SIG aims to stay at the forefront of ovine research, undertaking many projects to maximise genetic potential and improve farmer profits. Over the years we have collaborated with various academic and industry bodies including SRUC, Roslin Institute, Uni Bristol, London Uni Vet School, Sainsburys, ASDA, AHDB, Shearwell Data, Bioscience KTN, Harper Adams Uni .



Breeding the wool off your sheep

If you want to remove wool and all the associated hassles from your present sheep it will take from one to three crosses with a shedding ram, depending on the sheep you start with

  • If you start with a Hill breed like the Welsh or the Swale or Scottish Blackface then many of the first cross lambs should shed their wool

  • From a Lleyn or Mule base there will be some 1st cross animals that shed their wool but most will come with the 2nd cross

  • If you start with a Merino it may take 5 to 7 crosses!

  • Exlana sheep are scored for wool shedding so we can identify animals that shed earlier and cleaner 

Worm resistant Exlana 

Internal worms are the single most prevalent health problem in worldwide lamb production & are quoted as being the 3rd largest economic driver in the UK sheep industry. More lambs die as a result of worm infestations than any other single cause. The industry is also under threat from increasing anthelmintic resistance ----which is why we focus heavily on developing genetic solutions to parasites

We define worm resistance in a ewe as ‘’ The ability of the sheep to resist the challenge of the worms – to inhibit their development and reduce the number of eggs laid’’.

To increase this natural ability, we take individual FEC (faecal egg counts) from lambs every year and have built up a large database that enables us to predict which animals will be best at naturally resisting worms

The effects of our breeding programme can be seen in the trials that we did in conjunction with Sainsburys and Bristol University ---- our ewes with the better breeding values for FEC destroyed 50% more worm eggs that the control group, this means less worms on the pasture and a lower lamb worm burden leading to less drenching requirements & better growth rates 

Wool costs

 A NZ on farm evaluation shows the difference wool makes to your production costs.

Third-generation farmer Grant McMillan says even in farming a business needs to keep evolving.

After running separate wool and non-wool flocks alongside each other Grant and Sandra McMillan are reasonably confident they could farm sheep viably without wool.

To be sure, the King Country farmers asked local farm consultant Geoff Burton to look further into the two scenarios, comparing the key factors affecting farm surplus if they were farming non-wool or wool ewes.

Using information gathered by the McMillans while farming both flocks, Burton was able to demonstrate what the financial results were likely to be if they did decide to convert to shedders


The comparison indicated a non-wool sheep policy on the McMillans’ farm would:

  • reduce income by $16,900

  • reduce total expenses by $35,500, and

  • but increase surplus by $18,600 or 7% ($7/su, $65/ha)

Burton concluded that because of less reliance on weather and critical timing factors, the non-wool scenario would increase management flexibility and reduce stress.

With no shearing or wool sales the policy would reduce community employment and trade. Income diversification would also be limited, relying solely on sheep meat markets


Under this scenario, the non-wool sheep policy requires 61% fewer man hours – 29 days in total for sheep mustering and handling.

The price of all wool sold would need to increase by $1.42 to $5.33 net per greasy kilogram for the two policies to break even.

Any increase in sheep meat prices would favour the non-wool option because of heavier lamb carcaseweights and more sheep available for sale owing to fewer sheep deaths. However, cashflow benefits of the non-wool policy are not significant until March.

These comparisons relate directly to the McMillans’ farm and their particular sheep . The product prices and expenses used are based on current actuals as advised by the McMillans or fair budget assessments for the 2015-16 year.

Average lamb carcaseweights for the wool sheep are 16.5kg and for the non-wool sheep 18kg, based on actual current farm performance. 

Net lamb schedules are identical for both sheep policies – $5.50/kg in December and $5.20/kg thereafter. 

Ewe sale prices are identical – $75 for scanned dry ewes and $68 for cull ewes. Ram costs per head are current actuals – $1750 for wool rams and $900 for non-wool. Net greasy wool prices are $4/kg for ewe hoggets, $3.75/kg for second-shear ewes and $4.50/kg for lambs.

Animal health and shearing programmes are from actual farm figures and the sheep drenching policies are identical between the two scenarios.

Sheep breeding performance, wool and meat production and deaths, are based on actuals from the farm or fair budget assessments

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