Interest in coloured sheep

Bruce (left) and Kate McLachlan, from Clarendon, with the ram they paid $1050 for, and vendor Peter Gould from Pleasant Point. Photo by Sally Brooker.
Bruce (left) and Kate McLachlan, from Clarendon, with the ram they paid $1050 for, and vendor Peter Gould from Pleasant Point. Photo by Sally Brooker.
Clarendon breeder pays top price for ram, wins fleece awardsIT has been a good couple of weeks for Kate McLachlan's black and coloured sheep stud.

Mrs McLachlan, who has the Hillview registered Romney stud, paid the top price of $1050 at the Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders Association's South Island sale in Waimate.

She then won both champion and reserve black and coloured fleece, with hogget fleeces, at the Otago-Taieri A&P Show. It was the first time she had entered fleeces in the show and, to do so well was a ''real buzz''. It ''smoothed over'' having to pay such a high price for a ram, she joked.

Mrs McLachlan has been breeding coloured sheep since about 1974. Her mother was always keen on spinning and there was always a black sheep around the family farm in the Catlins.

She started with ''one or two'' sheep herself. Numbers grew, but then dwindled, due to family and work commitments, although she always maintained an interest.

When she and husband Bruce retired nearly four years ago, to a ''toy farm'' at Clarendon, they got back into coloured sheep ''in a very small way, but the quality is up there''.

She had about 200 sheep at one time in the Catlins but now had fewer than 20.

When it came to her new ram, purchased from Pleasant Point breeder Peter Gould, she was impressed by its full, even fleece and with the ''handle'' of the wool. Its genetic background meant it would be ''a real asset'' to their flock.

Mrs McLachlan believed she would never lose her interest in black and coloured sheep, even if she was not farming. She liked the different, natural colours and being able to ''play'' with the fibre.

She was grateful for the support of her husband, who also did the shearing.

''He's very key to the whole thing,'' she said.

The market for black and coloured wool was slow and, while there was always a market for top-quality hand spinning fleece, mid and lower grade wool was more challenging.

The McLachlans are members of the Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders Association, whose annual conference this year will be held in Motueka, in May.

It was an opportunity to see other breeders' flocks, their farming conditions and challenges, while also being a social occasion, Mrs McLachlan said.

The Otago branch of the association, the Silverpeaks branch had a small membership and was always looking for new members, she said.