The breeding policy adopted by Letelle (Pty) Ltd, the body governing the breed is aimed at breeding a medium sized, plain bodied sheep with mutton conformation and carrying a uniformly fine Merino type wool, in harmony with its natural grazing conditions. This policy has never altered since its inception in the early 1920's.
Group mating is advocated ensuring a uniform flock. By making use of line and inbreeding principles fixed heredity genes were obtained and together with strict selection criteria for 80 years Letelle rams are able to transmit these desirable characteristics to their Progeny.
In order to maintain purity only sheep originating from the original breeder's flock are used in the breeding of Letelle rams and breeding ewes, therefore no upgrading is allowed. Interested parties apply to the Council of the Breed Society to become ram breeders and should their application be successful have to buy sheep originating from the original stock.
Before any sales of rams or ewes take place inspectors appointed by Letelle (Pty) Ltd screen rams and ewes for sale.
Those sheep that pass the screening process are tattooed with tattoo marks registered in the name of Letelle (Pty) Ltd. It is unique and peculiar to the Letelle sheep. The person buying such sheep is ensured of the quality of the sheep being bought.
The purity of these sheep is guaranteed by the owner of the trade marks namely Letelle (Pty) Ltd.
The Letelle breeding Policy focuses on animals with:
- A mutton conformation carrying fine wool
- A medium frame and which are adapted to the natural environment
- Plain bodies, hardy, uniform animals which are less selective grazers and are "easy care" sheep
- The ability to recover rapidly after periods of stress
The prices of rams are determined by members of the Society at a bi-annual general meeting. Ram prices are therefore the same throughout the country. This is a unique system ensuring that rams are available to all buyers at affordable prices.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CONFORMATION OF A LETELLE SHEEP
- Integration of the various body parts into a harmonious whole
- Neck integration (No u-necks)
- Rounding of strong hindquarters
- Bowed top line
- Hocks (vertical hocks impede the passage of the lambs at birth)
- Discrimination against colour and coarse facial cover
- Wedge-shaped conformation
- Strong legs and pasterns
- Scrotum (circumference)
- Pigmentation around the eyes
- Size (mass of ewes: 50-60kg and rams: 70-80kg)
- Uniformity of crimp
- Handle and elasticity
- Staple information
- Uniformity throughout the fleece
- Discrimination against excessive "creeping bellies"
- Yolk (colour white to light cream)
- Relection of light on fine wool (The Merino - Past, Present & Probable: HB Austin p128)
- Prickle factor (none)
Professor Piet de Wet of the Sheep and Wool Department at the University of Stellenbosch reported as such about Letellemark wool after having it analyzed using the laser scan method: "As a breed the wool did not vary much in respect of fibre diameter and the breed produced the finest wool of the four white wooled breeds in South Africa. Should fibre diameter results include the variation in fibre diameter then very little wool above thirty micron is produced by Letelle and I predict that the wool should perform very well using both high speed spinning machines."
Professor de Wet's prediction regarding Letelle wool is substantiated in the final product. In this regard the following extract from a report by Dr L Hunter - Programme manager Textek in conjunction with Mr G Hofheinz of SA Fine Worsteds is quoted: "The spinning performance and yarn properties were assessed as very good and so too warping performance. The fabric was assessed as having a luxurious drape and noble handle."
It is very important to note that nature places a ceiling on the quantity of wool that an animal can produce within a specific environment. Each farm has its own ceiling, therefore the quantity of wool shorn will differ due to the environment. It is important that the breeder understands this phenomenon, ensuring that unfair demands are not made on the sheep.
Opening a sheep's fleece
One of the methods used by the society to open a sheep's fleece is to open the wool horizontally from the shoulder to the britch. By employing this method one is able to ascertain whether the sheep has small body pleats and also to determine the uniformity of the wool from the shoulder to the britch.
- By using Letelle rams the breeder is assured of prepotency - this is because of the breeding policy that has not changed over 80+ years
- Letelle rams have the ability to transfer desirable characteristics to their progeny
- Affordable prices are fixed every two years by members of the Society
- Rams are able to serve in excess of sixty ewes resulting in favourable ram/ewe ratios
- Rams are virile and can be successfully used for a long time
- Letelle mark ewes are highly fertile with excellent mothering abilities
- Produce small lambs at birth which grow rapidly under favourable conditions
- Early maturing reaching slaughter mass + 150 days under favourable feeding conditions
- Lambs are well suited to a feedlot environment with excellent feed conversion ratios and with a high ADG
- High slaughtering percentage and good grading are characteristics of the breed
QUALITY OF MEAT
The responsible Official in charge of catering for the late State President CR Swart made the following comment regarding the quality of the meat derived from Letelle mark sheep.
"Just as the owners of pigs in the Scandinavian Countries emphasize the superiority of their product in terms of texture and marbling so can the members of the OLS Society lay claim to the superiority of the mutton from Letelle mark sheep.
The finely grained meat has an excellent texture with exceptional marbling. Even when the meat is served cold no hard fat is formed on one's palate as is the case with most other fats. Sosaties could be made from the shoulder without sacrificing taste and the roasted shoulder was tastier than the leg of mutton from other breeds."
WHY IS THE LETELLE SHEEP A TOTALLY ECONOMICALLY BALANCED ANIMAL?
No characteristics which is of economic importance is over emphasized. Economic distortions occur when one of the following characteristics is over emphasized, namely micron, wool mass, bellies, points and feeding.