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Sheep farming has always been a core industry in New Zealand. From 1856 to 1987, sheep farming was the most important agricultural industry in New Zealand - in fact, wool was the country's single most valuable export for 89 of the 112 years between 1856 and 1967. The combined income from wool and sheep meat dominated New Zealand's agricultural earnings from the mid-1880s until the late 1980s.

Currently there are 34.2m sheep in New Zealand, the lowest population in over 60 years, the reduction is the result of increased land used for dairying. There are approximately 19 different sheep breeds farmed in New Zealand, made up of: Borderdale, Border Leicester, Corriedale, Dorper, Dorset Down, Drysdale, East Friesian, English Leicester, Finnsheep, Hampshire, Lincoln, Oxford, Poll Dorset, Polwarth, Ryeland, Shropshire, South Suffolk, Suffolk and Texel.

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