15 Dec 2009

NZ sheep farming techniques taught to UK farmers

7:53 am on 15 December 2009

A Hawke's Bay sheep and cattle breeding company is introducing British farmers to the New Zealand way of sheep farming.

Rissington Breedline was approached by Marks & Spencer in 2004. The retail chain was interested in getting access to lamb with a lower carbon footprint than the domestic sheep industry could provide.

Under the breeding programme, some flocks are now being cross-bred with more hardy breeds to produce sheep that can be raised on grass instead of indoors, during Britain's long winters.

Rissington says its New Zealand-sourced lamb is already supplying M&S for half the year. Next year, British sourced lamb from the programme will supply the other half.

UK business manager Bayden Wilson says a 12 month supply of consistent quality lamb is being set up. New Zealand will supply from Christmas to June. June - Christmas will be met by UK farmers.

The bulk of the lamb will be grown on grass.

Mr Wilson says the company has exported 6000 sheep embryos to the United Kingdom. From these, 700 rams have been raised and will be used by 120 farmers to start the breeding programme.