29 Jan 2021

Shedding sheep hot under hammer

From Country Life, 9:30 pm on 29 January 2021

Bidding was competitive at the Mt Cass Station Wiltshire sheep sale in North Canterbury.  

Nearly 3500 sheep reached higher than expected prices at Sara and Andrew Heard's farm and were sold to bidders from Kerikeri to Cromwell.

Wiltshires shed their fleece annually, have a large lean carcass, no dags and naturally high fecundity.

The Heards have been farming the breed for about 12 years because the hardy sheep do well on their 2500 hectare organic property, that spreads from the Waipara wine country to the coast.

"It's an easy solution running these sheep and the better they're fed the better they shed. It's just like running small cattle" Andrew says.

The recent on-farm sale attracted a large crowd of farmers wanting a commercially viable alternative to dual purpose coarse wool breeds.

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Kate Kellick and her family farm sheep and beef up the Mangamahu Valley in the Whanganui District. They've been farming Wiltshires for eight years.
Kate's aim was to pick up 200 Wiltshires at the sale, to replace the last of their woollen sheep.

"Dad got into them for low inputs and less work and obviously because wool prices are no good, so there's not much point in farming for wool any more, unfortunately."

Having a cautious approach, Kate went home empty handed, but says she'll be back next year.

One pen of 37 sheep sold for $395 a head.

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Despite being buoyed by a surge in interest in his wool-shedding sheep and high bids on the day, Andrew says moving away from woolly sheep has been a slightly bitter pill to swallow.

"I've dealt with wool all my life, I was a wool classer and farmed fine sheep until we came here, and I find it depressing that prices are so poor."