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A tour of seven Mackenzie and Waitaki merino studs ‘‘ snuck in’’ before cancellations caused by Covid-19, organiser Will Murray said.
About 120 people took advantage of the open gates and displays of livestock and fleeces on Tuesday and Wednesday last week.
They included delegates from the Merino Excellence 2020 Congress that was held in Cromwell the previous week — people from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Australia.
‘‘What they loved about New Zealand is how small it is and how quickly the scenery changes,’’ Mr Murray said.
‘‘Everyone had very good displays. I would generally say everyone’s sheep have improved.’’
The Mackenzie Waitaki Merino Stud Tour takes place every eight years. The region shares biennial hosting duties with the three other merino regions in New Zealand — Marlborough, Canterbury, and Otago.
There are only seven merino studs left in Mackenzie Waitaki — Otematata, Benmore, Maryburn, Glentanner, Balmoral, Glenmore, and Grays Hills. All took part in the 2020 tour.
‘‘A lot of work goes on for a three-to-four-hour display,’’ Mr Murray said.
He and his wife Emily own Glenmore Station at Lake Tekapo.
The New Zealand merino breeding sector was co-operative and collaborative, he said.
‘‘We’re all progressive; we all work together. We’re not competing against each other.’’
There were ‘‘some exciting things happening with wool’’, including New Zealand Merino Company and First Lite ventures that insulated farmers against fluctuations in commodity prices.
He was delighted to win the supreme champion fleece award at the Wanaka A&P Show, and said the Glenmore livestock had also fared well there.
Otematata Station owner Hugh Cameron said the number of people who visited his stud on the first day of the tour ‘‘exceeded expectations’’.
He agreed with Mr Murray about the mutual benefits merino breeders here shared.
‘‘We’re probably doing pretty well with our breeding programme.
‘‘Because we’re small, we’re quite reactive to market forces.’’
Technology had also helped breeders to make gains, he said.
Mike Hargadon, from the New Zealand Merino Company, said adoption of breed values had been significant. Ten years ago only one or two studs were using them.
Mr Cameron said it had been quite a hard season at Otematata. However, picking up about 90mm of rain that was drenching the West Coast in February was a help.
He had about 130ha under pivot or hard hose irrigation on different parts of his land. At this time of year, it helped with rearing lambs.
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic would probably take a while to be felt in the New Zealand merino sector, he said.