Origin Bharat Merino sheep developed by crossbreeding indigenous Chokla and Nali sheep with Rambouillet and Merino rams and stabilised at 75% exotic inheritance has the potential as an import substitute for exotic fine wool inheritance.
The annual greasy wool production is 2.5 kg with fiber diameter of 19‑20 microns, medullation less than one percent and staple length in annual clip at Mannavanur of 7‑8 cm. From SRRC, Mannavanur Bharat Merino sheep were distributed to Kolar District of Karnataka and in Sathyamangalam and Thalavadi areas of Erode District in Tamilnadu. The average body weight of Bharat Merino sheep at Kolar District was found to be 45 kg and 32 kg, ranged from 38-70 kg and 28-40 kg for adult male and female respectively. Birth weight of lamb was 4.0 kg with range of 3.5-4.5 kg. The weight at 3, 6, and 12 months were 18, 25 and 30 kg, respectively.
The cross-breeding of finer wool yielding bharat merino sheep with the local sheep varieties being attempted in the South to enhance the quality of the wool harvested from the animal may depend on the adoptability of the local sheep rearers to the raising of the cross variety animals.
The first set of two progenies – the 20-day-old baby sheep — which are the cross of the pure `Bharat Merino sheep’ breed supplied by the Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute’s (CSWRI) research station at Mannavanur in Kodaikanal and local sheep variety in Tippanur village near here has, however, raised hopes on the quality of the new breed over the indigenous varieties.
The positive features of the new breed are that the young animals could grow body-weight almost twice that of the local breed. The just-born animals weighed 5.5 kg as against the local breed’s equivalent weight of some 2.5 kg.
The cross-breeding of the Bharat Merino sheep and local sheep was launched in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as part of a special initiative by the Ministry of Textiles (MoT) in association with the CSWRI, Rajasthan last year and the programme, initiated as the overall wool development programme for the 10th plan period with a focus on enhancing the quality of the woollen fibre harvested by the sheep farmers/sheep rears.