Southdown Sheep Society, NZ

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

Archive for the ‘Breeders’ Category

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.

One of our newest Southdown Studs featured on Wonderwall!

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On May - 18 - 2024
Charlee Hazlett and Ellavetta - “not only adorable, but entrepreneurial’’

Charlee Hazlett and Ellavetta – “not only adorable, but entrepreneurial’’

Sometimes a sweet little story deserves big-time treatment.

So it proved with one of the most striking murals to emerge from this month’s South Sea Spray street art festival in Winton.

SwiftMantis (Mikal Carter) of Palmerston North, who in late 2022 painted the celebrated Strangs cat on Invercargill’s Esk St WEA building, has this time turned his talents to the story of young Charlee Hazlett and Ellavetta.

Charlee was just 4 when she and her little sister Greer were gifted pet lambs.

Charlee raised Ellavetta to be a prize-winner and now, at 8, she has a flock of 85, which she manages with Greer – officially registered as Hazlett Southdowns under C&G Hazlett.


Seeing herself up there on the wall – “it’s really cool’’, Charlee said.

She was also impressed that SwiftMantis managed to get Ellavetta’s wool just right.

“I go to St Thomas Aquinas in Winton and my class has just walked around all the paintings,’’ she said.

When they got to hers – “they really liked it’’.

Central Southland College principal Grant Dick said the project stood as a reminder of the community spirit and the importance of nurturing shared spaces.

“The incredible talent and creativity of the artists involved have not only brought beauty and vibrancy to our surroundings, but have also sparked a sense of pride amongst us all,’’ he said.

“I believe the breathtaking murals will become part of Winton’s identity and will have a lasting impact on our community.’’

Charlee Hazlett and lamb, Ellavetta in front of the mural in Winton.

Charlee Hazlett and lamb, Ellavetta in front of the mural in Winton.


New Zealand Agricultural Show: Southdown ewe the mother of all champions

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On November - 25 - 2023
A Southdown ewe bred by Christina Jordan at Willowhaugh Enterprises will take some beating after giving birth to quadruplets following a symmetrical sequence of lamb deliveries.

A Southdown ewe bred by Christina Jordan at Willowhaugh Enterprises will take some beating after giving birth to quadruplets following a symmetrical sequence of lamb deliveries.

A champion ewe is the mother of all mothers in the show ring.

The 2018-born ewe, 479-18, has produced near-perfect symmetry in her lambing sequence for the past four seasons, rounded out with a quartet of newborns in her latest effort, leading her to claim the Supreme Animal of the Show title at the New Zealand Agricultural Show.

As a ewe hogget, the Southdown ewe from the Jordan family’s Willowhaugh Enterprises delivered a single lamb, no mean feat for a first-time mother.

In year two she gave birth to twins and then triplets in her third lambing.

This season four lambs emerged, and the only minor gripe breeder Christina Jordan could come up with was the ewe-to-ram lamb ratio could have been reversed.

“She’s got three ewe lambs and one ram lamb though, so maybe she hasn’t quite got the symmetry right.

“Maybe she wants to increase the flock size quickly, I don’t know.

“I think she could go back the other way now, probably to triplets or twins.

“I would be quite happy as a lot can go wrong from the time they scan them and find they are having four.”

Virtually self-selected by this record, Jordan placed her in the New Zealand Agricultural Show and was rewarded with a red ribbon in the Southdown ewe over 30 months with lambs at foot class, before going on to win the supreme title.

“This is the first time she’s been in any show actually and amazing, she’s done it all herself.

“She’s reared all her lambs so now she’s had 13 of them and she’s 5 years old.

“She’s just one of the team who does the hard work and comes up with the goods.”

By the end of the first day, the show ring debutante added Supreme Champion Southdown, All Breeds Super Ewe, Supreme Meat Sheep of the Show and the big one – Supreme Animal of the Show to cap it all off.

Her quadruplets weighed in last week at an impressive total of 134 kilograms.

Jordan runs the stud with her nearly 97-year-old father, Ian, at Woodbourne near Blenheim airport.

She said the ewe had earned her money, as her daughter of a few years ago also won the 18-month to 30-month class at the show with twins, after lambing the previous year as a hogget.

Top mothering skills aside, she passes on her genetics freely as a ram lamb of hers was used for breeding within the stud.

Her high SIL figures for maternal, udder, meat and terminal values also stack up.

“The quads were born at the back paddock and I keep them near Dad’s house so he can keep an eye on the triplets. We only had nine triplets and one quad.

“He’s just in raptures over it and only has rose-tinted glasses for her.

“I think it’s quite emotional seeing a ewe with her four lambs and she’s had them all, she’s reared them all and we haven’t had to do anything.

