Te Whangai Hill Country Romneys

SPRING   NEWSLETTER  2014

Following tradition, a quick weather roundup always summarises the years  production.          2014 (June to June) has been rather erratic but relatively ok for the most part.  The big drought of the previous year has continued to cast it’s economic tentacles over this year of course because the low lambing was a direct result of it.

For us, the spring began well but faded then a series of wet events put the skids under the cropping. It took 3 attempts to get one paddock finished. Then a thunderstorm on the last day of ram selling produced an unholy flood which flattened all Bay’s deer fence around the river and drowned the summer crops!  On balance it was still brilliant for grass growth.

 Roll forward to the autumn which unfortunately didn’t happen until it was too late.  The early mated mobs got the last of the good feed and by the time the elite and replacement ewes and hgts were tupping they were going backwards fast.

 Any hgts  over 32.9 kg went to the ram and we were pleased to have 60% in lamb and of those 25% having twins.

Resilience and benchmarking progress:

  I have wondered for some time how we can assess our progress for resilience.  Well I think this year we have seen two classic indications of the progress we have made.

 The effect that internal parasites have had this autumn has been significant.  Some industry commentary has indicated that selection for resilience has been a waste of time because even our sheep have taken a knock this year.  That depends whether you see the glass half full or half empty.  We had to dose a dozen 2ths in the autumn, because they were showing clinical signs of a parasite challenge, the rest have recovered, undrenched, to be as good as they’ve ever been pre lamb.  If we had a whole flock of  non resilient sheep we would have been in real trouble.

 Due to the drought affected lambing % in 2013 we bought in quite a large number of trade lambs at weaning. These lambs were from a property closely associated with a large Romney genetic programme which may well have focused on FE resistance and FEC levels (worm resistance)in their selection but there is definitely no resilience in them.! In other words, they can’t put up with a worm challenge.  Thankfully we ran them separately because every 3 weeks almost, to the day, they packed up and got shitty.

 This is a timely reminder of the analysis of our 2007 and 2008 ram hgt data we did for the NZ Society of Animal Production conference in 2010 which showed us that the average autumn weight Bv(kg) for the best 60 low FEC sheep(supposedly ideal) was –1.27, while the best resilient sheep were + 5.28.  Similar for fleece wgt, good FEC ave –0.37, good resilience ave +0.18.

 

Our production is undoubtedly compromised to some degree but that is the whole point.  The very best ewes will still produce the goods and these are exactly the ones we want to continue producing sires out of, to ensure we are providing genetics of the highest integrity.

 

Clients performance continues to back our policy.  One client recently reported his 2th scanning at 179% while the Hawkes Bay Vet Services average this season is 152% for 2ths

 

Wool Side sampling results:

I am intrigued by the variation there is in the side samples of the ram hgts.  Almost 10% are finer than 28microns. The range is from 25m up to 38m. The yield ranges from 60% right up to 90% which really reinforces the view that we should all be thinking in clean wgt, What use is a 4kg hgt fleece when you only get paid for 2.4kg?

 This reinforces two things. One is, never sell your wool untested, unless you think you know more than the wool merchant, who makes a living by knowing his job!

 The other is, because the heritability of wool traits is as high as 60% then rapid changes can be made in a short time.

 All wool transactions, past the farm gate, are done on a clean basis.  Surely it is time for wool growers themselves to start thinking and talking the same way.

 

With sheep numbers down to levels not seen since the 1930's !! according to M&W economic service, I think it is fair to expect some upside to the wool price, however, commercial reality is that while all manufacturers will have to compete in a rising market, they also must pass that price increase on up the chain. Any of them who cannot pass on the cost to the consumer, will struggle and drop out and the price will fall again. This has been the history of the wool and meat industries.

 

 The key to a sustained price rise for our wool is to ensure our customers perceive they are getting value and be prepared to pay for it.  They must understand the story of sustainability, lasting quality and all the other unique attributes of wool and the best way to convey that message is through quality consumer branding where the retailer is motivated and educated to sell the story.

 We know from the Just ShornÔ experience that closing a sale on a wool carpet is actually very easy, when sales people have the knowledge and confidence to tell the wool story. 

 

The Global Campaign For Wool which prince Charles is the patron of, is concentrating a huge effort into telling this story.

While there is some criticism of the generic nature of this project, there can be no doubt that royalty opens doors and attracts the news media like no other event (perhaps with the exception of dirty politics or Kim Dot Con)

 

Upcoming Wool levy referendum:

Having been violently opposed to the previous levy we had prior to 2009, I have stayed involved in the redevelopment of this proposal to ensure to my own satisfaction that we didn't allow a repeat of the past or even a structure that was capable of delivering that.

 What is being proposed is really very simple.  We are lacking a cohesive independent voice that can advocate and provide a unified voice for the whole wool industry when it comes to genuine industry-good. 

This body would not be entitled to cut across any commercial activities that existing entities are engaged in.  It will not be marketing or engaging in wild generic promotion, rather a targeted business cased strategy that can be monitored and prove it's worth.

 It will provide an overview of current R &D in the 1st instance, remember that there is already $6m available for research every year through the $35m WRONZ investment that the Wool Board left behind. The return off that investment + a govt contribution =$6m annually!  One problem has always been that there is no vehicle to extend that R&D out to be used.  This would be a function of the proposed body.

 Trade policy, market access, independent point of contact for govt and other inquiry, meeting our international obligations with other wool producing countries, folding in our Campaign For Wool commitments to this body to avoid more confusion and duplication.

 These are the activities no other industry entity currently has a mandate to perform so lets have a strictly controlled, small, efficient body that represents the entire industry, without any political agendas.

 

 

Ending of an era:

Nothing stays the same for ever and as Bay and Shona plan their next twenty years! having the rams at Tukipo will not be part of that, after this year.  We have a number of options but none of them will include pampering the rams through that critical first nine months when grazing and parasite pressure must be allowed to sort out the men from the boys.

While we know the lack of feeding means we are presenting physically smaller sheep than many others, we also take heart from the success of clients and the continual comments that these sheep can perform "on the sniff of an oily rag".

 We also know that performance recording is how genetic progress is made, so while we continue to maintain  positive selection pressure for growth rate our animals will get genetically heavier.  The trick is that the animals that are getting genetically heavier while being measured in this nutrition and parasite challenged environment are a very deep bodied meaty type which can be confused for a small sheep.  Even my regular stock agent often underestimates the weight of sale animals by as much as 3kgs and I often hear that comment.  Fear not, they weigh like lead.

 

Demand for rams:

Given the continued drop in sheep numbers it has been hugely rewarding to have demand for Te Whangai genetics growing strongly.  This year enquiry to date has been very high so I urge all of you to indicate your requirements as soon as possible so as to ensure we can give a positive commitment  to the new demand.

 

Look forward to all your stories and feedback. We enjoy all the good stuff and naturally remain totally committed to address all reasonable concerns or replacements.

Cheers,  Hamish and Bay