Wool-shedding Wiltshire sheep are becoming more popular with farmers who have been dogged by poor wool prices.
Stud breeders say they're getting more phone calls from farmers interested in buying animals that do not require shearing, docking, dagging or crutching.
Malcolm and Sue Day, of Taringatura Hills, near Dipton, run about 18,000 to 20,000su Wiltshire/Perendales over 5788ha and have the Tarata Hills Farm Wiltshire stud.
"There are cost savings as we have cut our workload and labour inputs [by using Wiltshires]," Day said.
He was not surprised at the high prices received during Mt Cass Station's first annual organic ewe, lamb and ram sale in Canterbury last month.
Two-tooth ewes sold for up to $395 per head while ewe lambs fetched up to $280 per head and the top ram went for $4000.
While prices for organic-raised Wiltshire sheep were always a bit more than for conventionally farmed animals, he considered the prices received at the sale were better than in the past and a reflection of the demand for the breed.
He has also had more calls from commercial farmers about the breed than he would normally expect.
"I think there is a shortage of the breed out there and there is a fair number of people who want them.
"It will be interesting to see how other sales go."
They are holding their own sale on February 10.
Tim and Helen Gow, of Mangapiri Downs Organic Stud Farms, at Blackmount, have been breeding Wiltshires since the 1980s, and are also seeing an increased demand for the breed.
He is taking more calls from conventional wool farmers who want to change their flock as they are increasingly concerned about wool returns.
He had heard of lots of farmers in the Gisborne, and King Country areas who were also making the change.
"The medium-sized farmer with wool might make a small loss on his shearing costs, but some of the bigger stations have huge shearing bills and even when they sell their wool, they still make a loss."
PGG Wrightson's sheep and beef representative for North Canterbury, Alex Horn said the demand for Wiltshires had taken off in the past couple of years as wool market prices started to hit bottom.
He said the low wool prices were influencing people to make changes to their farming practices, which led to an increasing demand for the breed.
"The North Island prices were relatively similar to what we got, and they were pretty good for Wiltshire sales."