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From the NZ Stud Merino Breeders Society

Merino Review 2019


YOUR BREED • Your country

FRONT COVER PHOTO BY: Hollie Woodhouse. PHOTOS THIS PAGE BY, (CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE): Gabriel Maxwell, Samantha Harmer, Ron Small, Samantha Harmer, Kirsty Houston, George Empson.


Merino Review 2019

Merino Review 2019


Contents 7 Foreword: President’s message 8 Innovation: Allbirds - Commitment to sustainability 9 Innovation: Plastic pollution - It’s all in the wash 10 Innovation • New uses: World’s first wool surfboard 12 Onfarm: Wether flock a feature at Otematata 15 Onfarm: Patagonia deal pays dividends at Mt Arrowsmith 18 Innovation • Clothing: First Lite makes a natural choice for outdoors

Photo by Hollie Woodhouse


Merino Review 2019

20 Merino Excellence 2020 conference: South Island tour link 22 Supply: Norway’s Devold buys straight from growers 24 Market trends: Positive outlook for NZ fine wool 26 Market trends: $2 billion industry within reach 27 Market trends: Merino rams into strong flock 29 Research: Flystrike prediction tool shows promise 30 Research: Grower investment in footrot-free future

32 Onfarm: Dual purpose lambs tick the boxes

46 Judging: Muzzle Station third time winners

34 Research • Perfect sheep: Merinos vehicle for change

48 Judging: A balancing act at Maryburn

37 Breeding • Southern Cross: Feet resistance heart of new Merino mix

50 Merino Show results for 2018-19

38 Breeding: Aussie classer influences NZ flock

51 Awards take fundraising to heart

40 Advice • Sharing the knowledge: Dryland and Merino groups merge 42 Wool: Wethers still valued 45 Judging: Merinos productive on hard country

Merino Review 2019



Merino Review 2019

FOREWORD • President’s message

Showcasing fine wool

New Zealand Stud Merino Breeders Society


n behalf of the New Zealand Stud Merino Breeders Society, it gives me great pleasure to present the 2019 Merino Review to you. This amazing publication has been produced in collaboration with NZ Farm Life Media Limited (NZFLM), the publishers of CountryWide, a magazine that many of you will be familiar with. The New Zealand Stud Merino Breeders Society approached NZFLM earlier this year to discuss the concept of producing a review of the past year for the fine wool sector. Our aim was to document the achievements, capture the progress made through innovation and present a high-quality magazine that showcases our amazing and enduring breed of sheep. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this publication. There are too many to name individually, but you will see many studs and agribusinesses who support the fine wool sector have advertised in it. I urge you to support them in the future. I would also like to thank the team from NZFLM who managed the whole process from idea to finished product without any glitches. Our aim is to get a copy of this magazine into the hands of every fine wool grower in the country. Extra copies have been printed and are available on request to farmers. Order extra copies by contacting the NZ Sheep Breeders Association office in Christchurch, phone 03 358 9412 or email Copies of the Review will also be mailed to all Merino wool growing organisations around the world and provided to any fine wool growers or breed society representatives who visit New Zealand in the next year. Looking ahead, Merino wool growers have plenty to be excited about. Our wool quality is envied by fine wool

The 2019 Merino Review was produced by Country-Wide on behalf of the New Zealand Stud Merino Breeders Society. Country-Wide is published by NZ Farm Life Media and available on subscription only.

EDITOR: Tony Leggett 027 4746 093 WRITERS: Anne Hardie, Andrew Swallow, Heather Chalmers, Joanna Grigg SUB-EDITOR: Andrew Maciver

Ron Small with his champion Merino ram

growers anywhere else in the world and current prices we are receiving reflect this. We are expecting a large contingent of overseas Merino farmers to visit New Zealand in March next year for our Merino 2020 conference. Interest is building nicely in the tour that has been set up leading into the conference and after its completion. I urge all of you to attend Merino 2020 so we can ensure its success. Thank you for your continued support.

Ron Small

President, The New Zealand Stud Merino Breeders Society Blairich, Awatere Valley

DESIGNER: Emily Rees ADVERTISING COPY CO-ORDINATION: Cassandra Cleland ADVERTISING SALES: David Paterson 027 289 2326

PO Box, Feilding 4740 Subscriptions: Freephone 0800 224 782 or visit

Merino Review 2019



Footwear: Commitment to sustainability


llbirds, the hugely successful global footwear brand, is on a mission to ‘do better things in a better way’. Sustainability is deeply embedded into the company and for Allbirds, this means making products that reflect and respect nature. Founders, New Zealander and ex-footballer, Tim Brown and San Francisco-based engineer and renewables expert, Joey Zwillinger, recognised the incredible properties of merino, a renewable, biodegradable, and sustainable natural fibre and realised they had a real opportunity to make products that weren’t just comfortable and well-designed but that were also better for the environment. “All of our materials have been meticulously chosen and designed to be the most environmentally sustainable they can be”, Allbirds’ Sustainability Manager, Hana Kajimura says. Allbirds chose to partner with ZQ merino, the world’s leading ethical wool fibre, from the outset. ZQ provides an ethicalinsurance behind their brand, assuring Allbirds and their customers that the wool has been produced with the highest level of animal welfare, social responsibility and environmental sustainability. ZQ merino establishes long-term relationships and partnerships and is only available through direct supply agreement contracts. These are set up by The New 8

Merino Review 2019

Zealand Merino Company (NZM), between progressive growers, and a ZQ brand partner, like Allbirds, and ensure all wool is traceable to the farms that supply. Kajimura was recently in NZ to deepen the relationship with their ZQ growers. “Our consumers look to Allbirds for materials and products that are better for our planet. The connection with our growers helps us better communicate wool’s environmental impact and understand how we can do better. We rely on our growers for information and new ideas about how we can improve and continue to grow.” Kajimura highlighted the importance of farming with the highest level of integrity and continually refining practices to ensure they align with brand and consumer expectations both now and in the future, something that’s deeply ingrained in both the Allbirds and ZQ ethos. In addition to the wool runners, Allbirds have also released a ‘Tree’ runner made from a naturally derived and renewable eucalyptus tree fibre and a ‘SweetFoam™’ jandal made from sugarcane-derived EVA foam, with the aim to incorporate SweetFoam™ into the soles of all Allbirds shoes. Sustainability however doesn’t just end at materials for Allbirds. Last month, in an interview on Earth Day, co-chief executive Tim Brown announced that they were launching the Carbon Fund, which would

Alex Jenny, senior supply chain strategy (left), and Hana Kajimura, sustainability manager (centre) from Allbirds visiting David and Lisa Anderson from Bog Roy Station in Omarama.

support offsetting carbon emissions from their entire business, not just across their head office in San Francisco, but throughout their entire supply chain and all the way back to their ZQ merino grower suppliers in NZ. According to MIT research, the average trainer emits around 13kg of carbon per pair. Each pair of Allbirds, made with natural materials, creates roughly 10kg of carbon. Ultimately, Kajimura says, “creating products that people love enables our sustainability work. If people love the product then they buy it and they talk about it, which gives us brand love and loyalty, enabling us to do our stainability work and push even harder”. Allbirds has announced plans to open its first New Zealand retail store in Auckland later this year, to complement their online sales channel,

Plastic pollution: It’s all in the wash


ingle-use plastic is the most obvious offender when we consider ocean plastic pollution. Yet the biggest offender of plastic pollution is something that might not be front of mind: our clothes. A 2018 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) revealed synthetic textiles such as polyester, which are derived from fossil-fuels, are the leading cause of ocean microplastic pollution. More than 35% of the projected 1.5 million tonnes of microplastics found in the oceans come from synthetic textiles. What’s even more concerning is the plastic microfibres shed from clothing are so small they can’t be seen by the naked eye and as such, marine life are ingesting them. We are now finding traces of plastic microfibres in our food chain. New Zealand brand, icebreaker, believes nature provides the answers and for more than 24 years has developed natural-fibrebased clothing. Natural fibres are more renewable, more sustainable and a better alternative to synthetic. Washing clothing can release up to 700,000 synthetic microfibres per full load polluting waterways. “The more we discover the levels of plastic pollution to our planet, the greater the need to learn more and to raise awareness of the problem,” chief brand and product officer Carla Murphy says.

Natural fibres are a better solution to synthetics.

NZ’s Government has taken steps to ban some products containing microbeads, but synthetic clothing and carpets have a far greater impact on our environment, and us. Plastic particles released during the washing of synthetic clothing account for 35% of primary microplastic pollution in our oceans, compared to only 2% from the cosmetics industry, IUCN says. “Predictions suggest that within the next 30 years, there will be more plastic in the ocean than marine life. Is this the world that we want to leave for our children?” the New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) chief executive John Brakenridge asks. He believes NZ, and brands like icebreaker, are perfectly positioned to provide the world with sustainable fibre alternatives and NZM investing in R&D to highlight the impact of microplastics and showcase the benefits of natural fibres, as a solution. In June this year, icebreaker will partner with long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte, to raise awareness of ocean plastic pollution and support research into the impact of synthetic fibres on our environment. Move to natural, a platform for people to raise awareness of topics that others will be able to learn from, and The Vortex Swim launches June 2019 with an epic journey across the Pacific Ocean. Ben Lecomte will swim 300 nautical miles through the plastic Vortex, representing the 300m tonnes of

plastic produced in the world each year. Commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Vortex is the highest concentration of ocean plastic in the world, from large debris to plastic bags to microscopic fragments and fibres. The crew will explore and research the Vortex from Hawaii to California over three months. Taking samples every 30 to 50 nautical miles, the crew will be the first expedition to provide an extensive, unified high-definition sampling on plastic pollution across the Pacific Ocean. “As humans we all have the capacity to drive change, and the more we learn the more we can act and make positive choices,” Murphy says. “People like Ben are not only inspirational humans, they are natural progressives helping all of us see things differently, in a way that enables each of us to better understand and be part of change for good. Everything we do is designed to move people closer to nature and closer to choosing natural alternatives.” Ben shares icebreaker’s passion to challenge the status quo and people’s understanding of plastic. Swimming through plastic debris is not for fun, but it is necessary to raise awareness, he says, to be part of the solution and help educate people on natural alternatives. Learn more and follow Ben’s progress at

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Merino Review 2019



‘With this technology we can produce a surfboard that has the potential to outperform traditional boards. Basically, you grow a sheep, shear it, wash the wool twice in water and make a material that is light, flexible, durable and fast.’

The Woolight Seaside by Rob Machado

World’s first wool surfboard


iwi entrepreneur Paul Barron has partnered with The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) to develop a wool composite technology that could change the global market for NZ wool. Barron has partnered with United Statesbased Firewire Surfboards, who have designed and manufactured a ‘Woolight’ range of surfboards, to commercialise the technology at scale. NZM and Barron have developed the wool technology and are investigating other market opportunities for the wool composite. The technology is a new high-value market for NZ strong wool, at a time when the industry is struggling with low wool prices and looking for alternative markets. According to NZM chief executive John Brakenridge, what Firewire is doing producing wool surfboards is the start of a movement and the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wool composite technology. “While the first application of this

technology is being used in surfboards, it has the potential to replace fibreglass in many other products such as boats, aircraft and furniture. “The wool’s natural performance such as tensile strength means that products made with this new technology are lighter and more flexible than traditional fibreglass, while maintaining its strength.” Tauranga-based surfboard maker Barron first came up with the idea when he spilt resin on his wool jersey. It gave him the idea to build a surfboard shell out of wool. Traditional foam boards are typically housed in resin and fibreglass for structural integrity. Barron’s wool technology replaces fibreglass with wool. “With this technology we can produce a surfboard that has the potential to outperform traditional boards. Basically, you grow a sheep, shear it, wash the wool twice in water and make a material that is light, flexible, durable and fast,” Barron says. Firewire chief executive Mark Price has recently been in NZ to meet with Barron and

Mark Price of Firewire, Hadleigh Smith of NZ Merino, and Paul Barron.


Merino Review 2019

the Pāmu farmers who will supply the wool for the ‘Woolight’ boards. Price, along with surfing pro Kelly Slater who is a co-owner in Firewire, has a desire to steer the company to zero-landfill by 2020 and they see wool as a component of this process. “We’re sourcing ZQ wool that is ethically sourced and at the end of its life will biodegrade and give back to the environment. “Not only is NZ a country with a long and rich surfing tradition, the growers that we are sourcing the wool from share our values of doing things in a better way. “Surfers by definition commune with nature on a daily basis, so they have a heightened sensitivity towards the environment and can relate to the technology that wool offers in terms of performance, and obviously the sustainability story is off the charts,” Price says. Pāmu will supply the bulk of the wool fibre used in the ‘Woolight’ surfboard. According to Pāmu chief executive Steven Carden, the partnership with Firewire gives sheep farmers a sense of pride and confidence that the future for wool doesn’t have to be the status quo. “We hadn’t thought surfing would ever provide the channel to take a positive New Zealand wool story to the world, but it makes sense that those that enjoy nature so closely would be those that can solve environmental and performance challenges - we can learn from this,” Carden says. “This partnership also supports Pāmu’s focus on innovation – from sheep and deer milk to wool surfboards; Pāmu is at the forefront of positive change in the agriculture sector by adding value to our raw products and to the economy.” The ‘Woolight’ surfboard range will be available for sale in New Zealand about June 2019. “If we don’t give back along the way, no matter our success in building our business, in our view that is diminished,” Price says.




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Mons Royale Reda

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Merino Review 2019


ONFARM • Otematata Station

Joe Cameron checks a mob of wethers in for a crutch and eye-wig.

Wether flock a feature at Otematata ANDREW SWALLOW


ou can’t have your cake and eat it too, goes the saying, meaning you can’t have two good things at once that tend to be, by nature, mutually exclusive. For example, better local services and lower rates, or in sheep breeding, maximising genetic gain in wool while doing the same in lamb. It’s a compromise Hugh Cameron is well aware of at Otematata Station, North Otago, where he runs 28,000 Merinos. “Like it or not, wool and meat production are antagonistic traits,” he says. “There has to be a trade-off and because we run a large wether flock, for us the see-saw is tilted more towards wool than lamb.” His 11,000 wethers are an essential part of maximising profit off two vast pastoral leases – Otematata and Aviemore – which he runs as one 40,000ha business. From the shores of Lake Aviemore and State Highway 83, the adjoining stations stretch over 20km southwest to the watershed of the Hawkdun Range at 1850m. The country is mostly rolling, with ranges 12

Merino Review 2019

gradually increasing in altitude back from the lake which lies at 268m. Rainfall similarly inches up from an annual average of 370mm at the homestead, to maybe double that at the watershed. Those miserly moisture figures and a mostly north-facing aspect make for a semiarid environment over much of the property. “Moisture is our limiting factor in most places,” Hugh acknowledges. Altitude is another major influence, with drifts of snow lying into November on the very back country and falls possible at any time of year. The extra hardiness and lower feed demand of Merino wethers make them a good fit with that environment. “A lot of our country would be hard to utilise with ewes and if we did, they’d only be up there for six or eight weeks after weaning. If we didn’t have the wethers, there would probably be parts of the station we wouldn’t use at all, Hugh says.” The wethers clip about 5.5kg of 18-micron wool/head/year, with at least 4.5kg of that as fleece wool. “We get a little bit less off the ewes because they’re producing a lamb too.”

