Meet the sheep

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

When you are milk­ing any an­i­mal, it’s im­por­tant to keep them as healthy as pos­si­ble. While their prop­erty isn’t or­ganic, Kirsty and Dave be­lieve it is im­por­tant to be good man­agers of their land and one pos­i­tive is it means they can min­imise their use of chem­i­cals like drench. Drench prod­ucts have with­hold­ing pe­ri­ods and you can’t use the milk in that time, which means a ewe is out of ac­tion for weeks.

“One of the main things we do is try not to be over­stocked so we don’t have so much pres­sure on the pas­ture, and we do ro­tate (graz­ing),” says Kirsty. “We try to keep them in as good a con­di­tion as pos­si­ble, so even if they do have a bit of a worm bur­den, it’s not af­fect­ing them.

“Sheep aren’t as bad as goats – goats are ter­ri­ble for worms – and it tends to be the young sheep that have prob­lems. In our flock there’s 10 re­place­ments a year and if they need to come out be­cause we’ve had to drench them then they can. Once they’re two, three, four years old – and we’ve got some five and six years old – they don’t seem to get too both­ered by the worms.

“And it’s not great for them, to drench all the time – I mean, it is a poi­son.”

Dave is the one who loves the chal­lenge of breed­ing and jok­ingly calls him­self a ‘sheep ge­neal­o­gist’. He is in charge of the an­i­mal hus­bandry, de­cid­ing which ram will get to­gether with a par­tic­u­lar ewe.

“I love the breed­ing side of the busi­ness so I spend a lot of time out in the pad­docks work­ing with the sheep,” says Dave.

“Some of our white sheep are prone to sun­burnt ears in the sum­mer, so we have started ex­per­i­ment­ing with black sheep to try and over­come this. We’ve now also got East Friesian and crossed East Friesian-poll Dorset sheep.”

He’s also in charge of nu­tri­tion, sow­ing red clover into the pas­ture on their home farm and their new block, and fer­til­is­ing the soil.

This sea­son they’ve got an added pas­ture op­tion, graz­ing the lo­cal race track, where their hoggets are grow­ing fast on pro­tein-rich plan­tain.

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