April 23, 2014

New Zealand agricultural history. No 19. Importing exotic sheep breeds.

 Robin Hilson's conclusions on Sheepac
 Bruce Koller’s conclusions on Sheepac
 Not all investors happy

 By Dr Clive Dalton

Robin Hilson's conclusions on Sheepac 
This is what Robin Hilson told me:
 'Everyone I have spoken to now appreciates what we did. All realise that from the start with Sheepac I was able to change farmer’s thinking to accept 'stabilised crossbreds' which have become the powerhouse of the 2014 NZ sheep industry.

Bruce Koller’s conclusions on Sheepac 
This is what Bruce Koller told me:
Bruce Koller
'The Sheepac operation was a spectacular technology transfer success. 
Not only was the Sheepac technology transfer program unique and successful, the selling systems developed largely by Robin Hilson and Richard Bradley were also successful. Some 3600 rams were sold; packages of sheep went back to the 43 breeder shareholders (at no extra charge) throughout New Zealand.  Top price for rams sold was $16000 with an average of  around $1000 per ram. 

'And the influence of the release of these imported genetics has been massive. Twenty years on lambing percentages are 130 to 200 percent on commercial farms, and carcass weights of 18 to 20 kg are now the norm, and we produce increased volumes and value of exports from much reduced sheep numbers; which may be a message for the dairy industry'.

Not all investors happy

Coopworth breeder Edward Dinger was disappointed with his investment in Sheepac, and he reckons he was not the only one. 

 Edward took a $5,000 share for each of the 5 years, as a contributing member of the Rangitikei Coopworth Breeding Group as times were tough and few breeders had much spare cash to go in as individuals. 

Edward said he took enormous pains to select 29 of his top Coopworth ewes, and then deliver them to the Rangitikei group’s farm at Marton, for them to join others in the group to go to the secondary quarantine station at Robin Hilson's farm, where they were inseminated with purebred Texel and Finn semen from the purebred rams at Hopuhopu.  Most breeders wanted Texels Edward said. 

Breeders like Edward were told that three-quarter crosses would be the lowest combination of exotic genes they’d get, were very disappointed to get only halves and quarters. They expected more exotic content back for their money.  Edward said this was 'the worst investment he ever made' as he sent top ewes and got ‘rubbish’ back as the sheep he got back were clearly out of Perendales and not his own top Coopworths, and there were no individual sheep records provided.   Edward expected records of individual ewes to be provided with his sheep.

Edward Dinger said he got some shocking animals back with defects like large black spots, clinical footrot and twisted teeth. Quality control by someone had clearly slipped.  Edward  said that also at one stage, there was a request for investors to stump up with more cash for each share about half way through the enterprise.  

Edward and the other breeders he knows had to breed out their problems by intense selection and culling through Sheeplan. Edward went on to win two NZ Sheep Industry awards (pictured on left) by just intensive recording.

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