Flagbearer for texel-romney
The brief rain that started to fall on Braemore farm near Riversdale early in November was welcomed by Hamish Mackay.
Contrary to popular belief, parts of Southland can get pretty dry. And, as his and Miriam’s 420-hectare farm has little flat land, irrigation is out of the question.
Braemore has two sheep studs – Braebank, which has romneys, and Braetex, which runs texels. Braebank was started in 1948 by his father and uncle.
Hamish began the texel stud in 1991. He had seen the breed in the United Kingdom and could see huge benefits for meat production and cross breeding in New Zealand.
So, when the breed was released from quarantine, he and a number of others were quick to get hold of some imported genetics.
“They had so much to offer as a terminal sire and their infusion into some maternal flock has been significant,” he says.
“When they first came in, there were very few pure-bred texels, so most people bred up from different cross-breeds.
“We purchased poll dorset ewes, put texel over them, and were stoked with the progeny. We kept that going for some years, so got half-cross, then three-quarters, seven-eighths, and then 15-16ths, which are considered pure. Breeding up was beneficial to the whole breed, giving a large base to select and cull from.”
He says New Zealand’s breed is different from overseas because New Zealand sheep need to lamb outside unassisted.
New Zealand’s texels are finer in the shoulder for lambing ease, and not as big boned or ‘bull-headed’. Rams are mostly sold from the farm, although they do take some of the better ones to the Gore Ram Fair in January.
“People contact us or the mercantile firms. We sell to some long-term locals before Christmas, but mostly in January after the holiday season.
Last year the Southland Texel Club ran a ram/hogget tour. Five texel breeders in this area were open to stock agents, meat drafters and commercial farmers one afternoon.
We’re doing it again this year in the southern region. Next year we’ll be heading to Western Southland, then back here. We’re also going to take a stand at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu to promote the breed.”
The stud has 50 texel rams and 80 romney rams for sale. All are SIL-recorded and eye-muscle scanned. “Every buyer has different requirements.
We try to satisfy every need. The big driver today is weight gain, conformation, fertility and structural soundness.” Braemore has a 3600-ewe flock, 500 of them stud.
Of the remaining romney ewes, the majority go romney rams and the remainder to texel rams. “This suits our environment and operation. We can kill 30 per cent of lambs off mum at good weights.
They are our most profitable – we’ve done only one drench and there’s no dagging. It’s good for early cashflow.” Hamish and Miriam have one full-time staff member, who has been with them for 19 years.
One of their sons, Russell, works some time on the farm. Stephen, their other son, is contracting in West Otago. “I’m looking at stepping back a bit,” says Hamish.
“Farm-succession plans are being put into action for the fifth generation of Mackays to farm Braemore.
“In this industry you are always new skills and we hope that with spare time, we will be able to enjoy other outside interests.”