Jane Smith has a passion for Perendale sheep.

Growing up on her parent’s sheep farm in North Otago she now runs a 9,000-stock unit operation called Newhaven Perendales with her husband, Blair. The Smith’s three children are also the 5th generation to live on the North Otago-based farm.

Jane has a self-confessed ‘obsession with agriculture’ and her success both on and off the farm is evidence of this. Before returning to the farm she was awarded the New Zealand Young Rural Achiever Award and the Sir Ronald Trotter Gold Medal during her 10 years in agribusiness.

Back on the farm, continuing her family’s legacy of raising exceptional dual-purpose Perendale sheep is her focus. “We put equal weighting on having a great fleece and lamb product—why not produce the best possible fleece that you can?” she says.

With a stud flock as well, genetics are also critical. “At Newhaven, every single animal needs to perform both in the paddock and on paper—not one or the other—genotype and phenotype are both important, but physical conformation and performance are always our number one priority,” says Jane.

Jane is particularly proud of the Perendale fleece and is an advocate for the many benefits of New Zealand wool, including the fire safety attributes wool has over its synthetic counterparts.

As a former volunteer firefighter, Jane says she saw first-hand the differences in the damage a house with synthetic carpet sustained.

“Wool is naturally resistant to fire whereas synthetic carpets melt. The fumes from the synthetic carpet are actually very harmful hydrogen cyanide fumes; experts tell us that these fumes are even worse than the smoke itself,” says Jane.

Jane says the other benefits of wool for carpets inside the home are that it’s hypo-allergenic, easy to clean, improves indoor air quality and is naturally crush resistant. The Perendale fleece performs particularly well in high traffic areas such as hotels, due to its ‘bulk’ attributes. The fleece also sits at the finer end of the crossbred scale and because it has a natural whiteness, it’s easy to colour.

With these qualities it’s easy to understand Jane’s position on New Zealand wool. As a mother she points out that with a synthetic carpet, a crawling baby is spending a lot of time on a flooring that is the equivalent of tens-of-thousands of plastic bags. Further, synthetic carpet has added stain and fire-resistant treatments applied to it, which is another layer of toxic chemicals.

“Synthetic carpets have been marketed well, considering they are a product made of oil and plastic. There is a perception around the cost of wool carpet, but I do think people need to consider all the other benefits of wool and the fact that the upper end of synthetic carpet sits in the same price range as a wool carpet.

“Wool is energy efficient as it’s produced from renewable and natural resources—sheep need to be shorn, and it’s biodegradable. Also, wool is a 100% New Zealand made product. This is something that we value and need to make sure that today’s savvy global consumer does as well,” says Jane.