Home' Smart Farmer : November 2010 Contents November 2010
By SARAH SLEE
LEANSKIN sheep are gaining
in popularity among small-
area farmers, largely because
of their low-input production sys-
tem and minimal set-up costs.
Cleanskins are meat sheep that
shed their fleece in the paddock, so
do not require shearing or crutch-
ing. There are about 10 recognised
Cleanskin breeds in Australia.
Mallee producer Denis Russell,
from Genelink, runs five different
Cleanskin breeds and has developed
the Mini breed specifically for
lifestyle farms and small properties.
He says the easy-care aspect of
Cleanskins is a big part of their
appeal, as they don't need to be
shorn, crutched, mulesed, tailed, or
treated for lice or flystrike. This also
made them particularly suitable for
Coloured breeds were becoming
increasingly popular, and many
were kept as pets or lawnmowers.
At current prices, Cleanskin sheep
were more profitable than cattle on a
per-hectare basis, Mr Russell said.
Their size made them a popular
alternative for farmers on small
blocks, as they had smaller-scale
infrastructure and transport require-
ments. Quietening of stock through
grain feeding enabled them to be
moved easily around a property, and
regular sheep markets facilitated the
sale of excess stock.
Friction between neighbouring
Merino and Cleanskin producers
has been an issue since Cleanskin
breeds arrived in Australia.
Mr Russell said that while most
fears were unfounded, owners
should respect their neighbours by
making sure fences were of high
quality, and in good repair. Wires
needed to be kept tight and run
close to the ground.
Mr Russell has been in the
Cleanskin industry for the past 20
years, and was an importer of
Cleanskins into Australia from
South Africa. He started out produc-
ing Wiltshire Horns and now breeds
Meatmasters, Persians, Van Rooys,
White Dorpers and Minis, running
3000 sheep on 2800 hectares at
"It was the easy-care aspect of the
breed, and the ability to run them
like cattle, that got me interested,"
The Mini breed was developed
using Persians, and is a small-to-
medium-sized sheep with signifi-
cant colour variation and a
reasonable carcass. Minis have
become far more popular than
anticipated, with demand outstrip-
Shedding ability, climate suitabili-
ty, fertility, and grazing preferences
varied between breeds, but contrary
to some belief, Cleanskins were not
able to 'live on nothing'.
"They will survive quite well on
poor quality feed, but do need a vol-
ume of it," Mr Russell said.
"Owners have to be careful to
avoid overstocking on small blocks,
and be aware that they may need to
give supplementary feed occasional-
ly."As with all stock management,
owners needed to remove poisonous
weeds such as Cape Tulip from their
properties, and be aware of the need
for water to be available at all times.
Cleanskins also required worming
and vaccinations, similar to other
Mr Russell warned stock owners
not to keep lambing ewes with hors-
es or young cattle, as they had been
known to kill lambs while 'playing'
If a Merino ewe base was used to
breed Cleanskins, shearing would
usually be required for at least the
first four crosses. The purchase of
'clean' rams would reduce the time-
frame for the flock to become com-
pletely shedding, and result in
Mr Russell recommended that
prospective buyers do their home-
work to establish which breed or
crossbreed was most likely to suit
them, and purchase a small number
initially to test their suitability.
A two-day international Cleanskin
Sheep Symposium, focusing on
management and production, will
be held at the Adelaide Showground
on February 18 and 19, 2011. It will
be hosted by Cleanskin Sheep
Australia -- a body developed by the
Royal Agricultural and Horticultural
Society of SA to stage the event.
• Need to know more?
Easy-care breeds prove profitable
Genelink's Mini breed is a small to medium-size sheep with significant colour
Sheep for meat production
Fleece falls off in paddock
No shearing, mulesing or flystrike
STRATHALBYN Wiltipoll breeders
Tom and Annie Hughes began pro-
ducing Cleanskin sheep at their
Broken Hill pastoral property, Kars
Station, in 1993.
The removal of the wool floor
price in 1989 prompted them to
look for alternatives, and their son
and daughter-in-law now run 6500
Cleanskin ewes on the station. Tom
and Annie run 300 registered
Wiltipoll ewes at Strathalbyn, where
the British-based breed handles the
wet weather especially well.
Wiltipolls are highly fertile, with
the station mob achieving 140-150
per cent lambing, and ewe lambs
are able to breed from seven
months of age.
The easy-care aspect of
Cleanskins is their greatest appeal.
"With no shearing, crutching,
jetting or mulesing, it is very
much like running little cattle,"
"There is practically no work
involved and you don't have to
get a shearer in. Even in muggy,
wet, warm weather, you don't need
to worry about flies, which is great
for people who don't live on their
Annie said Cleanskins also made
"If you've got grass, you may as
well turn it into cash," she said.
"People are also buying them to
graze in their vineyards, so they
don't have to spray the grass under
• Need to know more?
Wiltipolls thrive in the wet
Annie Hughes breeds Wiltipolls because they are easy-care and can
be run much like cattle.
Damara Dorper Meatmaster Minis Persian Red Meatmaster Van Rooy White Dorper Wiltipoll Wiltshire Horn Composites
2011 INTERNATIONAL CLEANSKIN SHEEP SYMPOSIUM
"Management and Production"
10th & 11th February Adelaide Showground, Wayville, South Australia
visit www.cleanskinsheep.com.au for more information
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