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Newsletter 2018

 

Bienvenidos! (Welcome).  Yes I do have some important stuff to tell this year, so at the very least I implore you to read the first few paragraphs, before sticking it next to your bed for luxurious night time reading or I guess if you are one of those very few, who choose to use it to light the fire!!!

Share Farmed my Flocks.

I have entered into an arrangement with James and Maria Hoban with the full support of Jame’s parents Pat and Judith Hoban, who together farm Glenafric, to run my stud Romney, Southdown and South Suffolk Flocks. The studs were shifted there in March of this year.   The farm is 770 hectares, situated on the coast, 13km from Waipara.   Our Tenth Annual on farm sale will be at Glenafric on Wednesday 2pm 28 November 2018.  This will again be run in conjunction with Agonline.co.nz (our ninth year of this).   Note Glenafric is an hour’s drive north of the Christchurch Airport, the address being 1306 Mt Cass Road. Some photos of Glenafric below: 

       

Some of the Romney Ram hoggets at Glenafric day after shearing on 29 July 2018.

What are the ramifications of this arrangement for my clients?

In my opinion, absolutely nothing!   I still have full control over the mating, culling, breeding program etc but I am not responsible for the day to day work in running the stud, that falls to the Hoban Family (with my guidance of course).   My breeding philosophy has not changed, the same emphasis on all things that I consider essential to breeding good rams will continue to be applied.    A summary of the key breeding principles at Waidale is included at the end for your perusal, if you are unsure of what this is or indeed have forgotten.

In the long run I feel this move will be advantageous to our clients as obviously it’s a different terrain, environment and climate etc that the studs will be run under and as such it presents a challenge (I don’t see it as a big challenge) to our breeding program which can only enhance our genetics and as such be passed on to our clients.  I believe we have sheep that do shift well, which is evident from the different terrain and climates that we already sell our rams into.   I like sheep with a bit of vigour, constitution is key in my breeding program (type is important here, grunty deep and wide with some fat cover, not big lanky hard gutless bastards), feet is big priority, and so on: if you breed for this then they should shift!!!

It will be just as easy as it was, if not easier to attend the sale.  Glenafric is only an hour drive from the Christchurch airport.  If you want to fly in and out the same day, it will be easy to do.  Alternatively you can come to Christchurch the night before and the next day it will be an easy drive to the sale at Glenafric and back in a day.   

Alternatively you can buy the rams through Agonline.co.nz.  I think that I have successfully shown that a well taken 20 second video of each ram with all the data makes it a very easy and practical way to buy a good line of rams.  For those of who have been buying rams off me for a number of years, there is absolutely no guess work involved, you know my type of sheep: therefore Agonline.co.nz becomes a very easy and realistic way of purchasing my rams.   As many of you know, if you want my assistance with this or my opinion on a ram or rams, I am more than willing to help.  

Moreover I already pick out rams for a number of clients: what I normally do if you want say 5 rams for example, I will select 10 or 12 rams that are of the type you want, the traits you are looking etc and then give that list to an agent I trust, who will endeavour to buy the rams for you for the less than the price you want to pay (but hopefully for me it’s a great sale and you have to pay the maximum price you want to pay).    You of course can go through the catalogue and videos beforehand and whittle the list down to a certain number before asking me to go through them, up to you.     In any event if you want my assistance in this regard, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Why I have done this?  Basically I don’t have anyone in my family that is keen to continue with breeding waidalerams or indeed the farm. On top of this I don’t want to be tied to the farm every day of the year for the rest of my life:  I want to do other stuff while I have the fitness and health to do so, which hopefully is the case for a lot more years yet.   I actually learned to surf just 7 months ago, I am still hopeless, I say I stand on a board occasionally as opposed to surfing, but I love it, most amazing sport I have ever done.

Accordingly once I reached the above decision, I also wanted a succession plan of sorts if you like, so that when I do decide to no longer be involved with breeding rams at all, I will be able to leave my studs in the capable of hands of someone that I will have mentored over a number of years, who will have learnt everything that I have to offer (principally about breeding, but I do have an opinion on most things as those of you who know me, can confirm) and as such they will be perfectly placed to continue breeding top quality waidalerams.

