Romney-The Staple Of New Zealand

Romney sheep

Originally uploaded by Peter Nijenhuis

The other day I bought some lamb chops. Since it was just listed as New Zealand lamb I cannot say for sure, but likely the breed was Romney. The estimates I was able to locate are over 10 years old, but I would venture that it is safe to say that over 50% of the sheep in New Zealand today are Romney.

The Romney breed originates in the Romney Marshes of Kent, England. The breed is noted in its resistance to hoof rot, liver flukes, and having a fleece that is not damaged by wet weather. Traditionally it is a dual purpose breed producing one of the finer and shorter longwools as well as having a good carcass. The wool is a major player in the New Zealand carpet industry as well as many household fabrics. New Zealand lamb has been exported since the late nineteenth century and has a long history of shipping both fresh chilled and frozen meat worldwide.

The first Romney was first brought into the US in 1904 and the American Romney Breeders Association was established in 1912. It never gained the popularity other breeds did as much of the best range-land is in the dry western US, but it had one thing that made it very popular and continues to be important for handspinners, naturally colored individuals. Romney has proved to be popular to cross breed to introduce both the good meat traits and the natural colored wool. Genopalette is one farm that has done just this crossing Merinos and Romney’s to produce a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors. In addition, this wool is very kind to beginning spinners. Not too slick and not too fine it is grabby enough to hold together but not so grabby that it is difficult to draft. It is also easy to process. The fleece does not have a high amount of lanolin. Add to this all the gorgeous colors it comes in and it becomes attractive to the handspinner to not only start out their spinning career, but to continue spinning it time and time again.

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