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Farmers discuss the benefits of Southdowns on Southern Tour

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On May - 17 - 2021

Courtesy ODT Rural News – Article and photos by Shawn McAvinue 

A tour of Southern farms running Southdown sheep featured discussions about hogget lambing and the traits of the breed farmers must “protect at all costs”.

About 40 people from throughout the country attended the Southdown Sheep Society of New Zealand’s national southern tour last week.

Tour stops included Don Murray’s Riverside stud in Waitahuna, about 10km southeast of Lawrence. Southern Southdown Breeders Club member Roger Keach, of Waihola, started proceedings by quizzing the visitors.

“Who played at two test matches — All Blacks and New Zealand Kiwis — on the same day in Auckland in 1946?” Visitors pondered the question as Mr Murray introduced himself and talked about his system breeding Southdowns on his 550ha farm.

He talked about lambing Southdown hoggets.

“I don’t like skiting but I reckon I’ve just about nutted this hogget lambing — it’s not without its fish-hooks but lambing late seems to help with survival and lambing problems,” Mr Murray said.

He had sold “quite a few lambs for hogget mating” and it had been “working really good” for his clients.

A client in the district had success on his first attempt at hogget lambing.

“Out of 180 lambs, he got 150 on the truck at 17.5kg, so if we can aim to do that, you’re starting to make some real money.”

When he started hogget lambing it was a “balls- up”.

“You’d have a good hogget and you’d pull the lamb out and it would wander away and be buggered but now our sheep have improved and I’ve become a bit of a convert.” Most of the improvements were due to providing quality feed to the hoggets.

“You can blame the ram all you like but if that hogget’s not there … ”

His system included lambing in mid-September and spreading fertiliser in November, in a bid to fatten the lambs and get them to the meatworks sooner.

“That seems to be working pretty good.” The Southdown traits he believed farmers should “protect at all costs” was its ability to mature early, thrive in tough weather conditions, the uniformity of the breed and its ease of lambing.

The first trait he looked for when selecting a ewe lamb was the condition of its feet and its ability to “stand up tall and strong”.

The second trait was its “head cover”, he said.

A topic of discussion was how much wool to remove from the head of a Southdown and when to do it to give it the best chance of survival.

A North Canterbury farmer on the tour said the first trait he looked for when selecting for improvements was the ability of a ewe to produce milk for her lambs.

Consequently, recording weaning weights was important to make future ewe selection decisions, he said.

Another topic Mr Murray raised for discussion was whether switching from conventional tagging to DNA tagging could increase lambing per centages.

If a twin or a triplet lamb was tagged conventionally, it could result in its mother abandoning it and impacting on survival rates.

“The ewes are doing better as I’m [conventional] tagging, but I am thinking quite seriously of doing DNA tagging.”

The only part of DNA tagging which “scares” him was upsetting any long-term clients by switching tagging method. “That makes me nervous,” Mr Murray said.

Club member John Macaulay, of Timaru, said he had been breeding Southdown sheep for more than 60 years and was on a tour of Riverside stud nine years ago.

“In those nine years you’ve improved out of sight, no doubt. You have some magnificent ewes.”

Other tour stops included the Lammermoor Stud in the Maniototo, Merrydowns stud in Waikoikoi, Lilliesleaf Stud in Waikaka, Aniwaniwa Stud in Pomahaka, Otepuni Stud in Invercargill and Mt Annan Stud in Waikoikoi.

The answer to Mr Keach’s brainteaser: the Mount Roskill Brass Band.

 

Southdown ram takes top prize at Little River

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On February - 20 - 2021

North Canterbury sheep genetics came out on top at Little River last month.

John and Stacey Burrows of Burrows Genetics, from Oxford with their supreme champion sheep

John and Stacey Burrows of Burrows Genetics, from Oxford with their supreme champion sheep

John and Stacey Burrows of Burrows Genetics, from Oxford, won supreme champion sheep at the Banks Peninsula A&P Show on Saturday, January 23, with a six-tooth Southdown ram.

“We won it in 2017 at Little River with a Dorset Down ram. We like coming over here. It’s a good little show and very well run,” Mr Burrows said.

The champion ram was bought from Lincoln farmer Brent Macaulay, and the ram’s daughter, a two-tooth Southdown ewe, claimed all breeds champion ewe.

One of Mr Burrow’s Dorset Downs also won all breeds champion ram lamb, to cap off a good start to the New Year.

“It makes the early start worth it,” Mrs Burrows said.

The Burrows family entered 21 sheep to help boost sheep entry numbers to 190.