“So to get them to the show all alive and relatively even is a real credit to her.”

Over time, he’s observed the ewe managing the feeding of her progeny two at a time before rotating the other pair half an hour later.

Her ewe lambs will end up as flock replacements and the ram lamb may eventually be sold to free up bloodlines.

As well as the 180 pedigree Southdown ewes and 40 hoggets, the family enterprise also runs a commercial flock, jersey dairy cattle, a Charolais stud and a vineyard at home base.

The Jordans’ Southdowns are sold at the Canterbury Elite Ram Fair and for the past three years, they have run an online ram sale in November.

Jordan said she’d had a quad-birthing ewe once before and had no desire to raise this to quintuplets next year.

A&P show a way to remember ancestors – Neville Moorhead

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On October - 28 - 2023
Southdown sheep breeder Neville Moorhead, 82, has gone through the ranks from being a sheep exhibitor, steward, convener, president, life member and patron at the Ellesmere A&P Show.

Southdown sheep breeder Neville Moorhead, 82, has gone through the ranks from being a sheep exhibitor, steward, convener, president, life member and patron at the Ellesmere A&P Show. PHOTO: TIM CRONSHAW

A Southbridge farmer whose great, great uncle competed at the Ellesmere A&P Association’s first show in 1871 is keeping the family legacy alive, writes Tim Cronshaw.

Neville Moorhead stretches easily over a fence before running a practiced eye over a small mob of Southdown rams to make his final cut.

The powerfully-framed stud sires cluster together before jostling to a corner of the front paddock at Holly Farm in Canterbury’s Southbridge.

It’s the day before the Ellesmere A&P Show and the 82-year-old, who turns over another year in December, shows no sign of nerves.

That’s to be expected from a veteran sheep exhibitor, who was in a pram for his first show and hasn’t missed one since.

The show’s honorary life member and patron can trace his family’s connection to the first event in 1871.

Staged in a borrowed paddock, a Moorhead was among the exhibitors.

“The first show ever held was in Southbridge township and one of the relatives, a great, great uncle, something like that, exhibited a pair of Clydesdales and was successful in winning with them. That’s where it came from and I suppose where I got a bit determined. You try to keep things going for as long as you can. It hasn’t been unbroken all the same.”

The 150-year link is a remarkable effort by one family.

His grandfather, Hugh Galpin, exhibited sheep with his uncle, Jack Galpin, as far as Timaru, travelling with their stock entries, mainly pigs. Larger pigs in crates were stacked from the bottom with lighter pigs in smaller crates on top and they would leave at about 2am for a day at the show.

Another grandfather, James Moorhead, achieved 50 years as steward in Ellesmere’s Jersey section.

His father, W.E. “Mac” Moorhead was president in 1960 and a patron and his brother, Murray, a class steward in the sheep section for 50 years.

Mr Moorhead said his family were keen stock people and it was only natural they wanted to exhibit animals.

“My mother lived up here and the family never had a car, but she used to exhibit sewing and cooking.

“She would ride the push bike down [eight kilometres] to the show in the morning with the basket in the front full of the cooking and that sort of thing.

“So there’s been that connection with the show for a long time. My family through the Galpins, Hurfords and the Moorheads have obviously been keen all the way through and keen on the stock breeding side so I guess that’s how it’s evolved.”

A competitive streak also explains the long run year-in and year-out.

Mr Moorhead is well past the 50-year mark. In his first year as the class steward in the Ryeland — an old English sheep breed — section he was probably 14 or 15-years-old and has been involved ever since. He was convener of the sheep committee a year after the show’s centenary in 1970 and carried this on for many years until becoming president for the 1988 show on a day of howling winds.

Neville Moorhead, left, with the champion Corriedale ewe and father Mac Moorhead with the champion Corriedale ram at the 1987 Ellesmere A&P Show.

Neville Moorhead, left, with the champion Corriedale ewe and father Mac Moorhead with the champion Corriedale ram at the 1987 Ellesmere A&P Show. PHOTO: ELLESMERE A&P ASSOCIATION ARCHIVES

Four daughters exhibited pet lambs in their younger years before moving on from farming.

Today he still organises the stock judging for Young Farmers club members and his association with this organisation goes back to 1957.

The mixed-cropping farmer spent a lifetime growing processed peas, wheat, barley and white clover for seed on rich Paparoa silt loam soils in the district.

Southdowns and Corriedales played a large role in the mix. For many years they put Southdown rams to the Corriedale ewes for prime lambs.

The Southdown stud was established in 1935 by his father, and the Corriedales in 1957. The first Southdowns came from the nearby Oakleigh farm owned by Canterbury Seed Company when the flock was dispersed in 1945 and others from the Andrew family.

