Head Shepherd

An insight into sheep research in New Zealand with Paul Kenyon

April 24, 2023 Paul Kenyon Season 2023 Episode 129
Head Shepherd
An insight into sheep research in New Zealand with Paul Kenyon
Show Notes

One of the main topics of today’s podcast is the financial modelling of transitioning to a shedding flock from a Romney our guest, Prof. Paul Kenyon of Massey University, has been involved with.
Mark asks what instigated the work and what does the modelling show?

"In reality, coarse wool is costing more to get it off. Many farmers spend their whole summer shearing, crutching, dagging, dipping... controlling fly. As we move forward in the modern society it's harder and harder to get labour in remote areas." Says Paul. "Many don't want to work on a sheep farm when in summer, they're doing those four jobs over and over again."

Paul and his team modelled what it would look like financially to transition from a Romney to a Wiltshire.

"As you went through the transition and post transition, you're better off to move to a Wiltshire because of reduced costs."

"It also showed us, to be [financially] status-quo with a shedding animal, the price of wool had to be up around $5... and it hasn't been around that in a long time."

Because the only data available for the modelling was from the 80's and 90's, they are now working on updating it so it is more accurate to today's Wiltshires in New Zealand.

"That's a slightly different genotype than what's in the industry now."

"We've started a field study. We have a farm where they've agreed to leave half of the flock as straight Romneys and the other half have been bred to the Wiltshires," explains Paul. "We have our Romney control and as the respective generations are born, the Wiltshire crosses are crossing back over the Wiltshire."

They are now at the point where they have hoggets that are 7/8ths Wiltshire meaning they are one generation away from what most breed societies would accept as a full Wiltshire.  They are also collecting a huge amount of data during the trial.

Paul says "We're collecting everything from mating performance, puberty onset in hoggets, scanning percentage, NLB, NLW, weaning weights, wool traits.." and much much more.

"We're collecting the wool traits because in the 1/2, 3/4 and 7/8's, you're going to have to shear them to get the 'mohawk' off them. So we're collecting that out of curiosity. "

Mark asks about the value of the wool on a Wiltshire.
"At a 35+ micron there's not really much more of a hit you can take."

Because shedding doesn't take place biologically until late spring after a winter, Paul explains they're looking into how early they can pick replacements based on a "shedding score" and also how that first shedding score relates to their score as a 2th or 4th. Some interesting research!

You can read the full article modelling the transition here:

This is only a fraction of what is a fascinating podcast with Paul. Listen in to hear about more great research. 

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