Never giving up on wool has paid off for Maniototo farmers Stuart and Lorraine Duncan who recently won the fine wools half bred section of the 2018 National Ewe Hogget Competition.
“Wool is a very good product and people are starting to realize the value of wool again. Technology is making it possible to produce some very good garments,” says Stuart.
Stu and Lorraine operate the 2000ha farm, which has been in the family for four generations, with Stu’s parents Alison and Graeme.
With finer micron wool commanding the best prices this is what the family has focused on producing in their mob of around 4000 half bred ewes.
They aim to produce ewes with 25.5 micron fleece and hoggets at 22 microns.
“A big strong bodied sheep with fine wool and 145-150% lambing to the ram is the goal,” he says. “We find half breds a good dual purpose sheep – big lambs and lots of fine white wool.”
Their sheep operation also includes 2200 romney ewes. They mate all the romney hoggets and winter 2800 half bred hoggets until shearing then kill them on winter contracts.
They keep the ewe lamb replacements and select the best ones for breeding. Their business includes Penvose Angus, a stud started in the 1970s by Graeme.
The stud comprises 140 cows and around 30 bulls are sold each year at an on farm sale, which was just held in May this year with bull prices averaging $6800.
Rising to 1000 metres above sea level it is the highest altitude stud in New Zealand and has built a reputation for producing animals of great shifting ability and strength, says Stu.
Their sheep operation boasts similar traits. “We have a very short growing season due to the altitude of the farm.
“The lowest paddock is 500 metres above sea level so we have to have sheep and cattle that produce well in a short growing season.” Their business also includes a venison and velvet operation with 350 hinds and 100 velveting stags.
Being located on the Otago Central Rail Trail has also enabled them to establish a profitable tourism accommodation operation called Wedderburn Cottages, which they have been operating since 2000.
It can cater for 55 people, tourists and groups riding the trail or tourists passing through Maniototo. The operation has since extended to farm tours and the family enjoys showing people what life is really like on a farm.
The family already has identified that once people see the sheep, know more about the wool and how it is grown then this adds real value to the product. This has helped them to identify another strand to their multi faceted business – making and selling garments.
The first batch of their wool has just been sent to the spinners to be made into garments such as beanies, blankets and jerseys, which they will sell direct to tourists who visit their farm.
It’s no doubt satisfying for them to see directly how their product can be made into a saleable item that they have full control over from farm to finished product.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Craigneuk Stud
- Mclarens Transport Ltd
- Dion Morrell Shearing Ltd