17 September 2012
Wairarapa farmers Tim and Belinda White are trying to breed a ewe that will lamb three times in two years.
For the past five years they have been running a trial on their 440ha farm at Matahiwi, about 10km west of Masterton, with the aim of identifying ewes that are capable of lambing every eight months.
‘Upperwood Farm’, which also grazes dairy heifers and finishes weaner bulls, runs about 2000 Poll Dorset- Dorper ewes – about half of which are mated soon after their spring-born lambs are weaned.
Tim White says the goal is to lamb these ewes again in May/June and then mate them in July while their lambs are still at foot.
He says the aim of the trial is to lift sheep production by breeding an elite flock capable of an extra lambing every two years.
His calculations show that out-of-season lambing results in a 23-30% lift in profitability per kilogram of drymatter consumed.
But the tricky part is getting ewes in lamb again every time, and he says finding the right genetics is a crucial part of this.
Tim and Belinda’s trial work won them a Massey University Discovery Award in the 2012 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
The Discovery Award recognises new innovations and the successful implementation of economically and environmentally sustainable farming systems. The Award acknowledges farmers and farming families who have been proactive in seeking new knowledge and applying that knowledge to move their farming business to a more sustainable state.
The Whites were pleasantly surprised when Massey University recognised their work and offered to assist with future trials.
Tim says Massey’s backing “adds real science” to his previously informal on-farm trials.
While winning the Massey Discovery Award was a welcome and unexpected bonus of entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, Tim says they didn’t enter for the prizes.
“We liked the look of the Awards because they weren’t about being highly competitive. They were more about what you can learn.”
He and Belinda entered the competition to get feedback on their trial work and their entire farming business.
“One of the main reasons for entering was to see if our operation was sustainable in the eyes of others and heading in the right direction, particularly with our development of native plantings and retirement areas over the farm.”
Tim says the outside perspective provided by the expert judges was thought-provoking and inspiring.
“The feedback from the judges was great and they provided us with a written report that contained a number of recommendations on changes we could consider in future. It made us take a good hard look at the farm and what we were doing.”
Tim says he would certainly encourage other farmers to enter the competition.
“The whole thing was very professionally run and well worthwhile.”
As a result of their involvement with the competition, the Whites’ trial work has drawn interest from other farmers keen to learn more.
Tim says the next step is to work with his discussion group and Massey University “and find out if this concept is going to be commercially successful or just a hobby”.
Entries for the 2013 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards are now open. Entry forms can be downloaded from the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust website www.nzfeatrust.org.nz
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, phone 07 834 0400, firstname.lastname@example.org.