TEFRom sheep breed

November 2007
Russell Welsh started looking to develop a few more characteristics into his Romney flock back in 1997. He wanted higher fertility, better milking ability, better mothering and, if possible, to reduce the frequency of dagging.

The Tefrom breed has been developed along with Robin and Lynley Campbell, in Lochiel, over the last ten years. Russells commercial and stud stock are now fully bred. The genetics are a Texel, East Friesian and Romney. He now believes hes got the mix right.

The Texel gives good muscling, a degree of worm resistance and a clearer tail, the East Friesian gives good milking ability, higher fertility and early ovulation, and the Romney offers stability, good confirmation, sound feet and a mix of the attributes of the other two breeds..


The breed is now made its way offshore with embryos shipped to the Australian market and being farmed by a company the Russell is involved in there.

The advantage of going off shore is that the local market absorbs a large portion of Australian lambs and heavy lambs which are where Tefrom fits and they are fetching good prices. It is early days at this stage but there are approximately 150 lambs on the ground there now.

The stud Twin Farm

Their aim is to improve the returns of the commercial sheep farmer. The focus is on survivability and improved genetic growth rates to allow farmers to get their lamb drop away to the works at good weights earlier - before next tupping begins. To achieve this they have in the past used Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transplant within the Twin Farm flock.

All ram hoggets are micron tested and blood sampled for Host Resistance Testing to identify those with higher antibody levels to internal parasites (worms) at an earlier age. All rams are sold with this information as well as their Breeding Values and flock rankings and the dams and grand dams' performance data.

Russell has around 800 Tefrom ewes in his stud flock. All those lambs are weighed at birth and the property is part of an ongoing project that is looking to develop a gene marker for survivability/cold tolerance. That project is part of an industry-funded study


The roughly 10%-20% of lambs that die from mysterious causes are autopsied on farm. Russell says they tag them in the field and then do the autopsy in the shed.

They look at:

Did the lamb breathe before it died?

Was it alive at birth?

Did it die from a difficult birth?

From there they try and find out if that lamb has fed, measure weather conditions and check for a range of things like brown fat which seems to be a measure the hardiness of the animal.

The dead animals also have a DNA sample taken.

This an AgResearch project funded by Ovita. The study has been running a couple of years. They are chasing DNA markers for different causes of lamb mortality: birth weight, lamb viability at birth, lamb death due to difficult birth, lamb death due to exposure.

The study is based on farmers finding out why the lamb has died and is running across a whole range of different breeds. They are also looking at management issues.

The Farm

Farmed commercially on 138 Hectares at Gummies Bush, 8 kilometres inland from Riverton, the farm is well laid out with lots of shelterbelts for othe predominant sou'westerly weather. The average annual rainfall is 1100mm. The soil type is mainly Waikiwi Loam with approximately 40 Hectares of hard-to-drain wet flats.

There are around 1200 ewes in the commercial flock and Russell says they also mate their hoggets getting around 100% lambing from them. There are also some straight Romney and Suffolk sheep as part of the commercial unit.