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Worm resistance key trait at Avalon

Worm resistance key trait at Avalon
A family affair. Grace, Sonia, James and Allan Richardson, of Avalon Genetics.

Allan Richardson of Avalon Genetics says New Zealand agriculture missed a valuable opportunity in the mid 1990s when selection for worm resistance was added to SIL, it wasn’t taken up. “Instead we focused solely on production, and now we’re paying the cost of that production,” he says.

“We’ve ended up getting big bold stock more resistant to internal parasites, but now the issues of triple drench resistance are increasing. 25% of farms have resistance to four drenches, and a lot of people are very reliant on very expensive drenches to keep themselves in the sheep industry.

“Avalon Genetics went down the other track.

“31 years ago we started breeding for worm resistance, Avalon was the third flock in New Zealand to go down that track. Now we have a maximum one lifetime drench for all our stock, which is where we’re happy to be.”

Avalon Genetics selects for worm resistance, resilience, which allows for good lamb growth with FEC levels above 3000 eggs per gram, and dag score, and has four of the top 10 rams in New Zealand for dag score.

“Even though we are organic and have been for 21 years, most of our clients are conventional and they realise they can still increase their production by doing less drenching rather than more, which is really important,” Allan says.

“Even though we are organic, in the New Zealand perendale progeny trial we ranked right up the top for performance along with high input systems. We know our animals perform well in any environment.”

Avalon Genetics sells rams from Southland to Northland and breeds perendales, texels, and its own breed of Avalon Ultimate.

“The Ultimate is a sheep that combines production, multi disease resistance traits, and low input traits which is a first for New Zealand and probably the world,” Allan says.

“We are the first stud in the world to genetically record our tail length. We don’t do any tailing on our Ultimates, we’re coming in later to earmark our lambs and that’s it, and our terminals are going straight on the truck.”

Avalon Genetics has moved towards a regenerative farming approach this season, with multispecies pastures and crops, greater biodiversity, and less bare ground, and has just had its best year of production in 21 years of operation. “I’ve been amazed at how well these crops have established,” Allan says.

Worm resistance key trait at Avalon

“Less weeds, more competition, and we’re getting 11 tonne to 12 tonne in some of these cover crops for winter feed and doing it a lot easier. We’ve got a crop which allows the animals to actually put on weight rather than just maintain it in the winter. It may be we won’t sow any more single species crops in the future.”

Allan has been blown away by the results and will be doing a lot more regenerative farming, saying if the system didn’t work, he wouldn’t have had his best season ever.

“Putting 16 lambs to the hectare on the ground at lambing time, that’s better than some conventional farms.”

Avalon Genetics has a new equity partner this season, Scott Walker, who has been a tremendous asset being able to feed stock to their potential and have performance increase accordingly.

“The biggest single thing that’s worked for us is having someone on board who is at the top of their game, keen and committed, and who has got a share in the property. They become very focused on doing good things.”

This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…

  • Avalon Genetics
  • Southern heights shearing
  • Calderkin Perendale
  • Tisdall Contracting Ltd
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