New Zealand is known to have a lot of sheep … Approximately 10 sheep to every person!

Though, this number has dramatically decreased over the past few years due to New Zealand farmers converting their sheep farms to dairy farms as there is a strong demand for our milk products from China.



See this video of sheep shearing:

The average sheep farm in New Zealand is many thousands of acres, with many thousands of sheep. These farms are normally called sheep “stations

Some farms do shearing once per year, in early January (although you can shear a sheep 2 times a year; in January and June). There are also about 3 times per year when you have to do a “tidy-up” of around the sheep’s bottom area…called CRUTCHING.

sheep with clean bottoms after being crutched

When all of the wool is cut off the sheep it is called shearing. The sheep gets shorn.

Professional men that do the shearing are called a shearers.
They are paid by the number of sheep they shear, (about $3 per sheep)

The wool from a sheep is called a fleece.

Wool from sheep that are shorn only once per year is called full fleece, (this wool is long), and it holds together so can be “thrown” onto the sorting table where any dirty bits can be taken off, termed skirting.

throwing a full fleece full fleece

Wool from sheep that are shorn 2x per year is called second shear. This wool is short, and can only be swept up.

About 60 fleeces go into a big bag, and special machine called a woolpress pushes them into a bale. One bale weighs 400lbs (180kg)

woolpress to bale sheep wool



The first sheep to New Zealand were transported (by boat) by Captain Cook in 1773

– but these were Merino sheep (that he collected from Cape of Good Hope), and unfortunately, they didn’t survive for very long!
Many years later, British immigrants brought sheep with them, and these sheep were “English” breeds which survived the New Zealand conditions much better. The Cheviot was one of the first English sheep breed to arrive in New Zealand in 1845, with many more breeds to follow. Today we still have the English breeds – Romney, Suffolk, Leicester, Lincoln, (to name but a few)!


Romney sheep

Romney sheep



About 60% of the sheep in New Zealand are the ‘Romney‘ sheep breed. This is a good all-round breed, good for both meat and wool production, although the Romney wool is not usually used for clothing manufacture as the wool is too coarse. Most of this wool goes to China to be spun into carpet yarn. The yarn then comes back to New Zealand where it is woven into carpets.

Different breeds of sheep have different wool.

Some wool is thicker that others.

Wool is measured in microns.


Merino sheep

Merino sheep

Wool that is good for clothing is from the ‘Merino‘ breed of sheep. This wool is very soft and fine, in fact one single fibre from the Merino sheep is thinner than a human hair! This breed of sheep lives best on dry ground; (wet soil give these sheep very sore feet, (like Athlete’s foot), and the sheep get very sick, so they are usually found on South Island farms in New Zealand, and also in Australia because it is dry.


The special oil that is in the sheep’s wool is called lanolin and is extracted from the wool when the wool is washed, a term called scouring. This lanolin is sold to pharmaceutical companies where it is manufactured into beauty cremes and ointments. This oil is extremely good for our skin, and research has shown it to be very beneficial for people with sore skin who have diabetes. These products are available throughout tourist stores in new Zealand.



Our Auckland Sheepworld tours can take you to see sheep in Auckland when we visit the Sheepworld farm and Nature Park.






more info on sheep

What happens if you DON’T shear a sheep(find out here!!)

The New Zealand sheep farm woolshed(see inside here!!)






sheep fact


…there are no plurals when you speak about sheep!
(it’s one sheep, two sheep, ….many sheep)… [it’s NOT sheeps] !!!