It certainly wasn’t a decision about money; it was about finding the right person.  Passion is the first and most important thing you need to have if you wish to be successful ram breeder (as there are loads of easier ways of making money).    In the end it was a simple decision to go with James and Maria Hoban (out of a number of people who were keen, a surprising number actually). 

They are passionate about the idea of breeding good sheep; they are intelligent, enthusiastic and willing to learn.  On top of this they are willing to put in the hard yards to eventually own three top stud flocks.   I am confident that when I do quit that James and Maria (to the right) will be more than capable of breeding top quality waidale rams.    Obviously you can meet them at the sale and make up your own mind!! 

To that end my contact details are the same, namely 0274427746 or 036148388 (generally easier to get hold of me on my cell these days.)   However if you want to get hold of James and Maria, their phone numbers are: 033148293 and 0272511986.     You can contact any of us to arrange to see the farm or look at the rams.

 

Waidale Farm is for Sale  This is obvious the logical follow on from above.  It has been on the market for 6 months now and still is.   Those of you that know the farm, can attest to the fact that is a bloody nice farm, in mint order, the house,  yards, wool shed, fences, water reticulation, irrigation etc, everything is well developed and in immaculate order.  Farming Waidale allows you to focus primarily on the stock work, everything else is done.  Realistically I am looking for someone who has sold a big farm and wants to keep farming on a property that (if wasn’t for studs in the last 15 years) would be pretty easy going.   I am not giving it away, which is why it’s not sold yet, so if you are interested or know someone that could be, tell them to give me a ring or Pgg Wrightson real estate, it would be greatly appreciated it.

The above is the must read: share farming, sale date 28 November 2018 and the subliminal message “I must buy Waidalerams” Those of you who want to light the fire now with this newsletter, go for it!

Rams being offered this year:

Some of you make think the following detail as to sires etc is unnecessary, but first and foremost I am proud of my sheep and secondly I think it’s important that you have an understanding of the type of sheep I am trying to breed, what’s important to me and why.   So that when you come to my sale, you can be confident of what your purchasing or alternatively you can focus in on a particular bloodline if you so desire.

Romneys: I have not shorn them yet, this week hopefully, as that’s always the crunch time as to how good I think they are compared to previous years.  However I am pretty confident that I will again offer up for sale 90 plus bloody good Romney rams with good SIL figures. 

I have had two game changer rams in the last 17 years: Waidale 5-05 and Rawahi 984-12.   I have had rams that bred well, but these two rams impact on the Waidale flock has been phenomenal.   5 was the first ram to knock off 5 to 10 kgs live weight off our ewes, while maintaining growth rates, first step to the heavy but more compact Romney that I was seeking.   984 when I bought him I thought I would use him for one year only, get a coupler sons and move on, as he was so much better than anything else in the flock he came from at the time and is still is (as I have been back in subsequent years to see if there was another ram there I would want to buy).  I couldn’t see him breeding as true as he had (I think it helped that he had bloody good ewes to go over).  Again 984 has reinforced the type, heavy ewes but in a compact grunty body, yes they have constitution!!

SIL figures wise; I expect them to be overall significantly higher than before.  When I cull the lambs I always get to the point where it is becoming arbitrary as to what I kick out.  I then go through them to find the poor figured rams and kick them out.  The result being that at the time, their SIL figures of what I keep are pretty impressive as a group.  However with SIL, there will be some rams I have kept, whose figures when updated repeatedly in the next few months, will fall through the floor (well not as good as they were when I culled them as lambs), sometimes it’s hard to work out why, it just happens. 

I think it’s this blend of very good SIL figures combined with very good conformation and structurally sound sheep, which gives us a distinct advantage over the majority of our Romney breeding competition.   It’s not easy to get both in one animal.