There are 11,000 ewes in total, including a registered stud flock of about 400, and a mob of about 800 which are run down-country at Kurow on a 2000ha freehold block where they’re put to Suffolk rams. “It’s a bit warmer and we grow more feed down there,” he says. All wool is marketed through the New Zealand Merino company, with about 40% on long-term contracts to supply icebreaker and high-end Italian fabric house Reda, and nearly all the balance on shorter-term contracts. “Very little goes through the auction system. We were one of the original six contributors to icebreaker and we’re on a 10-year contract with them now,” he adds. For a long time the icebreaker contract was ahead of auction prices and while it’s only been on par for the past couple of years due to a lift at the auction, the three-year rolling pricing mechanism should correct that in due course. Besides, he says, it is the certainty of returns that contracts bring that really appeals, making developments on the property much more bankable.

‘Very little goes through the auction system. We were one of the original six contributors to icebreaker and we’re on a 10-year contract with them now.’

In recent years just over 100ha has had hard-hose and gun irrigation installed, and a 60ha centre-pivot will start working in the spring. Meanwhile, subdivision and conversion of oversown pasture and scrub blocks into a network of mostly lucerne paddocks is ongoing, with about 350ha now enclosed in 5ha to 20ha blocks. However, the hills remain the engine room of the property and where most of the money is made. Maintenance fertiliser, mostly sulphur or sulphur super, is flown on to 9000ha of oversown country by rotation every three years. Hugh’s son Joe, who returned to the station in 2016 to bring up his family and learn the ropes of running the business, says the scale of the property means his aspirations are largely more of the same, carrying on the subdivision

and the gradual increase in productivity his father has driven, and indeed, his grandfather before that. “There’s only so much you can do and spend in one lifetime.” As the fourth generation on Otematata, and fifth farming Aviemore, he admits the prospect of taking on the family business is a little daunting, especially as he hasn’t had a formal agricultural education. “There are times when you can tell people look at me, in my 30s, and think ‘he should know that’, but I’ve only really been involved for a couple of years.” Before 2016 he was a pilot for Jetstar for four and a half years, and had worked in various other aviation and tourism jobs around the world since leaving school in 2002. But despite


Looking back over Otematata and, in the background, Aviemore Stations.

• 40,000ha in two highcountry stations run as one. • Altitude 275-1870m. • Mostly low rainfall: 375-500mm. • 2000ha down-country support/ finishing block 30km away. • 11,000 Merino wethers, 11,000 Merino ewes, 6000 hoggets. • 340 Hereford cows.

Merino Review 2019


Three generations: Hugh Cameron with son Joe, daughter-in-law Pip and grand-daughters Flora (4) and Evelyn (2).

that background he has no particular desire to start farming the growing tourism industry in the area. “My wife, Pip, and I feel there is more than enough potential for increased profit through farming efficiencies rather than chasing a tourism dollar.” As for the core business of breeding Merinos, Joe says that’s still very much his father’s department with most of the rams used bred from their own 400-ewe stud flock. Occasional rams are brought in for those ewes from Allan and Simon Paterson’s Armidale Stud, Maniototo. “The Armidale rams have a good frame and they’ve also got a strong focus on the wool with very good production figures for lambs and growth too.” Hugh says he’s starting to look at AsBVs when making ram selections and had his own rams in the Central Progeny Test for two years, albeit not last year. “They did better in the wool values… This isn’t footrot country so it’s never been a selection criteria.” Besides Merinos, a herd of 240 Hereford cows graze the two stations, with another 100 Herefords on the Kurow block put to Simmentals. On the station all maiden and first-calved heifers are put to a black bull for calving ease, with all progeny sold, while replacements are bred from the mixed age cows. Hugh, who lost his wife, Mandy, unexpectedly a couple of years ago, says he’s very pleased to have Joe back on the farm. “I’m enjoying working with him. It makes it all worthwhile having the family following on but there was never any pressure to return to the family business: it’s large enough to have been run by a manager if need be.”


Merino Review 2019



ONFARM • Mount Arrowsmith Station

Patagonia deal pays dividends at Mt Arrowsmith ANDREW SWALLOW


ommitting to supply an exacting Merino wool contract is paying dividends for Mt Arrowsmith Station. The 9000ha Merino, beef and deer operation in the Mid Canterbury high country is into its third year supplying United States-based outdoor clothing company Patagonia, having recently renewed an initial twoyear supply deal. “Before we were selling mainly at auction,” station owner Philip Wareing says, though a proportion of the clip went to Japanese suit manufacturer Konaka on contract, so the Patagonia contract isn’t their first such commitment. Philip says he likes the price certainty as well as the premium the contracts offer. In the case of the Patagonia deal, to which just under half their 250-bale annual clip is now committed, the initial premium was eroded by the market lift last year, but this year’s renewed contract was more than $5 ahead of the auction price for 18.5-micron Merino going into winter. However, the certainty and premium offered by the contract, which was arranged through PGG Wrightson,

comes with conditions stretching way beyond the normal wool-related specifications. “It is mainly to do with the environment and animal health and well-being. For example, we have to record birdlife types and numbers… It’s prompted us to do quite a bit really.” Some requirements tie in with demands from Environment Canterbury for nutrient budgets, limited fertiliser use, and a comprehensive farm environment plan owing to being in a sensitive lakes catchment. “We’re employing a specialist to handle those environmental issues,” Philip says. The animal health and welfare side falls to station manager Brian May. For example, he now has to offer water and hay or other forage available to mobs yarded ready for shearing. “They’re not allowed to be off feed for more than 24 hours or water for more than 12 hours so we’ve had to put troughs in the pens.” That hasn’t meant putting in a reticulated system though: the auditors have accepted use of temporary tubs filled when

Station manager Brian May.

Merino Review 2019


‘You just don’t know who might be driving by and it only takes one photo on social media to go viral to create the wrong impression, no matter how unrepresentative it might be. One slip up and a photo can do a lot of damage.’ required. Similarly a bale in each count-out pen is seen to meet the feed need. During shearing, any cuts requiring a stitch must be treated immediately, with antiseptic administered and the process recorded. The animal also has to be marked so it can be pulled out of the mob, checked and treated with antibiotic if necessary, before returning to grazing. Patagonia’s requirements result from extensive animal welfare advice taken from farmers, veterinarians and other experts following an animal rights group’s exposé of a South American supplier. Brian says he regularly reminds his staff of the risk of such stings, and that they have to maintain best practice at all times, be it on animal welfare or environment, especially as the station borders Lake Heron, a popular summer tourist spot. “In a situation like this with a lot of vehicles passing through you just don’t know who might be driving by and it only takes one photo on social media to go viral to create the wrong impression, no matter how unrepresentative it might be. One slip up and a photo can do a lot of damage.” Shearing is one of several areas where Patagonia’s contract relies on farmers implementing sound management systems, rather than setting one-size-fits-all thresholds. Farms must have an action plan “to address and prevent any reoccurring problems with injuries”. Auditors visit during shearing as well as viewing records. Tailing is another area Patagonia’s people are

• 9000ha Mid Canterbury pastoral lease. • Altitude 700m to 1800m. • About 1000ha in paddocks, 3000ha over-sown hill, balance native. • Wintering: 6500 Merino ewes; 3500 hoggets; 300 Angus cows; 650 Red hinds. • Environmentally sensitive and high-profile lake catchment – borders Lake Heron. • Award-winning 18.5-micron Merino flock.

very interested in, says Brian. “Tails have to be left a bit longer and must be done by six weeks of age at the oldest.” To achieve that ewes are scanned for foetal age as well as singles or multiples, with mobs drafted accordingly prior to set-stocking. “If we didn’t split out earlies and lates there would be too big a gap between the youngest and oldest lambs from a mob to meet that tailing age limit.” With field work around the station, the contract’s not specific about how erosion should be prevented, or the risk of nutrient loss minimised, it just requires that it is. Auditors want to see the process documented and evidence of it happening on the ground. Brian says much of what they’re doing hasn’t changed – direct drilling, soil testing to guide

Saxon it on

M er ino

Is o l a

Mt Arrowsmith Merino hoggets and a ram or two in the yards in May.


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Mt Arrowsmith Station borders Lake Heron, a nature reserve and popular local tourist destination.

fertiliser use, managing grazing to minimise risk of nutrient or sediment loss – but they now document it more thoroughly and it’s spelt out in their farm environment plan, the basis of which is the Beef + Lamb NZ template, with add-ons as required to meet specific requirements for either Patagonia or Environment Canterbury due to the sensitive lakes aspect. “One thing we have started doing that we weren’t before is organic matter soil tests. There’s a cross-over requirement for that with both the sensitive lakes catchment

zone and Patagonia.” Having passed their first environmental audit with ECan with a B grade, in March this year they obtained an A. “There were things we were still putting in place first time round, like fencing off waterways. We had the same auditor back this time so they could see the progress we’ve made.” As yet, neither the Patagonia contract nor the sensitive lakes zoning have constrained development on the property which has seen the Merino flock increase by 500 ewes each

year for the past two seasons. However, a five-year consent to develop an area of native country is coming to an end so it remains to be seen if such permission will be granted in future, Brian says. As for the quality of the wool, the fact the flock, which came to Mt Arrowsmith with Brian and his wife Mary from Big Ben Station when Wareing sold that property, has twice won the Canterbury Merino Association’s twotooth competition probably says it all. “We’ve also had several winning fleeces at Canterbury Show,” he admits.

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Merino Review 2019


INNOVATION • Hunter’s clothing

A natural choice for outdoors

First Lite co-founder Scott Robinson, wearing a Merino wool hunting top, with a bull thar shot on one of his trips to New Zealand.



imon Williamson’s passion for wool is infectious. He is on a mission to tap into the growing consumer preference for natural, sustainable, wool clothing. The upper Waitaki Valley farmer owns the 3700ha Glenbrook Station north of Omarama, with wife Kirsty and three sons, George, Ben and Ted. He was approached several years ago by Peter and Patty Duke, former ski instructors who wanted to source Merino wool to make into socks for skiers and outdoor enthusiasts. Their experiences with synthetic socks led them to Merino wool as an alternative, and eventually to Williamson as a possible source. “Peter and Patty invited Kirsty and I to the United States to meet with them. While we were there, we met a lot of other people in similar businesses who were just so passionate about Merino wool. “They were all saying they wanted Merino wool but they couldn’t get a reliable supplier that could deliver exceptional wool with a great story behind it. Of course, we said we can supply it ourselves or find it for them from other growers down in NZ,” Simon says. Their relationship with the Dukes has developed well over the past few years, and they are now the Australasian agents for Point6 Socks, a business they run from the farm, delivering online orders and stocking 50 shops in both countries. On another trip to the US, he also met textile guru Jose Fernandez, the founder of Global Merino, a world leader in the development of Merino wool fabrics for a wide range of uses. Fernandez has been to NZ several times since and sources most of the


Merino Review 2019

fine wool he uses in his company from NZ suppliers, including Glenbrook Station. On the same trip, Simon also met with the two founders of First Lite, a high-end hunting apparel company based at Ketchum, Idaho, who were also looking for a supply of Merino wool to create a range of base-layer and midlayer garments. The pair, Scott Robinson and Kenton Carruth, have been to Glenbrook Station several times since and hunted at many locations in the South Island high country, trialing their wool garment range and developing the relationship with Simon and four other growers who now supply a total of 50 tonnes of their wool each year to First Lite on a three-year supply contract. There are two segments to the contract – 17.5-micron wool for base layer clothing, and 18.5-micron wool for the mid-layer range. Logistics for the supply of the wool are handled by CP Wool. Once the wool is tested in store, it is shipped to China through exporter John Marshall and Co, for scouring, top-making and spinning into yarn, then on to the garment making stage before being shipped to First Lite’s warehousing facility in Salt Lake City, and sold online to hunters around the US and beyond. CP Wool Group chief executive Colin McKenzie says First Lite’s founders had previously been wearing Merino wool clothing but it was brightly coloured and not ideal for hunters who usually prefer camouflage gear. “The wool from our New Zealand growers is engineered with a proprietary yarn system to enhance its performance for hunters and printed in camouflage colours,” he says. “First Lite operates an online retail model,

so it’s great to see wool from a small group of growers in the Waitaki Valley being made into garments that are sold directly to hunters in the United States and many other places too,” McKenzie says. He says the direct to end-user contracts offer the chance to compress and disrupt the traditional supply chain for Merino wool growers. Their supply contract was introduced last year and this year offers the growers certainty of price and volume for the threeyear period. “It’s commercially sensitive information but it’s definitely a premium price for those growers to supply First Lite,” McKenzie says. He’s visited the First Lite head office in Ketchum and met with the owners to lock down the supply chain and build value into the tight partnership, with a small group of NZ wool growers. “They love New Zealand, they’ve been here hunting thar and deer, and they love the fact that they can source top-quality Merino wool in a tight specification direct from a dedicated small group of loyal and passionate merino wool growers for their high-end hunting apparel”. McKenzie says CP Wool is building a suite of options for wool growers, from traditional auction selling to supply agreements and contracts which link them directly to endusers. “The beauty of these longer-term contracts is that it removes some of the risk from being exposed to the vagaries of the global commodity market for wool and leapfrogs conventional channels to market; we want wool growers to have a choice with a portfolio approach to sales channels”.


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Merino Review 2019


MERINO 2020 • South Island Tour

South Island tour linked to conference


ew Zealand’s premier Merino wool growing regions will feature in a 12-day guided tour next March. Experienced tour company, Farm To Farm Tours, has organised the tour of South Island to link in with the Merino Excellence 2020 conference, planned for Cromwell in mid-March next year. Bookings made before October 31 this year will cost $4995/person. The price after November 1 rises to $5250. Prices include the conference fee. Those attending the conference component only will pay $400. Tour fees cover most meals and all accommodation plus entry fees required for any tourism activities. The tour starts in Christchurch on March 7 and heads north, taking in Merino studs, farm visits and spectacular scenery throughout North Canterbury, Marlborough and the West Coast regions, before heading back over the Haast Pass to Cromwell for the conference component of the tour. There’s an opportunity to take in the Wanaka Show and experience Central Otago’s spectacular scenery and sample the region’s wines before the tour restarts with the journey north towards its conclusion in Christchurch. Following the conference, the tour heads north again through the Mackenzie Country, Maniototo and Waitaki Valley regions and on to Christchurch on Wednesday, March 18, for a final evening dinner and farewell next morning. Sponsors of Merino 2020 conference are PGG Wrightson and NZ Merino Company.

