Kikitangeo dispersal a season highlight

Country-Wide asks ram breeders how their selling season has been.

In Business, Livestock9 Minutes
Support and interest in the double-muscled terminal breed Beltex was reported as good.

Country-Wide asks ram breeders how their selling season has been.

By Lynda Gray

The dispersal sale in mid-January of Gordon Levet’s Kikitangeo Romney stud was a highlight of the ram selling season.

The Wellsford stud was registered in 1922 by Gordon’s father and uncle in 1922. Gordon took over the stud in the early 1950s and has been a prominent force in sheep breeding, particularly animals with resistance to internal parasites. He decided to disperse the sheep because there was no obvious stud principal successor, and the stud did not fit in with plans for the family farm now run by his daughter and son-in-law.

About 700 sheep were offered at the Wellsford saleyards.

Gordon said there was a good saleyard crowd and intense online interest leading to a 20 minute meltdown of BIDr, which prevented two former presidents of the NZ Romney Association buying their rams of choice. Sixty-five of the 75 rams offered sold. The top price was $7500 and the average $1700. All of the two-tooth ewes on offer sold at prices ranging from $200-$800.

“It’s good to know that they’ve gone to farmers throughout the country and most at affordable prices.”

The biggest buyer at the sale was Meadowslea Genetics, South Canterbury. They now have 130 Kikitangeo ewes that they intend to run as a separate internal parasite resistant flock.

Meadowslea Genetics had its own southern sale in February at the Grant family’s farm near Gore. All of the 30 Romney-cross and Kelso maternal rams, and most of the 60 Kelso terminal rams were sold.

The across the board average of $950 was up about $150 from the same sale last year. The top price was $2900 for a Romney.

“There’s a bit of uncertainty around the markets but there was good competition for the top-end maternal rams which is a good sign,” Meadowslea principal David Giddings said.

Prices were also slightly ahead of last year at Craigneuk in the Maniototo. All but six of the 275 rams were sold, and the price average was $1360 across the Dorset Down, South Dorset, Halfbred and Quarterbred offering.

The prices reflected the general positivity in lamb and mid-micron wool markets, Johnny Duncan, Craigneuk owner said. The top price was $5000 for a Dorset Down.

Purebred Beltex ram lambs sold for an average of $5500 and a top price of $11,500 at Beltex NZ’s November sale. There will be 21 on offer at the March sale and Beltex NZ co-owner Blair Gallagher is hoping for a similar price outcome.

Online platform BIDR was proving to be a valuable selling platform and would become more widely used as people became confident in using it.

“It’s worked well for us, especially with Covid.”

Support and interest in the double-muscled terminal breed was good but he felt that the ram breeding industry in general was at a crossroads given the ongoing reduction in the national sheep flock.

“The reality is that there are too many ram breeders and it’s becoming increasingly competitive… I think that to stay in the breeding game nowadays you’ve got to get bigger or be squeezed out.”

Aussie market hot

Derek Daniell, Wairere Rams principal said ram lamb sales have picked up on last year and are nearly back to where they were three to five years ago. However, numbers were well below the highs reached in 2006.

Despite the redlight setting people were still coming through, Daniell said. Though the Wairere team had done more picks this season than in the past for clients that might have come and picked themselves.

Daniell said he was very pleased he also farmed in Australia where the ram market was hot. In November, in Australia, they sold 1400 rams at an average of $4000, mostly with NZ genetics. On average similar rams are $300 – $400 more expensive in Australia to New Zealand. Daniell said Australian farmers were looking for self-replacing maternal stock.

“Difference is Australia is a growing market with more sheep wanted, compared to New Zealand which is a shrinking market,” he said.

A boomer season at Tinui

The most successful ram selling season yet has George Williams smiling.

The Williams annually sell 700-750 rams and, for the past three years, have held a successful off-farm October auction for their terminal Suftex/Beltex, with excellent support from repeat buyers creating good demand. This year’s auction of 80 rams had a 97% clearance rate, with the remainder sold onfarm.

The maternal rams are sold privately at Grassendale in the yards.

Prices this season were $1000-$2000 per animal, across the board.

“What’s become really apparent is farmers are prepared to get behind well-organised flocks with scale investment in technology and R&D. People see the benefits, and that’s what creates the demand,” George says.

There’s strong enquiry for ram hoggets, which are sold as two-tooths in November.

George paid credit to his team, saying the people around them and staff are ultimately what it’s all about.

“It’s lots of fun. Taking away all the outside stuff, within the farm gate it’s a good time to be a farmer. A season like this, how enjoyable is it to be feeding your stock well and farming your farm?”

One of the best parts of his job, he says, is the interaction with successful farmers and learning from them all, whether they buy two or 20 rams. “It’s a real privilege to be given that opportunity.”

Feeling positive about breeding

Despite a diminishing national ewe flock and the incessant march of pine trees in the Wairarapa, Zandy Wallace has good vibes about being in the ram breeding game.

Annually, Wai-iti sells 500-600 rams across the three breeds, and this season they were up on numbers across all breeds, selling out of Suftex completely.

Wallace said the Romneys were consistent, in part helped by the recent acquisition of Waiohine Romneys, and also strong growth in the lower South Island, predominantly from word of mouth.

An observation has been of clients leaning towards the Romtex to “open” up their sheep a bit and perhaps be able to move from six to 12 month shearing.

He said Suftex sold themselves.

“Having a terminal ram for those people coming to pick their maternal ram makes sense.”

It is early days, but Zandy says things already look promising for next year, with indications of strong demand and new orders for significant numbers of rams already coming in.

While sticking to their traditional selection traits, the Wallaces have tweaked things to include a few new traits to consider and measure – FE tolerance, worm resilience and dag score.