I like to think that I have a reputation for breeding bloody good Romneys; structurally sound with very good conformation (bit arrogant some may say, but I have visited loads of studs in recent years when looking for a stud sire and I am pretty confident I can back up such a statement.)   However on top of this my stud now has good SIL figures to go with phenotype quality.   I don’t have rams in the top 1% in the country, but across the board we are up there, thanks to some sires in recent times that have really lifted us and simply because we have linked up through progeny trials and limited sharing of sires etc (which has allowed our romneys to be better benchmarked with other flocks).   I am the first to acknowledge that figures aren’t everything (indeed I have written on more than one occasion that you will never breed a decent sheep with figures alone) and that it’s very difficult to compare flock against flock generally, but it is nice to have good sheep with good figures!!

The majority of the Romney rams will be again by 583 and 984

  1. Waidale 583-14 (he epitomises the type of Romney I am trying to breed, hard to fault, great fleece, meaty’ deep and with bloody good figures). The top price ram last year of $7500 was by him and I sold 3 other stud rams by him. Photos of these four rams are below.  583 is son of 984; this year I used him for the third year running to just over 80 ewes, which means he is breeding very well as a lot of rams I use, only get used one year, they have to breed well to get a second. 
  2. 984-12. One of the game changers.  I still gave him 40 plus ewes this year.  No ram is perfect, but if you want grunty rams, good figures, great survivability, he again will have some good sons for sale. 
  3. Mana 3-15. I have been looking for a good ram that has a strong background of facial eczema resistance.   Facial eczema resistance is not that difficult to find, but finding a good sheep to go with it, believe me is not easy.   3 is from very strong genetic background in this regard, plus he is a good sheep with very good SIl figures.  3’s sire has a SIL index currently of 3387, top 1% in the country and survivability index in top 1%.  Figures are not everything but if you can get it with a good sheep it’s a bonus and having two top bloodlines in survivability (984 is the other) can’t hurt.  He is not a game changer, but there are some good sons available and it’s the first step to hopefully building some facial eczema resistance. 
  4. Waidale 240-15, son of 984. There will be some good rams by him; he even surprised me how well he has bred. 
  5. Waidale 9-16 son of 583 and Waidale 100-16 grandson of 984, used as lambs and sold as studs last year, have progeny in the sale. 
  6. Waidale 99-14, again will have some sons.  Different blood line, good sheep, his SIl figures not as high as the others. 
       
 W583-14  R984-12  W240-15  M3-15

W583 sons sold last year as studs. Fist two just thumb nail images taken from you tube videos, which is why not great photo

       
 W43-16 sold for $7500  W9-16 Sold for $2000  W84-16 half sold for $4000  W204-16 half sold for $3000

South Suffolks:  I think it’s safe to say that the mature size of my South Suffolks is generally considerably less than a lot of my competitors.  I obviously focus on growth rates as it’s still the main yardstick for determining how much money you make out of killing lambs, time to kill, feed intake, efficiency etc.  However I see little to be gained from a ram that weighs in at 140kgs, what is the advantage?  There is none.  I want an animal that fattens on the hill country that has constitution, not one that at the first sign of feed shortage loses weight at a hundred miles an hour.   Some animals do well when everything is in their favour, climate grass etc, but when these factors are against them they are awful.  There is a strong correlation between deep grunty animals and good constitution.

To this end I have used pure southdowns, a pure Suffolk, as well as South Suffolks rams to breed the type of terminal sire that I think the industry needs without affecting the integrity of the breed: as a south Suffolk was developed from putting a Southdown over a Suffolk.  Close to 50 South Suffolks will be offered for sale by the following sires: 

  1. 56-11, a Suffolk is not a big sheep, but he is deep, thick and grunty, he is bred exceptionally well, still got 25 ewes this year, difficult as the majority of the flock are his daughters. Sons again available this year.
  2. HP 418-15, a south Suffolk, not massive, good bone and good figures, first progeny available this year.
  3. 790-15, a Southdown I kept, great figures all round.   The Southdown component in my flock ensures we maintain a quick maturing element that the Southdown breed has over all other terminals.  He is also the sire of number of the Southdown rams that we are putting up for sale this year. 

Pk56-11

HP418-15

W790-15

I don’t have a photo of 74-14

Southdowns: The Southdown breed as a whole were probably better 10 years ago, size and feeding has had too much of an influence in recent times over the type of sheep being bred.  I think too many are getting too big, long and gutless.  The unique quality of a Southdown is its quick maturity. 

