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CENTRAL SOUTH ISLAND FARMER
Let's Talk Farming
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MEAD MOWERS & CHAINSAWS
275 FLAXTON ROAD, RANGIORA
03 313 6640
TAMING THE WILDTM
38.2cc - 14" -- 4.6kg
Romney breeders push each other
Romney New Zealand
research aims to find
rams that produce the
meatiest and fastest-
Jon Morgan reports.
Measurable results: Stewart Morton and Rick Pettigrew say their lambs are
meatier and grow faster since the progeny test began.
STEWART MORTON sees
himself and his fellow romney
breeders as a team of racing
We're cycling in a race, but by
working together as a team we
feed off each others' energies so
we can go faster and further.
It's better than slogging along
by yourself,'' the northern
Manawatu hill country farmer
His cycling team is made up of
10 North Island ram breeders,
members of the breed's manage-
ment and promotional body,
Romney New Zealand. There's a
similar team in the South Island.
They are carrying out research
now in its seventh year, aimed at
finding which rams produce the
meatiest and fastest-growing
lambs. Helping them -- their
''cycling coach'' -- is Lincoln
University associate professor Jon
It's working well,'' he says. We
can track down through the
lineages and place a pretty
impressive increase in meat yield
at the foot of some key rams.
We're seeing rams that have
really transformed the romney
Morton and fellow romney
breeder Rick Pettigrew have been
in the team since it was formed in
2007. In that time 140 rams have
been progeny-tested -- an exacting
examination of the 10,000 lambs
the rams have produced.
Two lines of research are
involved. In one, each year each
breeder picks one of their top-
performing rams and takes it to a
farm near Ashhurst, Manawatu.
The South Island group goes to
Oxford, Canterbury. There, the 10
rams are each mated to 60 ewes
chosen at random.
The breeders' work begins when
the lambs are born. They weigh
and tag each male lamb as soon as
it is born, taking note of its sire,
and come back at regular
intervals to dock their tails and
weigh them, first at weaning,
when those that have reached
market weights are drafted to be
slaughtered, and again at
successive drafts till all are gone.
Usually, two drafts are enough,
but this year's drought slowed
growth and three were needed.
Under the deals with farmers
Kerry Osborne at Ashhurst and
Hugh Taylor at Oxford, the female
lambs are theirs to keep.
The male lambs are taken to the
Alliance works at Dannevirke and
Timaru, where their carcasses
pass through the VIAscan system
and the meat on the shoulder, loin
and rump, the source of the most
valuable cuts, is measured.
Alliance uses VIAscan to
reward farmers for a high meat
yield and Morton says the
research is so the breeders can be
sure they are selling top quality
rams to their commercial farmer
That's a responsibility we take
seriously,'' Pettigrew agrees.
There has to be a measurable
improvement in economic traits.
It's about putting money in our
The VIAscan measuring throws
up big variations, but over the
years a noticeable improvement in
muscle size has been registered as
the breeders use the information
to lift the quality of each
generation of rams. Likewise, the
weight recording is showing an
increase in growth rate.
Hickford says the average
carcass yield -- the ratio of meat to
fat and bone -- of the trial lambs
has improved to 54 to 55 per cent,
compared with a 50 per cent
average across the romney breed.
It's still not up there with the
60 per cent from the texel, but
that is a terminal sire [all progeny
slaughtered] meat breed, whereas
the romney is a dual purpose
breed [meat and fertility].''
However, some recent romney
lamb carcasses have a 60 per cent
yield, showing the breed's
potential to lift its average
further, Hickford says.
Morton says the feedback from
clients has been positive. I ask
and they say, Just keep doing
what you're doing'. There was a
noticeable move to using
composite rams a few years back
but that's not happening anymore.
The retention of clients is
On the Ashhurst trial farm,
Osborne says he can't say with
accuracy what difference the
group's rams have made to his
flock because he doesn't record
weights or growth in the female
But they certainly look better
as they grow from hoggets to two-
tooths. They're healthy and fat,
with the meat in the right places.''
Another benefit comes from
talking to the breeders.
I'm learning from them and
sharing their passion.''
The other line of research is
aimed at lifting the knowledge
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