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SHEEP BREEDING. [The following article is from the pen of a plains farmer, with some of whose writings our readers are already familiar. Me again take the opportunity of exposing the preference we have for the writings of practical men, experienced in the district, and our readiness to give them a place in our columns. 'We would be exceedingly glad to receive contributions —no matter how rough—from our farming friends, on any subject of importance or of interest to agriculturalists, as we know from the notice taken of our “ Plains Farmer correspondent’s contributions by the farmers of the county that the opinions of a practical man are of great weight with those who follow agriculture as a profession.] In dealing with the above subject, I am quite aware that I shall be going over controverted ground, and shall have to contend with a large amount of prejudice. It is not my intention, however, to show any favor to one particular breed more than to another ; but to point out their peculiarities, and where best adopted. There are six different breeds propagated in this colony, and each one of these branches off into different shades of type. I will commence with the merino, as these are by far the largest in number, and, taking into consideration the land they occupy, they are no doubt the most valuable. After seeing those exhibited at Christchurch last November, I confess a great deal of mj- prejudice as to their quality and value was taken away ; for if, by careful breeding and good management, that kind of breed can be got to such perfection as what we saw exhibited, then it is a question whether or not they would not compete favorably with any of the long wools, on good paddock land, especially after such fearful mistakes as are made in crossing. The next I would mention is the Lincoln. There has been a great rage for this kind, arising no doubt from their great size and heavy fleece ; but uulessthis kind of breed is kept on good heavy land, neither the mutton nor the v 00l will be hea vier per acre than what might be produced by some other breeds, if so great. Early maturity is not one of their characteristics, but if they are kept on rich heavy land they will make heavy returns. The next is the Leicester, and for general , stock purposes on dry land paddocks, I have no doubt the English Leicester, with a good fleece, will give as good returns as any. Their peculiarities are aptitude to fatten and early maturity. I remember hearing a noted breeder of Leicesters say that lie liked the sheep that would stock so thick that one would have to hold up its foot for another to get a bite. This would meet the objection that Leicesters get too fat. Then there is the Romney Marsh. The two leading features in this breed aro that it is not so apt to get foot rot as any other, and will carry more flesh in proportion to the fat than any other breed. But so far as my observation has gone, it is more ajit to degenerate, both in size and symmetry, than any other breed. There is also the Cotswold breed. Although not so numerous as any others in this colony, yet in England they are very much in favor, and I have carry off the prize for the 1: the Bath and West of England Show. Their leading features are great size and strong constitution, but they are very apt to get close on their wool. Then there is the Downs breed, with many varieties. The South and Shropshire are the two leading ones. The former variety is celebrated for quality of mutton and early lambs, but very deficient in wool. The latter variety seems to be getting into favor with some of our leading sheep breeders, and from what I see in the English papers, they are growing in faver there also. They are larger, and grow much more and better wool than the Southdown, and the mutton is very suitable for this climate. Now I come to what is the most numerous of all—the cross-breed ; and I might say, respecting cross-breeding, that it has been carried on to such an extent, and in such a careless manner, that the majority of sheep brought to market cannot be placed in any other class than nondescripts. Crossing different breeds of sheep will require a good deal of careful judgment and experience to be successful. It is laid down as a rule by most authors on the subject, that in all cases crossing different breeds should be done gradually, and not go to the opposite extreme, which is too frequently done. I will give an instance from my own experience : In England I kept a flock of Leicesters, and being careful to select the best rams from the best breeders, I drifted too far into what may be called “high breeding.” The result wes that, although I got high quality, yet the ewes were diffident in wool and constitution, and attending the Bath and West of England Exhibition at Exeter, I was so taken up with the splendid Cotswolds that I bought a Cotswold ram to go with my high-bred Leicester ewes. The result was that the first cross was everything I could wish for profit, great size, and heavy wool. After that I bought the highest bred Leicester ram I could get, to go with the young cross-bred ewes ; but, alas, the result was ruinous. It completely destroyed uniformity of character, which is of the greatest importance in keeping a good flock of sheep. Now, I will give another result of my experience in this colony. Like most other farmers I began sheep-breeding with Merino 'ewes, and was fortunate in getting one of the best English Leicester rams that has been in Canterbury, which I procured from M'Lean’s flock, which was then the truest to character of any I met with, carrying a heavy fleece, with a strong constitution and high proof. The first cross was very good (as might be expected from such a ram) carrying heavy fleeces, with a complete uniformity of character. These young cross-bred ewes were put to a half brother, got by their own sire, and out of a Leicester owe, the result being the second cross was better than the first, and might very well be taken for seven-eighths breed. I have no doubt, had I put these young first cross ewes to their own sire the result would have been quite as good, if not better. I believe that to be successful in cross breeding sheep, the nearer you keep to the same line the better, instead of which a great mistake is commonly made by continually introducing new blood, and that of the worst kind of mongrel. The consequence is that you will scarcely find two sheep alike, and frequently two or three different kinds of wool on one sheep. Seeing that wool from the first cross is far superior to the second or third, some will advocate selling off all the young stock and getting fresh merino ewes every year; but if farmers go to the same stock for their rams, and keep on in the same line, their flocks would not degenerate in the second and third cross, as thejr too often do. Some may condemn being what is called “ in-and-in ” crossing with two different breeds is very different to using the same blood of the same breed. But even that is necessary i for preserving purity of blood. It is wel known that there is but one Leicester sheep breeder in England who has preserved the pure original blood by in-and-in breeding, and although his stock are poor things to look at, yet the rams will let on hire at a very high figure, and will always improve the breed of othef flocks,

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Bibliographic details

Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 80, 30 March 1880

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THE FARMER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 80, 30 March 1880