When you put a Southdown over another breed, it’s like you get extra hybrid vigour, as the progeny are generally grunty quick growing lambs.   Like all terminal sires, you need to need to ensure they grow quickly to a live weight of 40 and 50kgs, this is the only growth period that matters for terminals, not later.  Where is the value in having a mature ram weighing 130 to 140kgs, most rams of this type are gutless buggers in my experience, many of which take a lot of feeding as lambs to finish for slaughter.   

They are good for hogget mating, primarily because they are simply not that big a lamb normally when they are born.  But they are also bloody good terminal sires for all your ewes.    I am sure the same Southdown rams you buy can go out with the ewes for a round and then with hoggets as well, they have been trained to shag both!!!

74-14, of which I don’t have a decent photo as I forgot to take one when he was a 2th, hence the picture of Porky the king!!: When I bought 74 I jokingly asked the vendor when you find the other half of him could you send it up, as he wasn’t very big, but he had great figures including growth.    He wasn’t a big sheep, but he left lambs that grew.   Again my focus is on having meaty quick growing lambs, not giant gutless buggers as adults.

W790-15 and TD74-14 are the sires of the 40 plus southdowns I will be offering.  They are what I consider to be good commercial type rams.

My website waidalerams.co.nz: this time last year I was flat out revamping my website, which is now has mobile friendly version as well.  I am always updating it and particularly from now on.   I have actually had a few people complain over the years about the amount of information it contains (which I find a bit strange); my response is always you don’t have to read it all if you don’t want to.

But if you take the time to have a look, I think you will get a real understanding of how I do things and what I consider important in breeding sheep.   On top of this you can see the latest sires I use, videos and photos of a number of rams I sold last year.   You can also read more about the Hobans and their farm Glenafric, if you are interested.

I always stress that that when you are deciding where to buy your rams you need to find a breeder that, at least, is focusing on the trait or traits that is important to you and then most importantly do you trust that breeder?  As there is so much bullshit out there where guys say this, that and every other thing, but the reality of what they do is a long way from it or what they say is not that important but is dressed up to be so.  Don’t simply accept some fancy bit of marketing as being gospel, read up on it, ask them loads of questions and if you have any doubts in this regard you shouldn’t buy rams off them.  You can ring me and get my opinion if you want, you don’t have to agree with what I have to say, but it might help you decide.   My website should help you answer such questions about waidale at least.

Those of you who are unsure of how our helmsman sale runs in conjunction with Agonline, there is a video on the home page explaining what goes into it and another page “how we sell rams” that explains the process as to how you should go about buying rams with an auction like mine.

All articles I have written over the years are regularly added to my blog page, many on issues which are still very relevant today.  This page is easy to access from my website.  Unfortunately, now that Fairfax has unloaded all of its farming magazines, I don’t have an outlet to submit my amazing opinion pieces or as Jon Morgan of NZ Farmer once described something I wrote “my curmudgeonly piece” (I had to look this word up, “a bad tempered, difficult, cantankerous person”).  But I am working on finding another outlet, fingers crossed for me at least, I succeed.

My Tenth on Farm Sale will be at 2pm on Wednesday 28 November 2018

Obviously I have explained above where it will be held.  It will again be a helmsman sale run in conjunction with AGonline.  Videos of all rams and performance data will be loaded on the internet www.agonline.co.nz around 3 weeks before the sale.  For those who come to the sale, you can sort through them all to reduce them to a smaller number that might interest you on the day and for those who can’t make the sale, you can still sort out, select and buy good rams without attending the sale: we are selling more every year, close to 30 rams via Agonline last year. You can bid from the time everything is uploaded on www.agonline.co.nz  leave auto bids etc. if you want, with the auction finishing on the day of the sale.   You can actually bid in real time against those bidding on the day of the sale (because it’s a helmsman sale not your traditional auction).

