In the sheep producing business, much debate is generated about the pros and cons of horned and polled animals, but for Mike Mackay, the hornier his sheep are, the better he and his clients like them.
Horn curl in any trophy animal is much prized – the best wild sheep in the world command a price of $300,000 – and so Mike is undertaking a cross-breeding experiment to deliver that for clients at his private game reserve and outback safari operation at Jericho, in central Queensland.
While ther are 29 wild species of sheep in the world, the foundation for the experiment are damara and Snow Mountain Bighorn sheep, with maybe a dash of Merino and Dorset Horn.
“Damara have got a habit of curls,” Mike explained.
“Curls in a horn to the hunting industry – once you get over a full curl – starts to interest them.
“Three or four curls, the price is about $1500 and that’s cheap.”
He’s keen to put a bit of Merino in the mix to give the horn more bulk, and he believes it would grow more quickly.
Mike is quick to say he doesn’t want an animal he has to shear. Having run 17,000 ewes in Tasmania and shorn them twice a year by himself, he’s done enough of that.
He said the popularity of horned sheep in the Australian hunting market was already being proved by a compatriot at Crookwell in NSW, with a ready market from Sydney.
“He just can’t breed enough of them so I’m lucky to be getting a few rams from him,” he said.