Business Rural Spring 2021

22 | Beltex beefing up sheep genetics Standard terminal sire lamb on the left and a Beltex Pure lamb on the right. The carcasses are the same grading (PH) and a similar weight but the conformation traits of the Beltex are obvious. Beltex NZ Ram Lamb Sale at Rangiatea woolshed. Hugh de Lacy MEAT & WOOL » Rangiatea Beltex: Hamish Gallagher B arely four years after Blair Gallagher welcomed the first Beltex sheep onto his high-altitude mid-Canterbury farm, they’re paying off in the form of the huge meaty backsides they contribute to lambs right across the breeding spectrum. Blair was part of the trio who in 2017 brought the Beltex, a double-muscled Belgian off-shoot of the Dutch Texel into New Zealand, along with Dr Jock Allison, the former head of the Invermay Research Centre in Otago, and John Tavendale, a prominent farm advisor. When the first Beltex rams were offered for sale in the autumn of 2018, they and their crosses attracted dizzying prices, with one Suffolk-Beltex netting $15,000, an extraordinary price for a termi- nal sire breed with such little local history behind it. There were just 66 animals on offer, and the purebred ram lambs (yes, lambs) averaged $5242, the Suffolk-Beltex $3861, the Poll Dorset-Beltex $1550 and the Perendale-Beltex $1190. The following year purebred ram lambs topped $20,000 at the on-farm sale, with unsated demand coming from all over the country. The Rangiatea Beltex stud is run by Blair’s 27-year-old son Hamish, while his father takes care of Perendale and Cheviot studs. “The excitement was generated by the boost that Beltex genetics give to meat production through terminal mating that produces relatively small lambs with no lambing difficulties, regardless of the breeding of the ewe,” Hamish says. “The lambs may start small and without the big muscling but they’re very vigorous, and the mus- cling starts to develop soon afterwards.” The Texel element in the Beltex produces double muscling, something that was absent in the first Texels imported in the early 1990s. “Whatever the mother, the Beltex lamb has an enhanced killing-out percentage of live-weight to deadweight, and the dressing-out percentage of meat to bone is exceptionally high,.” Hamish says. That’s borne out by clients of the Rangiatea- Beltex stud, including Scott Clearwater who farms 400ha of easy rolling country carrying 2100 Texel- cross ewes near Palmerston in North Otago, and who bought two three-quarter Beltex, one-quarter Texels two years ago. He was pleased enough with the results to add a purebred Beltex this year. “In April the ram lamb yields with the Beltex influence hit 50% of meat to bone, compared to the Texels at 42-44%,” Scott says. “That’s pretty amazing.” Up in the central North Island, Waihipukawa Maori Trust manager Colin Gates this year intro- duced the RangiateaBeltex to the Romney flock of 13,000 ewes on the trust’s 5350ha of farms on the high country between National Park and Turaangi. Colin’s been buying Beltex rams for the last three years, and is aiming at stabilising a Beltex- Suffolk or Beltex-South Suffolk ram cross for Waihipukawa’s own use “because the price of black-face two-tooth rams is just too high,” he says. “Those first Beltex crosses with the Suffolk have been growing like mushrooms.” Colin says it’s still too early to determine the full impact of the Beltex influence but he has little doubt its terminal sires of whatever mixture will prove a money-spinner over time. “In April the ram lamb yields with the Beltex influence hit 50% of meat to bone, compared to the Texels at 42-44%.” Beltex Merino Cross lambs on their Merino mothers. Blair Gallagher 021 022 31522 Simon Eddington 0275 908 612 Callum Dunnett 027 587 0131 John Tavendale 027 432 1296 Hamish Gallagher 027 550 7906 Beltex B e l t e x a n d B e l t e x C r o s s R a m s Second Annual TWO TOOTH SALE 18 November 2021 Viewing from 11am, Sale starts 1.30pm ‘Rangiatea’, 571 Upper Downs Rd, Mt Somers, Mid Canterbury Purebreds | Suffolk Cross | Texel Cross | Cheviot Cross