Southdown Sheep Society, NZ

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

In looking back over the last 150 years in this brief history of the Southdown in New Zealand, and the people and factors that have had a major influence, one can see that the breed has been very fortunate to have outstanding people of their time who have been able to  drive the breed to change and adapt to the many hurdles it has faced.

That the breed is still in existence today is due in no small way to these leaders and councils of yesteryear.

The breed has had its turbulent times as I have outlined, and from looking from outside in it seems that the NZ Meat Board has a lot to answer for, but good people got together and made the necessary changes.

Today when I look at the new issues facing the Southdown such as the prominence of the dairying industry, the loss of good farming land for sheep to dairy, the decreasing numbers of stock and stockmen, and the prominence of other new breeds competing directly against the Southdown, one would hope that the current generation of breeders can also band together putting “the breed” to the forefront and again come up with ways to make the breed more prominent in the minds (and paddocks) of sheep farmers, stock agents, meat companies and the mind of the consumer.

The best results over the Southdown history remind me of the ‘Buffalo Theory’.

A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And, when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

While some have performed better than others in the past, the leaders drag the tail along with them and for the breed to continue people must look to improving the whole NZ flock, not just a few individuals. That is your selling point to the man on the street – the whole flock!

In today’s world with communication so much more affordable and accessible than in times past, ways to move the breed ‘with the times’ would be the lesson that this history has shown is part of being a Southdown breeder.

With the communication tools available, the predominance of Social Media, now is the easiest time in the history of the breed to get the message out that the best eating mutton is still the Southdown, and all it takes (as well as some hard work) is the same qualities that all the previous movers and shakers had; passion, enthusiasm, education of members, research, development, seminars, field days, encouragement of others, building relationships with people of influence, utilising the available technology, promotion and marketing of your breed.

I hope that this gives some new insights to those with an interest in the Southdown, and because it is online, that as time goes by more can be added. I would certainly welcome any further articles related to the information here that can further enhance people’s understanding of the Southdown history and will be keen to add them to the story where appropriate.


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