Earnscleugh Station owners Alistair and Duncan Campbell have achieved a milestone — breeding a merino sheep that has produced an ultra-fine 10 micron fleece.

"We have two fleeces, one a 10.4 micron and the other 10.7," Alistair Campbell said.

"The world's finest bale is 10.6 micron, but those sheep were kept indoors. Ours are outdoors and run with the commercial flock."

By comparison, a human hair is about 60 microns.

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The 10-micron fleeces were a result of more than 30 years of selection, the original flock coming from the Ultrafine Merino Company as well as work done at Earnscleugh for the past 15 or so years.

"We can only breed within the flock and the rate of gain is very slow. It is about 0.1 of a micron every two to three years."

To prevent in-breeding defects, every so often they have to introduce out-crosses, which slows the process even further.

Fibre-collared T-shirts of 12 micron produced by an Italian firm fetched about $5000, he said.