Ovine All-Blacks arrive in Galway for Irish test match

Malakai Fekitoa (L) and TJ Perenara of New Zealand's All Blacks celebrate with the Bledisloe Cup after defeating the Australia's Wallabies during their second Bledisloe Cup rugby championship match at Eden Park in Auckland August 23, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Marple (NEW ZEALAND - Tags: SPORT RUGBY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Malakai Fekitoa (L) and TJ Perenara of New Zealand's All Blacks celebrate with the Bledisloe Cup after defeating the Australia's Wallabies during their second Bledisloe Cup rugby championship match at Eden Park in Auckland August 23, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Marple (NEW ZEALAND - Tags: SPORT RUGBY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Martin Ryan

An elite flock of high genetic merit sheep have been flown almost 20,000km from New Zealand for a trial against some of the best of the Irish flock at Teagasc's Athenry facility over the coming months and years.

Teagasc declined to reveal how much was spent on the 65 high-genetic-merit Texel and Suffolk sheep that are believed to be at least a decade ahead of their Irish equivalents in terms of genetic merit.

The first challenge for researchers is to bring the new arrivals into line with the Irish breeding calendar for breeding purposes.

Working with Sheep Ireland, 80 Texels and Suffolks were selected from top Irish flocks to begin evaluation trials that are set to get underway this autumn. The performance of each group will be monitored over the next two-to-three years.

Teagasc's Michael Diskin said that Kiwi stock are on pasture most of the year, which should make the imported sheep easily adjustable to Irish conditions.

"We will compare them for growth rate, carcase meat content, survival, and resistance to disease and infections. The New Zealand sheep industry is at least a decade ahead in genetics. We hope that these will also provide a genetic linkage which should be very beneficial for Irish farmers down the line," he said.

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