Key Points:

Ian Coop lent his name to a sheep breed and did much to boost the production of the nation's flock. Coop was behind the development of the coopworth, a medium- to large-sized animal clear of wool on face and legs, that produced heavier and faster-growing lambs.

He started cross-breeding in the early 1950s at Lincoln College's research farm Ashley Dene near Christchurch, later recalling he did it "to get some hybrid vigour into the female side of the New Zealand sheep industry".

He produced a pure border leicester-romney cross that boosted lambing percentages by 25 per cent.

When Coop began work the national lambing percentage was about 85 per cent, much the same as it had been in 1900. When he retired in 1978, it was 95 to 100 per cent and now hovers around 120 per cent.

In 1968 farmers using the Ashley Dene rams formed a society and picked the name coopworth in a ballot.

Five years ago Coop said one of the main legacies of his work was the wide use now being made of performance-recording systems, rather than guesswork, in sheep breeding.

As well as bringing science to animal production in the post-war years, Coop began pioneering work at Lincoln in 1968 to see if it was possible to farm deer behind fences. He was told it wouldn't work. It did.

After retiring he worked for 15 years as a livestock consultant on international aid projects and also lectured widely.

The worth of agricultural science to the New Zealand sheep industry is also reflected in the use of G. Perren as in perendale and Dr F. W. Dry in drysdale.

According to the Straight Furrow rural publication this week, Coop was born inland from Gisborne. He thought it inevitable he would work with sheep as "I had eight uncles and every one became a sheep farmer".

Coop's work was recognised with an OBE in 1976 and a CBE in 1992. He is survived by his wife, one daughter and two sons.

- staff reporter and NZPA