The philosophy of this stud is to breed highly productive sheep that can thrive under NZ’s most challenging environments. At Kikitangeo it is a pure case of the ‘survival of the fittest’. With this programme sheep will develop strong and quick responsive immune systems which will ensure survival and productivity in less challenging environments. In most stud enterprises animals are bred in ideal conditions and drenched regularly to gain maximum growth rates. Unfortunately such practices do not identify animals with a weaker constitution. It is recognised by many scientists that the national flock is now more susceptible to worms than it was 60 years ago because of the very effective drenches being used, often excessively, allowing these susceptible animals to enter breeding programmes.
Structural Soundness and Body Conformation
For more than 50 years these traits have been considered of paramount importance at Kikitangeo. You cannot expect good performance from an animal that is structurally unsound. Any animal must have adequate bone; the cannon bone in the foreleg is the best assessment area to judge this. Sound legs and feet, a good spring of ribs to give capacity, a correctly set shoulder, good sound teeth with a correct setting to meet the upper pad. These traits will ensure good mobility and provide a structure on which to maximise productive traits. At Kikitangeo, we believe that structural soundness, should take precedence over performance figures. In addition to these aspects, it is most desirable to have a wide, well muscled loin and a wide and deep hindquarter
The aim at Kikitangeo is to produce medium good quality wool in the 34 to 38 micron range. We aim for a larger staple size with a type that will shed water. We refer to this as a sheep with a ‘good thatch’. A quality fleece will be relatively even throughout (micron wise), have no hair or kemp and be free of coloured fibres (kemp is the solid white fibre often found on top of the head, but can occur on the ‘points’ on the flanks and above the knee). Hair and kemp are most undesirable as they will not take dyes. The fleece should be a soft white rather than a chalky white and free of yellowing. This yellowing of the fleece often known as ‘canary yellow’, is a strongly inherited trait and is made worse with moisture. These fleeces absorb moisture and are very slow drying. This yellowing of the fleece cannot be scoured out so its end use is limited. As most people shear twice yearly the length of the staple should be a selection factor.
Foot Diseases, Facial Eczema tolerance and Internal parasite (worm) resistance.
Fifty years ago it was considered that foot diseases were caused by germs and other bugs and therefore had to be treated because there was no genetic factor involved. However we found at Kikitangeo that some strains of sheep were more susceptible to foot diseases and therefore there had to be genetic factors involved. We then embarked on a policy of selecting the best and culling the worst. Over the intervening years what was a major problem is no longer a significant issue. Having had this experience we were confident that there were many genetic factors involved with other diseases and parasite problems.
Feet – DNA testing for susceptibility to foot diseases – foot structure
Sound feet have always been considered vital at Kikitangeo. In the period prior to 1960, foot problems were treated via trimming, treating foot rot and scald and regularly putting the whole flock through a footbath. The conventional thinking at that time was that foot problems were caused by diseases and therefore treatment was the only solution. However, at this time, we found that.... >>Read more about improvement of feet
In 1986 Kikitangeo entered a programme to breed sheep that could withstand a FE challenge. The word tolerance is used to describe sheep that have some resistance to this disease. By 1986 it had been known for many years that steady progress into developing tolerance can be made by testing potential sires and using the most tolerant. >>Read more about breeding for FE tolerance
Internal Parasite (Worm) Resistance
Kikitangeo started breeding for worm resistance in 1987 under the guidance of Dr Tom Watson and his very able technician, Mr Barry Hosking. Dr Watson is a highly respected parasitologist and geneticist. The protocols he designed for Kikitangeo to follow to achieve worm resistance are still followed by the ‘Worm FEC’ programme today. The ‘Worm FEC’ programme is the only national scheme for breeding for worm resistance. >>Read more about breeding for worm resistance
Other Selection Factors
Udders and teat placement. For many decades, Kikitangeo has culled ewes with oversized udders and oversized teats which point to the ground. Ideally, udders should be compact with average sized teats on the side of the udder just where the lamb looks for a drink. Lamb survival depends on the lamb finding the milk early, especially in wet, cold conditions.
Mothering instincts and temperament are also important. Some ewes are better mothers than others and this mothering instinct is governed by genetic factors. For the past five decades, all ewes at Kikitangeo have been scored for quietness (temperament) and mothering instincts at lambing. They are scored from 1 to 5 for the two traits, with 3-3 being average. Ewes need to be able to count and know how many lambs they have. We have observed a significant improvement in these two traits over the last 50 years.