Merino Sheep
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About Merino SheepAbout Merino Sheep



rnrnMerino Sheep are one of the most popular breeds ofrnsheep worldwide. Merino Sheep are raised predominately for woolrnproduction. Their wool is prized for being very soft and comfortable againstrnthe skin. MerinornSheep originated in Spain, but the modern Merino was domesticated in Australia.rn

rnrnMerino Sheep are excellent foragers and very adaptable. MerinornSheep need to be shorn at least once a year because their wool does not stoprngrowing. If their coat is allowed to grow, it can cause heat stress, mobilityrnissues, and blindness.

rnrnThere are multiple sub-species of Merin
rnrnPoll Merino – this is a comparatively new addition to thernbreed of merino sheep. It is bred for the ease of handling and lack of horns onrnthe rams.

rnrnFonthill Merino – this subbreed of sheep was created byrncrossing an American bred merino with a Saxon strain that is known for its finernwool.

rnrnBoorla Merino – this strain of merino sheep has a longrnbreeding season and is extremely fertile.

rnrnMerino Sheep were developed in the 13th and 14th centuriesrnby Spanish breeders who crossbred English sheep with local breeds. Spain becamernnoted for its fine wool (spinning count between 60s and 64s) and built up arnfine wool monopoly between the 12th and 16th centuries, with wool commerce tornFlanders and England being a source of income for Castile in the Late MiddlernAges. Most of the flocks were owned by nobility or the church.

rnrnOver time Merino Sheep spread to royal herds in manyrncountries such as Germany, England, France, and even as far as South Africa.

rnrnIn 1796, John Macarthur bought hisrnfirst merino sheep from a flock of Spanish merino sheep reared in South Africa.rnOther farmers in the region also bought merino sheep in 1796, but theyrncross-bred their merinos with other breeds, which resulted in coarse wool of arnlow quality.

rnrnMacarthur deliberately did not cross-breed his merinos andrnhe and his wife, Elizabeth, worked hard to establish their flock. This hardrnwork soon began to pay off for the Macarthurs and by 1803, their flock numberedrnover 4,000 almost-pure merinos. In subsequent years they bought merinos fromrnflocks in various locations which meant that the bloodline of the flock – andrntherefore the health of their sheep and the quality of their wool – wasrnstrengthened and improved over time. In 1807, the Macarthurs sent their firstrnbale of wool to England.


rnrnrnrnJohn Macarthur returned to England. In 1801 he was sent tornLondon to be court-martialled (as he was still an officer with the Corps) forrninvolving himself in a duel. He was not only able to get the charges againstrnhim dropped, but also secured approval from Lord Camden to establish a largernsheep-run south of Sydney, which he named Camden Park on his return in 1805.

rnrnrnDuring this time Elizabeth ran the farm. Although she had manyrnlaborers and servants, she was deeply involved in its running and managed allrnaspects of its day-to-day operation.

rnrnIn 1802 Merino sheep were introduced to Vermont, USA. Thisrnultimately resulted in a boom-bust cycle for wool, which reached a price of 57rncents/pound in 1835. By 1837, 1,000,000 sheep were in the state. The price ofrnwool dropped to 25 cents/pound in the late 1840s. The state could not withstandrnmore efficient competition from the Western states, and sheep-raising inrnVermont collapsed.

rnrnHowever at the same time wool demand increased in Australiarnand the Macarthurs' high quality wool was bought at a premium price upon itsrnarrival in England and the family quickly became the wealthiest in New SouthrnWales.

rnrnJohn Macarthur died at Camden Park in 1834 and his wife,rnElizabeth, died in 1850 in Sydney. The Macarthurs descendants continued to farmrnmerinos and continued to live at Camden Park. The merino sheep still thrives inrnAustralia; since 1796 their numbers have continued to swell and average wellrnover 100 million.

rnrnIn the 1880s, Vermont rams werernimported into Australia from the U.S.; since many Australian stud men believedrnthese sheep would improve wool cuts, their use spread rapidly. Unfortunately,rnthe fleece weight was high, but the clean yield low, the greater grease contentrnincreased the risk of fly strike, they had lower uneven wool quality, and lowerrnlambing percentages. Their introduction had a devastating effect on many famousrnfine-wool studs.

rnrnToday Merinos are found worldwide andrnare major wool Sheep breed in many countries.

rnrnModern technology has made it possible to sort and selectrnonly the finest merino fibers. Merino wool has a microscopic diameter – aboutrnone-third to one-tenth the thickness of human hair. The smaller the diameter,rnthe finer, softer and less scratchy the fabric will be.

rnrnLustrous merino wool produces fabric that can be worn nextrnto the skin without discomfort, is soft and always provides an exceptional handrnand distinctive style. In the dress-goods and knitting trades, the termrn‘Merino’ implies an article made from the very best soft wool. Extra finernMerino is super-premium wool used in the highest quality knits.rnrn



Merino Sheep Associations


Natural Colored Wool Growers Association Natural Colored Wool Growers Association
www.ncwga.org
Since 1977 the purpose of NCWGA has been to assist members in the development and promotion of naturally-colored sheep and their wool. NCWGA can accomplish this by offering a number of services to members. These services include programs to support breeders of colored sheep, to support sheep shows which allow colored sheep, and to support the judges of those shows. 

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