If you have been to my sale my sale before you can skip this next bit:

  • A helmsman sale is one where by you can bid on all rams up until the close of sale, it then works like trademe, you have 2 minutes to place a bid, if no bid in that time, then the highest bidder succeeds in purchasing the ram.   The helmsman sale is why I can run it in conjunction with agonline.  I believe (and I think practically everyone who has bought at such a sale) prefers it over the traditional auction as; one it enables you to manage your budget better and two; buy a more even line of rams.   If a ram exceeds your budget, you can still bid on the rest.  The key is if you want say 5 rams, you need to select say 10 or 12 rams you like and rank them, so if a ram exceeds your budget you simply move on to your next choice; and
  • You can select good rams without attending the sale by viewing the 20 second video of the ram at www.agonline.co.nz and the data pertaining to that ram.  You may have to repeat the video a few times to check everything, but you can see pasterns, shoulders, hindquarter, colour, how it walks etc.  It’s a bit harder with Romneys, but again I do ensure we open the wool on each ram at the beginning of the video so you are not taking a total pot shot on wool either.  I give you a live weight at the time of cataloguing to give you a guide to assess size; Note we also have a  TV available on the day, so you can look at the videos of all the rams offered if you want to see how they move and walk etc. and
  • To know more about how the helmsman sale works in conjunction with Agonline, you are more than welcome to call me or take a look at my website: www.waidalerams.co.nz.   Please note that if you haven’t seen my sheep before and you can’t make it on sale day, then you are more than welcome to come and have a look at my ram hoggets prior to the sale at your convenience and if they are of the type etc that you want, then I guarantee that you will be able to confidently select the rams you like based solely on the videos and performance data loaded on the internet.

Visiting Clients:  Every year I try to visit as many clients as I can, it’s one of the crucial parts of being a breeder.   It is so beneficial to get feedback, to see the terrain and climate my rams are going to and of course just getting to know your client better.   This is very important when you have a sale like me: one afternoon with the majority of my clients in attendance simply doesn’t allow me to spend much time in a one on one basis with you.    I never ring and make appointments to visit you as I always think to do so is making it a big deal, I don’t want it to be a big deal, if I turn up and you are busy, I will simply bugger off or help you with what you are doing.  But if you do have the time to show me around the farm or simply have a cup of tea and chat for 20 minutes, I will greatly appreciate it. 

Random topics: Normally as most of you know who have got this newsletter every year, I have a lot to say on a lot of different topics.    This year, either I am a lot more relaxed or probably as I have been out of the country for a little bit I have been blissfully unaware of things that would normally irritate the hell out of me.   However it wouldn’t be a waidale newsletter without my thoughts on something would it.

Wool:  I don’t know what the answer here.  I do know that as a Romney breeder it’s still an important facet of the sheep we need to maintain; otherwise we may as well just breed terminals.  While we still have to shear them, you may as well be shearing good quality heavy wool, it costs the same 25% increase to cut it off.   I think at some stage it will get figured out, this blending of wool with synthetic might be the catalyst we need.

A mate of mine recently told me that the swell around the world against plastics and the environment etc will be the saviour of it all.  I not sure if there is a swell, we and the majority of our first world customers, I think, have known for a long time that wool is sustainable, biodegradable, environment friendly product, but we are still struggling to sell it for a decent price. 

I think we need a well-run social media campaign (with a lot of luck, i.e. for it to go viral to get the traction we need) for customers around the world to demand wool products.    Anyone have any ideas, new ones thanks, I would love to hear them as we need to do something different.

I do know I get sick of politicians etc waffling on saying we need to do this or that etc (same old blase rhetoric, speaking in generalisations with no specifics or detail as to how we achieve it).   I know from my own involvement that a lot of people have tried a lot of things over the years.   Some have been blowhards full of crap yes, but many have been genuine and really tried.   We don’t produce that much wool in reality so I hope we are perhaps just one scientific breakthrough or a fad away from turning our wool industry around.  Fingers crossed as obviously if we were paid well for wool and getting a $150 dollar for a 19 kg lamb, sheep farming would be pretty profitable!!

