Lesotho wool production boosted with SA merino genetics

Some of the best South African Merino genetics are on their way to Lesotho as part of a project to improve the Lesotho wool flock and the lives of farmers.

A delegation of the Lesotho Department of Agriculture, consisting of animal scientists, visited several auctions of prominent South African merino farmers during August, to acquire top merino genetics for the Lesotho Wool and Mohair Promotion Project. The delegation was led by Ntai Lepheana, Component Manager (Improved Merino Sheep and Angora Goats Production) from the Lesotho Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP).

According to Lepheana, the sheep will be taken back to Lesotho where they will be used to revive two government breeding centres. The new centres will offer quality breeding animals to Lesotho farmers who can’t buy stud animals from South Africa. It must ultimately improve the average national wool production.

“We are looking for an increase in the quality and quantity in mohair and wool, by enhancing specific parameters.”

The delegation visited, among others, the auctions of the Geelbek Elite Merino stud, Andre Jordaan Genetics, Mega Merino and Reinard Kok, as well as the National Merino Auction held in Graaff-Reinet.

The aim is to increase the current national average production per sheep from around 2.7kg to 3.5kg to 4kg per clip, improve the average fibre diameter average between 19 to 20 micron and increase the clean yield from the current 60% to between 75-80%.

“The outcome will be more generation of income that will be realised by our farmers so that their standard of living is improved.”

Booming Wool industry

The wool industry is experiencing record high prices and if Lesotho farmers can increase their averages, there could be good financial gains for farmers.

The country sells its wool on the South African wool market that opened last week, with the Cape Wools  All Wool Indicator gaining 19.8% from the previous season. Cape Wools CEO Louis de Beer told Bloomberg wool output in the region can increase by 50% in the next three years, thanks to increased demand for apparel made from fibres.

According to data from Cape Wools, the representative organisation of the

Southern African Wool Industry, Lesotho farmers sold 6 161 864kg of wool in the 2016/’17 season, earning R479 212 848.

Buying the animals

Lepheana said they contacted Merino SA for information on South Africa’s top merino breeders to give scientists several choices.

Buyers didn’t shy away from paying high prices at the auctions. They paid the highest price of R 60 000 for a merino ram bred by Stefan Naude from Hanover at the esteemed Geelbek Elite Merino auction. According to Naude, the ram is of high quality and is awarded with a silver ram title.

“This specific ram is the South African champion in his class in the Merino Classic that took place in Bloemfontein earlier this year.”

Lesotho wool production

The Wool and Mohair Promotion Project is a project initiated by the Lesotho government to enhance the livelihoods of the rural population with money from the United Nations’ International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD).

The project addresses three aspects of livestock: animal nutrition, breeding and health, to improve the national merino and angora herd.

Lepheana said the next step will be to also assess the top Angora breeders in SA for the procurement of genetics before March 2018.

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