Episode 4: Designer Sheep
David Scobie is on a mission - to lift New Zealand's wool industry out of the doldrums and return it to its former glory.
This week Country Calendar visits Scobie to see progress on his new designer sheep at AgResearch Lincoln, near Christchurch.
Scobie has spent a decade breeding an easy-care sheep that costs less to farm. It has a short tail, a bare rear end and no wool on its underbelly.
The new breed doesn't need to have its tail docked, which eliminates a big job for farmers each spring and, Scobie says, is also kinder on the sheep.
Having no wool on its bottom and belly means the new breed of sheep are less likely to suffer fly-strike, where maggots get under their skin, addressing a major concern for many farmers each summer.
The impact of the new breed is even greater in the shearing shed, where a sheep with no wool to remove from the underbelly or rear end can be shorn in about half the time.
All up, it's estimated Scobie's breed could deliver farmers a saving of $7 per ewe each year.
Farmers can breed the new sheep themselves, Scobie says. He used no genetic engineering or even embryo transplant during the development programme.
Instead Scobie has bred to combine traits from what he calls the enormous gene pool for sheep that exists in New Zealand, thanks to a wide variety of breeds that have been imported in the past.
To add value to wool, Scobie's AgResearch colleagues are working to uncover its unique characteristics and understand how they can be used to improve existing products and create new uses for wool.
Among their developments are a stab and flame resistant fabric that is lightweight and comfortable to wear, and the world's first pure wool suit that can be safely thrown in the washing machine.
Other sites to view:
*For more information about AgResearch and its research
into wool, go to any of: