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Pete is an occasional visitor. He loves coming to the farm and is very content helping me with whatever task I’m up to at the time. And other than being well fed, happily does it for nothing which is why I love Pete in return.
I first met Pete at our wedding some 32 years ago. He is married to Pam, Jane’s eldest cousin with Jane being the youngest. We hit it off right from the start.
Pete loves loud music, is noisy at public events, laughs raucously and thoroughly enjoys life. Just like me. And our wives disprove of these and other characteristics which makes Pete and I wonder why Overton women seem to be attracted to blokes like us.
But they are, and very lucky women are they.
Pam, the daughter of Guy a cricket fast bowler for NZ and involved in the 1953 Boxing Day test in South Africa with Bob Blair is a top croquet player in her own right so they are staying with us while she plays a tournament.
I was delighted at their arrival as I’d been trying to get someone to help me with docking the last of the ewe hogget lambs.
Jane is busy coaching tennis and picking asparagus and hasn’t been available when I needed her.
Pete’s arrival was opportune.
We had a leisurely breakfast with Pete waxing lyrical about the delights of his avocado on toast. He is such an epicurean that he will rave about anything you put in front of him. Even a piece of dry bread would elucidate a discourse on the merits of its texture in the mouth.
We went out to muster the sheep and I got impatient at the speed of Pete’s gate opening.
“Come on man, my life is slipping away. These are minutes I’m never going to get back.”
“If your gates were better swung and you didn’t have a different catch on each one that needs an engineer to decipher, things would be a bit more efficient” he replied.
We’ve always had a robust relationship.
I taught Pete how to use the docking iron as he’s in his early 70’s now and it seemed only fair that I did the picking up.
I instructed him on the right length to leave the stump and in response to his question why, explained that we are told that the consumers like to know the girly bits don’t get sunburnt. I’d never seen this when we cut them short to make crutching easier but as they say, the consumer is always right.
I do hear that the meat companies cut that little bit of tail off the carcase, bag them up, sell them to China and make a fortune. But this could just be another rural legend like so many others.
We paced ourselves and chatted about music, politics, women and life.
It made me realise how much I’ve slowed down in the last year or so. Partly because physically I can’t keep up the pace any longer and because I’m now choosing to smell the roses as I pass.
My brother in law Andrew who is a commercial fisherman helped me at times in the past and used to call me ‘fart in a bottle’ due to my ability to leap the rails in the yards and fences as I dashed about. He and others didn’t appreciate that there was so much to be done and so little time.
Watching and being part of Pete’s pace and his ability to savour each moment and experience reinforced that the path I’m now on as I follow him into an older age is not that frustrating but actually quite cool.

Sitting here in front of a blank page on the screen considering what a politics sated readership might want to read after our election weekend.
Something completely different perhaps to excite and stimulate jaded senses.
Then sometimes you just get lucky.
Somehow a window in the cosmos open a tiny crack in the space-time continuum and into my inbox dropped the script for a BBC news script.
I won’t trouble with you the maths behind Minkowski Space as the continuum is known but my interesting brush with this Einsteinian theory of special relativity meant there was something very unusual with my newly acquired script.
It is dated 30 December 2017.
Of course, I immediately assumed it was an internet scam.
But then noted that I’d sent it to myself. Of course, my future self would know that I was desperate for some new material or a good idea for a column.
And brilliantly (even though I say so myself) worked out how to email back to the past. If others work out how to do this, it would make things very unstable.
This potential instability is known as ‘The Grandfather Paradox’ which is a paradox of time travel in which inconsistencies emerge through changing the past. The example being that a time traveller travels back in time and kills their own grandfather before the conception of their own parent. Thereby making it impossible for that individual to have done the deed. Even though they did.
Once I was certain that what I now had the genuine article I had to consider the ethics and risks of releasing this information to you dear reader of news from the future.
Then I considered the time and being well past bedtime have simply cut and pasted some of the juicier and relevant titbits. I’ve kept the sports results to myself as though not a gambler I’m finding the temptation too hard to resist. A certain bet I believe is the term.