“The entries closed before Christmas and they were slow coming in, so [show junior vice-president] Ben Butterick put out a message saying ‘we’ve got no entries’, so we made sure we had a good team,” Mr Burrows said.

The Burrows have 100 Southdown, 100 Dorset Down and 30 Suffolk stud ewes.

“I’ve had a good run with the Dorset Downs and when I got together with Stacey, she decided we needed some Southdowns as well, so they’re her thing really .

“I’m a stickler for the Dorset Downs really, but they’ve all got their attributes. The Southdowns, we sell a lot of them for hogget mating and they’re going really well.

“We’ve got a sheep conveyor business and a lot of places we go to use Suffolks,” he said.

The Suffolk stud has been established for the couple’s 13-month-old daughter Holly.

Stud sheep are in Mr Burrow’s blood, as his father Tom Burrows, the New Zealand Sheepbreeders’ Association president, has been breeding sheep since the 1970s, and his great-uncle Tug Burrows was a well-known Corriedale breeder.

Mr Burrows was pleased to be back to showing sheep and catching up with farmers, after some shows were cancelled last year due to Covid-19.

“We’ve got a year to catch up on now and have a look at everyone else’s sheep. We were at home looking at our sheep the whole time.”

Sheep convener Dave Butterick was pleased with the response, after an uncertain year.

While entries were down compared to last January, there was no feature breed this time, which tended to boost entries.

“Last year was one to forget, so it’s just good to get back to having some shows.”

Southdown sheep entries were strong, while the black and coloured sheep classes were well-supported and there were good numbers of Poll Dorsets and Suffolks, he said.

Charlee and Ellavetta steal the show

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On February - 10 - 2021

Charlee Hazlett and Ellavetta are not your usual pair of best friends.

One is a 5-year-old girl, and the other is a Southdown sheep.

But nothing will stand in the way of the bond these two share.

The pair were glued at the hip as they wandered through the Palmerston Waihemo A&P Show — where Ellavetta won first prize in the large pet section — on Saturday.

Charlee Hazlett, of Hokonui, won best large pet with her Southdown sheep Ellavetta at the Palmerston Waihemo A&P Show on Saturday

Charlee Hazlett, of Hokonui, won best large pet with her Southdown sheep Ellavetta at the Palmerston Waihemo A&P Show on Saturday. PHOTOS: KAYLA HODGE

Charlee was over the moon with her prized sheep’s victory, and said her favourite thing about her pet was the way “she follows me around”.
Her trick to getting Ellavetta into shape was simple.

“I just give her some nuts,” Charlee said.

They travelled from Hokonui to take part in the show, and would venture around other Otago and Southland A&P shows in the coming months.

A record was set at the Canterbury A&P Association elite ram and ewe fair on Friday.

Blenheim farmer Christina Jordan (left) was thrilled to sell her Southdown ram hogget for $17,000, which set a new record for the highest price at the Canterbury A&P Association elite ram fair on Friday.

Blenheim farmer Christina Jordan (left) was thrilled to sell her Southdown ram hogget for $17,000, which set a new record for the highest price at the Canterbury A&P Association elite ram fair on Friday.

Blenheim farmer Christina Jordan topped the sale, picking up a Canterbury A&P Association record price of $17,000 for her Southdown ram hogget, which was sold to Lachie Elliot, of Lammermoor Station in Central Otago.

The record beat three sales $16,000 paid in recent years, twice by Oxford farmer Dave Gilliespie, and one in partnership with North Canterbury farmer Phil Williams to buy a ram hogget off Ms Jordan seven years ago.

A regular at the Canterbury A&P Association ram fair, Ms Jordan had brought and sold several top priced rams in recent years.

“Buying quality usually pays off in the long run, especially with rams.

“If they’ve got good figures, there’s certainly demand for that overall package.

“We just try to get the right sire to our selected ewes to hopefully maximise their strengths and minimise their weaknesses.”

Top stud breeders were looking for conformation, soundness and overall balance, she said.

Ms Jordan said she bought the ram hogget’s sire in partnership with Masterton farmer Lucy Thornycroft and “he was a lot cheaper, he’s been a very good investment”.

Carrfields stud stock agent Callum Dunnett said Ms Jordan’s top priced ram hogget was “a magnificent animal, as good a ram as you’ll ever see”.

“This ram is quite unique. To see a 1.1-foot score, which is the best, is extremely rare and he’s got terrific figures to go with him and he’s the perfect package as an animal.”