The detailed itinerary is (subject to final updates): Saturday March 7 Arrive in Christchurch in time to explore the ‘Garden City’ currently going through a modernisation following the dramatic earthquakes of 2012 and 2013. Gather at the tour hotel for pre-dinner drinks and a welcome meal.

Sunday March 8 Depart Christchurch early heading for Blenheim via North Canterbury with its attractive rolling farmland, stopping first in the small town of Cheviot before heading out to the first Merino stud visit to The Gums. Later, the tour heads further north to Kaikoura, a small town located between 3000m-high mountains and the sea, which is renowned for its marine life. Tourists flock to Kaikoura to head out whale watching just off the coastline. After spending time in Kaikoura, the tour heads north along the picturesque coastline before heading inland towards Blenheim, renowned for its wines.

Monday March 9 Enjoy a full day of visits to the region’s Merino studs, including Blarich, Upcot, Awapiri and the combined studs of Middlehurst and The Muller. The day will include a BBQ lunch onfarm so everyone can experience some country hospitality before heading back to Blenheim for a second night.

Tuesday March 10 The tour heads up the Wairau Valley and over the Southern Alps to the West Coast, renowned for its mining of coal and gold, plus timber production. The West Coast is a much wetter environment than the eastern coast regions of the South Island thanks to the moisture-laden air as it arrives from over the Tasman Sea, and falls as rain. A stop is planned at the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks before heading south down the coast to the glacier country around Franz Josef township.

Wednesday March 11 Next morning, weather and wallet permitting, there is the opportunity to view the Franz Josef glacier from a helicopter before the tour heads further south then over the Haast Pass en route to Cromwell where everyone will be based for the next three days for the conference and visits to the Wanaka show and other tourist spots around the Central Otago region.


Merino Review 2019

Thursday March 12

Monday March 16

This day has been set aside for the Merino Excellence 2020 conference in Cromwell. Optional tours are available for partners.

Visits to Central Otago Merino studs, dotted between Cromwell and the Maniototo region, before heading back to Cromwell for another night. Irrigation has opened up much of this country to more intensive farming.

Friday March 13 The tour heads to nearby Wanaka for a day at the region’s A & P show. This is the secondlargest show in the South Island and presents a great opportunity for everyone to meet the region’s farmers, see the livestock on show and in the many competitions – including some unexpected ones – that are usually run at any regional A & P event.

Saturday March 14 Sunday March 15

Tuesday March 17 The tour heads north to Twizel with stops at two sites along the way where local Merino studs will have their stock on display for visitors. Twizel was set up for workers on the region’s massive hydro electric network construction, but is now a tourist stopover town.

Wednesday March 18

These are both free days for everyone to enjoy the region’s many tourist activities, enjoy a lunch at one of the many wineries or just chill out and rest. Options include a quick flight over to Milford Sound for a day cruise or sightseeing around the region.

The final travel day for the tour, heading further north through the wide expanse of the Mackenzie Country with two final stops to view Merino studs along the way, before continuing on to Christchurch for the final night.

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Merino Review 2019


SUPPLY • Norwegian connection

Devold marketing director Gro Naalsund, left, chief executive Cathrine Stange and Craig Smith, general manager of Devold Wool Direct on a visit to the South Island high country.

Straight from the growers HEATHER CHALMERS


global backlash against polluting oil-based plastics and synthetics offers a great opportunity to renew consumer interest in wool. However, it was a big task to make the world want to buy wool, with many consumers unaware of its natural, renewable and biodegradable attributes, Devold Wool Direct NZ Ltd general manager Craig Smith said. Craig, known as Smithy, has been in the wool industry for about 30 years, joining Devold last year from a previous role as PGG Wrightson wool business development manager. He is now responsible for sourcing fibre for the high-end Norwegian Merino clothing company from woolgrowers in New Zealand, Australia and South America. Devold had previously sourced wool on the open market, but price and quality issues led it to deal directly with woolgrowers, Craig said. Established in 1853 to supply wool garments to fishermen, Devold quickly became known for its quality and innovation. Wool broker PGG Wrightson facilitates the contracts, but the supply chain had only one or two intermediaries, with Devold having its own state-of-the-art factory in Lithuania, where fibre arrived as yarn and was made into 22

Merino Review 2019

garments ready for retail. Devold produces a range of clothing from 100% Merino wool, including base layers, mid layers, socks, scarves and jackets. Three main micron types are used: 17.5-micron for base layers against the skin, 18.7 for jumpers and mid layers and 20.5 for jackets and outerwear.

‘For too long we have let wool education go. We have been out-competed by synthetics and crossbred prices have fallen to record lows.’ “Devold don’t blend any fleece wool with pieces or bellies, so only 100% fleece wool is used.” Wool is supplied using three-year rolling forward contracts, with NZ woolgrowers signed up to $42 million of contracts for the next three years. Wool is supplied by about 20 high country stations, including Maryburn, Bendigo, Armidale, Blairich and Glenmore. “Devold seek to be different from other brands through their focus on quality. This is

not just the quality of the final garment, but the quality of the people they deal with and the wool they source,” Craig said. Devold wanted to know its woolgrowers personally and chief executive Cathrine Stange had visited NZ several times. Devold garments have full traceability, with each one detailing the property the wool came from in a special sheep-to-shop programme. “From each station, 10,000kg of wool top equates to 30,000 garments, which will have the woolgrower’s station name and story on its swing tag. Stations the wool is sourced from are further promoted in videos on the company’s website.” Not all woolgrowers can supply the at least five tonnes of wool required to qualify for a named swing tag, but can still be part of the programme. A characteristic of some woolgrowers to produce long wool was also rewarded. “In the past, some growers have been discounted for growing their wool too long, but Devold want longer-length wool to match their mill’s spinning techniques.” As Devold carries out multiple tests on the wool’s strength and fineness, as well as other factors, woolgrowers receive direct feedback about how their wool performs. Craig, who started as a wool apprentice in

Bendigo Station owner John Perriam and Devold chief executive Cathrine Stange. The Central Otago property supplies wool to the high-end Norwegian Merino clothing maker.

Napier, said that it was while working for Pyne Gould Guinness in Timaru that he gained his love of the Merino industry. “I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of Mackenzie woolgrowers and gain knowledge of Merino breeding.” Legendary Australian Merino sheep classer Gordon McMaster also taught him about sheep breeding and wool types. He has since taken on wool leadership roles in an effort to improve the industry’s profitability and says consumers have to be educated about the natural attributes of wool before they will switch from cheaper synthetics. “For too long we have let wool education go. We have been outcompeted by synthetics and crossbred prices have fallen to record lows. “It is not sustainable to grow crossbred sheep at the moment for their wool. Luckily, better lamb prices are offsetting this.” Craig was the first New Zealander appointed to the global executive committee of the International Wool Textile Organisation. He is also a committee member of the Campaign for Wool in New Zealand. Wool in Schools, part of the Campaign for Wool, had converted a shipping container into a “wool shed” that travelled around NZ, educating year seven and eight (intermediate) pupils about wool and its importance to the country’s economy. The information available could be used by teachers in subjects including science, technology, mathematics, economics, history and English. “It is to make children aware that there is an option with wool. Pupils also take this knowledge of wool home to their parents and hopefully when buying a garment or product it leads them to look at the label and check what it is made from.” Craig is also a member of the wool working group, formed following a Wool Summit hosted by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor in Wellington last year on how to make the wool industry more sustainable and profitable. The working group, comprising representatives of farmers, buyers and major wool product makers, has been laying the groundwork for a strategy aimed at better promotion of wool to consumers. The group is pushing for the Government to switch from synthetics to wool carpet and insulation in Kiwibuild homes, state houses and government buildings. As a natural, renewable, biodegradable, breathable, non-allergenic and flame-retardant product, wool provides health as well as environmental benefits. “The benefit is not just to the woolgrowers, but to the wider public from the use of wool,” Craig said.

Servicing the wool industry... When it comes to experience, expertise and knowledge, PGG Wrightson is the first name in New Zealand wool.

Find out more on

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Merino Review 2019


MARKETS • Positive trend

PGGW’s Jason Everson, left, and Dave Burridge in the auction room check greasy merino wool and a finished wooltop.

Positive outlook for NZ fine wool Supply and demand factors are working firmly in the favour of New Zealand fine wool growers, supported by trends that look set to consolidate further.


lobal demand for fine wool has significantly improved in recent years, based on a solid foundation that has kept prices high for the longest continual period on record, Dave Burridge, South Island sales manager for PGG Wrightson Wool says. “Consumer appreciation of active wear, products that can be worn next to the skin, is driving our market,” he says. “Supporting that, the sustainability and biodegradability of wool compared to synthetic fibres is becoming ever more relevant, along with the positive ethical story we tell about a product grown on the backs of sheep living in a free-range alpine habitat is more influential, further boosting growing demand.” These consumer-driven factors playing out across most developed markets are magnified within China’s economy, where the number of people with higher disposable incomes is


Merino Review 2019

increasing, giving them greater capability and desire to buy products made from luxury fibres. Burridge says demand is excellent, underpinned by factors that look set to strengthen further in future, but the global supply of merino wool has declined slightly. “Over the last three years fine wool supply from our largest competitor, Australia, has been detrimentally affected by the significant drought across the Tasman. “As well as a resulting drop in quantity, the average quality of Australian fibre has degraded in tensile strength due to these adverse climatic conditions and is also more heavily contaminated with dust,” he says. Meanwhile, although New Zealand fine wool is off season at present, the quality of this year’s clip is set to be outstanding, Burridge says. “A favourable summer with plenty of grass

and rain falling at the right times puts ewes in excellent condition. Production volumes will be strong, and quality should be exceptional. Our wool has a reputation for strength, brightness and cleanliness, which should be enhanced this year. Our growers use top bloodlines, which also shows in the final product. “When they go back to market, from July, fine wool growers should again find their clip well-sought-after, with returns continuing at or near record levels,” he says. Fine wool growers have embraced the need to validate their product’s story. “Quality assurance programmes, implemented from inside the farm gate all the way to the end consumer, focusing on traceability of the product right through the wool pipeline, are now widely accepted as best practice among growers. “Growers know that proving our products’

Merino Auction - Average Seasonal Prices NZ 2015-2018 3500

NZ Cents per Clean kg

3000 2500 2000 1500 1000





17 Micron

18 Micron

19 Micron

20 Micron

..adding value from farm to market.

Fine wool prices have lifted significantly over the past four years and look set to hold at current or better levels, PGG Wrightson South Island wool sales manager Dave Burridge says.

authenticity is an essential part of articulating the story we have to tell. Giving consumers that assurance is now built into our system,” he says. Through its fully owned export arm Bloch & Behrens Wool, PGG Wrightson directly links the farm to the manufacturer, and then the consumer. Bloch & Behrens exports all wool types to local mills in more than 30 countries, maintaining long-standing relationships with prominent manufacturers throughout Europe, and elsewhere, including China. Different selling platforms suit different growers, and many choose to split clips between a range of selling options, he says. “Our Christchurch auction bench is the traditional option, firmly established as part of the global marketplace and accounting for 75% of the wool that comes into PGG Wrightson wool stores. “It is also efficient: we can sell 500 lots in less than two hours and send buyer invoices out on the same day for every lot,” he says. Prices achieved at auctions in Christchurch are as good as they would be anywhere else in the world, Burridge says. “Our platform ensures that any wool sold here will achieve the best possible value on the day. We enhance that by ensuring every lot is professionally valued pre-sale, providing advice to each grower on how best to extract maximum value from their clip. Growers are given the option to take the best price on the day or attach a reserve price through the auction. “We are the only broker live-streaming our sales, which enables growers to come to our site and watch the auction. They can see their lots being offered for sale, build their market knowledge and understand who is buying certain wool types. This re-emphasises the transparency and traceability that underpins our product. “Alternatively, we offer fine wool growers sustainable branded forward contracts over multiple seasons to pre-sell their clip. This ensures price security, which can work well for all parties, while also giving growers the opportunity to identify those manufacturers that purchase their wool and the garments they make with it,” he says. Burridge is confident market conditions will continue to keep the price of fine wool buoyant. “Although there may be some external disruption from the United States and China’s trade dispute, from a pure supply/demand equation, and taking into account the acknowledged quality of our product, prospects for New Zealand fine wool are highly optimistic,” he says.

We are a broker, exporter and marketer of New Zealand grown wool, offering a variety of sales options to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients.

Contact us today at 0800 497 496 or

Helping grow the country

Merino Review 2019


MARKETS • Positive outlook

$2 billion industry within reach for Kiwi wool Increased international demand for fine wool could spell profit for sheep farmers and give kiwifruit and wine exports a run for their money.


Vice President of Global Procurement and Material Supply, Tom Caneen speaking to NZM growers.

F Corporation, one of the world’s largest apparel and choice with wool being a long-term investment opportunity. equipment companies, is incentivising New Zealand’s “Ongoing investment in genetics, leading animal husbandry practices, sheep industry to grow more fine wool. and adoption of new models will be required but we’re committed New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) chief executive to working alongside NZM, the shearing community, breeders and John Brakenridge says there is a future in wool for growers. We’re confident enough in the future of wool to incentivise farmers and for NZ which is great news for fine wool producers and production through long-term contracts and provide support where we farmers considering transitioning into it. can,” Caneen says. ”Global demand for natural fibre and NZM-owned ethical wool brand Today, the long-term wool contracts offered to NZM growers, such ZQ Merino is swinging the pendulum in as the industry-first 10-year contract with wool’s favour. We are connecting more and icebreaker, coupled with contracts for more wool growers with long-term supply SILERE, (NZM’s merino meat brand jointly ‘Ongoing investment in contracts and we are seeing supply being owned and operated by Alliance Group), soaked up seasons in advance,” Brakenridge make fine wool sheep farming more profitable genetics, leading animal says. than dairy grazing and other sheep farming husbandry practices, “Today, a crossbred wool fleece fetches systems, based on analysis by both NZM and about $3.00 clean/kg whereas a Smartwool AbacusBio. and adoption of new 22-micron contract going forward for the This type of modelling is a key output models will be required next three to five years has a base price of of NZM’s sheep industry transformation but we’re committed to $23.00 clean/kg. If we can shift half of NZ’s (NZSTX) project, a MPI Primary Growth crossbred wool clip into higher value fine Partnership. working alongside NZM, wool contracts, the economic upside would be A new partnership with United Kingdom the shearing community, around $2 billion. Wool could give kiwifruit online grocery brand Ocado saw SILERE breeders and growers.’ and wine a run for their money in terms of launched direct to consumer in March. exports,” he says. Early sales indications give confidence in VF Corporation, which owns labels rapid growth in the programme with online including The North Face, Timberland, Smartwool and NZ-founded feedback and ratings positive. brand icebreaker, has developed the new incentives for farmers as part With more ZQ wool contracts in place, and now with meat contracts, of the company’s commitment to sustainable solutions. NZM is receiving increased inquiry about breeding fine wool sheep. An “For too long brands have been built using resources without active approach will be taken to help growers work through transition due consideration to their total impact. Today we expect more of scenarios so that they can better match what we produce with end our products – both in design, performance and environmental markets for fibre and meat in the future. and social impact, and we believe VF has to lead by example,” VF “The increased demand for, and value of, contracts has exceeded our Corporation, vice president of global procurement and material expectations. We’re on the crest of a wave and are doubling down on our supply, Tom Caneen says. investment in adoption of the right genetics and practices to ensure this VF Corporation’s partnership with NZM has also been an obvious demand can be supplied from New Zealand wool,” Brakenridge says. 26

Merino Review 2019

MARKETS • Cross-breeding trend

Merino rams into strong flock JOANNA GRIGG


teve Satterthwaite, Muller Station, has been selling stud Merino rams for 11 years. The Awatere Valley stud now sells about 30% of their Merino rams into non-Merino commercial flocks; notably Romney, Corriedale and Perendale. This highly regarded stud-for-wool weight and carcase attributes, has attracted interest from farmers seeking quality wool in a higherpriced bracket, without too much compromise on fertility, growth and carcase. “This level of interest is a recent phenomenon and is growing rapidly.” He doesn’t see a problem with producing rams for both strong-woolled and Merino flocks. “We concentrate on dual-purpose sheep with high wool weight, wool quality, carcase and fat.” Merino clients will need rams every year but crossbred farmers buy a group of rams which are used for several years, as they incorporate the genetics.