Opening today’s news, President Trump having declared that North Korea would have complete and utter devastation followed by further punishments that would make the devastation look like a friendly gift has now surprisingly agreed to Kim Jong-un’s invitation to a wrestling match where the winner takes all. Both men are fans of big time wrestling and pundits have Trump as firm favourite given Kim’s weak ankles and inability to stand unsupported. But then everyone thought Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf character in Game of Thrones would lose all his fights.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that a wall will be built between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland seen as the European Union are playing hardball over the Brexit negotiations. He wants the Europeans to pay for it. He has also threatened the Scots with resurrecting Hadrian’s Wall but that ploy may have backfired as Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the move.
And in New Zealand a surprising result from the long drawn out negotiations following their election in September. All the minor parties were quite content to coalesce with either of the two major parties but refused to be in that coalition with any of the other minor parties making coalition governments of either the centre left or centre right impossible.
In frustration, the two main parties, National and Labour have formed a government with 85% of the seats in the parliament and have set about with their common goal of transforming that small nation into the country that the rest of the world will shortly envy and admire.
 

So many topics to consider for a column. Perhaps something of great importance like the standoff of two crazy guys both armed with nuclear weapons one of whom could make one silly decision and irrevocably change the world for ever. Not for the better.
Or how about the latest instalment in our own election? Winston Peters, the politician so adept at receiving leaks and then demanding accountability and transparency hoisted by his own petard. He may have been claiming more from the tax payer than he was entitled joining a long list of dodgy dastardly dirty double dipping politicians but immediately able to play the wronged to full effect as he hunts out the leaker.
Could it be someone in the National Party using the powers of government to retain power or a civil servant upset by the double standard of Turei falling on her sword over her own benefit fraud and Peters remaining unscathed?
Or some other diabolical leaker. Who knows? Who cares?
No, this week we want, indeed need something uplifting. Something to remind ourselves that our species can be damn clever. Something to lift our sights above the humdrum of daily reality and politics. Let us look skywards to the stars, or at least to the planets.
One in particular; Saturn.
The Cassini space probe will finally finish its epic mission on the 15th September when it slams into the planet it has faithfully pictured, probed and examined from every angle for 13 years.
This magnificent feat of human accomplishment showed that we humans can indeed co-operate as NASA, The European Space Agency and some help from the Italian Space Agency all contributed. They began talking about the concept way back in the early 1980’s.
Cassini was launched in October 1997 and just to get to Saturn used gravity assisted slingshot flybys to increase speed of Venus twice, then two years after launch the earth itself and finally giant Jupiter arriving in the Saturn system on the first of July 2004.
Just consider the maths and physics required to get it from here into the orbit of Saturn then fly closely past without hitting various moons and the rings over its 20-year life span. The planet itself is 1.4 billion km from the sun or 9.5 times further from the sun than us.
Saturn has a radius nine times bigger than the earth and being a gas giant is only one-eighth of the density but still 95 times more massive.
Before Cassini arrived, there were 58 known moons but the spacecraft has discovered another 4.
And of course, there are the rings. They extend 6000 km from the planet out to 120,000km but are only 20 meters thick. Made up of 93% ice and the balance is carbon. They reflect the sun’s light back to us and can be seen in a small telescope.
In 1610, Galileo mistook them for moons in his rudimentary telescope so it was left to Huygens with a better telescope to see the rings and discover Titan, the largest moon consisting of 90% of all the mass that orbits Saturn including the rings.
Cassini dropped its probe Huygens in 2005 and in a marvel of precision and physics it then landed on Titan, making it the greatest distance from the earth that a spacecraft has settled.
Cassini has created a wealth of information on the Saturnian system and it is difficult to pick highlights.
One would have to be the findings about the moon Enceladus. Covered in fresh clean ice, it is one of the most reflective bodies in our solar system.
Cassini has had several close flybys and discovered active geysers emitting water, salts, nitrogen and organic molecules coming from a hydrothermal active interior. Exactly the sort of environment where we see microbes living here on earth.
Enceladus is an excellent candidate to prove that there is life somewhere else in the universe other than earth and that the universe is likely teeming with other life forms.
Which is why Cassini is being flown to its destruction into Saturn as its power supplies dwindle rather than left to orbit the system for eternity. There is an outside chance that earth microbes still cling to the craft and should it eventually smash into Enceladus or another moon with native life forms, our microbes could contaminate them much as Europeans did as they explored the world and met endemic peoples.
Take the kids out this month to see the ‘star’ of the show. Looking directly up mid evening near Antares the red heart of the Scorpion you will see bright Saturn with its yellowish hue. The Scorpions tail of the ancient Greeks was known as the fish hook of Maui by the Maori.
The Roman god Saturnus by the way was the god of agriculture.
Then show them the wonderful images taken by Cassini of Saturn, its rings and planets so accessible on the internet.
Very, very cool.

