Stud known for rams that last
At its highest point, South Canterbury sheep and beef farm Belmont Station sits 550 metres above sea level.
From the top of Belmont on a good day, you can see Banks Peninsula, look out through the Mackenzie Pass, and when there’s snow on the hills pick out Mt Cook and Mt Dobson.
You can see the Canterbury Plains, Timaru’s Caroline Bay and over towards Waimate.
You can also see the bad weather before it hits and, because of its views, Belmont is exposed to the elements—perfect conditions for hardy suffolk and south suffolk sheep.
Owned and operated by Chris and Annabelle Hampton, the station sits near the rural township of Cave, inland from Timaru, where it occupies 816 hectares of steep to rolling country.
“It’s reasonably summer safe, but gets cold, slow growing in the spring, and snow in the winter,” says Chris. “Everything gets challenged – even ourselves at times.”
The station is home to 3000 ewes, 450 of which are from their three stud flocks consisting of suffolks, south suffolks, charollais and charollais crosses. The main commercial flock is perendale.
The Hampton family has an association with south suffolk that stems back nigh on 60 years when Chris’s father, Peter, established the Waterton Stud with six ewe lambs. In 1970 he imported six suffolk ewes and established his second stud.
Chris shared his father’s passion for sheep farming, eventually taking over the family farm in Mid Canterbury and the stud before selling up and buying Belmont Station – a move designed to be closer to his ram buying customer base in Central Otago.
“A lot of our suffolk/south suffolk clients are either in the Mackenzie Country or in Central Otago – so they’re mainly going over merino or perendales.”
Chris says that in that kind of country, his clients don’t go near the sheep during lambing. They want easy lambing, good growth rates and a good meaty carcass, and they want the rams to last.”
“There was one client down Central and he said ‘I have tried various rams and I like your buggers –
they’re the only bastards that don’t die’.”
A few years ago Chris, Annabelle and Peter imported charollais embryos from Australia and started the family’s third stud – one of five charollais studs in the country.
“They’re a high-yield animal and do very well in events such as the Lamb Glammies and Mint Lamb competition,” says Chris.
“Clients who supply Alliance are getting well rewarded with the yield payment on charollais lambs because they have meat on all the right places.”
On December 19, the Hamptons will host their fourth on-farm ram sale conducted as a ‘helmsman auction’.
“There will be 80 rams this year – the top 25 of our suffolk rams and the top 15 of south suffolk rams, eight pure-bred charollais and 35 charollais crosses.”
The Hamptons’ daughter, Elizabeth, who is studying at Lincoln University, has inherited the family passion for genetics and breeding good sheep. No doubt she will carry the mantle on well into the future.