Southdown Sheep Society, NZ

"The sheep with an illustrious past and a very bright future"

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Annual Southdown Tour & AGM 2024

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On May - 19 - 2024
Group photo from Southdown Tour 2024

Group photo from Southdown Tour 2024 – click image for close-up

The Manwatu and Wairarapa Southdown Tour and AGM began at Palmerston North on the 6th May, 2024 with the late afternoon AGM and then a dinner at the Copthorne Hotel.

On Tuesday 7th May, we boarded a bus with  14 to start with and over the two day added a further two.  We left Palmerston North on a fine morning and went to Silverdale Stud – Diane and Janet Gray’s at Rongotea. We looked over a very good line of Stud sheep.  From there we then headed south towards Levin and looked at the Stud Flock of Cory Prouting. Again a very good line up of Stud Sheep, and also in the cattle yards some very good Hereford Cows.

Leaving there we headed back to  Massey University and had a very delicious lunch at Wharerata then onto the Massey Veterinary School and went through the large animal section with a very good female lecturer telling us about what is done as it is the Vet training section.  Leaving there it was over the Pahiatua track and onto the Wairarapa desert and arrived at Solway Park Hotel Masterton.

The following morning Wednesday 2nd May  and a good frost we again got onto the bus and went North East to Rob and Lucy Thorneycroft. Beautiful Autumn tones of the trees and the grape vines  and oh the country so dry.  We were welcomed by Lucy and and then able to look over their Stud. Great how good Southdown’s handle the dry conditions.  Another very good flock and they had some of their Stud Angus sale Bulls for the experts to walk through and comment on.  The Bulls were big strong animals and very quiet.

We waved them good-bye and headed south to Jill Baird’s Wiri flock.  Again a different line of very good sheep that were handling the very dry conditions well.

After Jill’s we went to the Gladstone Inn and after that we heading back to Solway and farewelled 8 of our group who climbed onto a mini bus that took them to Wellington to catch flights South.  The others of us came back to Palmerston North by car and farewelled each other there.

Even though there was not a large number on the Tour it was still a very happy gathering and as always hosts seem to think Southdown breeders are hungry and provide such nice food along the way.  Like the Southdown sheep we saw at the four studs we all went home in good condition.

To all who attended we thank Jill and Janet for  arranging and hosting the tour.

Central Southdown Breeders Club Day

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On November - 17 - 2021

Central Southdown Breeders Club day


Recently a successful Central Southdown Breeders Club day was held at the home of the Mapua Stud, Andrew and Louise Christey at Southbridge.

The aim was for breeders to bring their ram hoggets, that are entered in the Canterbury Ram Fair, or their own on farm sales that have the potential to be stud sires to be seen by everyone.

There were 38 rams on display, from Blenheim in the North, to Oamaru in the South, and about 40 people, including our New Zealand President, ( judging at the Canterbury A & P Sheep Event the following day) with a number of Stud stock agents also attending.

A fantastic lunch was provided by the Club.

Thanks go to Andrew and Louise for a great day.


Central Southdown Breeders Club day



Central Southdown Breeders Club day






Farmers discuss the benefits of Southdowns on Southern Tour

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On May - 17 - 2021
Group photo from 2021 Southdown Sheep Society tour to Southland

Group photo from 2021 Southdown Sheep Society Lower South Tour


Tour Report courtesy ODT Rural News – Article and photos below 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 Breaks Record

Posted by Christina On June - 21 - 2016
By Andrew Swallow

Big Money: This Clifton Downs Southdown ewe made $4400

A Southdown ewe fetched what breeders believe was a record price at a one-off auction during the breed society’s recent South Island tour.

The two-tooth from Chris and Shelley Medlicott’s Clifton Downs stud was bought for $4400 by central Canterbury breeder Andrew Christey and Gisborne’s Andrew Powdrell.

Christey said he wanted to introduce the ewe’s genetics to his Mapua stud flock at Southbridge and when he’d seen it and its twin at the Christchurch show he’d liked the phonotype too.

“I want her to produce rams that will work both commercially and stud-wise.

“Commercial rams are our bread and butter and her bloodlines are top-notch,” Christey said.

He and Powdrell agreed before the auction, conducted off-farm by PGG Wrightson at a lunch-stop on the tour, they would team-up to buy the ewe with Powdrell planning to take embryos for implantation in his Turiroa stud flock.

“There was no point us bidding against each other and it’s pleasing that the money will go to a good cause,” Christey noted, reflecting on auction proceeds going towards tour costs and research by the society.

Newly elected Southdown Sheep Society president Todd Armstrong dismissed the suggestion the donation aspect of the sale inflated the price.

“It was a genuine auction.

“We probably needed $1000 out of it for the tour. After that it was because the bidders genuinely wanted it.”

Happy Buyers. Andrew Powdrell and Andrew Christey were satisfied with their days work.

Another auction on the tour, held at John Macaulay’s Tahrua Stud, saw $2600 paid by Ian and Christina Jordan of Willowhaugh stud for a pick of a ewe lamb.

Again the proceeds went to the society.

“It was to raise funds to start investigating a combined approach to a recording scheme to benefit and involve all breeders,” Macauley said.

The work could help find the best genetics across the breed for traits such as growth, meat quality, cold tolerance and sound feet.

“We have to make things happen and continue to be proactive.

“The breed’s already renowned for its fast growth rate and number of lambs finished off their mothers and we need to keep building on that.”

Southdown NZ National Tour 2015

Posted by Christina On May - 17 - 2015

2013 Southdown NZ’s Northern Tour from 6-9th May

Posted by Christina On June - 22 - 2013
2013 NZ Northern Tour Group

2013 NZ Northern Tour Group

Around 40 breeders enjoyed the fantastic Northern hospitality on our Annual Tour & AGM in May.

Visit Photo Gallery

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.