Lambing is my annual harvest no different to an apple grower, viticulturist bringing in the grapes or a cropping farming with his combine harvester.
And like these, of all the production cycle, the time of harvest is the time carrying the most risk from the weather but more on this later.
I’ve always relished the prospect of lambing and doing everything I can to get all the ducks in a row to give my girls the best opportunity to get as many live lambs on the deck as possible.
When one goes through the list of actions that we shepherds notch up to achieve this objective, it’s not a bad effort.
Starting with identifying and then getting the best genetics possible.
The hoggets or 2ths need to be vaccinated for toxoplasmosis and campylobacter well before ram introduction.
Next challenge is to get the flock up to decent weights and preferably no ewes with a condition score below 3. This can be difficult following summer or autumn droughts but in these years the worm challenges are low so it is swings and roundabouts.
The sudden turnaround in our fortunes at the beginning of March when it started raining and never stopped meant many of us ended up with excellent scanning figures.
Some years ago, I was a contributing farmer in a big trial looking at factors influencing bearings and in the end the only valid recommendation was to get the extra weight off the ewes in that first trimester. I do this robustly and at the same time able to use the flock to clean up after a growthy autumn like we have just had.
I take about half a condition score off the ewes and it seems to work as to date I’ve lost just 5 bearing ewes from 1450 and this after having been fed very well in the final trimester and throughout lambing.
With the high-performance genetics, we have now, it is very important to feed the ewes properly in those final 4-5 weeks before due date. There are so many more twins and triplets on board than the sheep of 3 decades ago that it can be a disaster if you don’t.
My multiples are being fed almost ad lib and they consume a lot of feed. I’m comforted that as I shift them throughout July, the 1100-1200 kg DM/ha that is left behind will still be there for set stocking at lambing.
I’m endeavouring to grow decent sized lambs, build a big udder to maximise lamb growth and of course keep those vulnerable ewes steaming along.
So there needs to be a good feed wedge going into July whatever conditions have been served up and all the sciences behind feed budgeting, subdivision, perhaps the use of a bit of strategic nitrogen and rationing.
This year it seems to have all fallen into place.
Just as my ewes started lambing at the beginning of August, for us the tap turned off. I know it has remained miserable elsewhere which will have made it difficult for almost every other region and I do feel sorry for you.
Here it remained wet underfoot but we have had less than 20mm of rain through August which surely must be a first and I haven’t had a single death from exposure. Likely to culminate in a record lambing % to bore my mates for years to come.

I’ve been given the opportunity to fill this slot seen as the boss is away.
In case you haven’t heard of me from the boss’s earlier column let me fill you in.
I can’t remember how I ended up in the water table between his two little farms but I do remember being with my mum and my siblings one day and then next thing I knew I was dumped there and had a cold and lonely night.
I was frightened, thirsty, hungry and feared for my life and then out of nowhere came this farmer walking some bulls along the road, heard my wails and scooped me up and popped me into his jacket.
Later he gave me milk, food and comfort.
He and his lady speculated on how I’d come to be there and what sort of dog I might be. I had no idea myself.
I found myself in a warm kennel next to his sheep dog Gin but she completely ignored me for the first couple of months.
One day the boss let me out for a run as he shot past on the bike knowing I was still too small to follow him so I just mooched around for a bit and then went over to Gin’s kennel and worked out how to lift the pin to let her out hoping she might play with me.