Muller Station stud ewes clip 8kg fleeces and scan 185%. By wool quality Satterthwaite means fibres should be highly aligned so they are dense but with no cross fibre, making them more breathable (to dry) and less likely to attract flystrike. “Sometimes it is hard for crossbred guys to get their head around what they want the Merino infusion for. “They already have muscle, fat and fertility and provided they don’t compromise those attributes, the more quality wool, in the right micron band they can add to the mix, the better. “They are also getting a major dose of hybrid vigour.” The target wool market for a Merino/strongwool cross is typically a 27 to 28-micron fleece, with hogget wool under 25-micron, he said. “For crossbred farmers their wool income, less shearing, will go from zero to $35 a head after injecting Merino genetics.”

Muller Station owners Steve and Mary Satterthwaite sold about 30% of their Merino rams into non-Merino commercial flocks.

Superfine extra

The stud was founded in 1988 on 10 Ewes and 1 Ram (7-6516-85). These were purchased from Bullamalita. These ewes were mated to a Merryville Brilliant Sire, this is the B17 family.

The Bullamalita blood lines are producing an excellent extra fine and fine wool with a long and well marked stylish white staple of wool on a well grown frame. Micron range from 14-19. Yield from 72% to 85%.



In March 1991, I purchased 4 inlamb ewes from Rock Bank Victoria. These ewes were mated to Sir Thomas 87025. In 1992 the same ewes were mated to a Winton Sire JT 6080. This sire was purchased in 1985 from Winton Tas. In June 1992 a further 4 ewes were purchased from Rock Bank. This Rock Bank family is the foundation blood of a Saxon Super Fine Merino micron ranging from 16-19. Yield around 78%. Both the Bullamalita and Rock Bank families do very well in low and high rainfall areas with no blemish to the wool in any way.

The current Sires in use are Ringmaster Brilliant Example 7243/97 and Ringmaster 35th 6465. There is a limited supply of Saxon semen for sale. Private sales start around mid-January. Enquiries and inspection always welcome. Strath Clyde. Flock No 256 John McArthur. Phone (03) 448 8335 McArthur Road, Clyde

Merino Review 2019



RAM SALE BY INVITATION MARBLE DRAW PleaseBY contact us if you wish to be MARBLE invited to the saleDRAW RAMSALE SALE BYINVITATION INVITATION MARBLE DRAW RAM Please contact if you wish invited saleDRAW Please contact usus if you wish to to bebe invited to to thethe sale • 3000 Stud Ewes Mated RAM SALE BY INVITATION MARBLE

6 Separate Studs Please contact us if you wish to be invited to the sale 3000 Stud Ewes Mated • ••3000 Stud Ewes Mated Ultra Fine: 6 Separate Studs Australasia’s finest Fibre Diameter EBV flock • •3000 Stud Ewes Mated 6 Separate Studs • Polls : Australasia’s Superfine/Fine Ultra Fine: Australasia’s finest Fibre Diameter EBV flock • •6 Separate Studs Ultra Fine: • finest Fibre Diameter EBV flock Superfine / Fine Polls : Australasia’s Superfine/Fine Polls: Icebreaker Wool.Fibre Fertility and Carcass • •Ultra Fine: finest Diameter EBV flock Inverino™: Merino’s Carrying the Inverdale Fertility Gene Polls: Icebreaker Wool. Fertility Carcass • •Superfine / Fine: Polls: Icebreaker Wool. Fertility andand Carcass • Horns and Polls Mermax™: Merino’s carrying and Myomax Muscle Gene Inverino™: Carrying the Inverdale Fertility Gene •• •Inverino™: Merino’s Carrying theLionmax Inverdale Fertility Gene Polls: Icebreaker Wool. Fertility and Carcass Smart Sheep: Poll Merino withLionmax 5Lionmax toInverdale 25% Xbred suitable for SmartWool Mermax™: Merino’s carrying and Myomax Muscle Gene Contracts •• •Mermax™: carrying and Myomax Muscle Gene Inverino™: Merino’s Carrying the Fertility Gene


Merino Review 2019

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Smart Sheep: Poll Merino to 25% Xbred suitable for SmartWool Contracts • •Mermax™: Smart Sheep: Poll Merino with 5Lionmax to5available 25% Xbred suitable forGDF9 SmartWool Contracts • carrying and Myomax Muscle Gene LimitedMerino’s numbers of with rams carring the Fertility gene. Members the Cross breeding group. • Smart Sheep: Poll Merino 5available toSouthern 25% Xbred suitable forGDF9 SmartWool Contracts Limited numbers ofoframs available carring the Fertility gene. Limited numbers of with rams carring the GDF9 Fertility gene. Members of the Southern Cross breeding group. gene. Members the Southern Cross breeding group. Limited numbers ofoframs available carring the GDF9 Fertility

RESEARCH • Flystrike

Project manager Monica Schwass checks fly traps.

Flystrike prediction tool shows promise


flystrike decision support tool still in development is already showing promise by delivering timely, more accurate advice to the farmers involved in the

project. North Canterbury farmer Charles DouglasClifford says being more informed about humidity, rainfall, soil temperatures and fly presence means he is able to intervene early with more treatment options available to him. A particular risk period on his property is heading into lambing when treatment options are often minimal and yarding stock is a last resort. But even though the project is just nearing the end of its first two years, he’s been able to mitigate the risk of flystrike more proactively than ever. The project manager Monica Schwass, from The New Zealand Merino Company, says the project is part of the company’s latest Primary Growth Partnership (PGP), W3 Wool Unleashed. “W3 Wool Unleashed is a wide-ranging PGP aimed at delivering premiums for New Zealand’s strong wool sector and includes projects focusing on both improving animal

welfare and environmental outcomes ,” she says. The flystrike decision support tool is one of the smaller components of the overall PGP but it has big potential for all sheep farmers, she says. “The aim is to have a tool for sheep farmers across New Zealand that will predict times of high fly pressure, so that farmers can act preventatively to manage flystrike, rather than getting caught out with struck sheep which is both an animal welfare issue and an economic cost.” Data is collected from wireless weather stations and soil temperature logging devices on 10 trial farms which also have fly traps checked on a weekly cycle. Massey PhD student, Paul Brett, joined the project from the start of its second year last June to investigate the relationship between the weather and soil data, and the prevalence of flies responsible for flystrike. Brett will remain with the project until the end of June 2021 when it is expected the decision support tool should be available to farmers ahead of the flystrike season later that year. “In subsequent years, we hope that we

One option for delivering the flystrike risk information to farmers is via a phone app.

will be able to predict fly activity based on nationwide weather data,” Schwass says. One option for delivering the flystrike risk information to farmers is via a phone app, or publishing risk profiles in some of the weekly farming publications. “One of the surprises we’ve had is that flystrike’s typical season is now extending out beyond previous periods and farmers are still at risk of stock being struck right through to late May,” she says. “We’re also seeing more aggressive strike in places like Southland where we would not expect to see it because of the use of successful preventative practices such as crutching and good nutrition.” Schwass has been at NZM for more than three years and has an honours degree in Agricultural Science from Lincoln University.

For more information on this project, and other on-farm projects run by The New Zealand Merino Company, visit the Perfect Sheep website (

Merino Review 2019


RESEARCH • Footrot

Grower investment in footrot-free future A new tool could help tackle one of the biggest barriers to producing fine wool.


hen it comes to footrot – estimated as a $10-million problem for New Zealand’s sheep industry – it could soon become an

ailment of the past. The New Zealand Merino Company’s (NZM’s) footrot project team, led by Dr Mark Ferguson, has partnered with experts to develop a tool which uses a combination of data collection, pedigree information and DNA sampling, to accurately predict how resilient a sheep is to the crippling foot disease. The breakthrough is the result of seven years research and studies using NZM’s fine-wool central progeny test (CPT). It has put Kiwi farmers a step closer to breeding footrot-resistant flocks and increasing production of premium merinos. “The harsh reality is many merino and midmicron sheep farms experience footrot every year,” Ferguson says. “This research is expected to give farmers an opportunity to change this.” Footrot in sheep is a complex disease. As the name suggests, it is an infection that rots the foot of the animal, resulting in lameness and loss of production. But now, fine wool farmers can access information on how susceptible or resistant a ram’s progeny will be to footrot. This information also creates opportunity to improve animal welfare and production gains on NZ farms. The New Zealand Sheep Industry Transformation Project (NZSTX) is a partnership between NZM and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Primary Growth Partnership programme. The importance of finding a solution to footrot led industry representative Merino Inc to also back the programme and invest in the establishment of the footrot workstream of NZSTX. 30

Merino Review 2019

FORWARD-THINKING: New Zealand Merino Company production scientist Emma Wilding inspects a sheep’s feet. Research driven by the company has put Kiwi farmers a step closer to breeding footrot-resistant flocks and increasing production of high performing fine wool sheep.

‘By measuring the degree of their susceptibility to footrot bacteria at the CPT, we add data to the footrot EBV database, generating a breeding value for footrot resistance and establishing the genetic correlations between footrot resistance and other important traits.’ NZM embarked on the ambitious project just over seven years ago – dubbed FeetFirst – to develop an estimated breeding value (EBV) for footrot. An EBV is used to predict how a ram’s future progeny will perform, the footrot EBV tells farmers how susceptible or resistant the ram’s progeny will be to footrot. That work has moved through several phases, involving the collection of onfarm data and pairing it with pedigree and genomic insights to understand the heritability of footrot resistance. “By measuring the degree of their susceptibility to footrot bacteria at the CPT, we add data to the footrot EBV database, generating a breeding value for footrot resistance and establishing the genetic correlations between footrot resistance and other important traits. “We have genotyped 5800 animals and measured susceptibility in 12,000 animals. The fine-wool industry now has more than 30,000 sheep in the footrot breeding value database with reportable accuracy.” Ferguson adds that in the 2018/19 ram sale season there were 4500 stud ram hoggets in the industry with a footrot breeding value available. Over the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic shift towards a dual-purpose merino sheep, which produces the wool it is famed for, but can also be finished for meat. A key factor to unlocking the potential of the merino industry was genetic improvements

so the breed was resistant to footrot. Footrot-free sheep means the range of country fine wool sheep can thrive on could expand from dry highcountry to lowland regions, improving the potential to grow fine wool sheep numbers in NZ. NZM chief executive officer John Brakenridge says the company is experiencing unprecedented demand for wool through direct contracts with brands, and high fine wool commodity prices. “A big part of the growth in demand for merino has been the leadership merino growers have shown in listening and responding to signals from brand partners. This applies to the type of wool they produce, but also environmental sustainability and animal welfare and the role that wool has to play in the face of the plastics crisis.” A lot of different components have to be brought together to create the “perfect sheep”, including EBVs, central progeny testing and DNA testing. Collaborative funding for NZSTX ended in 2017, however NZM recognised the need for the CPT to continue to contribute data to the industry and realise the potential of the investment to date. NZM along with its grower suppliers have committed to fund the CPT until next year, which will finalise the development of the footrot breeding value and enable its commercial release by Sheep Genetics, through MERINOSELECT, in 2020.

Merino Review 2019


ONFARM • Cross-breeding success

Dual-purpose lambs A Merino cross has ticked all the boxes for later lambing and achieving a wool return plus meat. Anne Hardie reports.


he vigour of Perendales suits David Hobson well on the nearvertical slopes of Takaka Hill near Nelson and for the past few years he has been experimenting with Merino rams to reap the benefits of fine wool before sending the lambs to slaughter. For the past five years he has averaged $30 to $35/kg for wool off the Perendale-Merinocross lambs before finishing them at 19-20kg carcaseweight, with the last few hundred sold through winter and early spring for the latewinter lamb premium. David and his partner Janet Morgan farm on the Nelson side of Takaka Hill which made the headlines last year when ex-tropical Cyclone Gita carved a path of destruction across its steep faces, taking out the main road in several places causing major slipping on farmland. On David and Janet’s farm, The Dip, 25ha had to be resown by helicopter in the wake of Gita. Yet The Dip is perhaps the easiest of the three properties they farm on the hill. At 300ha, it gets a mere 1.9 metres of rain a year and though steep, the country is pretty


Merino Review 2019

straightforward. Almost next door and further up the hill, 300ha Ngarua moves up to 2.4m of rain and the country is covered in marble karst that opens unexpectedly and frequently to tomos that can claim lambs and calves all too easily. They’ve lambed there in the past, but 10% can be lost down holes and an even higher percentage of cattle, so these days only the hoggets graze Ngarua and any calving is on selected areas. While tomos makes farming challenging, caves on the farm are a tourist attraction that add another income stream. Further up the hill again is Canaan Downs, a 500ha basin they lease from the Department of Conservation that gets a good drenching of about 3.2m of rain a year, the odd snowfall and “nasty” frosts that delay spring growth until well into the season. It’s also open to the public who can roam and mountain-bike at will, with a few thousand congregating every second year for the Luminate Festival. On the plus side, it’s healthy stock country, free from flies in summer and a stunning landscape. Between the three farms – and 20ha of flat land they lease near the base of the hill at Riwaka – they farm 2200 Perendale breeding ewes, 100 Angus cows and their progeny, which makes it conservatively stocked, but provides flexibility in the system for the

David on The Dip, high above the Abel Tasman National Park.

