Chennai: Its wool is used for making carpets and the Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute will soon start large-scale breeding and research work on the Avikalin variety of animals, a senior official said.
"We are planning to breed and rear Avikalin sheep variety in a big way. The sheep's wool is used for making carpets. We will bring around 300 sheep from our headquarters in Rajasthan to our farm," A.S. Rajendiran, Principal Scientist and Officer-in-Charge at CSWRI's Southern Regional Research Centre, told IANS.
Established in 1965 in the scenic Mannavanur, around 35 kilometres from Kodaikanal, the centre rears and breeds only sheep. Till two years ago, it also bred and reared giant-sized rabbits of the white and black varieties.
According to Rajendiran, there are currently around 82 Avikalin sheep and around 500 Bharat Merino sheep, whose fine wool is used for making shawls and other items.
The Bharat Merino sheep was developed by crossbreeding indigenous Chokla and Nali sheep breeds with Rambouillet and Merino rams.
"The male sheep yields four kg fur while that of the female sheep is three kg. Out of three kg fur one can get 1.25 kg wool yarn. The annual yield of wool is around two tonnes at the centre," Rajendiran said, adding that the centre, on a pilot basis, had approached the textile mills to weave woollen items like shawls.
If sufficient funds are made available for women's self-help groups (SHGs) then they can market the woollen yarn, Rajendiran said.
The centre also sells male sheep to farmers for breeding, and helps them in maintaining the farms and health of the animals.
In addition, sheep dung is sold at a subsidised rate to agriculture farmers for use as manure.
The sheep at the centre graze in around 150 acres of meadow and also receive a special pellet feed.
Referring to breeding of giant rabbits, he said the activity has come to a halt with the government ban two years ago.
There are around 100 giant-sized white and black rabbits at the centre.
According to Rajendiran, broiler rabbit breeding was an important activity prior to the ban.
Each Soviet Chinchilli rabbit would grow up to weigh around five kg.
Meanwhile, the centre is attracting tourists in small numbers who come to see the sheep and the rabbits.
"We started to collect an entry fee of Rs 20 since last year. With its green meadows, the centre is also an attractive place for film shooting," Rajendiran added.