Opening door to Finnsheep benefits

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Bob GarnantCountryman

Fred Wilkinson is a believer in the benefits of Finnsheep and he labours many hours to uncover the breed’s true potential.

Introduced into Australia by the University of NSW in 1981 and by the Australian Texel Corporation in 1993, the breed origins go back to North European short-tailed landrace sheep.

The Brookton farmer began replacing his Merino-Border Leicester cross sheep to produce a 3/8 Finn, 5/8 Merino cross in 1993.

“At first I discovered the Finn-Merino cross produced better wool quality and there was an increased lambing drop, ” Mr Wilkinson said.

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Since 2005, he has compiled Australian Wool Testing Authority figures and is actively monitoring six separate test groups to confirm that the known facts about Finnsheep apply to production standards in WA.

“Results are showing my sheep have superior length, softness, better radius of curvature and reduced prickle factor, ” Mr Wilkinson said.

The five year averages for 10 shearings at six monthly intervals — May and November — have length peaking to 64mm, micron as low as 21, yield as high as 71 and strength around 45N/ktex.

The extra length has been utilised by twice-yearly shearing producing 60mm of fleece.

Shorter wool length is used for knit wear and is becoming more popular as consumers wear next to skin woollen garments, according to Design for Comfort’s Dr John Stanton.

“Shorter length wool also does not have the holding strength problems of longer wool tops and will process without breakage, ” Mr Stanton said.

Trevor Smith, of Peter Scanlon Wools, said there was far less wastage and no need to carbonise 60mm fleece. During last week’s shearing, it was found that an extra 25 sheep could be shorn, with the time savings to shear 60mm fleece.

“We calculated it represented a saving of $375, ” Mr Wilkinson said.

“Several WA producers have bought some 3/4 Finn, 1/4 Merino rams from me to improve their flocks.

“Due to the breeds bare breech we don’t have to mules which could be a great advantage to many WA flocks.”

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