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Buyers see plenty of value in Nude flock

A flock of nude sheep and lambs with Brazilians from Masterton’s Wairere Rams went under the hammer in Masterton last month.

“Nudies” are no-shearing “hair sheep” that are sometimes born with a “little” bit of wool that drops off over time.

About 90 per cent of the 140 Nudies put up for auction were sold, fetching an average price of $4844, up $300 from a local auction of the same breed last year.

The top dollar for one purebred Nudie reached $12,500, which was up $4000 on the best price achieved last year, while the low of $2500 was the same.

The Brazilian lambs – which are a three quarter Nudie cross – sold for a low of $2000 and a high of $3000.

Wairere Rams marketing manager Pierre Syben said they sold 91 out of 95 pure Nudies, and 12 out of 23 Brazilian hoggets, which were disadvantaged slightly due to their age.

When Wairere first introduced “Nudies” on the market last year, three sold for over $8,000, and a Streaker hogget [half Nudie cross] sold for $2000.

Syben said they also sold about 50 Streaker sheep, which are a mixture of half Nudie and half either Romney or composite.

“Our initial thoughts when we began this project is that there would be a mix of buyer types – those who would buy purebred Nudies and take all the wool off as fast as they could and those who might buy a Streaker to only go part way and just take the belly wool and crutch wool off,” Syben said.

“I’ve observed in Australia, the UK and, Europe that once farmers start down this track even with the initial thought of going part way, in the end they say, ‘to hell with it, let’s just go all the way’.

“The upshot of this decision for us is I see only a small opportunity for selling Streakers in the future.”

Syben noted that Nudies appeal to farmers because their lack of wool helps to reduce their costs, and estimated that a farm with about 3500 standard breed ewes would have a negative expenditure of $50,000 from shearing costs and with wool earnings factored in.

“The sheep industry is under pressure, returns are back on the golden years,” he said.

“We don’t have any control or any influence on what we get paid, the only thing we do have an influence on is our running costs.”

That said, breeding sheep is not a cheap business either, as Wairere has invested overall about $1.5 million dollars to produce the Nudie sheep.

Syben said the team gave the breed a provocative name on purpose, “so people don’t forget it”.

Third-generation farmer and Wairere principal Derek Daniell said hairless sheep are quite a significant trend in the wool industry.

“Wool has been costing more than farmers have been receiving for probably at least seven years.”

He said this year, 90 percent of sheep farmers will likely make a financial loss this year due to fast-reducing prices and fast-increasing cost plus interest.

“Sheep farming out there is in a big dark hole,” he said.

“This is just one way that we hope we can do something for the sheep industry – take out cost, that’s the big thing.

“China’s had minus one per cent inflation. How are we expecting our produce to sell to them at our inflated prices – it’s just not going to happen.”

Daniell said economic mismanagement on a macro scale, increased debt, and the government borrowing $75 million a day to “prop it up” was “ridiculous”.

“But you never saw this before the election, that was the main thing that should have been talked about,” he said.

“They’ve been trying to hide it; it’s very bad.”

Daniell believes the demand for nude sheep will increase if wool prices remain low in the long term.

The Wairere Ram station runs on medium to steep hill country near Masterton and produces mainly Romney rams, while also offering composites, terminal sires, facial eczema tolerant, and fine wooled “smart sheep”.

In April 2022, Wairere implanted 458 hair sheep embryos from the United Kingdom into recipient ewes and artificially inseminated 637 Wairere ewes with hair sheep semen from hair sheep flocks.

The artificially inseminated ewes were a mix of facial eczema tolerant, Texel and Romney, and Bare Point Romneys.

A composite with bare points and tail will minimise the need for dagging and reduce shearing to once per year, which results in less wool and less than half the costs.

Only a small number of New Zealand farmers breed wool-less sheep.

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