Overall, Ms Jordan had a mixed result, as her other two Southdown ram hoggets were passed in.

Stock agents reported a mixed result overall.

“It’s been patchy,” PGG Wrightson livestock genetics auctioneer John McKone said.

While the Suffolk sheep had a good sale, the other breeds struggled, he said.

“The Suffolks probably had the best of the market and were able to tap into more of the buying power.

“The morning was difficult and it was probably underpinned by the commercial clients.”

The low wool price was having an impact, as well as lower ewe numbers and several stud breeders were now hosting their own on-farm ram sales, Mr McKone said.

The day’s second-highest price was $10,000 paid for a Suffolk ram hogget vendored by Eric Ross of Collie Hills Partnership, at Hakataramea in South Canterbury.

The ram was sold to a syndicate comprising North Canterbury farmers Jimmy Gardiner and Charles Miller-Brown, along with Symon Howard, of Lawrence.

Courtesy ODT Farming News – Article and photos by David Hill

Sheep and breeders flock to Amberley

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On November - 4 - 2020

There were large numbers of sheep at the Amberley Domain on Saturday.

More than 240 sheep were entered, including lambs and flock sheep, and Amberley A&P Show sheep section convener Jimmy Gardiner said it was the biggest sheep show in Amberley for at least 10 years.

“We haven’t had these numbers for a good number of years. We’ve got more 50 Corriedales, 40 Dorset Downs and good numbers in all the breeds, which is a credit to all the breeders for coming to support our little show.”

Sheep were transported from as far south as Oamaru and as far north as Blenheim.
The Gardiner family has been supporting the local Amberley show for generations, with Mr Gardiner farming at Broomfield, near Amberley, running 1800 commercial ewes and 300 Suffolk and South Suffolk stud ewes and 80 beef cows.

Waipara farmers Keith and Ruth Berry won all breeds champion ewe hogget with a young Texel ewe.

“She’s a really well-balanced sheep, good colouring, good on her feet and legs and she’s a good all-round, clean ewe hogget,” Mr Berry said.

The couple has been breeding Texels since the 1990s and were regular supporters of the Amberley show, with Mrs Berry stewarding for the pet lamb classes.

Phil Williams, of Amberley, congratulates Christina Jordan, of Blenheim, on winning the all breeds commercial ram hogget competition, presenting a trophy donated by Mr Williams’ parents.

Phil Williams, of Amberley, congratulates Christina Jordan, of Blenheim, on winning the all breeds commercial ram hogget competition, presenting a trophy donated by Mr Williams’ parents.

Blenheim farmer Christina Jordan is a regular winner at the New Zealand Agricultural Show with her Southdown sheep, but she has never won a trophy as big as the one she won for the all breeds commercial ram hogget competition on her first time showing at Amberley.

The trophy was presented by Amberley farmer and fellow Southdown breeder Phil Williams, whose parents, Bryan and Trish Williams, of Blenheim, donated the trophy.

The Willowhaugh Southdown Stud won the all breeds elite ram hogget competition.

Normally Ms Jordan would be preparing for her local Marlborough A&P Show this weekend and the Christchurch show the following week, but both have been cancelled.

“Without the Christchurch show we will move on to ram sales. Normally our life evolves around the Christchurch show for a week, so it will be a bit different this year,” Ms Jordan said.

“But it’s good to fly the Southdown flag.”

The Willowhaugh Southdown sheep will be back in Canterbury later this month, with three ram hoggets entered in the Canterbury A&P Association elite ram fair on November 27.

Corriedale sheep was the feature breed at the show with a special ribbon for the champion Corriedale ram hogget entered in the show going to West Melton farmer Robin Wilson.

Meanwhile, the top sheep from New Zealand Corriedale Council’s annual production ram and ewe hogget competitions, normally displayed at the New Zealand Agricultural Show, were on display at Amberley.

North Canterbury farmer Mark “Chief” Sidey, who is council president, won the production ram hogget class, while Southbridge farmer Gordon Gilbert came out on top in the ewe hogget class.

Flying start for stud’s new ram

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On August - 24 - 2020

By Sally Rae

Jess (18), Jack (17), Blair and Sally (holding Stella, who is nearly 3) Robertson, at home at the Merrydowns stud in West Otago.

Jess (18), Jack (17), Blair and Sally (holding Stella, who is nearly 3) Robertson, at home at the Merrydowns stud in West Otago.

Back in January, some unusual cargo arrived on the tarmac at Dunedin Airport.

It was a Southdown ram, Kirkdale 36-18, which was flown on a passenger flight from Auckland, having previously made the trip over the Tasman from the Kirkdale stud in Tasmania.