She didn’t but the boss was annoyed with himself for not putting her away properly.
This happened a couple of times until he saw me doing it. Now he just lets me out and it’s my job to let Gin out for a run.
She’s now my best friend and we play a lot but as I’m now bigger than her at over 30 kg after just five months of age she gets a bit knocked around and will jump up onto the four-wheeler to get away from me and I’m too clumsy to get up there myself.
The boss reckons I’m the clumsiest dog he’s had as I seem to be able to knock over my water bucket even though it is attached to the kennel and sometimes I’m so eager to eat as I’m always starved, I tip up my food bowl scattering the contents.
Then the vet said he thought I might be a Rottweiler when he gave me an injection. This caused a bit of consternation so the boss wrote a column and quite a lot of people wrote and said not to worry as they had had Rotties and they worked out fine but some had to be kept away from the stock.
A few weeks ago, the boss took me over to the yards on a leash to see what I thought of sheep. Just between you and me, I found the experience terrifying.
Those big eyes and they ran hither and thither. I tried to get out through the rails but he held me on the leash so when I realised I had to stay in there with these nasties, I laid down on the ground and put my big paws over my head. He was trying to get his phone to take a photo of me in my distress and good job, he dropped it on the concrete and cracked the screen.
He’d read that the Romans used Rotties 2000 years ago to herd the cattle for their armies as they conquered Europe so he next took me out for a run and then we went through a paddock of these huge beasts.
Talk about pooping myself Trev. I took one look and shot straight through a fence and headed home.
But next time he took me over to the yards Gin was there and when I saw how much fun she was having I just lost myself in the moment and barked and barked and ran around and would have had a good go at those silly sheep if he didn’t keep hold of my leash.
It was the most fun you could possibly have and I felt a bit embarrassed about my fear last time.
Today the boss took me on a stock drive down the road all by myself. Just him and me.
At first I didn’t want to go anywhere those bulls and he had to drag me along but after a while I quite liked just walking along behind them.
Except when I went in front of the boss and he pulled hard on the rope and said, “Get in” in a loud and scary voice.
Later he finally got me to bark and the bulls ran away at a very pleasing pace. Every time I barked he said “Speak” so I did and I’ve never felt more of a team than in that moment.
After an hour, he was very pleased with me and let me off the rope to see how it would go.
It was fantastic. I just ran into that big mob and barked and ran around and barked and ran around and he shouted and called my name and bulls ran everywhere and I just had the best of times.
Then for some reason he caught me and tied me up again and we just walked along behind the mob again until they went into the paddock and I got to ride home on the back of the ute.
Then he gave me a whole lot of love, some extra food and honestly, I’m completely shattered and think I’ll go to sleep now.
Ditch.

