Remembering Romney's role

The Romney breed has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Photos: Supplied
The Romney breed has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Photos: Supplied
A photo of the Romney breed in the 1980s.
A photo of the Romney breed in the 1980s.

Romney breeders will reminisce next month, as past breeders and stock agents come together for a reunion.

Retired romney breeder Henry McFadzien, of Ferndale, said while the Romney breed was not what it once was, it helped shape New Zealand's sheep industry.

The wool boom of the 1950s played a large part to the breed's success, and in 1951, 52% of New Zealand's export income came from wool, he said.

Throughout the 1950s-1980s, the Romney breed made up more than 80% of the New Zealand sheep flock.

''The change of the breed came about the late 1980s and the emphasis went on to production,'' Mr McFadzien said.

One of this fondest memories was the unveiling of the Romney Ram Stature in Gore in 1991.

''They even made a whisky.''

Another big event for the Romney breeders was the annual ram fair.

As sheep numbers grew, combined breeders hosted the first stud ram fair in 1931 in Gore.

In 1958, following the increase in popularity of the Romney breed, the decision was made to have the breed's own stud fair.

''It was absolutely packed,'' Mr McFadzien recalls.

''It was the place to be, and standing room only.''

Between the stud fair and Romney fair, in the late 1980s, the pair came close to grossing $1 million, he said.

''It was quite some event. Buyers come down from the North Island and overseas.''

Rams were sold to countries such as Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Australia.

Strong friendships were formed through the fair, and the Romney breed as a whole, which is why the reunion was being held, Mr McFadzien said.

''Lifelong friendships were formed and strong friendships.''

The top price Romney ram sold for $45,000 in 1992, Edenbank 105-91, which was bred by William Mitchell, of Wyndham, and sold to Paki-iti Farms in Manawatu.

By the mid-1990s, numbers had started falling away as a greater focus on production led to a fall in wool prices.

James Holms had been a great instigator of the breed in New Zealand and at a peak in 1961, there were 200 breeders south of the Waitaki, he said.

The reunion, based at the Croydon Lodge in Gore, will be held on August 7 and 8.

It will include a bus tour visiting the Grant brothers' large-scale commercial Romney operation, Hamish and Miriam MacKay's Braebank stud and Blair and Sally Robertson's Merrydowns stud.

A dinner will be held featuring guest speaker former All Black Sir Brian Lochore, who was a Romney breeder himself.

Those interested in attending should contact Nola Nevill at

Add a Comment


Rural Conversations - ‘What steps are you taking to stay competitive and resilient in the face of domestic and global challenges’