The ram was bought by West Otago stud breeders Blair and Sally Robertson, of the Merrydowns stud, at Waikoikoi, who have the world’s largest Southdown stud.

Mr Robertson judged at a show in Geelong two years ago and was greatly impressed by the Kirkdale entries — Australia’s second-oldest Southdown stud, which was established in 1884 and is now run by fifth-generation Andrew Hogarth.

The team — from lambs to rams and ewes — was “awesome” and, while there, Mr Robertson offered to buy two of the rams, but the deal did not work out.

A Southdown ram, imported from Australia by Blair and Sally Robertson, arrives on the tarmac at Dunedin Airport in January.

A Southdown ram, imported from Australia by Blair and Sally Robertson, arrives on the tarmac at Dunedin Airport in January.

He told Mr Hogarth to keep them in mind for next year and, when he rang him in September last year, Mr Hogarth sent him some videos, photographs and pedigrees, and he selected three rams.

Of those three, Mr Hogarth was keeping two for himself and offering the third at his on-farm sale. So Mr Robertson asked if he could buy 36 — one of his keeper rams — which he felt was the pick of them.

Initially reluctant, Mr Hogarth asked for a week to think about it before agreeing to sell the ram and Mr Robertson told him to put him “on the next plane from Melbourne”.

Kirkdale was not a big stud but Mr Hogarth was a “real stockman” who “thinks along the same lines as us”, Mr Robertson, a fourth-generation stud breeder, said.

The ram was the best he had seen since he paid $14,000 for a ram from Brent Macaulay’s Maclaka stud in 2014. It was sired by an Australian ram he liked, Mr Robertson said.

His latest acquisition had “a decent set of feet and legs to start with”, along with the basic commercial traits — good hindquarter, muscling, depth and spring of rib.

Despite not seeing the ram in the flesh until he arrived at the airport, Mr Robertson said he had seen enough from the videos and also from Mr Hogarth’s other sheep.

“I’m really visual — I see lots of things other people don’t see.”

Kirkdale 36-18.

Kirkdale 36-18.

It was first sheep to be flown into Dunedin for about 20 years, and it was a “bloody comical” scene when the crate was being unloaded.

 

Travelling had no effect on the ram.

“You wouldn’t have known he had been anywhere. He’s that sort of sheep — just a grunter.”

He put the ram out with 185 ewes and he marked them all and came out of the ewes “as good as he went in”.

He believed the ram was going to be good for the sheep industry, particularly Southdowns, giving a straight outcross with a pedigree that was all Australian blood.

With the Maclaka sire, the Merrydowns stud — which has more than 700 ewes — had Australian blood, so it was “like with like” and not just a random selection.

He was a very similar sheep to the Merrydowns sheep and that was the key to try to find something like that.

It was not often in a lifetime you saw a ram that could make a significant difference and, if you did, then you should buy it, he said.

He was looking forward to seeing how he bred and it was likely the stud would retain five or six sons.

The benefits of using Southdowns included early maturing and the early mean kill; all their commercial lambs were killed at 20kg before lockdown, meaning there was room either to feed the ewes more or buy cattle or store lambs.

But lockdown was a major problem for a lot of farmers who still had lambs on and could not get them killed, Mr Robertson said.

The early mean kill date was critical for large commercial operations to get as many lambs as possible off the ewe as soon as possible.

Southdowns were ideal for hogget mating — “if you go to the trouble of putting your hoggets in lamb, you might as well get a decent lamb” — while the ewes were also very efficient over the winter.

He and his wife — who also have a Romney stud with about 1000 ewes, plus commercial ewes — were passionate about the sheep industry and the breeding industry, he said.

For them, it had to be “a package” — “there’s got to be figures but there’s also got to be a sheep. You can’t have one without the other,” Mr Robertson said.

A lot of modern sheep breeds had never been tried and tested; Southdowns had been culled for generations for those commercial traits of muscling and early maturing, the same as the Romneys which had been culled for centuries for their traits, he said.

In the 1950s, there were about 1200 stud Southdown flocks in New Zealand but they went out of fashion later on; there were now about 63 flocks and they were growing in popularity. Australia had also seen a resurgence in interest.

He believed there was a better type of Southdown in Australia, one that was more traditional, with more spring of rib and sounder, Mr Robertson said.

The family — which includes daughters Jess (18) and Stella (nearly 3) and son Jack (17) — were also “bloody passionate” about wool and took pride in producing quality fibre. Their Romney ewes shore about 7.5kg.

