PO Box 695 - Peru, NY 12972 - (518) 643-2790

Cormo Sheep Breed History and Characteristics

Excerpted from a publication of the Tasmanian Development Authority

In 1960 the owner of Dungrove, Ian Downie, was running a high quality flock of Superfine Saxon Merinos. He enlisted the scientific help of the Division of Animal Genetics of the Commonwealth (New South Wales, Australia) Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The objective was to devise a breeding program that would produce a more fertile, higher wool producing and larger framed sheep.

Extensive research followed in carefully controlled genetic studies. To summarize: Stud Corriedale rams were crossed with 1200 Superfine Saxon Merino ewes and those progeny which met rigid selection criteria, assessed by objective measurement, became the Cormo ram breeding nucleus.

Today, Mr. Peter Downie, and his family along with Ian Downie Still operate a large flock of Cormos. Their sheep station Dungrove is near Bothwell in Tasmania, Australia.

Ram Selection at Dungrove

Since the initial cross-breeding in 1960, Dungrove has maintained a ram breeding nucleus flock within its main commercial flock. The nucleus of 2000 ewes produces sires for both the nucleus and the commercial flock of 8000 ewes. No outside rams are introduced and those within the nucleus are culled rigorously for commercial faults.

Rams born in Tasmania in October (Southern Hemisphere spring) are tip shorn and weaned in January. They graze naturally all year before being shorn again in December, when body weights are measured and wool samples sent to a laboratory for assessment. When results are known, a final selection is made based on:

  • Clean fleece weight;
  • Fiber diameter (21-23 microns);
  • Type of birth, with twins preferred;
  • Body weight.

The top 3 per cent of rams, assessed by these criteria, are retained for breeding. Selected rams remain active in the breeding nucleus for only two years, so there is a rapid turnover of genetically improved sires. Recent computer data shows the flock is continuing to improve genetically.

Ewe Selection at Dungrove

Ewes, born either into the ram nucleus flock or the commercial flock, are culled for obvious commercial faults. At the hogget shearing, those remaining are assessed for:

  • Greasy fleece weight;
  • Fiber diameter.

Animals failing to meet prescribed standards are eliminated. Each year the top ewe hoggets from both flocks help to form the ram- breeding nucleus. Ewes are shorn in September, before lambing, ensuring sound staple strength and easy management during lambing.

Management of The Dungrove Flock

Management is designed to complement the scientific culling program. Sheep are not housed, rugged or given supplemental feeding, although they graze from 610 to 1000 meters above sea level at an approximate latitude of 42 South where summers are hot and dry and winters are cold and snowy. Annual rainfall averages around 533 mm (21 inches). Genetic defects are exposed and culled naturally in this environment, instead of being concealed by artificial pampering. Cormo have been promoted in the United States as "rugged range rams". They are an EASY MANAGEMENT breed.

Cormo Characteristics

Scientific breeding has given the Cormo a remarkable range of commercial virtues, suited to both the wool and meat industries. These include:

  • Long staple, white high-yield wool (average fleece weight 5.5 kg - 12 lbs);
  • Soft, dense fleece with exceptional consistency (90 per cent within two microns of the average);
  • Soft, dense fleece with exceptional consistency (90 per cent within two microns of the average);
  • Resistance to fleece rot and mycotic dermatitis;
  • Long and large carcasses with flock ewes averaging 55 kg (120 lbs) and wethers 60kg (130lbs);
  • High fertility with over 110 per cent of lambs weaned;
  • Open faces
  • Easy management with no stalling or artificial feeding.

A Brief History of United States Imports

  • --------- 1976 Travis Jones imported 7 ewes and 1 ram
  • --------- 1979 Travis Jones & others imported 500 ewes and 25 rams
  • --------- 1987 One ram was imported
  • --------- 1993 600 doses of seamen from 3 rams were imported
  • --------- 2002 2 rams were imported