harsh climate. “We try to keep stock in good condition to be flexible with our system and it means we’re not maxing everything to the limit. Well-bred and well-fed solves a lot of problems. At the end of the day the profitability flows on from that.” David has been fine tuning the farm system for more than 40 years, ever since he took up the reins after his father’s sudden death. He initially ran Romneys, including a small stud, but was attracted to Perendales that could look after themselves more and provide simpler management. They haven’t disappointed, achieving 130-145% lambing unshepherded, from 165-170% at scanning. The focus is on good wintering – with balage fed out on Canaan – plus good pre-lamb management, before standing back from the flock through lambing. The Perendale have enabled them to keep it simple, a philosophy that has worked well and it’s one of the only drawbacks so far with introducing the Merino because to keep it simple, you really want just one breed, he says. Through the years he has been friends with merino breeders Steve and Mary Satterthwaite from Muller Station in the Awatere Valley who encouraged him years ago to trial Merino

‘We try to keep stock in good condition to be flexible with our system and it means we’re not maxing everything to the limit. Well-bred and well-fed solves a lot of problems. At the end of the day the profitability flows on from that.’

wethers on Canaan. Some of the wethers’ wool suited the climate and others didn’t. But it got him interested. “So, about five years ago we decided to have a play with the Merino as a terminal with the idea that we could get a clip of wool off the Merino-Perendale cross, then still have a prime lamb. And there’s always a premium for the late winter lamb in late September/October and even November.” Until now they have been putting just 200 to 300 ewes to 19-micron Merino rams, getting a wool clip off the lambs that averages 24-micron, albeit with variation through the cross, and slaughtering all the progeny. Those lambs have been killing out at 19-20kg CW with a yield 54% or more that David says is a good yield for the properties. Most of their Merino rams are from the Satterthwaites’ dual-purpose polled ram, Desmond which was the highest meat-scanning ram in Australia as a two-tooth when they brought him to New Zealand. Lambing for the entire ewe flock is planned from mid-September to coincide with grass growth emerging on Canaan and the first draft is off the mothers in mid-January. All lambs are weaned through January and drafting continues through to May, with the remaining 400-500 lambs trucked in lots of 100 to the lush flats of Riwaka for finishing. “We can finish lambs on the hills through to the beginning of May and then the emphasis has to change towards the next breeding season and maintenance of the ewes.” This year they are taking a massive step further with the Merino influence by selecting the best of the rising hoggets and mating 750 selected ewes to Merino rams. In the past they haven’t put the best ewes to the Merino rams,

but this year they have selected not just on constitution and body, but wool that has soft handle and some lustre to make the most of the match with Merino. They have always tried to keep their wool reasonable quality despite poor returns and David says the Takaka Hill is a good environment to grow clean wool with good colour. Now there’s the challenge of growing finer wool that’s still good quality, while not losing the traits of the Perendale. “We need to retain the strength and vigour of our Perendale ewes and add value to the wool because 26-micron and under opens up a lot more opportunities.” From the 3000 or so lambs expected this year, they will retain about 350 Perendale ewe lambs and 300 Perendale-Merino-cross ewe lambs. It’s still debatable whether they will put the Merino-cross to Halfbred rams or Merinos. The Merino influence may change their shearing pattern as well. To date, they have been second shearing the ewes in a sixmonthly routine that includes a pre-tup shear and another in November which suits their management and with the health, management and climate. They usually clip about 1.5kg/ ewe at about $3/kg or less and David says there’s not much left after costs. Whereas the Perendale-Merino-cross rising hoggets are producing about 2.5kg of wool that is worth $10-$15/kg. A dual-purpose Merino aims for a longer staple length, so they may be able to shear every eight months and David would like to be aiming a bit finer than the rising hoggets’ 24-microns which will probably become 26-27-microns as a ewe – though even at 27-28-microns, it’s still $8-$10/kg, he points out. For the Takaka Hill climate, he’s aiming at a plainer-skinned Merino with fewer

Perendale-Merino-cross lambs on The Dip in May.

wrinkles and a free-draining wool that dries out easily. He acknowledges the threat of flystrike in finer wool will be something they have to work through, though the cooler climate further up on Canaan will be beneficial. The plan is to run the Merino crosses in that country to avoid health issues with Merino, while he hopes to avoid footrot issues through his selection process. To date there has been no feet problems with the Perendale-Merino cross and he has been selecting rams with immaculate feet. “We will have to be very selective with feet as well as wool – that’s the key to making it successful.” So far the Merino cross has ticked all the boxes for later lambing and achieving a wool return plus meat, though David maintains it is still very much an experiment and two thirds of the ewe flock are being mated to Perendale rams.

Farming above islands in the Abel Tasman.

Merino Review 2019


RESEARCH • Perfect sheep project

Merinos vehicle for change JOANNA GRIGG


Merinos like these Camden Station two-tooths, may be only five percent of the national flock, but if Merino fertility, feet and lamb growth rate can be improved further, their genetics will be more favoured as a way to fine the NZ wool clip into more lucrative mid-micron territory.

erinos are only 5% of the NZ flock but have the includes using a Merino ram over strong wool ewes, producing a potential to be game-changers in down-country mid-micron lamb to finish over winter and shear before killing as farms. a lamb. A second option is a full-blown shift to a Merino-cross or Key to extending Merino genetics across the composite ewe. This takes more time to establish but is perpetuating. national flock is lifting the genetic potential and Ovens said the financial rewards are there, with demand for 20 creating robust systems for greater meat production from a Merino. to 25-micron wool at high levels never seen before. Twenty-threeMeat premiums for Merino are possible but the margin of premium micron wool is selling for $14 to $15/kg greasy, when it was down to has shrunk in recent seasons. $3 during the McKinsey Report era, he said. Merino farmers have done a good job of proving the value of “This is for both contract and auction prices, although contracts Merino genetics, simply through demonstrating it onfarm. Since are slightly ahead at the moment.” 2010, South Island highcountry farms have boosted average lambing He suggests $70 wool income from the ewe plus a lamb puts her percentage from 90% to 106% (see Table A). The market appetite ahead of dairy grazing. for meat and finer wool has seen net farm profit before tax go from “This is five or six times the price of crossbred wool and shows $11,211 to $288,100; a 26-fold increase. Store lamb price has lifted that the Perfect Sheep goal price target can be achieved.” 43% and wool price 47%. Adult sheep wool at 37-micron is worth $2.50/kg greasy, at 30 to A PGP-funded Perfect Sheep project (started 2010) aims to 31-micron $4.50/kg greasy and 25-micron $10 to $15/kg greasy, he transform the sheep industry by fining-up the NZ wool clip, through said. wider use of Merino genetics. Sixty percent of the wool The ambitious programme handled through the NZ Merino aspired to see half of the NZ Company wool is contracted in ‘Some of these have significant flocks coarse-wool growers moving some shape or form. Oscillating and are looking to move all or part of into production systems. Target commodity prices will not be prices were wool at $12.00/kg avoided but contracts provide the flock into the mid-micron range, clean and $9.00/kg for meat, by stability, he said. Early May to drive up their wool income.’ 2019. has seen an ease in prices due This rather unrealistic to China/USA relationship timeframe was extended to uncertainty, he said. 2029, with the aim of half the total wool production to be in the fine “We’ve secured $32 million-worth of contracts for 21-26-micron or mid-micron range. About 8% is currently in this range, so the wool, for a five-year term.” challenge is laid down. The project has a full range of fibre, meat, “This will give dairy a run for its money, particularly when coproducts, production science and governance goals. combined with new Silere [meat] contracts,” Ovens said. Keith Ovens, general manager commercial, NZ Merino Company, Mid-micron is generally regarded as wool between 23 to said there has been a big increase in strong-wool farmers knocking 30-micron, although some halfbred hoggets can push lower. at their door. Correidale wool is regarded as sitting in the stronger mid-micron “Some of these have significant flocks and are looking to move range. It also has lifted in the past six to 12 months but not to the all or part of the flock into the mid-micron range, to drive up their same extent as Merino, he said. wool income.” Another positive is that New Zealand branded contract fine and As part of the PGP project, advice is available to transition to mid-micron wool is growing ahead of similar Australian wool in finer flocks, although ram breeders can also help, he said. An option price point.


Merino Review 2019

Mid-micron price best for decades

Table A:

Both wool and meat price lift has driven improved Class 1 South Island High Country Flock profits. Source: B+LNZ Economic Service 2009/10









Kg shorn wool sold/sheep su





Wool Cents/kg greasy








43% 74%

Effective hectares Ewe lambing %

Store lambs $/head Wool+meat revenue sheep/su

% Increase 18%







Total Farm Expenditure





Farm Profit before Tax





Economic Farm Surplus $ per stock unit


Tables B and C:

Crossbred is still the main chunk of wool exports but price disparity to medium and fine wools is growing. Source: Beef & Lamb New Zealand Economic Service.

Wool exports Year ended June 2017 (tonnes clean) Strong Crossbred (>35.4 micron) Fine Crossbred (31.4–35.4 micron) Medium Wool (24.5–31.4 micron) Fine Wool (<24.4 micron)









Annual wool auction price 2,000

Fine Wool Medium Wool Strong Wool


c per kg clean

1,500 1,250 1,000 750 500






















ave Burridge, South Island Sales Manager, PGG Wrightson, has noticed a number of grower clients looking to fine-up their strong-wool flocks, to catch a better wool market. “It is not a big trend but getting stronger, especially over the last season or two.” Burridge said the wet spring caused discolouration in strong wool, putting further pressure on price and pressure on farmers to consider a change. While he believes strong wool will have its day again, given the rise in interest in natural fibres, he is not prepared to pick when. The current average return for over 35-micron wool is $2 to $2.40/kg greasy ($3/kg clean). In the meantime, he said the $10 greasy for 30-micron wool is as good as we’ve seen it. Wool at 25-26-micron is fetching $17/kg clean, using Australian prices, as it is a bit too early in the New Zealand selling season. A few microns lower, at 23-micron, he said the market is paying $22/kg clean. PGG Wrightson records show that, in the most recent two years, mid-micron prices are as good as they have ever been. Demand for mid-micron comes from the active sportwear market who blend it with finer wool to get a comfortable finish, he said. “I would consider mid-micron a consistent performer.” While a $1/kg drop in greasy price of 25 to 30-micron wool occurred in a sale mid-May, Burridge describes this as a short-term factor. “The ban by China on South African meat and wool after their foot and mouth outbreak was lifted, and the South Africans offloaded their wool on to the Chinese market.” The largest volume of NZ Merino wool is at 18-micron. “As our Merino has gone finer, there is a void at 20 to 21-microns, so there is a price premium for hogget or ewe wool here, as long as it is not tender, and has vegetable matter less than one.” It makes close to the 19.5-micron price, he said. He agrees a Merino ram is the vehicle for fast-track fining a flock. The strong wool ewe should be free of black wool genetics so that black fibres are avoided in the resulting cross, he said. Staple length is important too. There is a market for hogget wool from these crosses, but generally over 75mm or longer, he said.

Merino Review 2019


‘As our Merino has gone finer, there is a void at 20 to 21-microns, so there is a price premium for hogget or ewe wool here, as long as it is not tender, and has vegetable matter less than one.’

Dave Burridge, Wool South Island Sales Manager, PGG Wrightson, said mid-micron wool prices are at levels not seen in our generation. “It’s not a two-year wonder; it seems to be sustainable.”

“Some good wool has come in from English Leicester/Merinocross hoggets at 24-micron, which ends up being worth a high value.” Another option is to sell all existing ewes and buy in a Corriedale flock or something similar. Ewe supply may be an issue, however. There is a trend for super-fine (14 to 15-micron) guys moving to strengthen merino wool to have a more mainstream wool type, a more fertile sheep and higher fleece weight, he said. “This ultra-fine wool is a niche market and some farmers will always be passionate about it though.” The Australian clip averages 19-micron and the price has lowered recently due to drought affecting fibre strength.


• Breeding true dual purpose 18 – 20 micron Merinos, both horned and polled • Incrementally increasing muscle and fat whilst staying focused on wool quantity and quality • Stud scanning 185% M/A ewes and 149% 2ths

• ASBV’s and full recording information including muscle scan available • Using Genomics to improve foot-rot resilience. • Ideal for adding value to your wool cheque • View Muller Station on facebook

Phone: 03 575 7044 Cell: Stephen 027 474 8865 Mary 027 474 8869 E: 36

Merino Review 2019

BREEDING • Southern cross

Feet resistance heart of new Merino mix JOANNA GRIGG


trong-wool growers disillusioned with rock-bottom prices are seeking the Perfect Sheep; great meat carcase traits and growth, coupled with mid-micron wool that rewards the grower. At the other end of the spectrum, Merino growers are seeking improved footrot and parasite-resistant sheep while retaining a good wool income. Creating one version of this so-called Perfect Sheep, has been taken on by a group of six existing New Zealand breeders. The newly developed Footrot Breeding Value is an important feature in any breeding plan for The resulting Southern Cross (SX) ewe is dual-purpose. Its base getting top performance from a flock on wetter and better country. Ram breeders involved in genetics are three quarters Merino with one quarter crossbred (including the Feetfirst Project have been able to provide a breeding value for footrot resistance for their Lincoln, Polwarth, Romney and Corriedale). sale rams in the 2018/19 season. The work to develop the sheep was part-funded for two years as part of the wider Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) Table A: NZ Sheep Industry Transformation (NZSTX) Programme, Nucleus flock Southern Cross (SX) Sheep Breeding Objectives, and ASBV score (note: ASBV is the a partnership between the NZ Merino Company Ltd (NZM) Australian Sheep Breeding Values and NZ fine wool sheep genetic platform), 2019. and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The six farmer members have continued to fund the project and carry How Current score on ASBV, or method of score out the work. The property members are Stonyhurst, Melrose, Footrot Breeding Value due to Footrot resistance Scored + or - than average (want a negative) Cleardale, Ida Valley, Matakanui and Earnscleugh. be released commercially 2020 Maternal genetics were contributed from these flocks, 4kg clean fleece weight ASBV for yearling clean fleece weight 10% to 15% tested at Stonyhurst, North Canterbury, and the resulting ASBV for yearling clean staple length 12+ mm Long wool staple SX rams are now being used back over all or part of the six Fast early growth ASBV for yearling eye muscle depth 2+ mm flocks. The progeny from the rams can be sold from the ram breeder but not the actual SX rams themselves. Good doing ability ASBV for yearling fat depth 1+ mm Dugald Rutherford, Melrose Mid-Micron, North ASBV yearling fibre diameter 0-2 micron 20-23-micron Canterbury, contributed his Corriedale genetics into the Polled not horned Visual selection and/or gene test 90% polled SX programme, as his flock was known for their footrot Wrinkle-free ASBV for breech wrinkle <-0.5 scoring scale resistance and history of selection for worm resistance. For Worm resistant ASBV worm egg count <-40 (% deviation from 1990 average) the most recent two tuppings, SX rams have been used over part of his Melrose flock and he is thrilled with the results. “The strong wool farmers should get good fine wool rams to use, that “We use estimated breeding data; for us to get indication where we are won’t compromise productivity with footrot, flystrike, worms and dags.” at with productivity and worm resistance, as much more relevant to use Rutherford said what drove him to be involved was his desire to fine than raw data.” his flock wool clip without compromising on meat and feet. The nucleus Melrose Mid-Micron record their flock performance on both SIL and SX flock produced its first drop of lambs in 2013 and in the first three ASBV. years produced lambing at 130% to 135% with 21 to 23-micron wool from “Having access to the Australian genetic comparison is important a 60kg ewe. as there is a huge gene pool and some rams are really challenged by “The group decided to run the nucleus flock at Stonyhurst as it was parasites.” the warmest and wettest property in the group, so more likely to have Mark Ferguson, genetics adviser to Southern Cross Sheep Ltd, said worm and footrot challenge.” there was a big opportunity for this breed to move into areas that are Contributing breeders used the Central Progeny Testing (CPT) regime traditionally crossbred country, for example the east coast of the North to benchmark their genetics against the rest of the fine wool industry. Island. The SX breeding programme is now in its seventh year and includes the “In the first few years we didn’t have the footrot breeding value but soon-to-be commercialised Footrot Breeding Value, to help reduce issues now that we do, we can fast track the selection towards resistance to with footrot seen in wetter, better country. footrot.” As chair of the SX Breeders Group, Rutherford said all the studs had The Footrot EBV uses phenotypic data (onfarm data on a sheep’s different reasons for interest in developing an SX flock but the prime footrot susceptibility) and pairs this with pedigree and genomic data to driver was improved footrot resistance, followed by wanting a Merino create an estimate of the sheep’s genetic susceptibility to footrot. wool influence for quality and micron. Potential includes being used by ultra-fine or fine wool growers “It is not as easy as thought. There is conflict between eye muscle area transiting to increased meat productivity. The Nimmo Bell interim and wool weight but we have found sheep that can perform well in both; report, on the project (2016) estimated that a Merino farmer shifting to these genetics are within the SX breed which is quite exciting.” SX, could see a 20% increase in lambing, with increased meat and the For the two most recent tuppings Melrose has used SX rams over same value of wool – about $500/ha increase in gross revenue, with no some stud ewes. increase in costs.

