No place for molly-coddling
Rich in history going back to 1856 and located in western Southland, just an hour’s drive from Fiordland National Park, Mount Linton Station is one of New Zealand’s best known stations.
Owned by the McGregor and Masfen families, at a little over 13,300 hectares the station is also one of the country’s largest still in private ownership. It is known for its genetics, with records going back over 25 years.
The station winters 7000 angus cattle and is home to 40,000 romney/texel and suftex sheep, inclusive of stud ewes.
The stud sheep stock, which includes 900 maternal texel/romneys ewes, the farm’s mainstay, and 700 suftex ewes, are farmed on 280 hectares, separated from the commercial flock.
Breeding stud rams for the station’s own use, and on-selling them as ram hoggets proven under pressure is at the heart of Mount Linton Genetics’ purpose.
Emma Gardiner, the station’s new sheep genetics manager, commenced duties six months ago following several years working in diverse farming conditions in Canada and the United Kingdom.
“In Canada you learn to deal with challenging environments and climatic conditions. You could get temperatures in the summer in the mid to high 30s and less than six months later, you’re looking at minus 60 degrees.”
A fourth-generation farmer from a beefand-sheep background in drought prone North Canterbury, she is no stranger to challenging environments and climatic conditions.
Her role at Mount Linton involves everything to do with the stud…from pasture management, organising feed plans, developing breeding plans, embryo transfer and artificial insemination, through to dealing with clients when selling rams.
Emma says the station’s aim is to breed for meat yield, growth, survivability and fertility.
“I’m always trying to improve the genetic trends and genetic worth. That means I’ll bring in proportionally a lot more replacements than the commercial farmer would.”
Emma says that in previous years the station has replaced 40-45 per cent of its stud flocks with two-tooths. She says they are continuously improving flock genetics by culling hard for anything that is underperforming.
“One of the things we do focus on with the maternals is worm FEC (faecel egg count) looking for resilience and resistance to worms and dags. We challenge all the maternal ewe lambs, and that is one of the first selection tests.
The fewer dags you have, the less you have to handle the ewes.” The lambs are left undrenched with their worm levels regularly monitored, she says.
Once they reach a certain level, samples are taken off each individual lamb and the under-performers are culled.
There are about 1300 ram lambs across both breeds, and the top 400 or so are selected and offered for sale after they have mated.
“Selection occurs at various stages – it’s a continuous process really. You go through and take out a first cut you definitely don’t want.
As they get older, you start seeing more. We start taking orders for two-tooth ram lambs in November.”