About Ile de France NZ

Why we started Ile De France

In a search for a paradigm shift in sheep farming profitability, Murray Rohloff a Romney ram breeder of 25 years in Eastern Southland, trialled the Ile de France breed renowned for its extended breeding season overseas capable of 3 lambings in 2 years. 

This interest inevitably led Murray to team up with Peter Ponsonby of Tuapeka West near Lawrence in South Otago. Peter had 40 years breeding Dorset Horns out-of-season and a prominent Poll Dorset breeder.

Unfortunately for the 3 lambings in 2 years concept, much of the land capable of supporting it was converted to dairying. However, their experience with Ile de France proved the breed’s ability to survive, grow and be very drought resistant. SIL performance figures indicated that the Ile de France breed is very strong in all the MATERNAL TRAITS.

Upon the retirement of Peter and Murray, the stud was purchased by the Thomsons and the Forresters in May 2017 and its heart moved to North Canterbury.

They have since consolidated the breed focusing on very high meat and growth traits while also being meticulous about the maternal Breeding Index and have a zero tolerance of structural imperfection.

In May 2018, James and Lisa went to the Ile de France breeding centre in France to study what the French call “the most complete and strictest genetic selection programme in the world”. The breed was developed in the 1830s using Dishley Leicester, Merino and possibly Cotentin.

A breed association was formed in France in 1933. The current national UPRA breeding programme has been running since 1971. It uses ancestry, individual and progeny testing to locate elite animals and distributes genetics through compulsory AI programmes. This breeding scheme is detailed. For example, registered ewes have to qualify on prolificacy and milk production. Meat testing covers growth, conformation, muscle, width, length, fat, age at slaughter and carcass yield. No other meat breed has a genetic advancement programme like this!

The Thomsons were impressed with what they saw in France and after many anxious moments and a long wait have been able to import semen from 4 unrelated lines. Lambs from this importation are on the ground this spring (2019) and are looking good at this early stage. This is the first importation outside Europe since the 1970s that they are aware of. As such the Forresters and Thomsons expect the stud to make some time travelling gains in the next few years.

Ile de France NZ has an unconnected status on SIL (Sheep Improvement Limited). This is because Ile de France NZ have few sheep in other studs to compare with and so this affects our SIL Maternal Worth Index. We have introduced some very high SIL index genetics to test and connect the Ile de France stud on this NZ performance recording database (SIL).

Both the Forresters and Thomsons have large commercial flocks of their own and are striving to advance profitability in sheep using the Ile de France breed. If you buy a ram from us it will be tough.

Some immediate gains from Ile de France sheep are:

–         increased weaning weight

–         finer micron

–         lower cost structure (fewer wool costs and ewes that hold condition)

–         no need for a commercial terminal sire system so more ewe replacement choice

–         increased milking ability

–         better lamb yield and taste

–         they live a year longer too!

Meet the people behind Ile De France

Ile de France breeding policy

The breeding policy is entirely for maternal trait excellence.  SIL dual performance recording is carried out, along with Carla testing for resistance to worms and DNA testing for footrot resistance.

All imported sires are screened for low birth weigths with high growth rates, twinning and Carla and Footrot resistance prior to importation.

In 2013 the Raggity Range flock in Central Otago was added to IDFNZ.  Whereas the South Otago flock was graded up from Dorsets, the Raggity Range flock was graded up from a Romney base and are also fully recorded on SIL.  

The grade-up policies have enabled the “Kiwi-ising” of the breed for New Zealand’s fine and strong wooled sheep industries.