Sheep breeds
Arles Merinos

Troupeau de Mérinos d'Arles - Crédit : Maison de la Transhumance
Troupeau de Mérinos d’Arles - Crédit : Maison de la Transhumance
Summary of the article

 Traits and performances

Originating from the Crau plain, 90% of the Arles Merinos breed population is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region, but it has also spread to the Drôme and Isère départements.

The main farming system associated with this breed is characterized by a diet based almost exclusively on grazing. Flock management is organized around a cycle that alternates between a long transhumance from June to October throughout the Alps and grazing in the prairieland and transhumance routes of lower Provence and the lower Alps from October to June. Flocks move to new grazing areas as the vegetation changes.

The Arles Merinos ewe is known for its capacity to draw on energy reserves and thus cope with fluctuating feed availability (both in quantity and quality). The quality of merino fleece offers natural protection against harsh weather conditions (rain, cold, heat waves) in the mountains, but also during the wintering season in Crau.

Its herd instinct facilitates management in large flocks counting several thousand heads: it features one of the largest flock sizes of all breeds (700 animals on average). The mating period generally takes place before flocks move to highland pastures and rangeland, but a natural capacity for out-of-season lambing makes a second mating period possible, called "repassing", while returning from the mountains.

Lambing can occur at different times of the year in varying weather conditions, which results in very diverse productions, ranging from milk-fed lamb to finishing lamb.


Genetic selection primarily focuses on the male line and is based on parents’ evaluation: rams are selected based on their parents’ performance.

The main objectives of the breeding program are to preserve breed characteristics (general morphology of the animal, horn qualities, wool quality and fineness, hardiness, capacity for out-of-season lambing), to improve maternal qualities, suckling abilities and ewe prolificacy, and finally scrapie resistance.


Key figures

  • 260,000 ewes
  • 18 flocks under official performance recording system
  • 13,053 ewes under on-farm official performance recording system
  • 715 artificial inseminations
  • Adult ewe weight:
    60 kg
  • Adult ram weight:
    70 to 90 kg
  • Prolificacy after natural estrus: 1.2
  • 30-day weight (singleton male): 12.1 kg

Results of on-farm performance recording system 2014 - Institut de l’Elevage & Races de France



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