Mr Moorhead can remember helping drive the new Corriedale arrivals home from the now defunct Southbridge railway station. The Hawarden ewes had been transported by rail and got a chance to stretch their legs in the short journey to the family farm. The railway’s long gone, but the sheep are still there.

He broke away from his father at a young age to farm on his own in 1963, as a 22-year-old. Just over 160ha were leased for five years.

“I was pretty fortunate to have that opportunity to farm that. It was just down the road from the family farm and I tried to keep the stud work going down there, but it was a bit distant really.

“It was solely commercial and I had mixed cropping there again and I had 1000 ewes and a couple hundred hoggets. They were very good sheep too — Romney Merinos — and another indication of changing times was that prime lambs for the works one year made three pounds.”

That was good money and, once inflation is accounted for, more than he’s getting now.

After the four years elapsed, he bought a small block next to his father’s farm and has remained there since.

Part of the land across the road was his grandfather’s.

As he’s aged and the sheep “have got faster”, he’s leased some of the 114ha property to a neighbour across the road and more land to a farmer growing organic beans and potatoes.

Apart from the help of Frances Donald during lambing over the past nine years, he still runs the farm himself.

That’s left him with his stud sheep on a smaller working base with the cropping left to others.

“I’d rather be with the sheep to be quite honest. It’s just the love of animals I guess and breeding. It’s probably because I’ve had a big background since I was that big,” he said, reaching to the floor.

“My Galpin grandfather farmed Lymington, next door to Jo’s farm, on the Rakaia side of Holly Farm. They had several breeds of stud sheep and pigs. I was up at his place every weekend so I had a bit of background up there and then on the other side of the Hurford family they had Jersey cattle and pigs again so I had no choice, but I still had to enjoy it to carry on. I still enjoy trying to breed a slightly better one than last year.”

The Jo he’s referring to is Jo Jermyn Benny, author of the updated Ellesmere A&P Show history called Beyond the Show Gates.

Mr Moorhead’s story is one of many in the publication — just a bit longer than most — and the pair share the same bond for the show and have farming ties.

Southdown and Corriedale sheep breeder Neville Moorhead at Holly Farm in Canterbury’s Southbridge with Jo Jermyn Benny, author of an updated history of the Ellesmere A&P Show called Beyond the Show Gates.

Southdown and Corriedale sheep breeder Neville Moorhead at Holly Farm in Canterbury’s Southbridge with Jo Jermyn Benny, author of an updated history of the Ellesmere A&P Show called Beyond the Show Gates. PHOTO: TIM CRONSHAW

The book updates two earlier editions of the show’s history to bring it up to speed.

Ms Jermyn Benny grew up in Marlborough on a sheep and cattle farm on the south side of Awatere Valley. Her husband, Andrew Benny, also has Marlborough connections, his mother growing up in the historic Langley Dale homestead, in Northbank, Wairau Valley, but he was raised in Canterbury.

They farm a mixed cropping and fine wool flock just up the road from Holly Farm, with the Benny family having farmed in the Southbridge district since the 1860s. In fact, the Benny family built the homestead on Holly Farm where Mr Moorhead lives now.

Ms Jermyn Benny visited the Ellesmere show while she was at Lincoln University, before marrying and moving to the district.

Their show link is also strong with Mr Benny on the A&P show committee since 2004 and was president over the challenging Covid-19 lockdown era.

Because of that he’s one of just three presidents to hold more than a one-year term. He was due to lead the show for its 150th anniversary in 2020 until it was postponed for the following year with attendance restricted to exhibitors to the disappointment of the community.

It was the first time the show was cancelled since 1942 during World War Two.

Ms Jermyn Benny has enjoyed researching the show’s history while updating events of the past 25 years. With the assistance of local historian Mike Noonan more stories and photographs were added to the accounts of earlier editions.

Records were lost to a 1906 fire which made it difficult to find early details, but there was no shortage of information more recently from monthly meetings and annual reports, she said.

Somewhat surprisingly, two conversation points have consistently raised their head.

“I’ve seen the early minutes and if you look right through from the 1900s to now the two key topics that keep coming up are traffic and toilets. Literally toilets are mentioned at almost at every meeting and the progression of facilities.

“Neville and I had a great day driving around at the showgrounds when we first started the project. He’s got a phenomenal memory for where buildings had been moved on sleds and the ring reconfigured and a lot of history that few people would have any idea about.”

Thousands of people turn up for the show, claimed to be the largest one-day A&P show in the South Island with the Mackenzie show also somewhere in this mix.

