Australian Merino Sheep
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About Australian Merino SheepAbout Australian Merino Sheep



Although Australian Merino sheep derive their name and basicrnappearance from the Spanish merino breed, they are a distinct breed in theirrnown right. They have been developed and adapted in Australia to the specificrnconditions of this country.

More than 80 percent of all Australian sheep are purernMerino, with most of the remainder at least part Merino blood. Merino is grownrnprimarily for its heavy fleeces of fine wool. Merino sheep were brought tornAustralia from the Cape Colony, England, Saxony (South East Germany), France,rnand America. The Australian Merino is not a single homogenous breed but arnnumber of strains of sheep all of which, regardless of their origins, arernuniquely Australian. The major factor determining the Merino’s development hasrnbeen the requirement for environmental suitability.

The four basic strains of Australian Merino are Peppin,rnSaxon, South Australian, and Spanish. The Peppin Merino is suited to thernharsher conditions of inland Australia. Its heavy fleece falls in the mid-rangernof Merino wool qualities. As many as 70 percent of today's Australian Merinosrnare said to be directly descended from the Peppin-developed sheep. The SouthrnAustralian Merino is suited to semi-arid conditions of 250 mm (10 in.) of rainrnor less and is found in South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and NewrnSouth Wales. The wool from these sheep is at the strongest (i.e. thickest inrnfiber diameter) end of the range of Merino wool types. The Saxon Merino is withoutrnpeer in the quality of wool produced. It is best suited to cool to warmrnconditions with 500 mm (20 in.) or more of rainfall and is found in thernhighlands of Tasmania, the cooler areas of Victoria, and the tablelands of NewrnSouth Wales. Though relatively few in number, there is a distinct strain of thernAustralian Merino that is directly descended from Merino sheep ofrn"Spanish" blood imported into the colony.

The development of the Australian Poll Merino is relativelyrnnew. Polled rams have been selected and mated to Merino ewes and selectionrncontinued for the quality of pollness. The result is a pure Merino withoutrnhorns.The Fonthill Merino was developed in the 1950's by crossing American-bredrnRambouillet-Merino rams with a fine-wool Saxon strain of Merino. The secondrnmost populous breed of sheep in Australia is the ewe progeny from BorderrnLeicester rams mated to Merino ewes: the "Border/Merino."

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