Wiltipolls, being a relatively new breed of sheep, seem to elicit quite a few questions. We’ve started to compile the most frequently asked ones here.
If you have a question that’s not answered here, we’d be pleased to try and answer it for you, just send us a message via our contact form .
Where were Wiltipolls developed?
The Wiltipoll breed was developed right here in Australia. In the mid 1990s Annie and John Hughes of Kars Station, Broken Hill, NSW purchased ewes and rams from several Wiltshire Horm breeders and proceeded to breed selectively for polledness.
The Australian Wiltipoll Association Inc. was established in 1996 and the first AGM of the Association was held at Wayville, South Australia in March 1997. The Wiltipoll Association has an excellent outline of the history of the breed on their website.
Wiltipolls have hair, not wool, right?
Not at all, wiltipoll wool really is wool!! Some people think it is hair as in some hair sheep such as Damaras and many goat varieties. Wiltipoll wool is a Downs type of wool which means it has no distinct crimp such as with merino wool or even Border Leicester wool. In fact, its a fairly coarse wool, measuring around 35 to 50 microns. Merino wool can measure from 11 to about 24 microns.
Wiltipolls do have some hair fibres but so do all sheep. Even the merino has lots of hair on the head in the topknot, down the side of the face (the jowl)and down the legs, mainly below the knees. There is even some hair among the belly wool on a Merino.
Sheeps hair is a medulated fibre, this means that it is hollow. The trouble with hair or medulated fibres is that wool processors hate the stuff. Unlike wool, hair does not take dye when wool is being dyed. The finished wool will have little white streks in it or at least a paler version of the intended colour – these are the hairs that have not taken up the dye.
The wiltipoll may have more hair than merinos but it is the wool that is shed each spring and summer, not the hair.
What happens to the wool?
Pure bred Wiltipoll sheep shed their wool naturally. It falls off or is rubbed off on trees, fences or any other surface the sheep chooses. The wool is a bio-degradable substance which simply disappears into the soil.
This has several huge advantage to the prime lamb producer. Rather than wasting energy on carrying around an uneccessary heavy fleece the animal puts all it’s energy into producing meat, milk or lambs. It also means the farmer spends no time or energy on shearing, mulesing, crutching or even docking the tails of Wiltipolls. That’s why they’re known as the less work prime lamb breed.
All sheep shed wool to some extent. Merinos have have very little ability to shed wool. True Wiltipolls readily shed their wool. The reason for their shedding is that they need different degrees of protection from the elements at different times of year.
Wiltipoll wool is usually very short – seldom more than 30 mm long and before it can grow any longer the sheep sheds it and it ends up on the ground or on fences or trees where they rub in order to aid shedding. That’s the reason it has no commercial value at the moment. There are some who feel that there may be some use for the wool but it is not easy to harvest.
How much do they cost?
A1 class Wiltipoll rams usually ussually sell in the $800 to $1600 range but some top rams fetch as much as $2500. A1 ewes usually sell in the $500 to $800 range.