I know some guys are advocating fining our Romney wool clip up, dramatically, under 30 microns.   There are few issues to consider here:

  1. There is a strong correlation between a finer fleece and less weight.  We probably can fine the clip over time and maintain weight but it is not something that can be done overnight, but unless we have some assurance that the price per kg is going to dramatically outweigh the loss in wool weight, logically it doesn’t make sense to do it.  Note, I am steering clear of strong wool but I am not consciously trying to select finer wool rams all the time either; and
  2. How fine do we go because realistically I am not that sure that fining our clip to under 30 microns all of sudden provides us with a huge market where they pay us a lot of money?   The real high prices per kg is well under 20 microns; and
  3. You need to consider the environment where your sheep are running.  Fining your wool clip in a heavy rainfall area, without taking a long time to do it, will inevitably mean you will have a lot problems with colour, wool rot etc.   We want to be getting good money for the whole fleece, not just a little part of it as is often the case with some merino fleeces.

Meat Yield:  This is not the first time I have talked about this before, but with the sale of Beltex and Beltex cross this last year, I thought it was timely to address it again.  In my experience there is a strong correlation between very high meat yield and low growth, similarly very high growth and low meat yield in all breeds.  Texel breeders can say what they like and I have publicly written about it, but in general if you can kill your Texel cross lambs off mum then they are good terminal sire, but if you can’t then they are bloody slow to grow to kill weights (farmers who trade in lambs will tell you this, it’s not just me).

It doesn’t mean you can’t have a good growth and good meat yield, as there a plenty of animals, just at the extremes of it all they don’t go together.  I don’t know as I did not attend the sale, but I presume the Suffolk cross Beltexs that guys paid big money for was partially to ensure that the lack of growth in the Beltex would be hopefully offset in the progeny

On top of this, it’s generally accepted that very high meat yielding animals don’t taste very good.  I am certain Alliance years ago acknowledged years ago that there is an upper limit on meat yield where the taste and edibility of the product deteriorates significantly.   Although despite my repeated calls and others for them to pay more for well finished lambs (as they will taste better), we are still not being paid a premium for taste.

Anyway if you are buying such rams just be wary of those real high meat yield ones particularly.

Beef and Lamb NZ: I was away and didn’t get the opportunity to hear why they want to increase our levies, so if anyone has attended one of these roadshows, I love to hear the reasons for it.  However  I have read some stuff and don’t disagree with what they are trying to do, I think the branding initiative is a long time overdue, but I guess the adage “better late than never” is apt here.

My concern is whether the increase in funding will actually achieve anything or is it simply pouring more money down the drain.  I think in New Zealand we like to think we are big player in the world agriculture, but realistically we are NOT.   Accordingly I am not sure how much money would be needed to ensure this new brand gains significant traction around the world, I suspect the amount required is many times more than our present funding (even with the proposed increase).  If I am right, then a levy increase achieves nothing, it is a simply a waste of our money.   I would love to be proven wrong, I guess we will see.

As to some specific sheep issues with Beef and Lamb:

1. I see they are not having the Sheep Industry awards this year.   Unlike their view on how successful they have been, I think they are a complete waste of time.   It is not rewarding the leading breeders in this country; it is simply giving awards to those breeders who have the highest figures.  I can assure you that this does not equate to those with the best sheep in the country, by a long way.  

    • Firstly if you have been on SIL for a long time, my experience is that generally your figures continue to rise the longer you are on it (unless you are an idiot): therefore those who have been on it longest will generally continue to have the highest indexes. 
    • Secondly the more things you record for, the more likely you will have a much higher index, because it is a sum total game.  For instance if you measure the 5 core traits (reproduction, survival, growth, adult size and wool) which make up maternal worth index you get a figure, but then if you measure for facial eczema, dag score, worm resilience, body condition score etc, all these are added on to that index, so you get a very high index, for some animals anyway.   Obviously not everyone is recording all these traits and arguably we should, but by the same token to suggest someone is the leading breeder based on a small subset of breeders doing this is misleading is it not.
    • Thirdly as I wrote in an article in NZ Farmer last year, contrary to what Beef and Lamb were promoting, something like 50% of flocks at least are insufficiently linked to make a valid comparison of one ram’s index from one flock against another flock.  So to suggest that a winner of one of these awards is the leading breeder in New Zealand or even one of them for what the award relates to is basically a joke.
    • Fourthly, having the best figures in the country is nowhere the same as having the best sheep in the country.  I saw a ram coupler years ago with an index in excess of 4000 (based on genomic breeding values).  In my eyes he was a bastard, practically nothing right with them, just so many fundamental things wrong with him that if you had a flock with the faults he had, you couldn’t sustain productivity, not in the long run.  I wouldn’t use him in a million years.
    • These awards reward single trait selection which is not a good thing.   If you focus on one trait alone it’s easy to make gains with that trait, but at the expense of everything else; which is why sheep breeding is not easy.

