Cliché it may be, but we live in volatile times. Recently we have seen the Kiwi dollar plunge ten cents over a few days against the US dollar and to think a decade ago we would get excited or downcast when it would shift a cent in a day.
That volatility has flowed into the returns we have seen at the farm gate. All of it good to date but my farming career has been long enough to know that the old maxim of what goes up invariably goes down. However with sheepmeat in particular the current global shortage in supply looks set to maintain good returns for sometime to come.
As we all know, sheepmeat prices had a major lift during the 2010/11 season. My weaning drafts in mid November at 16kg netted $96 which I was pleased with although disappointed after a very difficult spring to only get 30% away off the mother instead of the usual 60%.
However this turned out to be a blessing. The ‘rats and mice’ draft in June killed out at 22kg for an amazing $172. Overall my works lambs killed out at 17.7kg for an average of $118 although it was very difficult to shift them from Y’s to P’s with 65% falling into the former grade. It was a challenging spring and stock continued to struggle thereafter.
And let’s not forget that even the cull ewes brought home the bacon with my works ewes netting $92 last season.

Wool

Wool finally gets its own deserved and long awaited headline. The lift in sheep meat prices was extremely welcome but the lift in wool prices was astounding. Many had written wool off as a contributor to farm incomes but that certainly changed earlier in the year. October last year just before the rise began, the clean Xbred strong indicator was $3.62 and this October it is $6.40. This is close to a 100% increase!
The good thing here at Marlow is that I had continued to weigh and enter hogget fleece weights to Sheep Improvement Ltd (SIL) so that the Breeding Values that support the Dual Purpose Wool figure on the selection sheets remains valid and robust. Many other breeders had discontinued weighing and even removed wool as a contributor to the overall index. I suspect they will be quietly reinstating it but their estimated breeding values will take some years to become reliable again.
I’ve also continued to remain vigilant on black fibres and a reasonable standard of wool quality whilst these attributes have been let slip elsewhere.
Coincidently I’m in the process of building a new woolshed down at our Woburn Road property which was more as a result that the old one was in the process of collapsing rather than the current jump in wool prices. I’m dead keen to show it off and will be encouraging you to call in for a look when it is finished or at ram selling.

Coopworth Genetics New Zealand

I’m currently on the Coopworth Council and our recommendation to the AGM was successful to change the society’s name from the Coopworth Sheep Society of NZ to Coopworth Genetics New Zealand which better reflects the breeds position now days.
You will see on page 74 of Heartland Sheep that our claim is ‘The Best Dam Breed’ and the SIL-ACE maternal lists and increasing inquiry from outside the breed support this.
Central Progeny Test

Included with this newsletter are the latest CPT results. SIL-Ace is the largest genetic evaluation of sheep in the world. Many breeders quote the CPT results in their promotional literature as an indicator of genetic value and worth. It is important to know that it is the CPT work that is the ‘glue’ or mechanism that allows the SIL-ACE lists and consequently Coopworth Genetics and Marlow selection lists to be run.
The rams put forward for CPT by the different breed societies should not necessarily be the top ones but the best linked within the breed so that the progeny test that is CPT then is able to build strong and robust links amongst and between the breeds.
A good example is Marlow 5203/04. That’s his magnificent rear end that features in the Marlow ad on page 68 of Heartland Sheep. He is in CPT as in his day he was the top Coopworth ram and was widely used. About a dozen Coopworth studs both here and in Australia as well as several other breeds have used him.
I see he ranks 13th (out of 212 stud rams) for growth, 17th for weaning weight, 24th for number of lambs born, 9th for fleece weight, 13th for facial eczema, and 7th overall.
However he is now hard to find him in the top 200 on the SIL-ACE lists and on my own selection lists he is in the bottom third of all traits having been superseded by his own grandsons and those of other rams. With my policy of full disclosure and by including recent sires on the selection lists I provide you at ram selling, you are able to gain an independent view of Marlow’s steady genetic progress.
And with the assistance of 203/04’s use in CPT and my annual usage of outside well linked and top Coopworth sires as well as the use of other Marlow sires in other Coopworth studs, Marlow remains one of the most linked or connected studs of any breed in the country. You can check this claim on the Coopworth and SIL connectedness tabs on their web sites.
This is important to you as clients because the SIL figures I provide have a high degree of reliability and robustness. I recommend you read page 16 in the CPT booklet on the importance of connectedness.
Many high profile studs do not have any rams showing up on the SIL-ACE lists. This could be because they lack connectedness or that their genetics are not as good as their significant promotional material tells us it is.

Balance Farm Environment Awards

Earlier in the year, Jane and I were the inaugural East Coast Balance Farm Environment Award supreme winners. We were thrilled to win this title as our environment and our sustainability are important to how we farm.
We also won the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award which is a recognition of our community involvement and the Beef + Lamb NZ Livestock Award which recognizes animal performance and care and a category where we beat a significant and high profile ram breeding operation.

Ram selling 2011

This will be during early to mid December as usual.
Facial Eczema Ramguard testing continues with the current crop of 2ths sired by rams which passed at 5.5 to the highest level of 6.0. This trait is important if we experience challenges like last autumn or worse. I relied solely on the tolerance of the flock whilst neighbours drenched with zinc as our levels exceeded 150,000 for some time and with the exception of a slight lift in the dry rate from possible sub clinical effects, appear to have survived unscathed.
Prices remain based on DPP index and range from $600 (unchanged from previous years) with rams with a DPP around 1600 up to rams above 2000 DPP priced at $1300 which is a modest $100 increase given the decent increase in sheepmeat and wool returns.
Even at the top end prices, ten to twelve works lambs will cover the price of a ram and given four years of use, an average ram will generate around 5-600 progeny.
Commercial breeders with current returns are likely to be able to justify a ‘refresh’ of your ram teams and with some recent new inquiry from farmers with renewed interest in wool returning from composite ram breeds and technological savvy farmers who have discovered the excellent SIL ( http://www.sil.co.nz/ ) tools of FlockFinder and RamFinder means that I will need to contact you shortly for an indication of ram requirements.