Ditch’s Diary Part 2

Boy oh boy oh boy. There’s lot been happening since my first diary entry. I don’t know where to start.
For those who missed my first entry just so you know what’s going on, I should tell you that the boss found me dumped in the water table (he thought Ditch was easier to say) out on the road as a tiny puppy.
The big joke was that the vet and several others told him I was a Rottweiler which put the cat amongst the pigeons. The boss’s wife would take me out for walks and as I got bigger because I’m a bit clumsy, I’d come running to her and knock her over. She told the boss she was worried I might decide to rip her throat out while she was on the ground but he said that was just silly talk. I was far more likely to lick her to death.
But its turned out to be utter nonsense. Sure, my face looks like a Rotty and I’m real big but I’m definitely some sort of sheep and cattle dog with a hairy coat.
I’m obsessed with sheep and cattle which is a good thing but honestly when I see them, I forget all those many times on the lead and the sharp tug and “GET IN” in the shouty voice and just run up and down the fence and bark my head off until the boss finally catches me.
I heard him saying that it was a good thing I haven’t learned how to get through a fence yet.
And just as I was about to learn that skill so I could have a proper go at those silly sheep, the nice new-collar thing the boss had given me gave me a sharp little bite the next time he yelled “Get in” and boy did I get in.
Its only done that two or three times again but when the boss says, “Get in” I go straight back to him and he pats me and makes a big fuss. He even lets me go into the paddock with the sheep now and I watch those things very closely but I stay near him just in case.
But here’s the big news.
His other dog Gin seemed to be getting old before her time and having trouble jumping up on the ute and bike.
Last week he went to let her out of her kennel and she had been sick. He noticed her stomach was fairly blown up and because he’s lost a couple of dogs from twisted stomach he took her straight into the vets.
The young vet inspected her tummy and asked a few questions finishing with “when was her last heat?” The boss made a funny noise, said about 45 days ago and immediately ran his hand along her belly.
The vet took Gin away for a scan and came back and confirmed she was full of pups.
The boss explained that it couldn’t be possible as he had her shut up while me and his son’s visiting heading dog Mate had a run. He even wired her door shut as I can open her latch from the outside.
He said he did feel a bit guilty about Gin being in the kennel between me and Mate but that was the usual sleeping arrangements. But there was sound netting between the kennels
The vet told him she had been called upon to disentangle dogs and bitch’s a couple of times who had managed to overcome that minor obstacle.
The boss could understand that a bitch might press herself up against the netting but a dog wouldn’t be able to lift himself up at all given the low roof.
The vet just shrugged, said “Where’s there’s a will there’s a way” and reiterated she’d seen it with her own eyes.
Cruelly I heard the boss say he hoped the puppies will be black and white like Mate and not look like me. He’ll just have to wait a few days to find out, won’t he?
When he got back from the vet he noticed something odd on the ground. It was a large and very rotten fish. The very same fish some prankster had put near his letter box back at Easter. The same fish he’d got one of his son’s mates to bury as a punishment for being sick on the carpet after they’d had a party.
The same fish that Gin had dug up the night before and sampled which explained the sick in the kennel.
Now it seems I might be the only active dog available now. A prospect I’m very excited about.
However, the boss seems less excited and I heard him say to his wife today, “If during a farming career all your dogs are always average, it’s probably not the dogs.”

Spring 2016

We have finally made it into the spring after a pretty difficult 12 months.
This time last year we had the warnings of a high probability of a very strong El Nino bringing a nasty drought.
It certainly remained dry after the deluge in mid-September which dealt to many of the later lambing ewe flocks but except for those in North Canterbury most of us seemed to have dodged a bullet.
However, come the autumn many of us on the East Coast slipped into a drought and feed covers remained tight right through until the end of this September.
I was out of all trading stock by May, applied nitrogen everywhere and was over 50% down on my cattle numbers so as to sneak through.
I credit formal feed budgeting and in particular Farmax for giving me an early heads up and allowing the confidence to use the management tools I did so as to get through.
Getting back into cattle has been problematic given the very high prices despite a falling schedule and the likelihood it will fall further once killable cattle start coming forward.
And then there was the autumn facial eczema challenge but more of that later.

Sheep Improvement Ltd. (SIL) Changes

Beef+lamb NZ Genetics which runs SIL has recently upgraded the SIL genetic evaluation.
This will provide with more timely information and much higher quality genetic data to assist in decision making.
They will now run a single weekly NZ Genetic Evaluation (NZGE) that involves all active SIL flocks (as opposed to just those of us that opted in) and those non-active flocks that provide useful information on pedigree and performance.
This now means that the evaluation uses all relevant data available in all SIL flocks and there is now only ‘one version of the truth’ in terms of a set of breeding values (BV’s) for animals.
This will have little impact on Marlow as I was already using industry standard and recommended BV’s as evidenced by the asterisk on the selection sheets provided to you at ram selection time.
But it will make information provided more accurate.

