Shedding rams a benefit to flock

Maniototo farmer Becks Smith spoke about putting shedding rams over her composite ewe flock at a...
Maniototo farmer Becks Smith spoke about putting shedding rams over her composite ewe flock at a Beef + Lamb workshop at Telford near Balclutha last week. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
A Maniototo family is removing ‘‘the struggle of strong wool" from their farm business to focus on their strengths.

"You can be anything you want to be but you don’t have to be everything," Maniototo farmer Becks Smith said.

As part of the Beef + Lamb workshop Farming for Profit: Flocks’ Future — How Much Wool? at Telford, near Balclutha, she shared her reasons for putting shedding rams over all of her composite ewes.

She launched her speech by showing the layers of wool clothing she was wearing to stop any of the more than 60 people at the event calling her a traitor.

The vet runs sheep, beef and deer on Willowglen Farm, near Ranfurly.

Stock on the 700ha property includes 200 venison breeding hinds, 70 velvet stags, about 500 trading beef cattle and 5500 breeding ewes.

Most of the lambs were finished on farm.

She and her husband Jason returned home from their OE in 2014 to farm alongside his parents Barry and Diane Smith on Willowglen.

A composite ewe flock on Willowglen included genetics from Coopworth, East Friesian and Texel breeds.

They also ran a terminal mob of 500 ewes to a terminal sire including genetics of Dorset down, Suffolk and Suftex breeds.

Improving wool quality and quantity was not a priority of their breeding programming.

The cost of shearing exceeded the value of the wool clip from 2018.

A kilogram of wool cost $3.09 to shear and returned $1.21 in 2021.

‘‘With the rising cost of shearing and the decreasing value of strong wool we had some tough decisions to make."

Barry established a stud for the shedding Wiltshire breed on Willowglen Farm in 2011.

The original purpose of his breeding programme was to produce a ram suitable for hogget mating because of the breed’s narrow shoulders and fast growth rate.

International shedding and hair genetics introduced to the stud include Australian white, exlana and low-footprint lamb.

Anyone considering introducing shedding and hair genetics to their flock should get them from a stud recording performance and genetic evaluation.

‘‘There is a wide range of shedding ability, reproduction and lamb growth genetics in the market."

They put a shedding ram over their two-tooth ewes and hoggets in 2020.

‘‘We were really happy with the lamb performance."

Fewer lambs needed to be crutched, she said.

A shedding ram was put over most of the commercial ewes, except the terminal mob, in 2021.

‘‘We haven’t looked back since then."

Animal health benefits included a reduction in ewe cast and bearings, fly pressure, lice and pneumonia.

Fewer inputs were required and they had not treated the hoggets for lice or flies this year.

Composite sheep crossed with shedding genetics once or twice still required shearing.

‘‘Just because you introduce shedding genetics into your flock doesn’t mean you’ll stop shearing that year."

Three crosses were required to produce a fully shedding sheep.

About 2000 ewes on Willowglen Farm still required shearing.

‘‘We are getting there but it does take time."

 

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