed called Exlana.

Without their normal thick coats, the sheep are also more resistant to parasites, and need less medication and costly chemical treatments. 

Now, instead of spending precious time and money shearing their sheep, farmers simply waits for the light coats to 'moult' in the fields.

West country farmer Peter Baber has come up with a revolutionary way to reduce the costs of sheep farming

The wool, which is shorter and more sparse than a traditional British sheep, begins shedding around the animal's neck and legs, often leaving a temporary patch in the middle.

Where a normal sheep would produce up to 20lb (9kg) of wool, the Exlana - whose newly coined name from the Latin means 'used to have wool' - yields just 1lb (500g).

The new ewes are estimated to save farmers £8 per animal per year in labour costs - which could equal thousands of pounds a year for a full flock.

Breeder Peter Baber, 54, who runs a farm in Christow, near Exeter, Devon, is spearheading the group of nine farmers who are developing the sheep.

The winner of Sheep Farmer of the Year 2007, said: 'It's totally changed the way we work. It is the most forward-thinking step in British sheep farming for a long time.

'We used to have normal, woolly sheep at the farm and had to spend hours shearing them in the spring. But the value of wool has reduced so much recently that it's no longer economically viable to produce .

'Shearing has just became a necessity and, quite frankly, a nuisance.'

'I started thinking about alternative solutions about ten years ago, having seen them myself in Bolivia and Brazil.

'There are breeds around the world, particularly in tropical areas, which still shed their sheep naturally, so we imported the genetics to start breeding. Now, we have thousands of wool-shedding sheep on our farms.

'Their bodies recognise when it is spring time and they naturally begin to shed their wool.
'I imagine that the birds on our farms must have the cosiest nests in Britain.'

The animals will soon be available to buy from Weir Park Farm in Devon, for around £100 per lamb and £150 per ewe.

WELCOME TO ARVIDSON WILTSHIRES - The Home of Self Shearing Sheep
The Wiltshire Horn from which the polled Wiltshire is derived is an old English breed of sheep. It is listed as a rare breed now due to the small numbers that still survive.
Main Physical Characteristics
  • Devoid of wool on most parts of the sheep apart from the back and sides of its body.
  • It naturally sheds its fleece during the spring and re-grows it in the autumn.
  • It has only a very short fleece.
  • It produces lean; fine textured meat and a strong skin without shearing cuts.
  • Hoofs tend to be black and very resilient against foot rot under New Zealand farming conditions.
  • Lambs tend to be born with a very fine head and narrow shoulders and the ewes have very few lambing problems.
  • Bearing problems seem to be almost nil in our flock. We have had about four cases in twelve years of farming over 300 mixed age ewes.
  • They are a long legged, slender sheep, which can move rapidly across the hills.
Ram, age 22 months, neck belly & crutch moult, July 2007 (Below)
Farm Management Practice
  • Our basic aim is to run our flock harder then you ever will your own while recording performance to always be selecting for the best animals.
  • Ewe replacement level is approximately 50% each year.
  • A low input strategy is followed.
  • Drenches are used as a cure rather then prevention so that we can record those animals that have low natural resistance.
  • Facial Eczema testing was started last year (2006).
Breeding Objective Targets
Cover photo from New Zealand Lifestyle Farmer magazine, February 2006, showing David with a ewe and her daughter.(Below)
Our current breeding aims that we are selecting for are:
  • complete moult by the end of October.
  • target wool length of 10mm.
  • maximum wool length of 30mm.
  • complete moult every year.
  • hoofs that need no attention.
  • no physical faults.
  • facial excema resistance (RAMGUARD TESTING).
  • high lambing percentages (aim 200%)
  • high growth rates (aim for 10kg of live weight for each month of age while on the ewe)
  • high weaned lamb weight as a % of ewe weight.
We recently had our lamb carcasses assessed by Murray Harwood (former part owner of Supreme Venison). Murray has been selling tons of lamb meat into the top end of the market each week and is a highly skilled butcher himself. His assessment was that these lambs were some of the best he had come across.
"One of the highest yielding, best tasting lambs I have ever come across. The meat was beautifully marbled to enhance the cooking process and yet low fat overall."

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