Couple thrilled by sought-after win

Farmers cast a practised eye over an entry at the Canterbury Merino Association’s Two Tooth Ewe...
Farmers cast a practised eye over an entry at the Canterbury Merino Association’s Two Tooth Ewe Flock competition. PHOTOS: PAUL ENSOR
A long dry spell has made a win in a sought-after merino competition all the sweeter for Glenaan Station owners Paul and Prue Ensor.

The Mid Canterbury couple emerged ahead of eight entries in the Canterbury Merino Association’s Two Tooth Ewe Flock competition.

This is the first success for Mr Ensor, who took over the farm in 2004, after finishing third three times and fourth in the event twice.

Mr Ensor said they were chuffed to get their hands on the trophy and be named winners among so many good sheep.

"I think our sheep have evolved over the years to a top sheep that is more dual purpose so they’ve got a good carcass and have still been able to maintain good quality wool."

When he took on Glenaan the overall flock averaged 15.5 microns with a lambing percentage of about 95%. Despite the breeding changes, they have lambed up to 121% with the micron lifting only to 16.5.

"That’s been driven by introducing some more carcass genetics and selecting sheep that have good muscle and fat and good reproductive abilities. A lot of people have to have what they call the modern Merino which is more a dual-purpose sheep."

The Ensors typically finish about two-thirds of their lambs on the dryland property with the terminally mated lambs going to the store market, unlike 20 years ago when surplus stock were sold as store lambs.

Runner-up was Grampians Station, followed by Glenthorne in third, Lake Heron fourth and Lake Coleridge Station fifth.

More than 50 farmers and supporters turned up on the second day with nearly the same numbers taking to the road on the first day to see flocks ranging from 16.5 to 21 microns.

Drought and its extra workload meant a handful of stations had to pull out with some of them shifting flocks to the rear of their properties.

Logistically, this meant visitors would struggle to get around them. A couple of stud visits were added to fill in the first day.

This took nothing away from the Ensor win.

"I’ve got a long list of people who say they will enter next time so I will have to hold them to it. A couple of them still turned up and a few people were busy feeding out because it was dry. Our numbers were probably lower than they had been in the past. Every year people seem to get busier and I know of people who would have loved to come to get away from the farm."

Mr Ensor used a tank of diesel to cover the 600 kilometres getting around the properties

He said the competition was about more than bragging rights.

"I always say all my good ideas come from other farmers. There were some good reminders about the basics of sheep breeding, but also see some guys do innovative things or try some new things and using new genetics so it’s good to see."

Glenaan runs 3100 ewes over 1035 hectares of steep hills rising to high tussock country. They will probably winter 2000 hoggets this year because of the drought, 500 less than normal, and reduce cattle numbers from 300 to 150 head.

The judging panel of Bill Sutherland and Guy Martin praised the station for a well presented line of two tooth ewes, weighing an average of 55.7kg on March 5 and for their good width at the rear end.

They singled out their balanced approach to breeding with good use of type and structure and for selecting the best available rams in their estimated breeding value range.

Glenaan Station got its hands on an elusive win in the Canterbury Merino Association’s Two Tooth...
Glenaan Station got its hands on an elusive win in the Canterbury Merino Association’s Two Tooth Ewe Flock competition. Stock manager Ben Harmer, left, owner Paul Ensor and judges Bill Sutherland and Guy Martin. PHOTO: PETER MCCUSKER/PGG WRIGHTSON WOOL
The Ensors source their rams from Earnscleugh Station and Glenallen Merinos with their wool under contracts with Icebreaker and Japanese company NIKKE.

Mr Ensor said they were pleased to also win the Wool Trophy for the first time.

"A lot of people say when you move into a more dual-purpose sheep it’s hard to keep the wool to a really high standard so it’s good to prove that it can be done. It’s been really dusty and dry and it’s really challenged the sheep.

"It’s been good to see the sheep keep the dust out. All through December and January they didn’t go through a fresh green paddock and every paddock they’re going into is burned off or wilted as we’ve been dry since late October. It’s really encouraging to see when you use these modern genetics they thrive in challenging conditions."

The dry season follows two high rainfall years of 1200mm compared with the 800mm average. So far, Glenaan had 118mm the first three months, below the 300mm average.

Mr Ensor said the challenge ahead for many stations was getting through winter feed crops one third of their normal yield.

"That’s the cheap feed and you have to fill in that gap with expensive feed so it’s going to be a tough season. Everyone’s talking about how poorly winter crops are and how they’re going to get through on baleage and grain which is two or five times the cost."

He’s had ewes grazing in Methven since late January.


First: Glenaan, Paul and Prue Ensor, sheep classers Paul Ensor and Ben Harmer.

Second: Grampians, Jono and Sarah Reed, sheep classer Graham Reed.

Third: Glenthorne, John Shrimpton, manager Chris Johns, sheep classer Mark Ferguson.

Fourth: Lake Heron, Philip Todhunter and Anne Palmer, sheep classer Philip Todhunter.

Fifth: Lake Coleridge Station, Bruce Miles, managers Mark and Rebecca Rose, sheep classer Chris Bowman.

Gordie McMaster Trophy for Most Improved/Encouragement award: Grampians, Jono and Sarah Reed.

Wool Trophy: Glenaan Station, Paul and Prue Ensor.

Canterbury Merino Association Conformation Award: Glenthorne Station, John Shrimpton.

Judges: Bill Sutherland and Guy Martin, marshall Graham Reed.

The awards were handed out at a prize-giving at Mt Arrowmsith Station’s woolshed.