When selecting a sheep breed, farmers need to consider what their production goal is and what market they are breeding for.

If fine wool gains and strong meat yields in lambs were goals the Ile-de-France should be considered.

Canterbury based farmers, Robert and Jean Forrester and James and Lisa Thomson, run in partnership Ile-de-France Sheep NZ Ltd and believe the breed is perfect for New Zealand’s farming environment. Each couple has their own large commercial flock and is striving to advance profitability in sheep farming. The stud has focused on very high meat and growth traits while being meticulous about the maternal Breeding Index, and has zero tolerance of structural imperfection.

In 2018 the Thomsons went to the Ile-de-France breeding centre in France to study what the French call “the most complete and strictest genetic selection programme in the world”. Impressed by what they saw, they decided to import semen from four unrelated lines. Lambs from this importation are now on the ground and are looking good. Incorporating the Ile-de-France breed into their flock brought some immediate gains, James said. The rams were tough and lambs had an increased weaning weight. Wool was a finer micron (24-30 micron) and a lower cost structure with fewer wool costs helped with farm profitability. Ewes held their condition, and because there was no need for a commercial terminal sire system this resulted in more ewe replacement choice, he said.