Mr Moorhead said the show had survived and grown because of a strong farming community and the rise of trade sites selling products over the years.

“There isn’t as many sheep in the district as there once was and the dairy has really taken off, but not at the expense of the stud breeding at the show. Some years ago there were many Jersey, Friesian and shorthorn studs in the district and they did exhibit at the show, whereas today there are very few of them.

“So, things have changed immensely and when you take where I am through to the Rakaia bridge thousands of sheep have gone out of that area to cattle and that’s one of the big changes I’ve seen.

“The cattle have dropped away at the show and pigs have dropped away. There are still a few sheep studs of various breeds in Ellesmere, but at their peak, goodness gracious, there would be one at nearly every road. That’s going back sometime, but shows you how numbers have dropped away.”

For all that, sheep entries have held up during show day, he said.

Ellesmere also receives about 1000 horse entries to keep the stock side strong.

Canterbury Southdown and Corriedale breeder Neville Moorhead was a six-year-old sitting on the ring pipe at the top of the showgrounds during the Ellesmere A&P Show’s grand parade in 1947.

Canterbury Southdown and Corriedale breeder Neville Moorhead was a six-year-old sitting on the ring pipe at the top of the showgrounds during the Ellesmere A&P Show’s grand parade in 1947. PHOTO: ELLESMERE A&P ASSOCIATION ARCHIVE

Mr Moorhead said long-established names of farming families remaining in the district had also created show loyalty.


Thumbing through a long list of presidents dating back to Reverend William Bluett in 1870, many of the same surnames crop up, as the next generation lines up for service.

The community-minded Moorheads have a long association with the local Anglican church with Mr Moorhead ringing the Sunday bell since he was 13-year-old.

Another tie that goes way back is his connection with the New Zealand Young Farmers Club and he was made a life member in 2014.

“With those three groups I sort of believe in joining and belonging to something and trying to attend it and do it well rather than belong to five or six organisations and send apologies to half of them. That’s just my attitude.”

He had 35 to 40 Lincoln University students at his farm recently, going through the fundamentals of sheep breeding and showing them the value of carcass conformation and other traits.

Some of them might go on to show sheep, while others would bank this knowledge when they bought their own stock, he said.

Over the course of decades of exhibiting sheep at Ellesmere he couldn’t count how many ribbons — many of them red — he’s won. Some of them are on the sideboard in the hallway and others stored in a bag.

Among many notable wins, a stand-out was a Southdown ram which went on from the Ellesmere show to become the champion sheep three years in a row at the Canterbury A&P Show in Christchurch about a decade ago. The ram won as a hogget, two tooth and four tooth and was a mainstay sire at the Holly Farm stud and there’s still 50 straws from him banked away.

Before that, another two champion ewes won their classes when the Southdown competitions were particularly strong at the Christchurch event.

Mr Moorhead had another good result in the sheep pens, winning several red ribbons at the Ellesmere A&P Show on October 14 in strong winds unseen since he was president of the 1988 event.

A silver cigarette case presented to him at a centenary show and a sugar bowl are prized possessions.

Ms Jermyn Benny said Mr Moorhead’s show longevity would take some beating.

“There’s not that many around that have that connection and kept it up. Neville is an active A&P person and I can’t think of anybody that would embody that A&P movement more than him. The fact that Neville was racing around the other day trying to find stock judges for the Young Farmers competition at the Ellesmere show just shows his commitment.”

Close to the front of the book is a photograph of the grand parade with men dressed in suits and women in hats and their finest dresses. Behind them are 1920s, 1930s and 1940s cars in neat rows.

As the horses and calves marched past the crowd a young Mr Moorhead, only 6 at the time, was sitting on the ring pipe at the top of the showgrounds watching the parade in about 1947.

The memory of those animals going past remains with him like yesterday.

He can’t imagine ever stopping showing.

“I will keep going for as long as I can. I don’t know how long it will be, but I’m still keen.”

Stud owners ready for a new chapter

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On March - 7 - 2022

[Story by Sally Rae]

Doug and Jeannie Brown are holding dispersal sales from their long-established Punchbowl sheep stud

Doug and Jeannie Brown are holding dispersal sales from their long-established Punchbowl sheep stud

For more than a century, the Punchbowl name has been synonymous with stud sheep breeding in North Otago.

But a new chapter is looming for its current owners, Doug and Jeannie Brown, who are holding ewe dispersal sales in Oamaru this month.

It was Mr Brown’s grandfather Henry (HJ) Andrew — a legendary figure in the stud sheep industry — who came to Punchbowl, near Maheno, in 1915 after graduating from Lincoln College.