But the state of the wool industry was a “bloody disaster” and he implored consumers to stick to natural fibres such as wool, silk and cotton, rather than using synthetic products.

There were generations of the urban population who knew nothing about wool and were not aware of the benefits of it; they needed to be educated about those benefits and synthetic products taken off the shelf. If people were genuinely interested in the environment, then they should be demanding natural fibres, Mr Robertson said.

 

Memory of loyal supporter honoured at show

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On April - 2 - 2020

North Otago A&P Association stalwart Dave McClea was remembered during a special event at this year’s show.

The 157th North Otago show included a Southdown feature show in memory of Mr McClea who died in May last year.

He and his wife Pam had run their Charleston Southdown stud at their sheep and cropping farm at Kakanui.

When he retired from farming in 2002, Mr McClea’s dispersal sale at the showgrounds attracted buyers from across New Zealand. Three of the ewes equalled the record Southdown price of $1800.

Mr McClea’s service to the association, which began in 1980, was acknowledged with life membership in 2007.

While helping with the trade space, the plough he helped design for burying electric cables for powered sites was dubbed the ‘‘Davy Dig’’.

Hook breeder Chris Medlicott was delighted to win the David Simpson Cup with his Southdown ewe lamb, the breed featured in memory of the late Dave McClea.

Hook breeder Chris Medlicott was delighted to win the David Simpson Cup with his Southdown ewe lamb, the breed featured in memory of the late Dave McClea.

Hook (South Canterbury) Southdown breeder Chris Medlicott, who won the David Simpson Cup with his ewe lamb, said it was ‘‘extra special’’ because of the connection with Mr McClea.

‘‘He was a good guy.’’

The two had bought rams from each other over the years, Mr Medlicott said.

He believed the standard of sheep at the show was better than he had seen in Oamaru for a while.

‘‘Everything’s pretty good with the sheep industry at the moment.’’

Retired breeder and butcher Butch Gordon, who presented the Wool Cup to Five Forks’ Jeff Thompson for his Border Leicester ram, said it was a great example of the breed.

And Maheno Suffolk breeder Kerry Dwyer, who won the Meat Cup, was ‘‘doing a great job to keep the meat breed going’’.

Young people should show their livestock as a learning process, looking at other people’s breeds to compare what they were doing and noting what they needed to do to reach those standards, Mr Gordon said.

The supreme sheep award was presented by South Canterbury judge John Macaulay to Mr Dwyer for his Suffolk ewe.

‘‘There are some very good sheep here — great examples of the respective breeds. They’re a credit to you guys who have stuck at it.

‘‘We’ve got encourage young breeders … us old buggers have got to go out of our way to encourage these young buggers on board.’’

New Southdown Australia Website

Posted by Christina On March - 4 - 2020

Southdown Australia

The new Southdown Australia website has been launched and includes contact details, breed standards and more information.

You can check it out for yourself here https://www.southdownaustralia.com.au/

Southdown Named Supreme Sheep of Gore Show

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On February - 4 - 2020

A large crowd gathered to watch the sheep judging which comprised many breeds from the traditional Romneys, Perendales, Southdowns and Suffolks through to Dorpers and Merinos.

The Gore sheep show has become so popular that it was second only to the New Zealand A&P Show in Canterbury.

A Southdown ram, owned jointly by Rob Hall, Graham Calder and Andrew Christey, was named the supreme sheep of the show with Blair Robertson’s Romney ram coming in a very close second.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison praised breeders for the quality line up of sheep at the show.

“It’s a great demonstration of sheep and why our industry is so strong.

“The past decade has been the most profitable in sheep farming in 60 years and that’s off the back of some great genetics,” Morrison said.

Morrison assured sheep farmers that wool would eventually make a comeback.

Brothers and their stock in limelight at Winton A&P Show

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On January - 22 - 2020
Alister Hall, left, and his brother Rob had a day to remember at the Winton A&P Show.

Alister Hall, left, and his brother Rob had a day to remember at the Winton A&P Show.

Alister Hall, his brother Rob and daughter Teegan had a special family moment at the Winton A&P Show on Saturday.

For the first time, the brothers each had a supreme winner at the same show. Alister’s Friesian cow won the Supreme Dairy Animal Award and Rob’s Southdown ram was judged Supreme Sheep. The day got better for Alister when the Friesian was named the show’s Supreme Exhibit.

Teegan added to the occasion by receiving a $1000 first year agricultural scholarship from the show organisation.

 

[Read full article here]