Between raising bull beef, a small Hereford stud, ag contracting and their own young family, Canterbury foothills farmers Alex (Woody) and Felicity Woodhouse have their hands full. So when it comes to running their sheep flock, it’s little surprise they have gone for a breed that can perform efficiently with very little fuss.

“Sheep are no longer a huge part of our business so we try to keep things fairly simple,” Woody says. “But in terms of what the Texels bring – they’re a robust sheep. We give them a bit of a flush-up to bring up their conception rate, but on the whole they stay in pretty good condition year-round.”

The Woodhouses’ run 850 Romney-Texel ewes and 350 hoggets alongside bulls and beef cows on Kinsale, the 400-hectare Glentunnel property Woody grew up on. They have moved from a straight Romney-based flock, first using composite rams to improve fertility and milking ability.

As their farm system has developed and they’ve moved away from sheep into raising more bull beef, the natural progression has been to move towards Texel genetics to increase hardiness and yield. The flow-on effect has meant more of their lambs are killed earlier and, as Woody puts it – they get “good productivity without pampering”.

“At times when it gets dry or the going is hard, it’s important with a stock class like ewes to be able to shut them down a bit so we can conserve feed for the finishing stock,” he says.

Along with their capability to hold on to body weight, he’s also found them to be dedicated mothers with good milking ability. Furthermore, their fast growth rates mean they get up to good weights for lambing as hoggets, a factor Woody says ‘definitely adds value’. A Southdown ram is used across the hoggets to aid with ease of lambing.

Felicity’s parents Paul and Kay Gardner run Texel and Romney Studs, Kallara and Rosehope, near Ashburton, where the couple buy their Texel rams. Paul has had success with his Texel lambs in the Mint Lamb Competition at the New Zealand Agricultural Show (formerly the Canterbury A & P Show), and has won the competition three times.

“He’s won with a straight Texel, and in other years it’s been pretty common for it to be Texel cross of some description,” Felicity says. “They yield well and they taste good.”

Lambing percentages are about 150%. Woody describes the lambs as little nuggets – not only do they hold on well when the conditions are not at their best, but when the conditions are going well, they ‘absolutely fly’.

“For us, they’re a tool for cleaning up during different times of the year, but we still get really good production out of them. Because we’re not having to stick really good grass down their throats, it means they are quite profitable ewes,” he says.