Now that there is one estimate of genetic merit across all flocks, there is an opportunity to have standard indexes available for commercial farmers at ram selection.
Marlow clients will notice little difference as the ‘new’ core traits are what I’ve been reporting anyway.
These are Reproduction, Survival, Growth, Adult Size and Wool and should now be on the selection lists of all SIL flocks whatever the breed.
The standard index will now be called ‘NZ Maternal Worth’ or NZMW which in the past we called Dual Purpose Production (DPP).
The terminal breeder’s lists are now called NZ Terminal Worth (NZTW) and include Survival, Growth and Meat Yield.
Because it is mandatory for Coopworth breeders to also record meat properties, I have for many years, ultrasound scanned all the ram lambs and send a number to Lincoln for CT scanning so Marlow lists will continue to also include Meat Yield.
So my selection sheets will be headed as MW+M (Maternal Worth + Meat).
Marlow selection lists will also include the sub trait Facial Eczema (DPX) but this is not added to the overall index but there for those clients with an interest in building FE tolerance in their flocks.
I will attach my latest selection list of the current sale rams so that you can see what I’m talking about. This list includes dam’s latest lambing and ewe and ram hgt 12 month liveweights and fleece weights and will be upgraded once weaning weights for the 2016 lambs are added just before ram selling.

Future SIL Changes

There are further changes from SIL in the wings which will come into effect early next year.

They plan to introduce breeding values around condition scores and longevity.
For many years now I have weighed all the stud ewes at mating and also recorded condition score which has been inputted waiting for this development to occur. Indeed, Marlow is one of the stud flocks being used to develop these BV’s.
We have observed quite a range of condition score BV’s for the sires based on their progeny recordings. This will be used with liveweight to better assess ewe and progeny efficiency and resilience.

Longevity BV’s will also be of interest. This lambing there were a couple of nine-year-old ewes and a small number of 6-8 year olds but they have to be bloody good performers to stay in the stud that long as their daughters and granddaughters are sired by higher genetic worth rams and tend to knock the older girls out of the stud quite quickly.

The relative economic value of number of lambs born (NLB) will be reduced and not increased past an economic optimum of 185% scanned. This will reduce the influence of triplets and with the stud scanning up to 225% and several commercial clients over 200% won’t be a bad thing. It will allow us to focus more on the other traits.

Facial Eczema

The autumn FE challenge was a record breaker around the country.
Areas that have never experienced it before were hit quite badly.
The map on the left shows the usual areas that deal with this unpleasant disease and the one on the right how it will affect the country with a 3 degree rise in temperatures and not far away from what areas were affected this year.

About half of my ram clients have been interested in the FE tolerance that Marlow has been building up over the last 13 years but in discussions with some of you that is probably now closer to 80%.
Several who weren’t are relieved to have got the tolerance as part of the package as neighbouring properties were badly hit and they weren’t.

All 2th rams sold this year are sired by stud rams that passed the Ramguard test at .6 and all of their dams were sired by rams that passed at .6 except for 2009 and 2010 born ewes whose sires passed at .5 and .55 respectively.
Like last year, the last column on the selection sheets will be DPX so if FE is a concern for you, keep a close eye on this sub trait.

In January I FE tested 11 ram lambs with the Ramguard test at .6 and 10 passed giving a good selection of the top ram hoggets for use at tupping.
At the moment there are 5 rising 2ths who have been dosed with the toxin and I’m awaiting with fingers crossed their 21-day blood test to see which ones have tolerance and which don’t.
It is not the best way to treat your best genestock.
Only those who pass are considered for use and I only use outside sires that have passed at .6.

The FE Gold standard was brought in to ensure that claims of FE tolerance were well grounded.
To become FE Gold, a stud must have been doing the Ramguard test longer than 10 years, testing at .6 and testing 10% of rams sold. Marlow is one of only 18 flocks from all breeds to qualify.
I note with interest that a large number of studs around the country are suddenly claiming FE tolerance on the grounds that they have used an FE tolerant ram sometime in the past.
Don’t be fooled by these claims.

 

This year’s 2th rams

The ram hoggets had a pretty poor autumn but I was able to look after them a bit better over the winter and are now enjoying the best spring for a long time so catching up to where they need to be.
They were shorn in early September with fleece and body weights inputted into SIL.
Shortly the will have the vet come and palpate for the B. Ovis certificate then I’ll be busy with weaning, shearing and all what that entails.
All going according to plan, I will be selling rams from early to mid-December.