Originally from the Leeston area, he shifted south with his parents and began breeding Southdowns. Over time, his Southdown stud became very prominent at a time when Southdowns were the main terminal sire breed in New Zealand. He exported sheep to many parts of the world and also imported sires.

In his later years, he held a very successful annual sale at the North Otago A&P showgrounds before dispersing the Southdowns in 1978. He had also established a Poll Dorset stud in 1970.

After his death in 1985, the Punchbowl property was run as an estate until 1989 when Doug and Jeannie Brown bought it.

The Poll Dorset stud was re-established while a Suffolk stud, established in 1977 by Doug and his brother Andrew, was transferred to Punchbowl.

Numbers were built up through the 1990s to give more selection pressure and, in 2000, Texel sires were purchased to establish both the Suffolk-Texel and Poll Dorset-Texel studs. Stud ewe numbers peaked at 1300 in 2017 when just short of 2000 stud lambs were tagged.

About 150 Suffolk ewes and 400 Suffolk-Texel ewes will be on sale at the Waiareka saleyards, in Oamaru, on February 15, starting at 1pm, along with ewe lambs and stud sires.

The following week, on February 22, 80 Poll Dorset ewes and 500 Poll Dorset-Texel ewes will be offered, along with ewe lambs and stud sires.

Mr Brown, who acknowledged he was probably always destined
to be a farmer, said one of his farming highlights had been moving to Punchbowl.

He also recalled topping the trifecta of stud ram fairs in New Zealand — the North Island, Christchurch and Gore sales — for Suffolk rams one year.

There had been many changes in the industry over the years and, probably the biggest change for the Browns had been the move into cross-breeding.

The decline in sheep numbers, particularly in North Otago, had affected ram sales although they were now selling over a wider area, including clients in the Strath Taieri. Rams would still be available for sale next year.

Mr Brown has had a strong industry involvement, including with Federated Farmers, as a farmer-elected director of Alliance Group from 2001 to 2015 and as a long-serving Otago regional councillor, stepping down in 2019. It was probably winning the grand final of the Young Farmer of the Year contest in 1984 that gave him some profile which led to other opportunities, he said.

With the couple’s two children, Simon and Alice, not pursuing careers in farming, it was time to move on to the next chapter in their lives, they said.

Agents were reporting strong interest in the sales and it was a time where good lamb prices were being achieved, there was grass around and the outlook for sheepmeat was also strong, Mr Brown said.

Mrs Brown, who did not come from a farming background, had provided strong support. She also works part-time in Oamaru as a physiotherapist.

She laughingly recalled how her rural knowledge had a “watershed moment” back in 1996 when her husband headed overseas for a six-month Nuffield scholarship.

It was in the days before cellphones, she was at home with a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old, and the farm worker left.

Mr Brown travelled throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, looking at the meat industry, while his wife figured out how to fix leaking troughs and deal with problematic electric fences.

“I’m not sure what he learnt, I reckon I learnt more at home here,” she laughed.

Ian Jordan made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On December - 31 - 2021
Ian Jordan, 94 has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the livestock industry.

Ian Jordan, 94, with his daughter, Christina Jordan. Ian has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the livestock industry.

Ian Jordan has come a long way since paying 30 guineas for a stud ewe, and he’s hoping his legs can carry him a little further to enable him to collect his New Year Honours medal.

Blenheim-based Jordan is being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the livestock industry.

Jordan, 94, is retired from farming duties, but he said he still liked to get involved.

“At 90-years-old I could still plough a paddock. I’m still interested in livestock.”

He is receiving the honour for contributing to sheep and cattle breeding in Marlborough, nationally and internationally.

His first and greatest passion in farming has been breeding Southdown sheep, he said, but his list of roles and achievement stretches far and wide.

Jordan is currently Honorary Judge for the Southdown breed and his Jersey cattle and Southdown sheep are regular exhibitors at Agricultural and Pastoral Shows – numerous trophies for his prize animals decorate his home.

But amongst all his achievements, he said one of the greatest memories of his career was seeing his son, Roger Jordan, place runner-up in a world ploughing contest.

“That was one of my highlights.”

Jordan has grown his expertise in sheep since he bought his first 10 stud ewes in 1956 for 30 guineas each.

These days, he exports Southdown, recently sending a ram to Uruguay and a cargo of the breed to north Japan with an enquiry for more to go to South America, he said.

“That’s how this developed, we’re one of the leaders in the Southdown in New Zealand now. That’s the one where I’ve made so much progress.”

Jordan was born with farming running through his veins and a family history in the industry in Blenheim where he still resides.

He said a lot had changed over the years, with the biggest shift being the transformation of land from grazing to vineyards.

