The sheep breeds brought into New Zealand in recent years have been crossed with existing breeds to lift the number of lambs per ewe, increase growth rates, and improve carcass conformation.
This breed originated in the Netherlands and was released commercially in New Zealand in 1990. Texel-cross lambs are noted for their well-muscled and lean carcasses with a high meat-to-bone ratio. Wool weights are low, compared with traditional New Zealand breeds.
Native to Finland, the Finn or Finnish Landrace breed is highly fertile, with a lambing percentage around 260 (2.6 lambs per ewe). It was released in New Zealand in 1990 and is used for cross-breeding to produce more fertile ewes, which are then crossed with a terminal sire (a sire used to breed animals for meat, not for further breeding). The fleece is much finer, but also much lighter, than Romney wool.
The East Friesian is from northern Holland and Germany, where it was bred as a milking sheep. Its fecundity and milking ability make it useful for crossing to improve those traits in other breeds. The East Friesian was imported into New Zealand in 1992, but it was not released commercially until 1996.
The Wiltshire Horn is an ancient breed and was used in the development of various down breeds in 19th-century England. It is used for crossing to produce lambs with rapid growth rates and lean, heavy carcasses. The Wiltshire Horn was first introduced into New Zealand in 1972. It grows very little wool, and sheds its fleece annually.
In the early 2000s many sheep farmers moved away from individual breeds to take advantage of the various traits of different breeds. Cross-breeding has always been important in New Zealand, and this has been taken further to develop composite breeds. One example is the Kelso. The goal of its breeding programme is production, rather than appearance and structure.