Te Whangai Hill Country Romneys

Spring Newsletter  2017

If you rolled four dice, one for each season, with the six sides each depicting a weather facet such as wet, dry, windy, calm, cold, hot,  you probably have a good chance of determining what the year will be like!!
 Many folk around here are saying this is just like the old times, very dry summer but good autumn (understatement!) and a real wet winter.  My recollection of 'The Kowhai floods' (September/October) might mean the wet hasnt finished with us yet!
  How could you value that February rain? Prior to the rain the lamb market was subdued and market outlook was nothing flash then surprise surprise it rains and suddenly 'the market' outlook is positive! I reckon easily $400 million! I'd say $1/kg on lamb and mutton from April for the rest of the season plus 10% more lambs from half the national flock. No wonder the government is running ahead of budget!

Niwa have backed off an earlier prediction of El Nino and my weather guru tells me the sea temperatures off Sth America are cool and of the climate maps he looks at there is only one in the past 17 years that looks like this year and that is 2012 which brought a good spring (2011) and a wet summer.
 Predictions for Sth Australia are for a wet summer as well so let's see!

Ram Effect:
Periodically the question is asked, how much can the ram influence the immediate scanning result?
Instinctively we assume that the ewe is responsible for ovulation rate and successful formation of embryos and at best the ram effect on scanning percentage might be limited to his libido or sperm quality, unless he had a major problem or Brucellosis.

I recently had an example where a farmer had been using well reputed and big but not performance recorded Romney rams from the same breeder for many years and was trying Te Whangai rams for the 1st time.
 He split the 2th flock and mated half to 2th rams of the old gene source and half to Te Whangai 2th rams... there was a 30% scanning difference!!
 I had provided him with some surplus ewe lambs in February, which were mated along with his own 'old gene stock' hgts, the difference in scanning was 40% (75 v 115)!

Our national recording provider through Beef +Lamb Genetics has been busy changing the way they are going to report the potential genetic value of a ram.
They have moved to a 'one size fits all' index where one new index called 'Maternal Worth'  ranks all maternal rams regardless of breed or mix of breeds! Really?

 I haven't seen any figures yet but I would urge a great deal of caution because there are highly productive traits such as resilience to internal parasites which do not feature in the calculations.
What has been neglected to be mentioned in the promotional material is that to make accurate comparisons between flocks there must be adequate 'linkages' or shared genetics being used, and that is not commonly the case.

How can you compare a fully fed animal that is drenched every 28 days to one which may have had limited feed and not drenched for 6 months, or ever?  Short answer is  you can only compare animals from different flocks if they have adequate numbers of commonly sired progeny in both flocks.

SIL are also publishing a list of the top 200 indexed rams in the country. Whoop de doo. There's a very old adage, select only on figures and you get high performing rubbish, select only on looks and you get good looking rubbish!  
Common sense says a balance is required and with our heavy emphasis on resilience (growth rate under serious parasite challenge) which is not part of the SIL standard index, we are not likely to feature in that index frenzy.

There is a perception the Te Whangai sheep are small, I accept that to a degree in terms of frame size, and that is a result of the evolution of selection under a limited feed regime, but what is more important size or weight?  I recently got two commercial ram hgts back from a neighbour, one weighed 79kgs!! and the other wasn't far behind (just killed at over $200!) but the recorded ram hgts at home would be lucky to be 48kgs. Certainly no lack of ability to grow if given the chance!

Who would have ever thought we might be faced with exactly the same possible scenario with meat as we have with wool!
Complacency and lack of vision, marketing and investment allowed synthetic fibres to create total dominance in the soft flooring market to the point that there are now two generations that  know nothing of wool or any of it's attributes and we must not let that happen to meat.
 There are a number of  massively funded companies working on synthetic meat, including one backed by none other than recently anointed and controversial Kiwi Citizen Peter Thiel !! (net worth 2.6 billion) so you can bet they aren't going away. Reality would suggest that with the worlds population growing by 2.3 people per second or 200,000 per day they will have to eat something!!

 It always amuses me how wool holds a certain irresistible grip on even the people who love to hate it. I see a farm consultancy comment recently bemoaning the fact that their model 850 ha farm net profit will be down by $60,000 this year because of the drop in wool price. The net profit now will  only be $55,000, in other words at last years prices the wool cheque more than doubles the bottom line! and these are the very same types of advisors that have been quick to write wool off!
  It looks like early predictions of continuing disastrous prices may improve, the ram hogget wool at 31.2microns just sold for $4.81 clean. Still awful but just like milk at $4, it's about 1/2 what is was at the peak
Lack of consumer demand driven by poor marketing globally has led to the situation where even seemingly intelligent farmers (and their wives) have been conned into believing the sales pitch that wool carpet is 'old technology'!  Our reliance on China is a major problem.  At best I don't believe the State controlled system there has a clue as to what stocks they have or have not and at worst they do know but simply by withdrawing from the market they know they can crash the price and they are masters at it.
 Exports to all other countries have remained steady and India has taken 25% more than usual, obviously exploiting the low prices but thankfully taking up the slack of China's 30% reduction. Presumably they will now have the stockpile?!
 There is much talk of new uses for wool and that's fine , it will all help, but there is massive opportunity in the traditional flooring products if we change the value chain model.
 With grower control of the NZ Yarn spinning mill in ChCh combined with a sound retail partnership in the US, CP Wool's venture there can now achieve net profit margins of $50 plus per kg of the raw wool input!  That is massive 'capture of value', simply way beyond even good marketing of wool however these developments need to expand greatly and will require commitment, investment and of course rewards.

 While we have not developed this programme as quickly as we thought we would we will have a number of lambs born this year with two different sire backgrounds but still from Te Whangai ewes so we have made a start and subject to testing and identification of superior animals we may have some ram lambs available this autumn.

 With the political landscape changing almost daily what is the outlook for agriculture if the global 'desire for change' sweeps a new mob into power?
  Land tax, water tax, capital gains tax, emissions tax, all on top of possibly increased income tax!! Just watch our national surplus disappear.  The only consolations might be a plunge in the dollar and perhaps better reasoning between our Lady boss in Feds and Jacindarella?
  What ever happens we need to focus on our own productivity, for example, as genetic gain is permanent and cumulative if you take 2% annual gain in carcase wgt over 10 years at $6/kg that's an extra $24/hd.

Last year saw some excellent lambing %'s up in the 150-160's but I sense with the survival rates being experienced at the moment there will be new record levels set this year! Lets hope the weather holds out for the later country and the hoggets.


Look forward to hearing from you soon.  Hang on to the scrim!

Regards  Hamish, Harry and Bay