“There is not as much livestock, but there’s still a lot of sheep grazing vineyards.”

With his legs not working the way they used to, Jordan said his children and grandchildren were following in his younger footsteps, taking on the responsibilities of livestock.

“We’ve always liked to keep good stock.”

As for the Order of Merit honour, he said was “surprised” and “very happy to accept it”.

“It’s keeping me wanting to live a bit longer. I want to be able to stand up just to get this medal in early May.”

Time to get out of the stud game after 50 years of sheep breeding

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On December - 22 - 2021
Cust farmers Colin and Liz Smith are holding a dispersal sale for their Bankhead dorset down stud after 50 years of sheep breeding.

Cust farmers Colin and Liz Smith are holding a dispersal sale for their Bankhead dorset down stud after 50 years of sheep breeding.

Colin and Liz Smith have made the big call to exit stud breeding after 50 years.

A question from their stock agent Anthony Cox about whether they wanted to sell their Bankhead Dorset Down stud planted the seed.

They had talked about this before, but the difficult parting was never going to be a simple exercise. For a start, there’s a lot of history attached to number 46 in the stud book for the breed.

Colin Smith says the more they thought about it, the more they became convinced the time was right.

The crunch came at lambing time this year, he says.

Colin (74) had a ewe with twin lambs which were not drinking. After several hip and back operations, he struggled to get them on to the trailer and that made the decision easy for him.

“I thought this is hopeless and we can’t carry on like this, so that was the confirmation we had to do something. It would’ve been nice for someone to come in and buy the stud, but that was not meant to be and Coxy is very enthusiastic about this sale.”

So on January 21 they will bid farewell to the stud flock at a dispersal sale. Just over 90 mixed-age ewes, 23 two-tooth ewes and 38 ewe lambs will go under the hammer.

Colin’s father, Andrew, bought ewes from the Boyd-Clark family in Blenheim and registered the stud in 1964, after starting a southdown stud in the 1940s.

Colin can recall them as being big, upstanding animals, and marvelling at their ease-of-lambing in the early 1960s.

He says the Dorset Downs were virile animals, producing lambs with “get up and go”. They were bigger framed sheep then and produced larger lambs.

Equally, the Southdowns were renowned for producing twins and triplets.

Commercial clients would often buy two of each, to get more meat on their mainly Corriedale or Romney flocks, he says.

He was a late starter to sheep breeding as tractors were his first passion. When his brother moved to dairying, Colin slotted into this role in his 30s.

“I gradually came to like what I was doing by default. We ran Corriedale sheep plus the two studs — the Southdowns and the Dorset Downs. We put the Southdown over the Corriedale ewe and I kept the Corriedale flock going too of course. I got to quite enjoy the sheep.”

Romneys were later run at Bankhead as they found the first cross Romney-Corriedales were suited to the wetter ground. Romney rams were put over Corriedale ewes until 10 years ago when they phased this out.

Colin always felt the Southdown was better for producing fat lambs for the straight Corriedales and the Dorset Down for the Romney-Corriedales.

When his father died in 1972, Colin took over the studs and, eventually, put his own stamp on the sheep.

That was the year he and Liz got married. Both of her parents had been on farms and it was an easy transition moving from Christchurch to West Eyreton and later to Bankhead.

“The Dorsets I always thought were big, almost bad-tempered, and they were in that day, they were pretty fiery,” says Liz. “I was used to that as I had spent a lot of time on farms so it was no new thing really.”

Colin can remember struggling to keep the first ram hoggets in the yard, as they would just jump over the rails. Over the course of 50 years they’ve watched them transform into the sheep they are today.

Colin feels strongly that studs should be working first and foremost for commercial farmers.

He is proud of the many show ribbons they’ve won over the years, without losing sight of the fact that the animals need to perform on farms.

Whether in the showring or the salesyard, his competitive instincts pushed him to be the best he can. That stems from his rugby-playing days, when the Oxford senior side had three All Blacks.

“You are trying to breed the perfect sheep but you never do. There’s no perfect animal like there’s no perfect human being.”

Bankhead has been scaled down over the years with the Smiths only farming 110ha now, and a nephew leasing half of this.

A heritage home of seven bedrooms dating back to 1865 — first built by the Garlands — was burnt down in 2011.

Colin and Liz were in Akaroa at the time when the blaze ignited at 2am from recently-installed faulty wiring. Just about all their possessions, including stud records, were lost, and a new home has since been built.olin’s grandfather bought the property in 1911. His father took this on in 1947 after adding another dry land property on 160ha of flat land at West Eyreton in 1929, where sheep were mostly run.

Cows were milked at Bankhead until the year 2000 when a successful partnership of 25 years between Colin and his brother was dissolved.

