A brief history of sheep breeding at The Gree, Winton, Southland.

Greeline Ram

  • 1964; Began identifying Romney 2th ewes that could wean a good set of twins.
  • 1968; Joined New Zealand’s fi rst sheep performance recording scheme which was run by the Department of Agriculture.
  • 1969; Joined the NZ Romney Development Group. This was the world’s fi rst large scale sheep group breeding scheme. High performing ewes were contributed to the central fl ock in Hawkes Bay, North Island. This was the source of stud rams for the twenty members who came from throughout NZ.
  • 1969; First used a Coopworth ( Border Leicester/ Romney) stud ram
  • 1972; Apex Coopworth Syndicate sheep breeding group began. For twenty years these two groups were the source of stud rams for The Gree.
  • 1990’s Selection for leanness or less fat was effective.
  • 1992; Texel stud was established at The Gree
  • 1996; ultra sound scanning commenced to improve eye muscle yield.
  • 1996; First East Friesian rams were used at The Gree.
  • 1999; First Greeline sheep were bred.
  • 2002; Established two other Sheep Improvement Limited SIL performance recorded flocks in the South Island.
  • 2003; DNA testing for resistance to Footrot began.
  • 2006; Export of semen to David & Lyn Slade, Mt Barker, West Australia.
  • 2006; DNA has identifi ed the presence of the MyoMAX gene which increases the yield of loin and leg muscle while there is a reduction in fat.
  • 2010; Exported 18 in lamb ewes to Graeme & Carrin Greenbank, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
  • 2010; CARLA saliva tested for lambs ability to meet a challenge from parasites.
  • 2011; CT scanned elite ram lambs to measure meat yield.
  • 2011; Used Alliance Group viascan on culled progeny to assess sires merit for meat yield.

Greeline Composite Sheep; 1/4 East Friesian; 3/8 Texel; 3/8 Coopworth

This genetic package, which is a combination of three breeds, gives sheep farmers a simple option to have a highly productive self replacing flock. After two top crossings you will have ¾ Greeline sheep. The subsequent use of Greeline rams will leave a stable flock of prolific ewes which produce fast growing lambs that can be slaughtered at more than 23 kgs carcase weight. These lambs are still lean and they produce a superior yield.

There may be no need to use a terminal sire. This has the advantage of allowing the maximum choice for the selection of the best replacement ewe lambs.

Greeline sheep must have good quality crossbred wool of 32 to 34 microns which is free from black fibres, hairy britch or weak back. The ewes must require minimum care at lambing and be good mothers. They must be structurally sound with a good mouth and have straight feet which are resistant to footrot.

Coopworth with Triplets

Greeline comprises of three breeds.

Coopworth is a dual purpose sheep which was developed in the 1960’s from the interbreeding of the Border Leicester/ Romney cross. It is named after one of the founders, Professor Coop from Lincoln University.

East Friesian is a milk sheep which generally has a sound udder and good teat placement and has sound feet. It is a large animal with a lean but inferior carcase.

It has a flighty nature but it has crossed very well with either a Romney or a Coopworth. This breed became available to NZ farmers in 1996.

1/2 East Friesian 1/2 Coopworth with Quads

At The Gree we evaluated eleven purebred sires. Some sires produced no advantage for prolificacy in their ½ bred daughters while the best lambed at 280% as 2th ewes.

This year twenty-three ½ EF ½Coopworth ewes which were born in 1999 in their seventh lambing (they lambed as hoggets) produced 235% of lambs.

Some half EF ewes weaned average lambs while the best have weaned three lambs to a total of over 100 kgs at 12 weeks of age on pasture only.

Texel is a meat breed which had a mixture of faults when they were released from quarantine in 1992. This included some with poor feet, variable wool with hairy britch and prone to black fibres. Some ewes required assistance at lambing and the prolificacy varied greatly.

I’m pleased to say that in New Zealand , Texel breeders have done a great job since then, and today you rarely see a poor Texel put up for sale.

At The Gree I recognised this original problem so I mated some sound Texel rams to Coopworth ewes that were structurally sound. They had a high breeding value for number of lambs born and growth rate. From this strategy sufficient ½Texel ½Coopworth progeny were available to apply maximum selection pressure for the desirable traits of prolificacy and lamb growth. One further top crossing by mating Texel rams to ½ Texel ½Coopworth ewes produced some very impressive ¾Texel ¼Coopworth rams.

Greeline Composite

Greeline Rams

It was in response to some of my hill country ram clients who said that they would like to introduce the hardiness and meat quality of the Texel into their breeding flocks that I realised that the ideal combination would come from mating proven East Friesian ewes to proven Texel sires.

Hence the Greeline EF, 3/8Texel, 3/8Coopworth. Since 1999 I have been applying the ‘Coopworth concept’ to interbreed and develop a stable composite.

Greeline Rams with snow

So you can see that the Greeline composite sheep have not been bred by accident but by attention to detail and by applying selection pressure using a reasonable number of animals in the base flock. The use of Sheep Improvement Limited NZ’s national animal recording scheme has been essential in order to make the best decisions.

Viewed from the Gree, Takitimu Mountains

Greeline sheep equal to the best in New Zealand. Number of lambs born BV. Most Greeline client flocks are pregnancy scanning 185 % or more for twins only and where triplets are counted 200 % plus are usual.

Greeline Ewes in Winter Rotation

This means that more than 20 % of the ewes are carrying triplets. For most situations this is high enough, so it is satisfying to think that the goal of improving NLB bv has been achieved. It must be remembered that the heritability of NLB is fairly low, so while it has taken many years to achieve the present level it is not quickly lost. This makes it possible to select for other traits without compromising overall production.

Meat yield

At The Gree short listed ram lambs for stud use have been eye muscle scanned for more than ten years and for five they have had a DNA test from Catapult Genetics for MyoMax muscle gene.

This has been excellent timing for commercial farmers to benefit from the premiums which meat companies are paying for superior yield.

All Greeline sheep now have one copy of MyoMax and the majority have two copies, MyoMax Gold. On average Greeline lambs yield at least 4 % more meat, as measured by the Alliance Group viascan, than Romneys.

Semen available for New Zealand and Australia. Semen from four proven Greeline rams is available for mating this season.

Kerry Dunlop,
The Gree
New Zealand.
TEL/FAX 0061-3-236-0559
Email kerry.dunlop@farmside.co.nz
For more information visit www.greelinesheep.co.nz