Painted Persians carry sheep farmer through drought
Farmer's Weekly|April 16, 2021
The demand for multicoloured Persian sheep in the Middle East has helped Northern Cape breeder Koenie Kotzé endure the drought. Annelie Coleman reports on how he discovered this market.
Annelie Coleman

ABOVE: Tricoloured sheep, such as these Persians with their black, brown and white coats, are highly sought after in the Middle East, where they are kept as a hobby.

Koenie Kotze, who farms between Douglas and Prieska in the Northern Cape, is a keen livestock breeder. He runs Bonsmara and Dexter commercial cattle herds, as well as small stock studs, including Savanna and Boer goats, and Dorper, White Dorper, Van Rooy and Blackhead Persian sheep.

His interest in breeding animals has also resulted in a flock of highly sought-after exotic Persians (which are not considered for stud breeding). In addition, he breeds four- and five-horned sheep to preserve their genetics.

TRICOLOURED PERSIANS

In one of his most ambitious endeavours to date, kotze has succeeded, through careful selection, inbreeding Persians that are red speckled, black-speckled, blue-speckled, pink-speckled and white-speckled respectively, as well as two tricoloured types. The tricoloured combinations consist of black, brown and white sheep and blue, pink and white sheep.

“All the colours are sought after by buyers in the Middle East, but the tricolours are the most popular. White and red speckles are also gaining popularity. My wife Marina and I like the black, brown and white combinations in particular,” says Kotze.

The sheep are kept as a leisure pursuit in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and competition amongst buyers is intense. Owners are keen to outdo each other with new and more impressive colour nuances, tones and shades, according to Kotze.

METICULOUS SELECTION AND ANIMAL PAIRING HAVE ENABLED SEVEN COLOUR STRAINS TO BE ESTABLISHED SO FAR

Persian sheep are ideal for hobbyist farmers as they are small, calm, naturally polled and do not require shearing. Although the exotic Persians are not recognised as a separate breed by the Blackhead Persian Sheep Breeders’ Society of South Africa, all the animals earmarked for the export market must meet the minimum breed standards as set out by the society. Before being exported, animals are examined by Persian society inspectors for diseases according to the importers’ protocols. Royalties are paid to the society for each sheep exported.

COMPLEX GENETICS

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