Lambs of a breed of sheep described as “the cutest in the world” were born in Australia for the first time, after the importation of embryos and semen from the UK.
Hailing from the Swiss Alps, the Valais black nose was traditionally bred for meat and wool, but its gentle appearance and temperament has since made it popular as a pet.
The breed has never been on Australian soil before, said Chief Biosecurity Officer Andrew Tongue of the Federal Department of Agriculture.
“The breed has now spread to Europe, UK and USA, and this year the first Valais reached Australia,” he said.
“Farmers and pet lovers have been keen to bring the Valais blacknose breed to Australia for many years. “
The embryos and sperm were imported to Australia this year by the specialist company Caprotek after filing a request with the department.
Strict biosecurity provisions had to be put in place because sheep genetic material can pose disease risks, including scrapie – the sheep equivalent of mad cow disease.
“After a long three-year process, complicated by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, the frozen embryos and sperm were approved by the department and were able to travel to Australia,” Tongue said.
“The importer was able to meet all of the biosecurity requirements to authorize the import, and as you can see from the photos, the result was well worth the effort. “