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Ram selection plays part in competition success

Ram selection plays part in competition success

With their current farming business and a flock of breeding ewes just five-years in the making, Gore farmers Quentin Whitehead and Heidi Blake have won the Composite breed section in the Southland and the Southland West Otago Ewe hogget competition, progressing on to come second in this year’s National Ewe Hogget Competition in their breed section.

With an overall score of 90/100, Quentin and Heidi’s ewe hoggets scored high on flock performance and breeding objectives, with scores for wool and phenotype trailing slightly. The results provide a measurement of their business against others.

“It’s pretty quiet when you’re farming away by yourself,” Quentin says. You don’t know how good your sheep are until you put yourself up against someone else.”

Quentin recognises his phenotype and wool scores were down a wee bit, but having only been breeding his flock for five years, knows it will take a while before he gets the flock where he wants it. Quentin is very fussy on his ram selection, which he says is really showing through in the hoggets he is rearing.

As the business grows, he and Heidi are keeping more ewe hogget replacements and selection will continue to improve as the flock grows. Quentin and Heidi started off with 1000 ewes and are now up to 1800 ewes and 3500 stock units.

They don’t have much of a choice to buy in sheep like theirs, because they are farming a terminal breed as a maternal flock.

“The biggest benefits are the weight gains and fertility we get from the meatmaker (Texel Poll Dorset cross). We’re trying to grow less wool with a finer micron, because there isn’t a market for high micron wool.

“ By growing less wool we only have to shear once a year with no crutching the ewes or lambs, and we only have to dag about a third of our sheep.

The ewes cut 3.76 kg of wool which isn’t a lot compared to other crossbreed flocks, but with no crutching costs and hardly any dagging to do, I’m happy with that.

“In the 1950s we were farming sheep for wool, and the lamb was the by-product. We are now trying to produce as many fastest growing lambs as we can and the wool is the by-product.” Quentin and Heidi source their rams from Garth Shaw at Wharetoa Genetics.

“He is working hard to produce the type of sheep with the attributes we are after. We’re getting really good growth, last year post weaning our lambs were gaining more than 300 grams a day on grass.

We achieved 165% lambing from the ewes, with hoggets lambing 110% to the ram. “The average kill weight was 20.3kg for the season, and our average kill date March 5.”

Quentin and Heidi are now focused on getting a more even line of sheep, concentrating on phenotype and getting their wool under 30 microns.

They are already close with wool from the ewes at 35 microns and the ewe hoggets 31 microns.

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

  • Platinum Shearing
  • Wharetoa Genetics
  • Tisdall Contracting Ltd
  • Hokonui Contracting Ltd

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