It is believed "the cutest sheep in the world" are living in Cambridge — and you can visit them to see for yourself.
Cambridge couple Leigh-Anne and Andrew Peake discovered the Swiss-bred Valais Blacknose sheep four years ago and began a mission to introduce the breed to New Zealand.
That dream has now been realised, with the Peakes among a handful of pioneers to bring Valais Blacknose embryos from the United Kingdom to New Zealand.
They have now completed two lambing cycles and their 2ha block, Rose Creek, is home to the super-friendly sheep.
Valais Blacknose Sheep originate from the Valais region of Switzerland and are raised for meat and wool.
They are popular due to their charming personalities, shaggy coats, long spiral horns and black faces and ears.
When the Peakes learned of the breed, it wasn't possible to import live sheep from Europe into New Zealand due to historic border protection for various sheep diseases that New Zealand is free from.
However, a Ministry for Primary Industries review of the New Zealand biosecurity rules meant the testing regime was modernised, making the Peakes' dream achievable.
Waikato-based Animal Breeding Services (ABS) came on board with donor ewes and rams sourced from the United Kingdom.
After passing rigorous tests the embryos arrived in New Zealand.
The couple organised recipient ewes, which were placed on a programme of hormonal treatment, to take the embryos.
"We paid for the embryos, not the live lambs, so there was always a reasonable amount of risk," Andrew said.
The first embryos were inserted under anaesthetic on March 12, 2018, with the Peakes setting up a lab at their home and ABS carrying out the embryo transfer.
The first lambs were born between July 31 and August 5, 2018 and were all birthed quickly and up and feeding within minutes.
"We bottle-fed selected pets for school ag day.
"They took to the bottles quickly and easily and were fed three times a day and weaned at eight weeks," he said.
"Their growth was phenomenal, resulting in weaning at eight weeks and onto NRM Lamb Starter Mix and Lamb Performance pellets."
The couple has had two successful breeding programmes, increasing the lambing percentage from the original 65 per cent to 93 per cent for lambs born in the last week of September.
They have sold lambs to the Agrodome in Rotorua and some as pets and will now start their own pure Valais Blacknose natural breeding programme.
Upbreeding and cross-breeding will not be part of the programme.
A mature Valais ewe is capable of having 1.6 lambs per year and can reproduce any time of the year.
"We have excellent genetic diversity in our flock and have purchased breeding software to manage inbreeding and to selectively breed for desired traits."
The Peakes have sold wethered pets, fetching around $2000 per lamb.
"We see the market in New Zealand as the pet market," Andrew said.
"They would be a popular pet on a lifestyle block where people want something a bit different and very friendly."
Once they have more sheep on the ground, they will look into selling breeding stock, ewes and rams in New Zealand and other countries.
"There are future opportunities, but for us, it remains first and foremost about the sheep.
"They are like our pets, our paddock puppies.
"We go and sit in the paddock, they love being petted and will walk all over us, nibble at our clothes, and are just lovely to have around."
Andrew and Leigh-Anne are now running tours for people to interact with and learn more about the sheep.
Also on the tour is the chance to meet two Gypsy Vanner horses and a number of free range heritage-breed chickens.
The tours came about after the couple entered the sheep in the Cambridge Christmas parade last year.
The sheep caught the attention of the Cambridge i-Site, which contacted Andrew and Leigh-Anne with an idea for a tour.
To arrange a tour, contact the Cambridge i-Site on 07 823 3456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org