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About 60 Southdown enthusiasts descended on three North Canterbury stud farms last week to check out the quality of the stock.
First call for the group from throughout New Zealand plus seven representatives from Australia was Jenny Alexandra's Hursley Downs Stud, just out of Amberley.
The stud was established in 2008 and Ms Alexandra chose Southdown after reading an article saying Alliance wanted a complete lamb, good shoulder, plenty of muscle over the loin and good hindquarter. She now has 120 ewes.
Between 60 and 70 two-tooth rams were sold each year, mainly to North Canterbury hill-country farms. After requests for hogget mating, she decided to identify two-tooths to do the job, rather than sell ram lambs.
Central Southdown Breeders Club president Stuart Brannigan said the tour was a yearly event and included the national body's annual meeting.
This year was the society's centenary, although the Southdown had been in Canterbury since 1863, courtesy of the Deans family.
Mr Brannigan was impressed with what he saw at Hursley Downs. ''I have to say the breed has been holding its own in recent years and what I am seeing here suggests it will continue to do so.''
From Amberley, the tour moved on to Phil and Fi Williams' Omihi Stud. Founded in 2007 in conjunction with Phil's father, Brian, it had grown steadily from the first 13 ewes bought from Colin and Liz Smith, of Cust, near Oxford.
''We're now looking at 85 ewes and growing,'' Mr Williams said.
The stud sells about 25 rams a season at this stage. After visiting Patoa Farms piggery, near Harwarden, the tour group had lunch at a Waipara winery before moving on to the last and oldest of the North Canterbury studs.
David Gillespie's Midlands Stud was founded in 2000 and moved to the present 170ha property near Oxford last October, with a commercial flock of Corriedale ewes and 200 Southdown ewes.
The tour also visited farms belonging to Neville Moorhead, Mr Brannigan and Andrew and Louise Christey, all at Southbridge, and Brent Macauley's farm, near Lincoln.
- by Kit Carson