 

Attached is the latest selection list to show you the changes but this will be updated at sale time with the 2016 weaning weights which improves survival, growth and meat indexes.
I’ll also attach the most recent sire summary which lists all the stud sires I’ve used in recent years including the sale rams and this year’s 2016 born lambs.
If you have kept your records from previous years, it allows you to see how the sires of the rams you purchased are tracking.
There is some information in here that should give you some comfort.
For a start if you look to the left you will see that the sires of the stud rams come from a good range of studs. Marlow is one of the best linked studs of any breed in the country. This is by design and means there is a high confidence level in the across flock DPP indexes I put in front of you.
This is further reinforced if you look to the number of progeny on the far right. About a third of the sires used in Marlow have progeny in other studs. That is the second figure where there are two and the same rams having progeny in different studs is the sire referencing I’m involved with and allows SIL to deal with different environments and management (phenotype) and concentrate on actual genetics (genotype).
Secondly you can see that the older stud rams from only a few years ago are pushed well down the order. This gives a good feel for the genetic gain within the stud.
On the Marlow web site are genetic gain graphs for each sub index.

If you are wanting rams this year and have a rough idea of how many please email or ring me with a number and if I haven’t heard from you, I’ll give you a ring soon.
As might be expected, I’m getting some new inquiry because of the FE tolerance but will satisfy current clients requirements first.

 

All the best for the busy times ahead and I look forward to seeing you in December.
Thank you for your past patronage and support.

Steve Wyn-Harris

I write this on the other side of the easterly weather systems of late September which brought 150mm here but some parts of Hawkes Bay had up to 500mm over that week which has caused infrastructure damage and sadly quite bad lambing losses.
Of course we had all become increasingly anxious about the impeding and much forecasted El Nino and the reasonable likelihood of a drought given how little rain we have had in recent months but as the old saying goes; ‘it never rains but it pours’.
However we now go into the spring with water tables and soil moisture properly recharged so if the El Nino does set in at least we will have a decent spring.
The dry winter made it much easier farming on my heavy soils than usual. Break feeding six mobs of bulls on various crops was quite pleasant for a change. Very little pugging, good utilisation and the power stayed up in the wires resulting in few breakouts. And they have had good growth rates in a year where beef returns are the highlight.

Lamb Wastage

Over the years I’ve built a useful data base of Marlow’s stud ewe and lamb wastage rates. A death prevented is just as useful as an extra lamb on the ground so one needs to know where those losses arise and then work on preventing them in the future.

August here as mentioned above was as good as I’ve ever had but with a very high scanning % it is still surprising how many lambs perish.
The 290 stud ewes (I also have 1150 commercial ewes) scanned 652 lambs or 225%. A third of them had triplets and just two dries.
By docking there were 521 live lambs or a pretty credible 179% ewes to the ram.
And yet 131 lambs were not present or 20% gone from scanning.
94 (14.4%) were born dead or inside dead ewes.
37 (5.7%) were alive at birth and died before docking, mostly in the first 3 days.
Both lots of dead lambs were comprised of a majority of triplet lambs.
When I read other stud breeders quoting their single digit lamb mortality I’m led to believe they either have very low scanning %’s, they don’t record their sheep very well, are bullshitters or probably a mixture of all three.
It is a problem within SIL that not all breeders record their born dead lambs as we are charged for these and some prefer not to pay. This will then inflate those breeder’s survival figures.
I always have recorded all dead lambs into SIL and now am heavily influenced when selecting stud rams more by the survival sub trait than reproduction. After all, if these sheep can scan at 225% single mated in a dry autumn and often with a FE challenge, there is little point getting more lambs in there until we address lamb mortality at lambing.
Going back to that 20% lamb death rate this season. If I count the triplet ewes as twins then the Marlow lamb death rate is a pretty decent 5.6%. Perhaps that is how competing ram breeders work out their mortality?

I now have commercial clients scanning 200% or better when they identify triplets so as well as continuing to breed for survival through the index and gene testing, I am currently involved in a project into looking how to better influence triplet survival and growth.