Merino Review 2019


BREEDING • Classer’s impact

LEFT: Merino ewes are heavier and more fertile than 10 years ago. In 2009, the lambing percentage in Class 1 South Island high country flocks averaged 90%, now it’s 106%. RIGHT: Australian sheep classer Michael Elmes, Smart Stock, (second from left) said two-tooth tupping weight of at least 55 kilograms is key to life-time fertility and her lambs’ survival. At the recent Marlborough Merino Association Two-tooth competition he rated the winning Muzzle Station two-tooths as a good example of maiden ewes that won’t let you down.

Aussie sheep classer influences NZ flock JOANNA GRIGG


ichael Elmes has a wide influence over Merino flocks in New Zealand. The New South Wales sheep classer has been guiding South Island farmers on sheep selection for six years. He runs his client’s flocks through the drafting gate each year, helping make key decisions on ewe type, frame, wool and genetics. Of these 13 flocks, three are studs. Elmes stepped into the job following the retirement of Stuart Hodgson. He starts his six-week tour at Mt Carmel, works his way up the Awatere Valley to Muller Station, visits the Mackenzie region, North Canterbury, then finishes back at Muller Station. His comments at the Marlborough Merino Association Ewe Hogget competition shows he has both the diplomacy and commercial focus to endear himself to clients. “I select sheep based on what the station owner wants – it’s their flock, but remind them that the greatest common denominator is


Merino Review 2019

‘Vineyard grazing, oh my word, the warmer conditions have made a difference in feed and frame size.’

commercial reality.” “Focus on what is commercial and what is not; if it doesn’t pay, it doesn’t stay.” Elmes classes 27 studs and 130 commercial flocks in Australia. He said the best money in Australia currently is with a 20 to 21-micron ewe, giving 110% lambing. Lambs are finished to around 55 kilograms within 9 to 10 months. The most lucrative market is domestic/ supermarket at a dressed weight of 20 to 21kg. A 2018 ewe hogget competition in Lake Cargelligo showed gross margins of $270/head

plus, with maiden ewes weaning 115% and mature ewe body weights reaching up to 90kg. The warm winters allow the Australian Merino to grow to these body weights but it is not a realistic possibility in New Zealand, he said. “Our warm climate means we can reach 80 to 90 kilo ewe weights, but, even though New Zealand genetics are similar, you struggle. “Even in Australia, some 90 kilo ewes are probably not efficient.” His target for an 18.5 to 19-micron ewe in NZ would be mature bodyweight of 65 to 70kg and a weaning percentage of 115%, with lamb weaning weight around 30 to 32kg. “To do this she must be grown to at least 55kg as a two-tooth. “These ewes should be clipping six and a half kilos greasy weight per head, going to seven; then you will be cooking with gas. “You need abdominal capacity for decent lambs that are born at 4kg. For every 100g of lower body weight there is a lower survival rate.”

He describes bodyweight of 45kg at conception for a two-tooth as too small, with a 75% lambing percentage the likely result. The move to wintering down-country on quality feed in vineyards has seen big bodyweight improvements. “Vineyard grazing, oh my word, the warmer conditions have made a difference in feed and frame size.” In 2009, the lambing percentage in Class 1 South Island high country flocks averaged 90% and by 2017/18 had moved to 106%. “There is a very short window to make or break young sheep; the biggest chance is the first summer as a weaned lamb through to end

of that winter. “Once fertility is up, selection pressure can be greater.” He gives the example of a flock weaning 75% that is “basically flat-lining” as all lambs born need to be kept to replace aging sheep. A 110% weaning allows a 33% cull rate, he said, with a mob of 1500 ewe hoggets culled to 1005. “Combined with a clip of 7kg per head of 18 to 19-micron wool, plus saleable wether hoggets, farmers are in the money.” His mantra is fibre, frame and fertility. “Keep in balance a third-third-third; something will suffer if it is too much one way.

Figure A:

New Zealand Merino Company contracted wool price and Australian auction price, 2009 to 2015, PGP NZ Sheep Industry Transformation Report to MPI, 2016.

18 17

$/kg clean

16 15

NZM branded contract wool price


Australia fine wool price

13 12 11 10 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15

Source: NZM for contract prices, Australian auction prices

“Follow in your stud’s slip stream and make sure you ask for their figures on fleece weight, micron, body weight and feet testing.” One of the hardest things to work with is feet, he said. “Use both the Lincoln University test and the new genomic test, together with feet structure.” The proportion of fine wool (under 19-micron) of the world market went from 5% in 1991 to 30% in 2019, he said, following the industry chasing the premiums. Elmes believes this was driven by market pressure by consultants to be producing fine wool or “be prepared to get off your land”, but is not where the Merino clip should all be. “The Australian wool clip in particular, is too weighted towards the finer end.” He challenges his clients at the super-fine market as to why they are at that end; can we make it more profitable? About 90% of Australian wool is sold through auction, he said. In NZ it makes more sense to take a more forward sale or contract position as a smaller proportion of total wool fibre is Merino and it is mules-free, so attracts a premium in terms of interest. “Some of my clients have 10-year contracts.” In Australia the non-mulesed wool attracts only around 46 cents per kilo greasy more, depending on the profile of wool clip, he said. “Non mulesed wool is only about 7% of global market, tops.” The New Zealand Merino wool clip sold on NZ Merino Company contracts was about $3.50/kg clean ahead of equivalent Australian wool during 2010 to 2015 (see Figure A).

Shearing twice risky Limited demand for short wool length and extra feed demands means it would be risky for New Zealand Merino farmers to move to twice-yearly shearing. Some Australian systems can make it work. Intensive-feeding Australian Merino systems can make twice-yearly shearing work. In some flocks it has seen an economic boost from better condition scores, better wool quality and improved lamb conception and survival rates. Sheep classer Michael Elmes said that it would be a big risk in NZ as shearing

would have to take place March and October. “You would have to get a minimum 50mm of staple length in test to make it combing wool, otherwise it is an oddment fleece, and getting this growth from April to September would be a challenge. “They have found in Australia that short wool is an issue and the world market needs longer wool lengths. “To make it pay you need another kilo of wool annually, for example nine kilos in 12 months rather than eight.”

Merino Review 2019


ADVICE • Sharing knowledge

Dryland and Merino groups merge JOANNA GRIGG


marriage between a Merino discussion group and a meatfocus dryland discussion group seems to be working. Three years ago the two Marlborough groups merged, as funding changed for both and members sought more membership horsepower. The resulting Marlborough Young Merino Dryland Group has members from 16 properties and four allied agricultural industries. Key to the success of the group is having two ‘elder statesmen’ with years of facilitation experience at the helm; Ross Beech, former Awatere Merino farmer and current rural representative on the Marlborough District Council Environment Committee, and Pete Anderson, former veterinarian now farm consultant. Beech and Anderson both have a keen interest in fostering younger farmers. The group is targeted at younger farmers, not the Dad or Mum partners in the business, but the next generation, Beech said. Merino Inc. and the Marlborough Merino Association funded the Young Merino group at its inception 12 years ago. Now members pay a small sub, with costs assisted through sponsorship by Osgro Seeds. James Collet is one of three co-chairs and puts the high attendance and positive feedback down to having great facilitators to organise the day and stay on task. His job, together with other co-chairs Mark Taggert and Kieran Hickman, is to get ideas for topics from farmer members. “I sent out an email and got a 90% reply

One focused on meat, the other wool, but two discussion groups in Marlborough have successfully merged into a proactive power-house of farmer members. Here they evaluate legumes with Dick Lucas (right).

rate so that shows motivation.” Over three years the group has focused on getting the right balance between onfarm days and visits to other primary industry businesses. Beech said it has worked well having dryland farmers combine with Merino farmers with strong interest in wool production, as both are dryland focused. James Collett is a mid-micron wool producer but said it is just fine spending time discussing Merino wool. “It’s great having the Merino guys. We have the same aim, to learn.” A key topic is chosen and explored each meeting, with the host farm used as a basis for discussion. Topics have included selecting and establishing legumes, lamb survival and maximising the value of scanning data. A

recent farm visit to Awatere Downs explored whether kanuka/manuka is a weed or a resource. “We had a honey company and a weedspraying contractor there,” Beech said. “Each meeting we have an animal health update from Pete on the seasonal issues.” The group has visited pearl, salmon and mussel farms, a new hop farm owned by a sheep and beef farmer and the Cawthron Research Institute in Nelson. Meetings are held about five times a year. The next topic will include getting up to speed on NAIT. “Guys have raved about the group after going once,” Anderson said. “They seem to get a lot out of it.” New members are welcome to apply for membership.


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Merino Review 2019

Merino Review 2019


WOOL â&#x20AC;˘ Wethers stack up

Key to wether profitability is low labour input; keeping yard visits to twice a year. Wethers remain a viable option when the land and management system cannot successfully support a ewe flock, as ewes will always win in a 2019 gross margin comparison.

Wethers still valued JOANNE GRIGG


Merino Review 2019


hirty years ago, a Merino wether flock was making twice the gross margin of Romney ewes, on hard hill country. Farmers could make an extra $33,000 surplus from running wethers compared to a Romney flock (Trial on Whanganui hard hill country, NZ Grasslands Association, 1990). The days of $11 prime lambs and $7.50/kg for greasy Merino wool are long gone and the hefty increase in meat returns relative to wool has seen the national wether flock erode steadily. Meat returns now favour a productive Merino ewe on hard country. With more affordable scrub removal through Metsulfuron-methyl spray, and better farm surpluses for fertiliser and fencing investment, marginal land has now been improved and subdivided enough for ewes. At the other end of the scale, the Merino wether has lost ground through tenure review and land retirement. In some cases, stocking rate has been reduced to allow indigenous forest regeneration for permanent forest sinks or even exotic species forestry.

Carbon returns from regenerating forest can challenge those from Merinos. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) table rate of 6.5 tonnes of carbon stock/hectare/year for indigenous forest at $25/tonne gives a $161/ hectare income with minimal cost. Dual land use (Merinos and carbon sequestration) is possible for a short period in some cases. The farmers that still run wethers appreciate their low labour and feed inputs, survival ability, flexibility and opportunity for stunning wool returns. Farmers can justify wethers particularly if they take a long-term view of profitability. Periods of poor wool prices are countered by some top-returning years, making them viable on a long-term averaging system. Key to annual profitability is keeping labour inputs low, with two visits a year to the yards being typical. Muzzle Station, Clarence Valley, runs a similar number of wethers to ewes and, in 2019 grossed $143/head in wool income per wether. Guy Redfern counts a wether at the 16,000ha Clarence Valley station as 0.7 stock unit, due to the pasture type and

‘We haven’t drenched them for 10 years. They really suit the labour requirements at The Muzzle and having a helicopter does mean we can check them quickly while doing other work.’ quality consumed. They cut an impressive fleece of 7.8kg/head of 18.6-micron wool (all wool). When you factor in two shifts a year, shearing and crutching times, with wethers receiving fly treatment off-shears, they are good earners given time spent. Muzzle wethers run on leased Conservation land, at low stocking rates due to capping requirements for environmental reasons. Parasite levels are managed through having different summer and winter country to switch between. “We haven’t drenched them for 10 years,” Redfern said. “They really suit the labour requirements at The Muzzle and having a helicopter does mean we can check them quickly while doing other work.” Steve Satterthwaite is still deliberating over the place of wethers at Muller Station. He quit his wether flock of 4500 almost three years ago as part of a move to help the Acheron country beat the hold of hieracium. By removing wethers grazing from spring to late May, the idea is that spring seeding and growth of native grasses will be more successful, pushing back the hold of hieracium. “Ecologists have told me that hieracium has a 50-year run before native grasses and other species can push back and re-cohabit with it, so it may be reaching that stage already.” Now the Acheron country is grazed by ewes late-January to mid-April; a shorter time frame and when spring seedlings are more established and able to persist. “I wanted to be able to look people in the eye and say ‘we are doing the best for country recovery.’ “It’s environmental as much as economic.” A flip-side effect is that he’s noticed wilding contorta conifers increasing dramatically over the tall and short tussock landscape since dropping wethers out. “Wethers will nip out wilding trees but we are not totally sure if it is the wethers’ absence making a difference, or whether a big seedload blew in from the Branch over the range that year. “We pulled out 300 new seedlings along a 20km track edge.” As a trustee on the South Marlborough

Landscape Restoration Trust he is keen to investigate. “The question is ‘will ewes control them or do we need to go back to wethers?’” Rob Hamilton, Awatere Valley, said he uses his 1300 wethers as a management tool at the 11,331ha Glenlee Station. Glenlee stock management involves set stocking of ewes and young stock on the better hill country, and rotationally grazing merino wethers on higher altitude country, at conservative stocking rates. “Wethers have their place to balance the stocking regime.” He said ewes require 2.5 to three times the labour input of wethers. Ewes get a lot more attention because of the lamb-bearing aspect. “Merino wethers suit Glenlee Station for a number of reasons, which are somewhat interlinked. “The ease and efficiency of management given available labour resource, grazing patterns, topography, vegetation control, robustness under poor seasonal conditions, lower risk and flexibility are all reasons for continuing with stocking them. “Merino wethers are adventurous and push into areas that ewes won’t graze into, which is useful when trying to utilise certain blocks.” “Cattle will do the same, but prefer to graze in the gullies and don’t climb to altitude.” Hamilton puts wether robustness down to higher levels of immunity given that they are not lamb-bearing. “The wethers get a lower average quality diet than young stock and ewes, however, this suits them as under a high-quality feeding regime they run a risk of getting pizzle rot infection.” With wool production varying from 7.75 to 8.1kg/head (depending on what blocks they grazed) and micron at 19.9 to 21, they gross about $126/stock unit. “The wool and meat pricing was up on usual; it was a good year and we got close to $150 for annual cull wethers.” “Ewes will give a higher return provided you have the ability to feed them and their lambs, such as area for crop, but there is a lot said for a wether; the risk is reduced when we get a dry or poor growing season.”

