Science to star at club’s field day

Ross Paterson, of Waikaka Station, holds one of the Texel ewe hoggets in the short tail trial....
Ross Paterson, of Waikaka Station, holds one of the Texel ewe hoggets in the short tail trial. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Hot topics in sheep farming will be discussed at the Southern Texel Breeders’ Club’s Autumn Field Day on April 8.

The club prides itself on not only showcasing the Texel’s characteristics but also on informing farmers on relevant, timely issues.

A drawcard of the field day will be AgResearch scientist Suzanne Rowe’s talk about proposed changes to methane rules.

Club chairwoman Sharon Paterson said it was important to provide simple, authoritative information that attendees could act upon. She expected the methane debate would swell the numbers of people making a trip to the field day.

Dr Rowe led a 10-year research programme funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand levy-payers through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGGRC) and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.

Two closed flocks of sheep, one with low methane emissions and the other with high methane emissions, were run side by side. Selection lines were created from methane screening of the B+LNZ central progeny test flocks and the AgResearch Woodlands research flock.

The outcome was an average difference in methane emissions between the two flocks of 11% per unit of feed eaten. And it appeared there was no difference in the health, productivity or profitability between low- or high-emitting sheep.

‘‘We are seeing more lean growth, carcass yield and wool production in the low-methane sheep without any negative trade-offs,’’ Dr Rowe said in 2020.

The breeding programme, which confirmed that methane emissions were heritable, allowed for the establishment of a research breeding value for the trait, which was incorporated into the Sheep Improvement Ltd database in 2019.

AgResearch senior scientist Patricia Johnson will also be at the field day to present the findings of a trial into low-input sheep farming.

One aspect of the low-input approach is a reduced need for tailing and dagging. The Texel’s naturally short tail is one of the attributes sought after by sheep farmers.

Mrs Paterson said her family’s Waikaka Station Texel stud is taking part in an AgResearch short tail research project that is looking into how the trait can become part of the national flock. At tailing time, a measuring stick is used to give each lamb a score for its tail length. The amount of clear skin around the tail area is also noted.

Ross Paterson said he has noticed that the shorter the tail, the more mobile it is. The sheep can lift the whole thing out of the way when urinating or defecating.

The trial aims to identify the rams that produce the shortest tails and clearest rear ends.

The Patersons will have some of their ewe hoggets from the short tail trial at the field day, so participants can inspect them and learn more about the research.

Another quality that has boosted interest in the Texel in recent years is its prolific meat production. As the value of wool has declined, farmers have focused more on the meat side of their operation.

However, the Texel is renowned for its high-bulk wool, which is considered better than that of other terminal breeds.

Mrs Paterson said her family was satisfied with selling its Texel wool through a specific contract with Wools of New Zealand. The Patersons are shearing their Texels every eight months to produce the shorter length of wool required by the market.

The field day is being held at Leon and Wendy Black’s Blackdale Stud at 286 Mitchell Rd, Ermedale — about a 15-minute drive north of Riverton.

It starts at 1pm and finishes with a barbecue about 4.30pm.





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