The brothers basically swapped farms, with Colin and Liz moving to Bankhead. The first thing they did was convert it to a sheep farm when everyone else was moving in the opposite direction.

“It was very much [unusual], but it was such a practical way of dealing with the situation both families were in, really. I never liked milking cows anyway as in my school years I would be coerced to come over here for milking in the weekends and never enjoyed it.”

The Downs provided good sheep country and a 30ha block over the road was reserved for beef cattle. Colin continued the Southdown stud until 2007, when it became obvious that the farm wasn’t large enough to run two studs successfully.

“Southdowns were popular at that stage and they still are, and it seemed the natural thing to do just to keep one of the studs for management’s sake and for commercial sense really. The commercial flock was bringing in the money and we cut the studs back a bit so we could send more lambs to the works.”

About 150 ewes and older rams were sold on the day. This genetic base had produced champion rams and ewes at the Canterbury A&P Show through the late 1990s to the early 2000s.

Colin’s perhaps most proud of working to improve the hindquarters of his Dorset Downs.

“The Southdown always had good hindquarters and they were renowned for that, and when we sold the Southdowns I wanted to reach that with my Dorset Downs. I think we’ve come some way to doing that and improve that in that area in tune with what the market requires now. They’re as good a meat breed terminal sire as you can get.”

When they first started they were fortunate to reach a lambing percentage of 110%, and now it’s at 140% for the stud flock.

A Dorset Down ram made the record price of $17,500 in 2019 at the combined Gums and Bankhead Ram Sale with the Stevensons. Sadly, the sire died suddenly and even though they’ve had their own similar stories, that still doesn’t sit well with them.

The Dorset Downs have won their fair share of ribbons too and more lately — the Smiths won the silverware for the best meat breed ewe hogget and champion Dorset Down ram at the Ellesmere A&P Show.

So they’re leaving on good terms, knowing their stud sheep are at their best.

Without family to carry on the stud it’s an easy decision. Their son is a professor of agricultural economics at the University of California, Davis in the United States, and their three daughters have moved in different directions.

Colin says they’re happy they followed their passion. That said, they hope a future Smith will take on Bankhead to carry on the family legacy when they’re ready to move on.

Liz says they’re not sure what’s ahead of them, but one door always opens when another shuts.

She says it’s time to stop with Colin reaching 75 next year.

“That’s the thing: you either pull the pin and have a life or just keep going. I think if you’re wise you keep notice of these things.”

On one level, Colin’s happy to see the genetics being passed on to other farmers to keep the breed going.

“The fact of the matter is I have to face facts and can’t keep going like this. It’s going to happen this year, five years or whatever. So why not now while our stud’s in a good a position it has even been?”

[Story by Tim Cronshaw]

Chisholm getting a real buzz out of breeding Southdown sheep

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On December - 15 - 2021

[Story by Sally Rae]

Southdown breeders Matt Chisholm (left), of Omakau, and Dave Robertson, of Oamaru

Southdown breeders Matt Chisholm (left), of Omakau, and Dave Robertson, of Oamaru, discuss the attributes of the breed. 

Matt Chisholm is the new ram on the block in the world of stud sheep breeding – and he could not be happier.

On Monday, Chisholm – a familiar face on television and an advocate for mental health, having publicly opened up about his struggles with depression – will head to North Otago to sell a ram from his newly established Southdown stud The Land.

The Cordyline Southdowns ram fair will be like no other, held in the grounds of Brookfield Park, a Heritage New Zealand category 2 listed property which featured in the New Zealand House and Garden tour in 2019.

Built on the outskirts of Oamaru by renowned local architect Thomas Forrester for original owner John Gilchrist, the first mayor of Oamaru, it is now owned by Jennifer (JJ) Rendell, who since buying the property in 2003 has created an imaginative garden retreat surrounding a restored Victorian homestead.

Cordyline Southdowns, owned by North Otago couple Dave and Abby Robertson, will offer about 40 rams. There are also six entries from John and Margaret Macaulay’s Tahrua stud in South Canterbury, and Chisholm’s solitary offering of a ram he has dubbed Blair, after prominent Southdown breeder Blair Robertson.

“I’m not sure if it’s an exciting day for … Blair, he doesn’t really know what’s coming. It’s a hell of an exciting day for me because I’m going to market and really going to test where we’re at,” Chisholm said.

Chisholm, who grew up in Milton and Oamaru, had had a longtime interest in livestock and said it was now a privilege to be part of the stud breeding world.

“I was always going to be some kind of farmer, in inverted commas. I was always going to come back to some small amount of land. I couldn’t shake it, as much as I tried. I couldn’t get away from it,” he said.