Wether comparison tricky JOANNA GRIGG


f the nine properties in the 2019 Marlborough Merino Association TwoTooth Competition, five run wethers, typically at 75% of ewe numbers. Wethers were all run on the hardest country: higher, colder, or drier or with unimproved pasture species. Comparing a fine-wool wether flock directly to a fine-wool ewe flock (see Table A using 2012 prices) puts the ewe ahead for gross margin return per stock unit (su) and per kilogram of drymatter consumed. Ewes made a gross margin of $132/su while wethers $78/su. Adjusting it to current meat prices, both cull ewe and wether prices would be higher. Ewes would be even further ahead of a wether flock due to higher lamb prices.

The perfect niche for the wether seems to be the country that simply is not good enough for a ewe flock to make an acceptable lambing percentage. A heavier-clipping medium micron Merino will boost stock unit returns for both ewes and wethers, but ewes will still be ahead. Recent wool prices for medium micron Merino wethers have seen gross returns of around $125 to $135/su (7-8kg wool clip). Valuing the lower feed quality and labour savings with wethers is tricky to reflect in a straight gross margin analysis. Rob Hamilton, Glenlee Station, said their ewes require 2.5 to three times the labour input than their wether flock. To justify wethers, farmers must be exceedingly disciplined to minimise shifts and animal health treatments. If the wether makes 60% the gross margin of a ewe, then the labour target is probably 60% of labour.

Merino Review 2019


Table A:

Fine wool earning capacity of a hogget and ewe flock, or wether flock on Marlborough high/hill country (not including labour expenses but includes shearing, animal health) 2012 prices. The wether flock grossed about 60% of the ewe flock. Merino wether flock

Merino ewe and hogget flock




Gross Margin/su



Dry matter eaten/su

654 kg

546 kg

Income kg/DM



Quality of DM eaten



Estimated labour time

2.5 to 3 times the labour input of wethers


• Mixed age ewes and wethers both clip 4kg fleece wool at $20/kg greasy, hoggets 2.5kg at $25/kg greasy. • Wether worth 0.8 su/head and ewe 1 su/head. • Wether hogget worth $110 to purchase and old wethers culled at $90. • In Merino ewe system the wether lambs sold at $125 and old ewes culled at $80, lambing 90%. • Shearing and animal health costs same for ewe/wether.



Merino Review 2019


Controlling parasitism can have a marked effect on wool weight, however, so a drench or shift to fresh pasture may pay big dividends in a better fleece. The perfect niche for the wether seems to be the country that simply is not good enough for a ewe flock to make an acceptable lambing percentage. If switching to ewes requires another labour unit on the station, this must be weighed up as well. A change to ewes, combined with finishing more progeny, may easily justify another labour unit and improve the overall station performance and lifestyle for sole operators. Running ewes on wether country is likely to be during summer with lambs at foot, as a weaned ewe pre-tupping or mid-pregnancy. There are climate risks to pregnant ewes at elevation, extra mustering and grazing pressure issues with ewes/lambs and some challenges flushing ewes on wether country. Down country lambing areas need to be found for the extra ewes as well. It is unlikely that the original wether stocking rate would be possible with ewes. Change is the only constant. When prices shift, land development rolls out or when management and labour inputs change, farmers are advised to review the place of their wethers. This must be a whole-farm approach as their removal or replacement can have ripple effects across other farm systems and the ecosystem.

JUDGING • Glenlee Success

Merinos on hard country JOANNA GRIGG


he winner of the Most Improved Flock in the Marlborough Merino Two-Tooth Competition 2019 is Glenlee Station. Rob and Sharon Hamilton manage Glenlee on behalf of the Hamilton

family. The 11,331-hectare Awatere property carries the same number of Merino wethers as ewes (1300 each mob), reflecting the mix of hard and better class country. Only one third of the station is effective pasture grazing and sheep are mainly on dryland native and some improved pasture species. Despite the challenges, Rob said the two-tooths weighed in heavier than previous years. “Although they still have some growing to do yet.” “Feeding has been better as we’ve started a development programme on 2000ha.”

Look underneath the sheep, in conjunction with the topline, while using the handpiece, to get a good indication of wool and skin characteristics and constitution at the same time. Lambing percentage averages 108% including two-tooths. Ewes clip medium micron wool (mostly between 19.9 to 21-micron) and hoggets clip 4.65kg of 18.3-micron wool. The Station also runs 250 cattle, with some progeny finished prime with most to the weaner calf sale. The station’s south-east aspect, lying on the north bank of the Awatere, restricts growth in the shoulders of the winter but this also helps retain moisture into summer. Sixty per cent of the hogget replacements are run in down-country vineyards from May to August. “There are benefits of a good-quality diet during the growing phase, although in saying this, poorerperforming sheep can be masked by a high-quality pasture feeding regime.” The two-tooths presented at competition weighed

in a 52.9kg with condition score 3.3 out of five. Ewes and young sheep get the best pick of pastures. Hamilton describes his breeding objectives as producing good-doing, productive but uncomplicated sheep with good wool quality characteristics and constitution. The judges noted the Glenlee sheep cut a good amount of wool for their size. Hugh Cameron said the two-tooths were grown out and had few issues with wool quality. “There are some great ewes here that stand out.” He describes them as traditional with a dense wool fleece that often comes with more skin. Speaking at the competition, Cameron said a breeding strategy is using a freer wool-type ram over any ewe type that tends to be drier in the wool and has a tight closed fleece. Having a jacket of wool does help keep the vegetation out, especially with matagouri, briar and coprosma on grazing blocks. Glenlee has 300 stud ewes to breed rams for sale to commercial operations and for their own use. Hamilton shears his own rams, making notes of each one, to get a good look at the wool characteristics, skin, constitution and how well they shear. “It is invaluable. “Look underneath the sheep, in conjunction with the topline, while using the handpiece, to get a good indication of wool and skin characteristics and constitution at the same time. “Merinos’ characteristics change over time, especially during the growing phase, which continues into the four-tooth age class.” Hamilton said the skills and input during sheep selection have a significant effect on profitability. He credits his skills in this area from the late Australian sheep classer Gordy McMaster and his late father Ian Hamilton. Glenlee sells rams as far south as Millers Flat and also into Halfbred operations. The returns generated through meat prices have given the flexibility to hold on to the bestperforming sheep for longer and cull the poorerperforming sheep sooner, he said. “This has aided the quality of the wool clip and breeding for longevity.” Age eight years is the maximum for the highestperforming ewes and up to 10 for the highestperforming wethers, he said.

TOP: Glenlee Merinos presented for judging at the Marlborough Merino Association Two-tooth Ewe Competition. ABOVE: Bill Stevenson, Upcot, (left) and Andrew Harman, Aschworth, (centre) inspect the Glenlee two-tooths at the Marlborough competition.

Merino Review 2019


JUDGING • Muzzle Success

Muzzle third time winners



uzzle Station two-tooths are a successful example of where many Merino farmers are trying to get to with their wool and meat

production. This was one reason why judges Hugh Cameron and Ryan O’Dea gave the Clarence Valley flock first place in the 2019 Marlborough Merino Association Two-tooth Ewe Flock competition. Guy and Fiona Redfern, together with Colin and Tina Nimmo, won the overall top prize from nine entrants, as well as the confirmation section in the April competition. This is the third time in a row they have won. “We feel like we must be doing something right,” Redfern said. Their Muzzle Station flock of 2100 merino ewes typically clip 6.8 kilograms/head (kg/ hd) of 18.7-micron wool and average a lambing percentage of 122%. The contracted wool sold


Merino Review 2019

for $13.23/kg greasy. The 2100 wethers clip 7.8kg/hd of 18.6-micron which sold for $12.90/ kg greasy last year. They grossed $143/stock unit, at 0.7 stock unit per head. The micron is smack in the Icebreaker contract range. Any wool outside specifications is sold via auction. The wether price is lower as it yields a bit less. The vegetable matter content is 1.7%. Guy Redfern said key to growing two-tooths to 56.5kg in early April is good feeding from weaning through that first autumn and winter. Lambs are typically weaned at 25 to 30kg (depending on single or twin) in early January and are fed on lucerne through to late April. “I’m a big believer in growing young stock out well.” The hoggets are wintered on “slightlyimproved” hill country and on to lucerne in spring. The mixed-age ewes summer on the higher country and any lighter ewes are identified pretupping and preferentially fed through April.

He expects ewes to be condition score 3.5 out of 5 at tupping. The lighter-condition ewes receive a parasite drench but the rest don’t. “Everything gets long-acting iodine though.” Redfern said they have reached their goal of increasing the wool clip, boosting it by 2kg/ head over an eight-year period since using Muller Station genetics. “At eighteen and a half microns this is money for jam.” He is interested in dual purpose sheep although he adds that sheep are shorn half a dozen times over their lifetime and only killed once. The outstanding scanning percentages of 168% for mixed-age ewes and 135% for the two-tooths reflects the good body condition underpinned with fertile genetics. The resulting 122% lamb weaned/ewe mated is well above industry average. “We cull all dry two-tooths, no second chance.”

Muzzle Station two-tooth ewes average an impressive 135% lambing, reflecting their good body condition underpinned with fertile genetics.

TOP: Craig McDermid (left), Blenheim Toyota and competition key sponsor, with Blair Davies, NZ Merino Company. ABOVE: The winning sheep as weaned lambs. Muzzle lambs are usually 25 to 30 kilograms at weaning (depending on single or twin) in early January and are fed lucerne through to late April.

‘We keep Booroola rams to be able to reintroduce the gene as required in the main flock. We started with only 500 ewes but they were quality and we bred-up.’ Booroola genetics were introduced in the 1980s by the Nimmos and the genes’ influence has been fine-tuned to make the most of the fertility response, without overdoing it. At first, scanning topped 220% with a 20% triplet rate, which Redfern describes as too much, but now triplet rates are down closer to 10%. Twenty homebred rams are tested each year

and all rams with a single copy of the Booroola gene are retained in a flock. “Double copies give too much fertility. “We keep Booroola rams to be able to reintroduce the gene as required in the main flock. “We started with only 500 ewes but they were quality and we bred-up.” He would like to keep the wool in the 18 to 19-micron bracket, he said. Hugh Cameron, judge and Merino famer, Otematata Station, said the Muzzle wool was off lovely free skin, had a good length of staple and ticked all the boxes for colour and nourishment. He described the ewes as a dual-purpose fine-medium type. “The conformation caught my eye as they had wide pin bones, with a rounder shape that is an indicator of maternal fertility.” He said the industry, as a whole, has gone towards freer, less-wrinkled types, in response to ceasing mulesing. “Because of this the sheep, by default, tend to have a longer wool staple, softer handling and a finer micron than before.”

Cameron said there was a range of Merino body types seen in the Marlborough competition. He warned against long narrow sheep which can be inefficient, demanding more feed without producing the round rib spring, body volume or fat for fertility. Cameron describes the Muzzle’s lambing percentage of 122% as “pretty darn good”, and a reflection of the maintenance of the booroola gene coupled with good feeding. Second place in the competition went to Ashworth (Tim and Sally Wadworth with farm manager Andrew Harman) and third to Muller Station (Steve and Mary Satterthwaite), who also won the wool quantity prize. Cameron described both flocks as pretty darn good. The wool quality prize went to Blairich Station (Small Family). Adult commercial ewes clip five kg of 17.5-micron wool. Hugh Cameron said the competition was about promoting Merinos, educating and informing farmers and enjoying watching the progress in flocks over the years. “It’s always good to follow up flocks over the years, as it is one thing saying it but quite another to successfully do it.”

Merino Review 2019


JUDGING • Maryburn wins

A balancing act at Maryburn JOANNA GRIGG


good cross section of irrigated and dryland farms plus structurally sound and high genetic merit Merino flocks were the essential ingredients of the Waitaki Valley and Mackenzie Basin two-tooth competition. The two lower central South Island regions joined forces to stage the event, revived after a four-year hiatus, and consensus was that it struck the right balance on several fronts. 48

Merino Review 2019

It was a pressure cooker two days for Bevan McKnight and John Simpson who cast their expert eyes over 19 flocks. The pair, both seasoned judges, had slightly different approaches, Bevan said. John took more of an ‘old school’ eyeappraisal tack than him, but regardless they both came up with the same top contenders. “We both wrote notes and scores independently and our top five were pretty similar.” The lasting impression was that farmers were striking the right balance between subjective and objective selection. “A lot are now taking more notice of EBVs but are still aware of the need for the right conformation and it’s producing a more balanced type of sheep… structurally they need to be sound but at the same time they have to have the genetics to produce the type of wool that suits the particular system.” Also notable was how irrigation had provided the opportunity to grow out twotooths, a perfect example being the winning flock from Maryburn, owned by Martin Murray and family. Described as a beautifully grown line of two-tooths with a good jacket of wool, the ewes

were among the heaviest and also won the best conformation prize. The Murrays walked away with the prize when the competition was last run in 2015, so scooping the award again was further vindication that the flock was on track. Their breeding brief remains unchanged – to produce a good medium 18.5-micron fleece of at least 7kg, using predominantly Grays Hills and West Plains Polled Stud bloodlines. The Murrays are one of the larger suppliers to Devold Wool, supplying 30 tonnes a year under a three-year revolving contract. Devold is a Norwegian vertically integrated highperformance outdoor clothing company. What has changed at Maryburn over the last few years is the productivity of Merinos under irrigation. “We’ve always had that dual purpose base but now we can push that with irrigation. Normally the climate has affected the growth but with irrigation they have a non-stop buffet for the first two years,” Martin says. Over the last three years 500ha has been put under pivots, and there’s another 30ha still watered by border dykes. The reliable water from spring until autumn has led to development of new pastures and lucerne for

‘We’ve always had that dual-purpose base but now we can push that with irrigation. Normally the climate has affected the growth but with irrigation they have a non-stop buffet for the first two years.’

