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Punchbowl marks a century of ram breeding

Posted by Christina On February - 7 - 2016

Published in Central Rural Life Dec 9 2015

Henry Andrew Punchbowl

Legacy . . . Henry Andrew set the standard for Southdown rams with the likes of this champion. This image was painted from a photograph from the 1960s and hangs in the Punchbowl homestead.

A century of ram breeding has been celebrated at North Otago’s Punchbowl Farm.

Doug and Jeannie Brown have been living at the property near Maheno since 1989, continuing the family farming business established by Mr Brown’s maternal grandfather, Henry Andrew, in 1915.

Mr Andrew spent 70 years on the land, crafting a reputation as a breeder of exceptional Southdown sheep.

In a 1977 edition of N.Z. Meat & Wool, writer R.M. Moir said ‘‘. . .it would be very hard to place anyone above Mr H.J. Andrew in the field of improving New Zealand’s livestock’’.

‘‘His contribution to our farm production, through his work of improvement in Southdown sheep, has been of tremendous importance and must place him among the greatest sheep breeders seen in New Zealand,’’ the article said.

It credited Mr Andrew for keeping this country at the top of the world export lamb market.

‘‘Breeders from all over New Zealand clamoured to buy Henry Andrew’s famous sheep and the the ‘Punchbowl’ type became the standard aimed at by all successful breeders.’’

The flock was founded with ewes from H. Pannett and J.B. Reid, and rams imported from England.

Mr Andrew dominated sheep shows for decades. Even after he stopped exhibiting his stock, championships were won by their progeny.

Punchbowl rams set world record prices for Southdowns at the Feilding Stud Ram Fair in the 1940s and 1950s. From 1964, when Mr Andrew began holding his own annual sale at the farm, the prices paid were often the highest of the year for the breed.

Punchbowl sheep were exported to England, the United States, Australia, and Japan.

Mr Brown said his grandfather was ‘‘a perfectionist’’, with the farm immaculately tidy. Most of the fence posts on the property were painted white, which was possible in times of abundant labour.

‘‘He was a bit of a legend.’’

Mr Andrew dispersed his Southdown stud in 1978 and his Poll Dorset stud about 1984.

When the Browns moved into the Punchbowl homestead, they continued to develop the Suffolk stud they had already founded. They also breed Poll Dorsets.

‘‘Suffolk and Poll Dorset rams are dominant breeds in the Central Progeny Test for outstanding growth to weaning with 15 out of the top 25 sires being from these breeds,’’ Mr Brown said.

‘‘We have concentrated on breeding medium-framed, thick, hardier Suffolks and Poll Dorsets without compromising growth.’’

The Browns have crossed both the Suffolk and Poll Dorset with Texel to produce lambs that perform well in areas with dry summers. They mature early and are hardy and high-yielding.

Today’s Punchbowl rams are the progeny of more than 1000 SIL (Sheep Improvement Ltd) recorded ewes, with only the top 30% retained for sale.
Most clients are in South Canterbury and North and East Otago’s eastern dryland, where conditions are similar to Punchbowl’s.

Mr Brown said sheep farming got harder as ewe numbers dropped, but ‘‘big production gains’’ in recent decades had helped to hold up the industry in terms of meat output.

‘‘I’d like to think it will stabilise.’’

The Browns planned to continue breeding rams, but were also branching out by investing in the North Otago Irrigation Company’s expansion. A block of land near Totara would be watered from September next year with two centre-pivots.

The land use was not yet decided, but could include more lamb finishing and beef grazing.

Mr Brown is standing down after 14 years as a director of the Alliance Group meat processing cooperative when its annual meeting is held in Oamaru on December 17.

You can read more about Punchbowl here in our history pages

Farm holds long family history

Posted by Christina On June - 27 - 2012
Omakau Southdown Breeder Donny Maclean

Omakau Southdown breeder Donny Maclean with some of the sheep on display during a New Zealand Southdown southern tour.

The Maclean family, of Omakau, will next year mark 60 years of breeding Southdown sheep.

Don Maclean started the Bellfield Southdown stud in 1953 and the stud now encompasses 120 ewes.

Bellfield was one of 11 properties visited during the New Zealand Southdown southern tour which was hosted in Otago and Southland last week.

The property is farmed by Donny and Cathy Maclean, their daughter Kate, and Mr Maclean’s parents, Don and Win.

All five contributed to the running of the farm, with a small amount of casual labour employed for lamb marking and haymaking.

Bellfield was taken up in 1889 by Donny Maclean’s great-great-grandfather, upon his arrival from the Orkney Islands.

The family landed at Port Chalmers, taking the train to Dunback and then walked to Omakau, a journey that took four days.

Mr Maclean’s great-great-grandfather went blind on the ship on the way to New Zealand and so his two sons and a daughter led him by the hand on the long journey. The elder son broke his leg three miles from their destination.

With some additions to the original property over the years, the Maclean family now farms 890ha, of which half is under flood irrigation and the remainder is unirrigated.

As well as the Southdown stud, a South Suffolk stud was added in 1986 and a Dorset Down stud in 1992.

The family runs 2150 crossbred ewes and 650 stud ewes, 670 crossbred hoggets, 165 stud ram hoggets and 180 stud ewe hoggets. They also run 1100 merino wether hoggets on the hill and 100 cattle.

A lot of emphasis was placed on performance recording of the stud sheep, Donny Maclean said.

“We want to know that we are able to present our clients with as much information as they require about the sires we produce.

“They can go away happy in the knowledge that the rams they have purchased are proven to give them maximum returns for their farming business,” he said.

Australian Southdown Breeder Graeme Dehnert

Australian Southdown breeder Graeme Dehnert has been enjoying his first trip to New Zealand.

About 45 people were on the tour, including some Australian visitors. Graeme Dehnert, from the Fernhill stud in Victoria, was on his first trip to New Zealand.

Last year, some New Zealand breeders visited his property as part of a tour and he decided it was an opportunity to catch up with people and see some sheep.

He is also returning in November for the Canterbury A and P Show.

Mr Dehnert has 180 stud ewes, along with a flock of commercial ewes, a cattle share-farming operation and some cropping on the 400ha property.

The Southdown stud was established by his father in 1930 and the breed was “in the blood”.

He won champion Southdown ram at the Royal Melbourne Show last year.

Southland Southdown Breeders Club chairman Rob Hall believed the breed was in good heart in New Zealand.

Describing it as “go-ahead”, he said there was a lot of potential, especially for breeding early lambs. Getting lambs away early was “money in the bank”.

Ram sales had gone well this year and it was encouraging to see some new studs being established.

The first Southdown stud flock in New Zealand was founded in 1863.