2. You might have heard about single step evaluation system they have been championing: Beef and Lamb define it is as “a genetic evaluation method that uses all available information sources – including genomic information from SNP chip genotyping – to make the best predictions of genetic merit for traits. It is faster and more accurate, because it processes the genotype, pedigree, performance and progeny data simultaneously.”

Which is all good, just like using genomic SNP chip genotyping, which improves the accuracy of breeding values, but how much more accurate is it?   Because the reality is the improvement in accuracy is not dramatic enough to justify the excessive cost to SNP Chip all your ram lambs.  The cost is still astronomical and anyone using it obviously has another source of income that is subsidising their sheep breeding program.  Cynically I think it is used more for marketing purposes than anything else and many who do you use it on a big scale are the very high figured flocks: the majority of which are probably in desperate need of a good stockman to improve their sheep.

Up to this last year, all my Romney sires for the last 5 or so years have been SNP Chipped.   I provided the samples (like a number of breeders) to help improve the accuracy of the data.  I didn’t get individual data back, but it obviously was taken into account in my breeding values.  However in their wisdom they (not exactly sure who, Zoetis probably) decided last year to stop doing this.    I will probably pay to get all new sires done now just as a matter of course.

Personally, the way I would like to use this technology is to select half dozen ram lambs (based on how they look and their SIL Figures) that I think are good enough to use, then get them SNP chipped to ensure that there isn’t something dramatically wrong: eg genomic breeding values differ from SIL bvs on something important, perhaps genomic bvs for growth are poor, then I wouldn’t use that lamb.  The problem at the moment is the turnaround from taking a sample to results is too slow to do this in reality.   However this would be an economic way to use this technology.

3. An update of my stockmanship video.  This time last year I had the full backing and support of Beef and Lamb to do this, despite them putting it on hold.  However from the total absence of communication I have had with them in recent times, it would appear that this is no closer to being done now than last year.  Perhaps I am not the most popular chap anymore, I don’t know.  

If you don’t remember, my idea is to ensure we film a bad example and a good example of every trait of the sheep we are talking about.  Simplistically for example you have a good mouth, an overshot one and an undershot one, but you do this for everything, eyes,  pasterns, shoulders etc. that way people can truly see what one is talking about. This could be split up into modules and used as a teaching resource at High School, Universities and just generally.  I believe if it’s done properly it will be a valuable asset for decades to come.

4.  I have just read an email from Beef and Lamb reminding me about their long scanning calculator.  I had no bloody idea what this was.  It’s a guestimate based on twin scanning your ewes to tell you what it might be if you had triplet scanned your ewes.  I certainly hope they didn’t spend too much levy money on developing this tool, because what a waste of time, if you haven’t scanned for them so you can pull them out and priority feed the triplets or quads etc, then who cares?  I certainly don’t.

Amazing new developments in Waidale’s breeding program!! The following is summary of the basics that apply to Waidale, there is nothing revolutionary new or different because quite simply there is no magic miracle to breeding good sheep: its good stockmanship first and foremost; consistency of what you do and utilisation of performance figures and science (where it makes a difference, not simply for marketing rams)!!!