Irrigation has provided the opportunity to grow out two-tooths.

balage and a green feed for the grazing of the halfbreds and Merino lambs and hoggets. Irrigation development has led to a growing halfbred influence. Of the 7500-ewe flock, about 1000 are mated to Romney to maintain a base of 2000 halfbreds. The halfbreds are mated to Poll Dorset and the progeny is grazed on irrigated pasture and lucerne to prime weight by the end of April. But the 4500 Merino flock remains the bread and butter, Martin said, and with more irrigation

development planned the ewe flock will increase to 10,000. In wrap-up comments following judging of the final flock at Glenbrook Station several spectators mentioned the giant leap in the consistency and quality of the two-tooth flocks on show. Irrigation was undoubtedly a contributor to the improvement, but dryland development, better management and genetics had also helped, Mackenzie Basin and Waitaki Association secretary Will Murray said.

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About seven Merino stud breeders are in the wider catchment area, incorporating about 10 different bloodlines. Many of these breeders had paid greater attention to meat production attributes, while maintaining the wool focus. “It’s something breeders have worked on over the last few years and it’s now starting to come through in commercial flocks,” Will said. Irrigation had pushed the farming of Merinos into new territory and during the course of the tour there was a lot of discussion about Merino versus halfbreds under an intensive high-cost irrigated system, as well as the economics of the traditional Merino flock in a more extensive low-cost and lower production system. “Everyone has their different opinions based on their own property and farming system so there is no right or wrong answer.” The competition had produced an overall winner but it wasn’t solely about ranking one flock against another, spectator and Maniototo breeder Alan Paterson said. “The competition isn’t necessarily with your neighbour; it’s also with yourself and looking at ways you can improve what you’re doing.”

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Merino Review 2019


SHOWS • Results for 2018-19

Merino show results for 2018-19 Canterbury A & P Show Fine Combing Ram, 18 to 30 months, 1 A D & S D Paterson, 2 AD & SD Paterson, 3 Blairich Merino Stud; Ram, under 18 months, 1 Blairich Merino Stud, 2 Blairich Merino; Stud Ewe, 18 to 30 months and her suckling lamb(s) 1 Blairich Merino Stud, 2 A D & S D Paterson, 3 AD & SD Paterson; Ewe, under 18 months, 1 Blairich Merino Stud, 2 Blairich Merino Stud; Champion Merino Ram (fine): A D & S D Paterson; Reserve Champion Merino Ram (fine) A D & S D Paterson; Champion Merino Ewe (fine) Blairich Merino Stud Reserve; Champion Merino Ewe (fine): A D & S D Paterson; Merino - Group Classes Three Rams, 18 to 30 months: 1 AD & SD Paterson 2 Blairich Merino Stud; Boehringer Ingelheim Pairs, Ram 18 to 30 months and Ewe 18 to 30 months: 1 Blairich Merino Stud, 2 The Gums Stevenson Genetics, 3 Blairich Merino Stud; Merino - Medium Combing Ram, over 30 months. 1 Blairich Merino Stud Ram, 18 to 30 months: 1 Blairich Merino Stud, 2 AD & SD Paterson, 3 Place WJP & NJ Stevenson; Ram, under 18 months: 1 WJP & NJ Stevenson, 2 WJP & NJ Stevenson; Ewe, 18 to 30 months and her suckling lamb(s): 1 AD & SD Paterson, 2 Blairich Merino Stud, 3 A D & S D Paterson; Ewe, under 18 months: 1 Blairich Merino Stud, 2 WJP & NJ Stevenson, 3 W J P & N J Stevenson; Champion Merino Ram (medium) Blairich Merino Stud; Reserve Champion Merino Ram (medium) A D & S D Paterson; Champion Merino Ewe (medium) A D & S D Paterson; Reserve Champion Merino Ewe (medium): Blairich Merino Stud Merino. Overall Awards: Grand champion merino ewe - The Gums Stevenson Genetics; Ewe with best merino conformation - Blairich Merino Stud; Reserve grand champion merino ewe - Blairich Merino Stud; PGG Wrightson Ltd grand champion Merino ram - Blairich Merino Stud; Best NZ-bred Merino ram - Blairich Merino Stud; Best Merino ram, 18 to 30 months, includes all combings, and Poll Merino) - Blairich Merino Stud; Reserve grand champion Merino ram: Blairich Merino Stud; Supreme Champion Merino: Blairich Merino Stud; Best Merino ewe hogget: Blairich Merino Stud; Best Merino ram hogget: Blairich Merino Stud; Most successful exhibitor award: Blairich Merino Stud; Allflex best woolled Merino: Blairich Merino Stud Merino - Shorn Classes 3120 Ram under 18 months: 1st Blairich Merino Stud, 2nd Blairich Merino Stud.

Ranfurly Show Ram, two shear and upwards: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino Stud, 3 Armidale Merino Stud; Ram, one shear: 1 Johnny Duncan, 2 R. W. Gibson, 3 Armidale Merino Stud; Pair one shear rams: 1 Stonehenge; Ewe, two shear and upwards (must have reared a lamb): 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino Stud, 3 Armidale Merino Stud; Ewe, one shear: 1 R.W. Gibson, 2 Armidale Merino stud, 3 Armidale Merino Stud; Ram lamb: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino stud, 3 Armidale Merino Stud; Ewe lamb: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino Stud, 3 Armidale Merino Stud; Ram, two shear and upwards: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino Stud, 3 R.W. Gibson; Ram, one shear: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Johnny Duncan, 3 Johnny Duncan; Pair one shear rams: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Ewe, two shear and upwards (must have reared a lamb): 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino Stud, 3 Armidale Merino Stud; Ewe, one shear: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino Stud, 3 R.W. Gibson; Ram lamb: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2

Canterbury Show’s grand champion ewe with exhibitor Ian Stevenson, Stevenson Genetics, and reserve grand champion ewe, held by Tom Small, Blairich Merino Stud.

Armidale Merino Stud, 3 Armidale Merino Stud; Ewe lamb: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino Stud, 3 Armidale Merino Stud.

Wanaka Show Sheep ultra fine 17.5 & under ram any age: 1 Malvern Downs, 2 Matangi Station; Ewe any age: 1 Malvern Downs, 2 Malvern Downs; Champion Ultra Fine Ram: 1 Malvern Downs; Champion Ultra Fine Ewe: 1 Malvern Downs; Superfine Merino ram 20 months or over: 1 Matangi Station; Ram under 20 months: 1 Malvern Downs, 2 Malvern Downs; Ram Lamb: 1 Malvern Downs; Ewe 20 months or over: 1 Malvern Downs; Ewe under 20 months: 1 Malvern Downs, 2 Malvern Downs; Ewe Lamb: 1 Malvern Downs; Champion Superfine Ram: 1 Malvern Downs; Champion Superfine Ewe: 1 Malvern Downs; Fine Merino ram 20 months or over: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Malvern Downs, 3 Matangi Station; Ram under 20 months: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino Stud, 3 Malvern Downs; Ram lamb: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Ewe 20 months or over: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Malvern Downs; Ewe, under 20 months: 2 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Malvern Downs, 3 Malvern Downs; Ewe lamb: 1 Malvern Downs; Champion Fine Ram: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Champion Fine Ewe: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Medium Merino ram under 20 months: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Armidale Merino Stud; Ram lamb: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Ewe 20 months or over: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Ewe, under 20 months: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Champion Medium Ram: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Champion Medium Ewe: 1 Armidale Merino Stud,9; Polled Merino super fine & fine ram, 20 months or ove: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Malvern Downs; Ram, under 20 months: 1 Malvern Downs, 2 Matangi Station, 3 Malvern Downs; Ewe, any age: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Malvern Downs, 3 Matangi Station; Ram lamb: 1 Malvern Downs; Champion polled superfine/fine ram; 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Champion polled superfine/fine ewe: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Polled Merino medium strong ram 20 months or over: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Malvern Downs; Ram under 20 months: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Malvern Downs, 3 Malvern Downs; Ewe, any age: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Ram lamb: 1 Armidale Merino Stud, 2 Malvern Downs; Champion polled medium/ strong ram: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Champion polled medium/strong ewe: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Grand champion Merinos grand champion Merino ram - $150 + sash: 1 Armidale Merino Stud; Grand champion Merino ewe - $150 + sash: 1 Malvern Downs; Supreme champion Merino: 1 Malvern Downs; Pairs for Central Otago Boehringer Ingelheim: 1 Armidale Merino Stud.





Stud name Name




R W Allan

Lake Tekapo

03 680 6574


H M & P G Heddell


03 312 0404


Eric & Sally Smith

Awatere Valley

03 575 7990


Mark Ivey

Mt Cook

03 435 1843


Tom & Ron Small

Awatere Valley

03 575 7257


William & Emily Jones


03 464 3855


J G & R D Calder


03 447 3377


Geoff Millar


03 312 6635


Alistair Campbell


03 449 2031

Little Valley

L & J Sanders


03 448 6575


Ben Todhunter

Rakaia Gorge

03 302 8233


J K McArthur


03 448 8335

Malvern Downs

R W Gibson


03 445 2839


P McElroy


03 445 0874


Rob Hamilton

Awatere Valley

03 575 7465


John Sanders


03 448 7806


Will & Emily Murray

Lake Tekapo

03 680 6752


Jopp Family


03 447 3726


Merino Review 2019

AWARDS • Otago Fundraiser

Wool for the heart

ABOVE: Pictured with the NZWTA Child Cancer Foundation cheque are, from left, Claire Robb (business development manager, Child Cancer Foundation), Hiroyuki Kondou (Nikke general manager manufacturing), overall winners Bevan and Tiffany McKnight (Merino Ridges) with their trophy, Tatenobu Matsumoto (Nikke sales manager) and Phil Cranswick (customer services manager, NZWTA).



fine muster of passionate fine-wool growers, staff and supporters gathered in Alexandra in late May for the annual Otago Merino Association awards dinner to recognise excellence in the production of merino wool. A cheque for just over $25,000 was presented to the Child Cancer Foundation from the fundraiser started 30 years ago, and which now totals $366,000. Each year, farmers are invited to donate one fleece (often more) which is classed and then sold by The New Zealand Merino Company with funds going to CCF. “We have many donors who contribute in various ways but the partnership with the Otago Merino Association is one of the more creative”, CCF business development manager Claire Robb says. Japanese NZ Merino partner Nikke, who specialise in high-end suiting fabrics, bought the 2018 fleeces, as well as teaming up with NZ Merino to make a financial contribution. A delighted Hiroyuki Kondou, general manager manufacturing control department, Nikke Textile and Clothing Materials Division, thinks this community is pretty special. “We are very happy to see wool quality recognised in the competition and also to grow the momentum of the Child Cancer fleece.” Nikke donated two suit-lengths of Nikke Golden MAF 15.5-micron 100% New Zealand wool to be auctioned as part of the fundraising. The successful purchasers were Graeme Rive, who will have his fitted suit tailored by Sergio’s Menswear, with Brent and Hayden Hickey successful bidders on the second suit length after the original buyer Devold Wool Direct NZ general manager Craig Smith had reoffered his initial purchase. A total of $12,000 was raised on the night. Next year’s donation will include this plus the proceeds of the sale of the donated fleece wool. The Child Cancer Fleece partnership began when the Otago Merino Association wanted to do something to support one of their members, the Goodger family of Merivale Station in the Lindis Pass, who had a child with cancer. “We don’t have to think too hard about putting aside a fleece each year for a good cause,” outgoing chairman Bevan McKnight said. “It’s

not just our Otago Merino community anymore, we get wool growers nationwide contributing.” The evening also recognises excellence in fine wool with the NZ Wool Testing Authority Child Cancer Foundation fleece, and the NZWTA Clip of the Year competitions. Merino Ridges took out the overall trophy for the 2019 fleece competition, and Benmore Station won overall Clip of the Year. NZWTZ Child Cancer Foundation Trophy: Ultra fine: 1. Merino Ridges, Bevan and Tiffany McKnight; 2. Moutere, Hamish and Andrew Jopp; 3. Matangi, John and Mary-Liz Sanders. Super fine: 1. Northburn, Bevan and Tiffany McKnight; 2. Glenshee, Peter, Margaret and Simon Hore; Moutere, Hamish and Andrew Jopp. Fine: 1. Foulden Hill, Liz and Will Gibson; 2. Doctor’s Point, Neil Sanders; 3. Stonehenge, Andrew and Francine Hore. Medium: 1. Branches Station, Gene Bryce and Margaret Blue; 2. Patearoa, Charlie Hore and Belinda Colling; 3. Lindis Peaks, Lucy Annan and Simon Maling. Overall winner: Merino Ridges, Bevan and Tiffany McKnight. NZWTA Clip of the Year: <17.3-micron: Waikeri Downs, Earl and Bernadine Attfield; Nine Mile, Gordon and Spin Lucas; Cloudy Peak, Jayne Rive. >17.3-micron: Benmore, Andrew and Deidre, Bill and Kate Sutherland; Ahuriri Downs, Andrew and Deidre, Bill and Kate Sutherland; Armidale, Simon and Sarah Paterson. Best Commercial Flock: Waikeri Downs, Earl and Bernadine Attfield. Best Stud: Benmore, Sutherland family. Overall winner: Benmore, Sutherland family. In addition, a fine-wool Pix competition is run to showcase the animals, people and the environment in which the fine wool fibre is grown. This was won by Gabriel Maxwell with her image “Perks of the Job”, with Andrew McNeill, “Who’s looking at you”, and Samantha Harmer, “Spreading it fine” second and third respectively. People’s choice winner on social media: Georgia Hendrie “Hartfield line up”. View the Otago Merino Association Facebook page to review the entries, including those placed in the top three.

Stud name




Stud name





Mike & Mary Satterthwaite

Awatere Valley

03 575 7044


Andrew Hore


03 444 7703


Hugh Cameron


03 438 7863


A J & W H Sutherland


03 438 9474


A D & S D Paterson


03 444 9322


Willie Macdonald

Wairau Valley

03 575 7042


Rob & Sally Peter


03 575 6866


M D Murray


03 680 6612

Mount Hay

S J Simpson

Lake Tekapo

021 336 806

The Gums

Ian & Mark Stevenson


03 319 8443

Mount Hay

G & J Simpson

Lake Tekapo

03 680 6897

Grays Hills

M & S Urquhart


03 680 6640


IE & LV Somerton-Smythe


03 448 8335

Rhino Park

C Clark

Hawea Flat

03 443 5801


W J P & N J Stevenson

Awatere Valley

03 575 7463

Nine Mile

Gordon Lucas


03 445 2885

Merino Review 2019



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