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Wool I never! The self-shearing sheep that will save farmers thousands of pounds


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The self-shearing sheep that will save farmers thousands of pounds



By Luke Salkeld

Last updated at 9:51 PM on 8th April 2010



With rather tatty-looking fleeces, these animals could be forgiven for seeming a little sheepish about their appearance.

But they are actually one of the most advanced flocks in Britain - being among the country's first self-shearing sheep.

The animals have been specially bred to shed their winter coats naturally when spring arrives, saving farmers thousands of pounds a year.



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A new breed of self-shearing sheep shed their coats naturally in spring


Wool has fallen so dramatically in value recently that its sale no longer covers the cost of shearing - leaving the task no more than a nuisance for flock owners.

That led breeders to import rams from foreign varieties such as the Barbados Blackbelly, which sheds wool naturally, to create the new breed called Exlana.

Without their normal thick coats, the sheep are also more resistant to parasites, and need less medication and costly chemical treatments.


Now, instead of spending precious time and money shearing their sheep, farmers simply waits for the light coats to 'moult' in the fields.


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West country farmer Peter Baber has come up with a revolutionary way to reduce the costs of sheep farming


The wool, which is shorter and more sparse than a traditional British sheep, begins shedding around the animal's neck and legs, often leaving a temporary patch in the middle.


Where a normal sheep would produce up to 20lb (9kg) of wool, the Exlana - whose newly coined name from the Latin means 'used to have wool' - yields just 1lb (500g).


The new ewes are estimated to save farmers £8 per animal per year in labour costs - which could equal thousands of pounds a year for a full flock.

Breeder Peter Baber, 54, who runs a farm in Christow, near Exeter, Devon, is spearheading the group of nine farmers who are developing the sheep.


The winner of Sheep Farmer of the Year 2007, said: 'It's totally changed the way we work. It is the most forward-thinking step in British sheep farming for a long time.


'We used to have normal, woolly sheep at the farm and had to spend hours shearing them in the spring. But the value of wool has reduced so much recently that it's no longer economically viable to produce .


'Shearing has just became a necessity and, quite frankly, a nuisance.'


'I started thinking about alternative solutions about ten years ago, having seen them myself in Bolivia and Brazil.


'There are breeds around the world, particularly in tropical areas, which still shed their sheep naturally, so we imported the genetics to start breeding. Now, we have thousands of wool-shedding sheep on our farms .


'Their bodies recognise when it is spring time and they naturally begin to shed their wool.


'I imagine that the birds on our farms must have the cosiest nests in Britain.'

The animals will soon be available to buy from Weir Park Farm in Devon, for around £100 per lamb and £150 per ewe.

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