About getting ‘meat on them’

Wharetoa Genetics owner Garth Shaw is ready for his 22nd on-farm ram sale in South Otago 
Wharetoa Genetics owner Garth Shaw is ready for his 22nd on-farm ram sale in South Otago next month. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Shawn McAvinue spends five minutes with South Otago ram breeder Wharetoa Genetics owner Garth Shaw.

Q: What will you have on offer at your on-farm auction next month?

Three hundred rams — half maternal and half terminal.

Q: What type of rams?

In the maternals, we have Wharetoa Maternal — a stabilised half Texel, half Coopworth — and we have Texels, which we breed for fertility so people can use them as a crossbreeding option. In the terminals, we’ve got our Meatmakers — a Poll Dorset-Texel cross — and some Suffolk-Texel cross and a few Meatmaker-Suffolk cross.

Q: Are 300 rams about on par with what you usually offer?


Q: Do you usually get a full clearance?

It’s usually a pretty good clearance but it’s good to have a few left over — if you get rid of the lot it generally means someone has gone away without a ram and you don’t want that.

Q: What is your breeding philosophy?

To get meat on them; including the maternal sheep because it is important to get fast-growing lambs from genes coming through mum, as well as dad.

Q: Do you aim to get lambs away at weaning?

Yeah, that’s the guts of it, to produce rams that will breed lambs which will be fast growing and high meat yielding.

Q: Have you got there?

Yeah definitely — we have 1500 commercial ewes on the farm and we use them to benchmark our rams and we are consistently getting 50% away at weaning time.

Q: How has spring treated you?

It was a good growthy spring. The ewes are still catching up from the dry last autumn — it takes them a while to get over that sort of thing — but it is ticking along pretty good. As long as it keeps raining in January and February, that’s the crucial bit.

Q: Is there a bit of crystal ball gazing with breeding rams?

Yeah, you’ve got to have sheep that are productive as 90% of a sheep farmer’s income is from red meat sales now, so our breeding focus has got to be based around the production of red meat — kgs of meat per hectare out the gate is what is driving sheep farmers’ incomes. There’s a huge potential out there for sheep farmers to increase the weight of their lambs killed. Fifty percent comes from genetics and 50% comes from your management — genetics plays a major part in getting heavier lambs, quicker.

Q: What about their wool?

We are still producing wool but we are not getting paid anything for it — haven’t been for years. I haven’t given up on wool but it’s hard to get excited about it for the price we are getting and the amount we have to pay to take it off. But wool is a renewable resource and isn’t that what the world wants?

Q: Do you still have a passion for your work?

Absolutely, you’ve got to otherwise it’s a waste of time doing it. The biggest thrill I get is seeing the same people come back to the sale year after year and them telling you how they are getting on with their production.