Hamish looks for growth, meat yield
Like so many of New Zealand’s young farmers, South Canterbury sheep farmer Hamish Cottle can trace his love for farming back to his early childhood days growing up on the family sheep farm.
But it wasn’t till Hamish did his big OE to the United Kingdom between 2004 and 2006 that he was introduced to texel sheep and became a solid convert to the hardy Dutch breed.
“I was quite impressed with the breed over there and their ability to produce a quick growing and extremely high yielding lamb when crossed with a commercial cross-breed ewe,” Hamish says.
Returning to the family’s 216-hectare farm at St Andrews, just south of Timaru, in 2006, Hamish went into partnership with his parents, saying he wanted to breed texel sheep.
His opportunity arose the following year when eight purebred texel ewes were sourced from a retiring breeder in Oxford.
“He was kind enough to offer me the use of a reasonably good ram before I brought the ewes home. I selected ewes I wanted and he said ‘Oh well, let’s put them to the ram to get you started’.”
Hamish still has one of the resulting progeny. At the age of 10, she has been a foundation ewe for building up the flock, many of which go back to her.
Operating under the stud name of Highgrounds, Hamish now has 60 purebred texel ewes that run with 1000 commercial texel/perendale-cross ewes.
“The overall thing that I’m trying to achieve through breeding is good quick growth and high meat yields. That’s something texels are renowned for,” he says.
“I’m quite rigorous in my selection process, especially in the ewe lambs to breed from. I’m developing a solid base to work from, looking at that deep-bodied type ewe that’s easily fleshed with positive fats.”
Hamish also concentrates on feet, good conformation and structure, believing longevity comes from a combination of all those things.
“I think it’s important to look at a sheep that will function well for you and not just look at the EBvs (estimated breeding values). Although figures are an important selection tool, maintaining breed character and staying with a genuine texel type is imperative”.
This year Hamish travelle d abroad to investigate options in an attempt to source genetics that are traditionally associated with texels.
“I aim to introduce a total outcross to reaffirm some of those real texel traits with good clean bone and a fleshy meaty carcass.
I want to breed rams that will cross well with a commercial ewe and still see those traits show through in the resulting progeny.”
He says it’s a case of breeding rams with well defined muscling so that when the texel ram is crossed with a crossbred ewe, you can see their lambs starting to show good shape within a week or two of birth.
From December to March each year, Hamish has 15-20 two-tooth rams for sale. Typically they are rams showing potential which scanned for higher eye muscle.