Just missing out on the top title for the Coopworth breed at the 2018 New Zealand Ewe Hogget Competition by 0.16 of a point has only given Claire Garrett the incentive to try again next year. “I was pretty stoked to get to the final of the competition though,” she says.
Claire grew up on a sheep and cropping farm at Springston in Canterbury and started a Suffolk stud from a handful of ewes while at Lincoln University completing a diploma in agriculture and applied science.
This has now grown to 150 sheep and forms the basis of her business, which also includes 3000 Coopworth ewes she purchased five years ago from her father Alan.
She works in with Alan’s farming operation which spans 730ha running her sheep on various parts of the property, depending on the time of year, and paying a rental fee to do so. It’s a winwin – her father gets his cropping blocks cleaned up and Claire gets good feed for her sheep.
Although she views the Suffolk stud as more of a hobby, the sheep are used as terminal sires for her Coopworth operation to result in the early heavy lambs’ fat off their mum that she aims to produce.
She has also recently taken the role of president of the Northern South Island Suffolk Breeders Club.
“They are beautiful sheep to look at, good mothers, well balanced with meaty constitution. I like seeing the lines and experimenting with breeding,” she says.
Around 900 of her younger ewes go to the Coopworth ram to breed replacements. The rest head to the Suffolk terminal sire.
Although Claire has entered the Ewe Hogget Competition before, and placed second in the regionals last year, it’s the first time she’s made it to the nationals where she was placed top of the South Island. She says the judges made it clear they were impressed by her flock, which she took encouragement from.
“Every year the flock is getting better. I aim for big, bold ewes with an open face, lovely top knot and a heavy even fleece,” she says.
Claire puts her success down to two main factors – great breeding and great feeding.
She says she has a good relationship with Moeraki Downs from which she purchases her rams. Her sheep are checked daily meaning Claire constantly has her eye on her flock.
All feed is grown on the farm and Claire only has assistance from her father occasionally and employs a casual in November/December to help out at this busy time of the year. Last year Claire sent around 2100 lambs to the works by 5th of December, which were fat off their mothers.
Any left behind Claire fattens herself. She says doing well in the competition has assured her that she is on the right track. Her aim is to keep building her flock.
“Having a competition like that is a great way for people to be recognised, get together and share ideas. I plan to keep on entering, hopefully taking out the main title one day.”
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