Ewe Wastage

One advantage of a recorded stud is the detail gathered. For your interest, this year’s ewe wastage rate was; 2 dry (.7%), 6 dead (2%), 1 missing (.3%) and 16 lost lambers (5.5%) or 8.6% total.
Of the 2% who were dead, 5 were triplet ewes and 1 twin. Three of them had stuck lambs, 1 bearing, 1 milk fever from being badly cast and one killed itself with foolishness.
This year I recorded all the blooming sheep I rolled over from being cast and won’t use any stud rams from these ewes although it’s probably unlikely there is a genetic cause but the jury is out on this.
There were quite a few repeat offenders with one miscreant at least 5 times who should be grateful of my diligence. It will be interesting to see of those who make it into next year’s stud flock if they repeat the performance or was it something seasonal like sub clinical milk fever for example.
If I could reduce the casting influence, it would be beneficial for those of you on country where shepherding is not an option. Particularly if you are able to feed them properly which contributes to casting rate.
Clients who have changed from other breeds in recent years are reporting a much reduced bearing rate which will be a relief and improvement to their ewe death rates.

Even if you are not in a FE hotspot, sub clinical FE in some years will cost you production and money.
Marlow has been using facial eczema tolerant rams for 15 years and making use of the Ramguard test where I challenge the potential stud sires with the toxin sporidesmin for the last eleven years.
The last six years the potential stud sires have been tested at the highest rate of .6 with those passing qualifying to be used as sires.
There are now suddenly a lot of studs claiming FE tolerance on the basis of having used an FE tolerant sire from another stud. FE tolerance is a long term breeding objective so don’t be swayed by new converts claiming immediate gains. At this point there are only twenty studs that are part of FE Gold as the certification ensures stringent standards are maintained. Marlow is one of them.

This year’s 2th rams

They are the best grown out I’ve had. This was helped by getting 70% of my commercial works lambs away off mum last November thus freeing up some quality feed for these fellows who are often on the back burner.

I’ll attach the most recent sire summary which lists all the stud sires I’ve used in recent years including the sale rams and this year’s 2015 born lambs.
If you have kept your records from previous years it allows you to see how the sires of the rams you purchased are tracking.
There is some information in here that should give you some comfort.
For a start if you look to the left you will see that the sires of the stud rams come from a good range of studs. Marlow is one of the best linked studs of any breed in the country. This is by design and means there is a high confidence level in the across flock DPP indexes I put in front of you.
This is further reinforced if you look to the number of progeny on the far right. About a third of the sires used in Marlow have progeny in other studs. That is the second figure where there are two and the same rams having progeny in different studs is the sire referencing I’m involved with and allows SIL to deal with different environments and management (phenotype) and concentrate on actual genetics (genotype).
Secondly you can see that the older stud rams from only a few years ago are pushed well down the order. This gives a good feel for the genetic gain within the stud.
On the Marlow web site are genetic gain graphs for each sub index.

And finally the level of the DPP indexes of recent rams is as good as you can get anywhere.
I’ve seen DPP figures from Romney studs for their stud rams recently and they are around the middle of my second page.
All 2th sale rams will have DPP’s equivalent to the figures of the rams at the top of the second page right through to the top of the first page.

I will ring you shortly to see if you are intending to get rams this year and if so an estimate please.
As usual I will be selling from early to mid-December.
Thank you for your past patronage and support.

Steve Wyn-Harris

RD1
Waipukurau
06-8558265
027-2223284

Let’s have a chew over CEO salaries which many of us have been considering since Fonterra’s announcement of Theo Spiering’s latest pay hike.
Now as it happens I know a little of how these figures are arrived at having sat on two remuneration committees of a couple of companies.
When considering how much to pay the CEO who is the only employee of the board (everyone else in the company has the CEO as their boss) boards generally bring in outside experts to advise on the appropriate level of pay.

Life lately has just been a constant succession of lambing beats and shifting breaks on crops for the cattle. But that is what plenty of us do at this time of the year. However my head has finally resurfaced and I’ve survived another lambing but it gets tougher as the body ages.
I pretty well keep the diary as empty as possible during August and just concentrate on farming.
I’ve been chivvied about doing lambing beats by those who reckon they go skiing instead but this is my harvest and it would be like an apple grower taking their break during picking.

We are just back from listening to one of John Kirwan’s talks on dealing with depression. Well done to JK for the excellent work he has been doing on this over a long period of time and good on Westpac for sponsoring him and these events.

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