Wool they or won’t they?

23:07, Feb 25 2014

Farmers with woolly sheep could be being fleeced of better growth rates compared with their shorn counterparts.

However, don’t send all the lambs to the baa-ber just yet.

Alliance Group, in conjunction with with research partner AbacusBio, has launched New Zealand’s first comprehensive study into whether shorn lambs grow faster than woolly lambs. Five farms, in Eastern, Western and Central Southland, will take part.

During the study, four mobs of lambs of the same breed will undergo four separate tests, with one mob being shorn, another belly-crutched, another brought in but not shorn and one mob remaining woolly on the pasture.

Lambs will be weighed before the trial starts and weight changes will be monitored every three weeks.

The study will also track environmental conditions such as temperature and rainfall.


Alliance Group livestock general manager Murray Behrent said suppliers had expressed an interest in investigating whether the belief that a lamb grew faster when shorn could be quantified.

"The results of this research will have important implications for how our suppliers manage their stock," Mr Behrent said.

Some farmers believe that shearing lambs destined to be slaughtered can result in increased growth rates but there has been limited research into the area.

Federated Farmers Southland president Russell MacPherson said he thought the results of the study would reflect what most farmers already knew. One of the principles behind shearing lambs was to encourage them to eat more and thus put on more weight, which was akin to people eating more food when they were cold, Mr MacPherson said.

However, this depended on the availability of feed, he said.

AbacusBio consultant Hadyn Craig said an earlier smaller trial on one property showed a marginal benefit of shearing.

"While the earlier study showed that shorn lambs did attain greater carcass weights than woolly lambs, there is a need for a more comprehensive trial to expand on this and provide reliable and robust results," Mr Craig said.

The results of the research are expected to be available later this year.

The Southland Times