At Waidale I:

  • am sure of the type I am trying to breed, unlike a lot of breeders it would seem. I am definitely not trying to reduce the live weight of my stock in any of the breeds now.  What I am trying to do is breed a sheep, that’s thicker, deeper, gruntier but still the same weight.  A sheep that appears smaller in stature but still heavy and meaty.  I firmly believe there is a strong correlation between this type of animal and constitution (not 100% but certainly strong) and as such will perform better in all types of environments and terrain; and
  • focus on growth rates, but on the crunch time: for any terminal lamb it is how fast it grows and how heavy it is at 80 days to around 150 days, that’s the money time.  Growth rates are always important, but paramount in what I am doing as there is a strong correlation between bigger frame sheep and higher growth rates, so I need to ensure that I am using rams that are of the type I want as described above, but still have very good growth rates and still finish quickly.
  • don’t drench the adult ewes (those that don’t handle it are culled, our pragmatic worm resistance program), we are slowly reaping the rewards from this policy, I don’t know recall exactly when, but I am sure it’s at least 11 years now we haven’t drenched: and
  • practice an extended drench program of 6 to 8 weeks on our lambs (except for those we cull and kill); and
  • cull all year around for conformation constitution etc, all good breeders should be doing this; and
  • only use sires that look as they should and have good SIL figures: a good ram with poor figures will not be used and similarly a poor ram with great figures will also not be used. Too many breeders use poor rams with great figures, not at Waidale! and
  • practice the dying art of stockmanship which ensures our flock is of a consistent type that reflects the type of sheep I want to breed, i.e. good on feet legs, good jaw, good eyes, good colour, good length, good width, good depth, good hind quarters etc.  (All these things affect the future productivity of your flock, if you don’t maintain it, in the short term not a significant impact, but long term major impact).   You do this for long enough your phenotype will reflect the genotype, which greatly increases the likelihood that a ram you like the look of will actually pass on the production traits you see in that ram; and
  • have all flocks SIL recorded; and
  • footrot and cold tolerance profile sires to ensure I am not using a dud ram  (some people slag this footrot test, it does not mean you won’t get footrot, but I know from my experience with the Lincolns that it has merit, straight Whydid Lincolns rarely profiled anything but the highest i.e. 1.1 and they are very rarely lame).  Waidale was a farm that would have more footrot challenge than most, heavy ground and often very wet, accordingly we have been culling all the time for years on this.  You need a footrot challenge to ensure you are breeding sheep that have some resistance to it. This has been a key focus for many years and it does pay dividends continuously culling sheep with bad feet; It remains a focus at Glenafric; and
  • eye muscle scan all rams I keep through the winter; and
  • collect viascan data on all culled lambs killed and input this into SIL which perhaps makes the SIL meat index more reliable; and
  • cull all Romney ewes that have two singles in a row; and
  • mate our ewe hoggets for 18 days only; and
  • tag all lambs at birth to ensure accurate pedigrees which in turn promotes greater accuracy in SIL figures; and
  • wean in excess of 150% with the Romneys, more like 160 these days, almost irrespective of what they scan; and
  • have an honest upfront attitude.  I pride myself on my directness and my honesty; and
  • have an extensive website www.waidalerams.co.nz, which details all of the above and more; it’s worth a look.

Sponsors:

I would like to take this opportunity acknowledge and give a plug to those that support my sale, their support is greatly appreciated. Namely:

Boonies gumboots                                                              Farmers Mutual Group “FMG”

Essential Nutrition                                                             Ravensdown

Technipharm                                                                      PGG Wrightson

Vetlife                                                                                  

ASB

Catalogues will be posted out first week of November for my tenth annual on farm sale to be held at Glenafric at 2pm on Wednesday 28 November 2018.  All rams offered will be uploaded at www.agonline.co.nz  around this same time (about 3 weeks before the sale): all you will have to do is go to that site and click on the Waidalerams sale icons to get there. 

Note, I have sold the Whydid Lincoln Flock to Sue and William McDonald, phone 035755042 and 0272335546 email: middlehurstltd@outlook.com.   So if you are keen to get a good Lincoln ram, I suggest you make contact with them as soon as possible as I know this year they will only have 10 rams max for sale.

If anyone has any questions about anything I have written please feel free to contact me, I welcome the discussion.  But if I don’t see you before, I look forward to seeing you at the sale at Glenafric, 1306 Mt Cass Road and having a beer with you.   As I always say, it’s the only time of the year I shout, so even if you don’t want a ram, come along and have something to eat and a drink or two and of course meet the Hoban Family.

Yours Faithfully

Ike Williams

 

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