The Merino Landsheep is rapidly gaining popularity in South Africa due to the breed’s impressive performance in the feedlot as well as its value as a dual-purpose meat and wool sheep. Ben du Plessis, president of the Merino Landsheep Breeders’ Society of South Africa, says that the outstanding characteristics of the Landsheep are the breed’s temperament, superb carcass quality, top performance in feedlots, and excellent wool.
According to him, the Landsheep suffered from a number of breeding mistakes in the late 1990s, and this saw a decline in the breed’s popularity in South Africa. The most significant error was placing too much focus on larger carcasses. However, this has since been rectified, and Du Plessis believes that the breed is now regaining its rightful place amongst South Africa’s livestock breeds.
From Germany to SA
The Landsheep originated in Germany and the first shipment of the breed – six rams and 60 ewes – were imported to South Africa by a group of Free State farmers in 1956.
According to Du Plessis, the breed adapted well to local extensive farming conditions, and is today bred across most provinces, and under a variety of conditions, from poor, natural mid-mountain grazing regions to planted pastures, as well as the arid Northern Cape and the rugged Eastern Cape.
Du Plessis says the breed is notable for its exceptional growth and fertility, meat quality and top feedlot performance. In addition, it has even fat distribution on the carcass, as well as a body frame of good length and depth. This means increased production of high-end cuts such as leg of mutton/lamb and back chops.
Meat sheep qualities
The breed has an extended growth period, which supports its exceptional body length and ensures the even distribution of fat. It usually reaches the end of the growth period at the two-tooth stage.
In trials run by the Agricultural Research Council comparing six sheep breeds, the Landsheep achieved the second-best overall feed conversion rate (FCR).
“This adds to the profitability of the breed. Over the years, the Landsheep has proven its value as an economically sound breed over and over again. We regularly market seven- to eight-month-old lambs at as much as 80kg with an A3 grading,” says Du Plessis.
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