Ram breeders hold first ever on-farm sale

Cameron and Andrew Letham round up hoggets ahead of their inaugural on-farm ram sale at Hermiston farm, at Mitcham, Mid Canterbury. Photos: Toni Williams
Cameron and Andrew Letham round up hoggets ahead of their inaugural on-farm ram sale at Hermiston farm, at Mitcham, Mid Canterbury. Photos: Toni Williams
The Lethams, of Hermiston Letham Rams at Mitcham, north of Ashburton, held their first on-farm ram sale last month.

Farm owner Guy Letham, with sons Andrew and Cameron, put 100 of their Romney, Dorset Down and Border Leicester rams under the hammer, hoping it would be the first of many successful annual events.

Cameron Letham said the day (on November 27) turned out to be quite a successful event, with many of their regular buyers present, as well as a few new ones.

He said the rams sold well on the day, with values paid around what they expected.

Among the moderate-framed hoggets, weighing on average 100kg each, were many potential stud rams.

Guy said the sale was timed to fit in with a series of Canterbury-wide ram sales, which included the Canterbury Ram Fair.

Cameron and Andrew Letham instigated the on-farm sale, at Hermiston, as a way to let buyers see all their rams hoggets for sale, rather than a select few.
Cameron and Andrew Letham instigated the on-farm sale, at Hermiston, as a way to let buyers see all their rams hoggets for sale, rather than a select few.
And there had been interest from prospective buyers from as far north as Marlborough, and as far south as Gore.

There were also buyers from the North Island in Canterbury due to the number of sales happening district-wide.

While the decision to have an on-farm sale this year, rather than sell privately, was instigated by Andrew and Cameron, it was becoming more common practice and let prospective buyers see all ram hoggets available, rather than just a select few.

‘‘It's a chance for buyers to look at better sheep [than they might have normally seen]. And everyone gets an equal opportunity to see them,’’ Guy said.

The Letham family have lived in the Mitcham area for more than 100 years, dating back to the arrival of distant ancestor, Andrew Letham, in 1867.

The original homestead sits on the neighbouring Sherwood farm.

It was named after the area's railway stop, at Sherwood Station, which was along a former railway branch line that ran from Ashburton to Methven. There were eight stops along the route.

Guy's 400ha property, ‘‘Hermiston’’, sits in what was once a traditional sheep farming area.

The farm is named after the Scottish hamlet where the Lethams are originally from, and it is now one of the last commercial sheep farms in the area, as many neighbouring properties have converted to dairy or crop farms.

The Lethams run a mixed sheep and crop operation, with 2000 breeding ewes, 600 of which are stud, and 500 ram hoggets.

They supply prime meat to Silver Fern Farms.

The Letham Border Leicester stud was started by Guy's grandfather — also named Guy Letham — in 1931 and was known for breeding ‘‘good coloured strong boned sheep producing a quality fleece’’.

Their Romney and Dorset Downs breeds, perfected since 1984, are bred for either their wool and meat properties, or as a straight meat breed (respectively). They are grass-fed, which is watered by pivot irrigation system through Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation Ltd.

It is a big change from the farm's previous flood irrigation system.

Cameron said the genetics of the sheep may ensure the quality of the Letham product, but, as a commercial operation, they had to be performing in the market to remain commercially viable.

‘‘We have always sold privately [in the past] so we're just trying to streamline the process. We have a date to work towards and it makes a day of it [for buyers],’’ he said.

Andrew adds: ‘‘It's also a day to promote our [Hermiston] brand.’’

The Lethams were working with agents from PGG Wrightson and Carrfields including Carrfields auctioneer Andrew Holt.

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