Alexandra merino rams cross Pacific

Hamish Jopp (left) and Colin Wallace prepare to send merino rams to Argentina from Moutere Station near Alexandra. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Hamish Jopp (left) and Colin Wallace prepare to send merino rams to Argentina from Moutere Station near Alexandra. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
It's a long way from Alexandra to Argentina.

But a consignment of 10 merino rams, from the Jopp family's Moutere Station, in Central Otago, has made the journey.

The Moutere merino stud's relationship with a farming operation in Patagonia, which covers two large properties, began in 1999 when two rams were exported.

Another four were sent in 2006 and six more in 2010. This year's consignment is the largest to have been sent.

Tony Jopp said it was ''pretty unusual'' for New Zealand merinos to be exported to South America.

The year after the initial Moutere purchase, the South American purchasers were looking for a wool-classer from New Zealand and Colin Wallace, now retired in Alexandra, started classing over there.

Mr Wallace, who was awarded the Heather Perriam Memorial Trophy for services to the merino industry, at the Otago Merino Association's merino excellence awards last year, saw first-hand the impact of the Moutere sires on the flock.

While the sheep were good initially, the Moutere injection had made an ''amazing'' difference when it came to improving the quality of the wool, particularly the crimp and staple formation.

Among the thousands of fleeces coming across the table, as soon as Moutere progeny came along, he was ''guaranteed 99% of the time'' to get it right, he said.

The Argentinian relationship was particularly special given the connection of Mr Wallace and the feedback that they got back, Mr Jopp said.

''When he says the wool has improved, that's good enough for us,'' he said.

This year's order comprised both 1 and 2-year-old fine combing rams, between 18 and 19 micron.

There were a lot of procedures to be followed, including the rams being kept in quarantine, before Mr Jopp loaded them on to a trailer early last Thursday and drove to Christchurch Airport.

The rams then flew, in a crate, to Auckland, followed by a 13-hour flight to Santiago, then on to Buenos Aires and finally a flight in a single-engine Cessna to Patagonia.

The typography of their new home was not dissimilar to the Mackenzie Basin and there were extremes of climate, with frozen streams a problem in winter, Mr Wallace said.

Moutere Station celebrated a century of merino breeding in 2004.