Easy care sheep, developed by AgResearch, have been selectively bred to be more productive and less labour-intensive for farmers. Our collection of resources on this reveals more about these sheep and why they were developed.
Easy care sheep traits
Researchers have selectedthey deem to make sheep easier and cheaper to farm and combined these to create an easy care sheep. Easy care sheep have less wool in key places such as the backside, belly, head and legs. They also have a short tail.
Less wool reduces costs
Less wool in these key places on a sheep reduces farming costs and improves returns. Some of the easy care traits reduce the accumulation of dags – a build up of faeces. This makes sheep less susceptible to flystrike – attack by blowflies that lay maggots in the sheep’s fleece, eventually causing skin damage. It also makes sheep quicker and easier to shear and reduces the need for procedures like dagging, crutching and treating flystrike, which saves farmers time and money.
Falling wool prices spark research idea
Demand for wool began to fall in the 1970s because of competition from an expandingfibre market and increasing production costs. Farmers were protected from the full impact of this for a while by government subsidies. However, when the subsidies were removed and prices remained low, farmers and scientists began to consider breeds of sheep that may be more cost-effective to farm. The traditional idea of a sheep producing as much wool as possible began to change.
This Dr David Scobie and his team at AgResearch to begin a research project to selectively breed a sheep with particular traits that would make it easier and cheaper to farm – an easy care sheep.led
Selective breeding creates easy care sheep
is the method chosen by scientists to develop the easy care sheep. It’s an ancient technique, used by farmers to improve their livestock since the early domestication of animals and well before the discovery of .
Selective breeding involves selecting traits you want and mating animals with those traits together to produce more of the traits in the.
Easy care sheep – a success
Dr David Scobie's research project came to a close after more than a decade of selective breeding. The research flocks were sold to breeders and commercial farmers in 2014, some of whom are maintaining and expanding the wool-less Wiltshire and low cost easy care sheep lines. The project made a valuable contribution to sheep breeding in New Zealand.
Nature of science
Although research programmes come to a conclusion, the knowledge does not end with it. David Scobie used the research information to publish 6 papers in science journals and give more than 10 conference presentations. Knowledge gained from this programme will inform future research in New Zealand and around the world.