During the latter stages of living in Auckland, when he was battling with since much-publicised depression, he would “get on Google and research up the wazoo”.

He had always liked the look of Southdown sheep and, after reading their story, fell in love with the old pure breed which had “stood the test of time”.

The Southdown is the oldest of the terminal sire breeds in the United Kingdom, and originates from the native sheep which have roamed the South Downs in the South of England for many hundreds of years. It was developed into a fixed type in the 18th century.

Chisholm had discovered the breed was “making a real comeback”, particularly for hogget mating, and he also had less-commercial reasons for wanting them in his paddock.

“For me, it’s basically about looking after myself and my mental health. I just want to walk around them and feel good about looking at good animals. They’re really commercially viable, it’s ticking all my boxes,” he said.

Chisholm and his wife Ellen are living in Omakau with their two young sons Bede and Finn, and baby daughter Bree who arrived in early October. They are building a house on their 29ha block of land at Chatto Creek, in the heart of rural Central Otago.

Chisholm founded his stud with the purchase of six ewes from Blair and Sally Robertson’s Merrydowns stud and five ewes from the Cordyline stud. When his first ewes arrived, it was “like a midwinter Christmas” for him.

Admitting to having an obsessive nature, no longer was he going to bed thinking about what the biggest current affairs story he could tell was. Instead he was thinking about lambing percentages and the likes.

“It’s quite mad,” he said.

“Blair” the ram was the progeny of an in-lamb ewe bought from Merrydowns.

“It’s a bit unfair because I didn’t breed him. It’s got my ear tag in it, really its a Merrydowns sheep,” Chisholm said.

Originally he had planned to breed from “Blair” but he later decided to sell the ram and purchase some new blood.

Next year, he might have about 50 ewes to the ram and, in a couple of years, he reckoned he might have 15-20 rams to sell.

“All I really want to do is just do something that I love. If I can sell a couple of rams a year to real red-blooded legitimate farmers, I’ll be chuffed.”

Chisholm acknowledged he had never been happier, even if it did mean he spent “far too much time” moving a couple of rams from paddock to paddock.

He felt very grateful that he had got to a position in life where he could make a certain amount of money doing the things he needed to do, which then opened up time to hang out with his family, and his land, “and have great conversations with good buggers”.

As his “serious work” was winding down for the year, Chisholm headed to West Otago on Tuesday this week for the Merrydowns ram sale, which offered both Southdowns and Romneys.

He was already familiar with some Southdown breeders — he did a talk during a Southdown Sheep Society’s southern tour earlier in the year, and he played rugby for Lawrence with the society’s president Don Murray many years ago.

Farmers were great; they liked that he was into sheep and wanted to know why, he said. They were also great at explaining things to him and he reckoned he quadrupled his knowledge in an afternoon.

Over several cans of Coke — Chisholm has been sober for more than a decade — he talked to “a lot of good buggers”— “mixing with my clan”, as he put it — and, as he drove away, he realised that was why he had “come home”.

Chisholm was delighted to be taking part in the Cordyline sale, saying Dave Robertson had “all the knowledge”, produced really good sheep and it was being held in a great location.

“I feel just bloody chuffed that he’s not laughed me out of the province and he’s invited me along.”

Veteran Southdown breeder John Macaulay was going to “bust out” his saxophone at the sale.

Dave Robertson quipped the ram sale could be “almost like a wedding”.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be.”

The motto was it was the latest version of an enduring breed.

“I can’t take any absolute credit for the stock I have, a whole lineage of Southdown breeders come before me,” he said.

It was important to keep purebred sheep “going forward” and he liked having both new breeders, such as Chisholm, and older, established breeders such as Mr Macaulay who had been involved in the Southdown breed since 1961.

For Mr Robertson, his aim was to continually try to breed better sheep while also trying to be more inclusive with other breeders.

“We need to work together to breed better sheep.

“I’ve always just tried to have an enjoyable atmosphere for myself, family and friends and ram clients. We’ve just got to keep it real. The other theme is farmers are real people, they’ve got real problems.

“[We’re] just trying to eat some genuinely good meat and see some genuinely good stock and keep everything in real time.”

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






New Flockbook & Member Directory

Posted by The Roving Shepherd On September - 9 - 2021

The 2021 NZ Southdown Society Flockbook (Volume 90) is now available to be viewed and/or downloaded on our Flockbooks page 

Flockbook Cover Vol 90

We have also made all the breeders contact details available, so if you ate looking to source flock rams you can probably find a breeder in your area. These can be found uder the contact section in the navigation menu above or by visiting the ‘Contact the Breeders‘ page.