19 Aug 2013

Agresearch tracking down 'shiny sheep'

6:39 am on 19 August 2013

AgResearch scientists are asking farmers to help them track down sheep that have shiny or lustrous looking fleece.

The scientists are looking for sheep carrying a natural mutation that enhances the lustre characteristics of their wool.

An Agresearch sheep breeding scientist at Lincoln, Dr David Scobie, says they want to learn more about how the characteristic is inherited and how it affects the wool because there are positive and negative implications for wool quality.

"The lustre-type wools and mohair tend to be a fashionable product and some years they are really saleable and sometimes they're not.

"We are kind of interested in lustre so we could find out what causes it, what proteins are involved, what genes are involved. Then we might be able to control it because if you're talking about carpets and things like that it's probably less desirable with those sorts of products whereas it's more used in garments or blankets, or what have you, for some effect, a sort of a shiny effect that's carried through until the final product."

Dr Scobie says sheep with the lustrous wool mutation may be less vigorous than normal sheep because the silky fleece doesn't protect them from the cold as well as other wool.

Farmers who think they have identified a 'lustre lamb' can contact AgResearch on 07 834 6627 or email info@agresearch.co.nz.