Southdown breeder Lachlan Elliot established his Lammermoor stud in 2005. Photos by Sally Rae.
When Duncan Elliot was a young boy, all he wanted was a
Forget the PlayStation games and other electronic gizmos that
his contemporaries desired, he was firmly focused on farming.
Now 16, Duncan, from Lammermoor Station, Paerau, in the south
of the Maniototo, started crutching when he was 10 and began
shearing his own sheep last year. He, his elder brother
Lachlan (20) and sister Brooke (22) have inherited a family
passion for the land, and for purebred sheep.
The Elliot family has been on Lammermoor Station since the
1920s and the 5200ha property is now farmed by John and Susan
Elliot with their children.
Duncan, who has a Romney stud, and Lachlan, who has a
Southdown stud, both with the Lammermoor prefix, were now
third-generation stud breeders on both sides of their family.
It had always been an interest for the pair and while it was
a passion, it was also very much a business.
Lachlan and Duncan began selling their current crop of rams
last week, preferring to sell privately rather than at
auction. Both breeds were also used over some of the halfbred
and merino ewes on the station.
The Paerau area was known for its very harsh winters, with
plenty of frosts and snow, and hot, dry Central Otago
summers. It was a testing environment for sheep, which
shifted well out of the district, they said.
Asked whether there was any sibling rivalry, Lachlan
diplomatically explained there was ''always brotherly
''But then we both agree a Southdown across a Romney is a
bloody good lamb,'' he said.
Lachlan established his Southdown stud in 2005, purchasing 14
ewes from Leo Christey's Mapua stud at Southbridge.
An opportunity later arose to buy fellow Maniototo stud
breeder John Mulholland's stud and numbers had slowly grown
to about 270 breeding ewes.
The Southdown is the oldest of the terminal sire breeds in
the UK and originated from the native sheep which roamed the
South Downs in the south of England for hundreds of years. It
was developed into a fixed type in the 18th century.
The first Southdown stud flock in New Zealand was founded in
1863 and the Southdown Society was formed in 1926.
The opportunity to own one of the few Southdown studs in the
area was a drawcard for Lachlan, who was also attracted to
the breed by it being a good early-lambing sheep, with an
ability to finish quickly.
He was looking to sell about 80 rams a year but hoped in the
future to build that up to 140 as he continued to increase
ewe numbers, while not compromising quality.
He was trying to breed good, structurally sound, well-muscled
sheep with the ability to ''get lambs away straight from
mum'', but with the frame and length to be able to grow them
out to a 21kg-23kg lamb later on.
Lachlan, who has sold rams as far afield as Canterbury and
Southland and throughout the Maniototo, said his goal was to
breed good, commercial rams for farmers.
He recently returned from a year-long stint overseas,
spending time working on a farm in East Sussex, near where
the Southdown breed originated. Their New Zealand
counterparts were much bigger and with a lot more length to
them, he said.
Farming in general in the UK was very different from New
Zealand, and he reckoned the UK livestock farming systems
were ''probably 50 years'' behind those in New Zealand.
Handling stock was not easy; there were no sheep-handling
facilities like sheep yards or shearing sheds, and moving
stock was also an issue. Traditional breeds were still very
much at the forefront, he said.
Duncan's foray into stud breeding began in 2007, with the
purchase of nine Romney ewes from Ron Jones, of Matarae
Station, near Middlemarch, and about a dozen from Mr
Mulholland. He now had about 100 breeding ewes, most of which
He was enthusiastic about his recent purchase of two rams
from Blair and Sally Robertson's Merrydowns stud at
Waikoikoi, which included the top-priced lot of $3200 at the
Robertsons' annual sale last month.
Those acquisitions would bring different genetics, more meat
and good wool to his flock, he said.
When it came to breeding, Duncan was focused on fertility,
wool, meat production, conformation and maternal ability.
He admitted he was particularly passionate about wool, which
was something of a family tradition.
Lammermoor Station has long been renowned for the ultrafine
merino wool it produces.
Lammermoor wool, including Romney fleece - John and Susan
Elliot used to have a Romney stud - has won many Otago and
local fleece competitions, along with national Golden Fleece
Duncan has already experienced success in fleece
competitions, including being runner-up in the crossbred
section of the Golden Fleece.
This year, he was selling about 30 rams and hoped to raise
the number of rams available for sale.
At the same time, he wanted to ''keep the quality up, and the
wool and have meat in the right places''. He aimed to produce
as even a line of rams as possible.
Both Lachlan and Duncan were involved in all aspects of stud
breeding, from looking after their client base to keeping up
Duncan reckoned having his own stud had taught him a lot
about sheep. Attending other ram sales and viewing other
breeders' sheep proved useful for comparison..
A boarder at John McGlashan College, Dunedin, he headed home
most weekends. Lambing was timed to coincide with holidays.
Several years ago, his ewes were lambing in 30cm of snow, yet
the lambs were quickly up and about.
''They're good lambers, good mothers. The lambs are born and
Once he left school, he hoped to initially either work on
farms in Australia or head to Canada to be a hunting guide.
While the brothers had never been forced into stud breeding,
or farming, their mother was delighted they had the interest,
particularly at such a young age, and such an understanding
Asked about the future of the sheep industry, Lachlan said it
needed ''a bit of a shake-up'' and he believed farmers needed
to ''stick together''. Duncan reckoned farmers should ''get
the basics right and stick with traditional breeds''.