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One of the leading agricultural industries in Australia is sheep breeding. It originated on the basis of cattle brought to the continent from European countries. Today Australia is ahead of the countries of Europe and America both in the number of sheep and in the quality of sheep breeding products. Australian sheep breeders have developed a breed of merino, highly valued for the quality and volume of wool, as well as organized an effective technology for intensive pasture sheep breeding.
Description and characteristics of Australian sheep
Australian merino breeds are smaller than meat breeds, but their wool is famous for its high quality, consists of thin and delicate hairs. From one sheep in Australia, 3 times more fleece is obtained than from an individual of any other breed.
The homeland of the merino is Spain. Representatives of the breed were bred by crossing Spanish sheep with Middle Eastern and African sheep. For a long time, merino sheep breeding was exclusively Spanish; under the threat of execution, valuable animals were forbidden to be taken out of the country. And only in the 18th century, when Spain weakened after the war with the British Kingdom, merino were taken to Australia.
Zarechny Maxim Valerievich
Agronomist with 12 years of experience. Our best summer cottage expert.
Australian breeders have improved the breed, bred several varieties of merino, differing in appearance and quality of the fleece.
Merino bred in Australia are medium-sized animals. The table shows the parameters of appearance according to the breed standard.
|Torso||strong, lean, harmoniously built, with a non-massive skeleton, wide chest, straight back, withers above the waist|
|Head||small, the ram has a slight hunchback, and spiral-shaped horns grow on the head, the female usually has no horns|
|Limbs||strong, sinewy, well-positioned|
|Skin||thin, but strong and elastic, on the neck of some breeds either 2-3 folds of skin, or a large beard|
|Wool||staple, uniform, with moderate waviness, dirty gray outside and white inside, length - 70-90 mm, thickness - 25 microns, density - 9 thousand hairs per 1 cm2, products from one individual - up to 12 kg (55% of the pure product is obtained from this amount)|
In Australia, the second name for a merino sheep is snow white, since representatives of the fine-wool breed are only white in color. The covering of the body with the fleece is solid, the hair on the head reaches the brow ridges, on the front legs - to the wrist joint, on the hind legs - to the hock.
Merino wool is an ideal sheep breeding product for textile production. The fabric made of sheep fiber is dense, strong, breathable, warms well, does not absorb the smell of sweat, and does not electrify. Sheep product is used as a remedy for rheumatism, muscle inflammation and sprains.
Varieties of merino
According to the quality, the merino rune from Australia is divided into 3 varieties.
Small, fine-wooled sheep with no folds on their skins. Males weigh 70 kg, females 40 kg. Sheep production of the 70th quality category is 5 kg from an individual. The thickness of the hairs is no more than 15 microns.
wool of the highest quality, super fine and delicate;
animals are adapted to cool climatic conditions with frequent precipitation;
the wool is not prone to rot due to dampness.
Sheep with a medium density fleece. Sheep weigh 80-85 kg, females 40-45 kg. Skin folds are present on the neck. Sheep production of the 66th category is 8-10 kg.
thick and voluminous coat;
adaptability to arid steppe growing conditions.
thicker and coarser hairs compared to the wool of fine sheep.
Sheep with coarse beige wool. Males are large, muscular, weighing up to 95 kg, females - 50 kg. The thickness of the hairs of the 60th category reaches 24 microns. Sheep production reaches 10 kg of fleece per individual.
thick and dense coat;
the possibility of breeding for meat.
the wool is not resistant to decay;
sheep are not adapted to living in humid climates.
Pros and cons of the breed
Sheep breeding in Australia is actively developing, as merino sheep:
- They are not capricious in their content. They quickly adapt to new climatic conditions. They do not require a special diet.
- They have a soft, pleasant to the touch wool that keeps warm well.
- They give meat with excellent taste and nutritional value.
- Differ in fertility.
The breed also has disadvantages, they are typical for sheep breeding in all countries:
- In a dense and voluminous coat, insects are often found, which farmers have to deal with.
- With constant high humidity, merino wool is hopelessly deteriorating, so the flock cannot be kept either in a damp barn or outside in the rain.
Features of maintenance and care
Although Australian merino sheep are unpretentious and hardy, sheep breeding is not an easy task. The farmer must comply with the following rules for keeping sheep:
- Maintain a warm, dry, draft-free barn.
- Ventilate the room regularly.
- Provide sheep with clean water at all times.
- Send pets to the spring pasture no earlier than the last days of April.
- Do not drive to graze too early. The dew on the grass must disappear, otherwise the fur of the animals will damp.
- In the cold season, provide pets with sufficient walking time.
- Bathe animals regularly in the pool with a disinfectant solution.
- Clean sheep hooves 4-6 times a year.
In Australia, the fleece is removed from adult sheep once a year, from young individuals - 2 times (at 3 months and 13 months of age), from large rams - in early spring and autumn. In males, the coat is longer and thicker, the first haircut relieves them of additional weight in the hot summer period. And young individuals are bared twice in order to improve the quality of the fleece for the next haircut, to exclude the regrowth of coarse hairs. The wool is removed with a continuous fleece, sent for cleaning.
A haircut in Australia is carried out by special workers - sheared. The procedure is carried out on a wooden dais about 2 m above the floor, using electric machines. During a working day, about 100 animals pass through the hands of the shearer.
Sheep farming in Australia is based on self-grazing. Even a grass-poor pasture is healthier for the sheep than being in a paddock. Of the herbs, clover, wormwood, and alfalfa are preferred. In winter, the animals are given hay. The diet is enriched with root vegetables, pea flour, bran. Grain is not worth giving, it makes the sheep fat quickly. The diet requires vitamin supplements, salt stones as a source of minerals.
There are two breeding methods used in sheep breeding in Australia:
- free mating;
- artificial insemination (in rare cases).
Animals happen in January or February. A device is attached to the fertilizing ram's chest, which leaves a mark with a number on the back of the female, so that the farmer knows which male this or that bright happened to. They become sexually mature by the year of life.
Pregnancy lasts 145-150 days. Sheep give birth directly to the pasture in June or July. The queen bears 3-4 lambs at a time. The infant mortality rate is practically zero.
In Australian sheep breeding, it is customary to castrate rams unsuitable for breeding at 9 months of age.
In the Australian sheep industry, lambs are mutilated at 6 weeks of age. This term refers to the cutting of folds of skin on the inner thighs. The operated area of the body remains hairless. The procedure is necessary to prevent infection of the skin of the animal by the larvae of the blowflies found in Australia.
Australian merinos are susceptible to colds, so they are protected from dampness and drafts, and are not allowed out onto the dewy grass.
In the summer, animals suffer from parasitic diseases. Therefore, the use of drugs for fleas, ticks, gnat is required. In sheep, hooves are sensitive to moisture and moisture. Therefore, you need to regularly check whether they have begun to rot.
Why is sheep breeding developed in Australia?
Australia is divided into grazing, grain and humid climates. Sheep breeding is most widespread in the first zone; there are farms with more than 5 thousand heads. And the total livestock in Australia is about 120 million sheep. For comparison, there are 5 times less people on the mainland.
Australia is one of the leading countries in sheep breeding. This is due to the optimal climatic and territorial conditions. The pastures here occupy vast territories. Australia's climate is arid, semi-desert and steppe, which is ideal for sheep breeding. Sheep are raised year-round by pasture method, roam across endless spaces.
Unpretentious animals survive in open areas without any problems, farmers build only pens and veterinary facilities. As a result, sheep farming provides good income in Australia at a reasonable cost.