Strong bids round off seasoned stud career

Amberley’s Wayne and Jenny Chisnall alongside the top-priced four-tooth ewe sold for $2050 to...
Amberley’s Wayne and Jenny Chisnall alongside the top-priced four-tooth ewe sold for $2050 to Merrydowns Stud’s Blair Robertson, of Gore, at the dispersal sale of their Hursley Downs ewe flock. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Amberley’s Wayne and Jenny Chisnall have bowed out of Southdown breeding on a high.

Strong bidding at the dispersal sale of their Hursley Downs stud ewes caught them by surprise.

Leading the catalogue was a top price of $2050 in the offering of 56 Southdown mixed age ewes, 36 two-tooth ewes and 29 ewe lambs.

Equally as pleasing for them in signing off during a deflated lamb schedule were the average prices — $535 for the older ewes, $515 for two-tooths and $340 for ewe lambs.

Two ewes passed in were snapped up by a buyer before the online auction on Bidr had completed.

The couple will continue to farm in semi-retirement, running commercial sheep and Angus cattle at their 80ha farm near North Canterbury’s Amberley Beach without the workload of a stud operation.

Mrs Chisnall said they had no inkling beforehand the demand would be so strong.

"Absolutely not, the results had exceeded our expectations. It totally blew us out of the water. We don’t show our sheep as a lot of breeders do, but they were seen on a Southdown tour last year by quite a few breeders and this current viewing may have assisted with the sale. Maybe that played into our hands, not that it was planned."

A good line of genetics developed over the past 15 years had probably created interest, she said.

The sheep were sold to 21 stud and commercial buyers throughout the length of the country from Keri Keri in the north to Gore and Te Anau in the south.

The top-priced ewe went to Blair Robertson’s Merrydowns Stud, of Gore, and the second top ewe was sold to Christina Jordan, of Willowhaugh Enterprises in Blenheim.

Fittingly, the two studs had provided much of the genetic base on the sire side of their stud flock.

Mr Chisnall said buying top rams from them in the past had paid off and resulted in the line-up of ewes for sale.

He said the Merrydowns and Willowhaugh cross had worked well for them.

"Probably our goals were to just breed a good commercial ram that was sound. We had an Angus stud before we started the Southdowns and it was on similar lines — to produce a good commercial type of sire. Our philosophy was if you keep buying good rams the ewes will look after themselves and get better and better. If we had the money we always bought the top rams we could at Merrydowns and Willowhaugh. They were the two studs we concentrated on buying our rams from. Both those breeders knew good stock and bred good stock."

The couple started the Southdown stud in 2008 to complement their Angus stud which they eventually dispersed to concentrate on the Southdowns.

At its peak the stud numbered 120 ewes. They mainly sold 60 to 70 rams a year privately to North Canterbury buyers as well as farmers further south and North Island stations.

Repeat customers often opted for the Chisnalls to pick rams for them and they would arrive sight unseen.

The Chisnalls also supported the Canterbury ram and ewe fair with one or two rams.

Mr Chisnall said they kept prices at realistic levels for their commercial rams.

"A lot of the time guys would ring and say they wanted four rams and I would say the price, say $800, and they would take five."

Mrs Chisnall said she had mixed feelings about leaving stud breeding.

"I am definitely sad. Not that the Southdown guys would like me saying this, but they were my teddy bears. It’s been an amazing journey and we’ve learned lots along the way. The Southdown community are a great group of people to be with. At the moment our sheep are in great order and we are managing, but given some more years it might be difficult to have the sheep at the level we want."

Mr Chisnall said they had enjoyed the semi-retirement feel of farming about 100 commercial one-year Romney ewes they bought each year and put to the Southdown ram.

He said the ewes lambed about 160% and were sent to the works at the same time as most of the lambs departed at 12 weeks of age.

However, now that he was 70 he could see the day when handling the "big and strong" Southdowns had an end date.

They were both fit and loved working with the sheep, but it was not getting any easier in the yards so the time was right to leave, he said.

They also run about 100 1-year-old and 2-year-old Angus heifers, buying 50 calves and taking them through to 2 years old for the spring market.

The plan is to increase the heifer numbers now they had left Southdown breeding.

"The decision to disperse the stud was made over Christmas as we felt the time was right to give younger stud breeders the opportunity to build on the genetics we have built up over 15 years."

Mr Chisnall said they would continue to observe the progress of Southdown breeding.

"The Southdown breed is in great heart with benefits of early maturing lambs and a lot of rams are bought for hogget mating. Most of our clients are in North Canterbury and some North Island clients and we thank them for their support over the years. We are not finished farming yet and continue to support Southdowns and farming in general. It’s a great way of life, even with its ups and downs."

They will continue to sell the last of the ram hoggets this year.

Their bloodlines could also continue if not by name.

A Cheviot buyer has indicated he might start his own stud from a base of 10 Hursley Downs ewes.


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