Best of breeds for highest production

By Patrick O'Sullivan


When he is not spinning Lotto's Winning Wheel on television or playing the bagpipes, Bruce Worsnop specialises in highly productive breeds.

"The Belgian Blue is the most productive beef breed in the world, and the Lincoln is the highest wool-producing breed in the world," Worsnop says.

He runs KWool Lincolns and BMW Belgian Blues in Tikokino, Hawke's Bay, with partner Wendy Milne, who runs Braebrawn Belgian Blue Stud. He says the Lincoln has "humongous" potential for the wool industry.

"Lincoln is a thicker fibre but actually it is silky and lustrous. It is used as an alternative or blend with mohair and for other like uses - depending on the market, which can be a funny old thing," he says. "My main aim is to continue growing very good Lincolns - a modern, open-face high-performance Lincoln.

"Lincoln is the heaviest of the wool breeds. When crossed with any other breed it will lift the production by about 23 per cent. If you select for wool weight in any of the other breeds, it will take many, many years to achieve the same result.

With Lincolns it can be achieved in one generation and the flock then goes back to its original type.

"It is not particularly economic at the moment but when it is, it makes a big difference," Worsnop says.

Lincoln wool has topped Hawke's Bay wool sales "a number of times".

"The wool's coarseness doesn't mean it gets less money - the lustre means it gets more money because of demand for blending with mohair etc.

"The exporters that buy it tend to accumulate a large quantity and hit a special market with it."

All sheep breeds have traditionally been black but white wool has become popular because it can be dyed.

"There are degrees of whiteness - the more white the more valuable. Lincoln are extremely white - they come with zero interferences with yellow, which is the measurement," Worsnop says.

The Belgian Blue breed has the greatest potential to improve meat production for any breed of cow as a cross-breeding terminal sire. "The Belgian Blue is double-muscled, which means its carcass provides a superior yield. You get about 20 per cent more meat for the same liveweight."

But succeeding with proven breeds is not enough - Worsnop has been "dabbling" in unconventional breeds.

"I'm just doing a few trials with a handful of sheep to see what can be achieved through transferring the advantages of one to another."

Gotland pelt sheep originate from an island off Sweden. They are known for their lustrous black wool, open faces, short tails and bare breech.

"It has virtually no tail, similar to a goat. I've been doing a few experiments with cross-breeding.

"The Gotlands are black, but when you cross most black sheep with whites you will get 90 per cent white results. You then want to see if you can get some cross-breds with that tail advantage, so as to avoid the need for docking."

Worsnop has also experimented with Pitt Island sheep. "Many say it was originally a Saxon Merino that was left for a couple of hundred years to itself, so it has survival characteristics.

"Contrary to most other merinos, their feet are totally resilient to most conditions.

"Their wool type is not advantageous to me, but they are a fantastic terminal sire over hoggets because they lamb with the greatest of ease, and their survivability mean storms in the early spring don't affect them.

"It is not a big sheep ... but when you cross them the hybrid vigour and hardiness means the lambs/hoggets grow extremely well under all conditions."

Last week at the Stortford Lodge sales, a pen of in-lamb ewes and several pens of Gotland pelt and Arapawa lambs sparked a few questions.

The small, spotty, black-and-white Arapawa originate from the Marlborough Sounds island of Arapawa, where they are believed to have descended from feral merino sheep.

In January, Worsnop won $200,000 on TV by spinning Lotto's Wheel of Fortune. He could have taken $25,000 instead of opting for the risk of trying for up to $1 million on live TV.

"So you've got to get stuck in and put your heart into it."

As he does with his farming.

- Hamilton News

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