Business Rural Spring 2021

26 | Well bred ewe flock ‘the most important asset’ Bank’s Peninsula farmer Ken Elliott in the yards with Akaroa Harbour in the background. Karen Phelps MEAT & WOOL » Ken & Jeanette Elliott B anks Peninsula farmer Ken Elliott might be semi-retired but he’s not slowing down. It was around four years ago he reduced his registered Dolomite Perendale Stud flock from 500 to 225. “It’s a small flock with a lot of personal attention to detail. A well-bred ewe flock is the most impor- tant asset on any farm because it’s the driver of efficiency and financial returns,” says Ken. The stud was established by Ken and wife Jeanette in 1984 and it’s been a labour of love. Ken, who had a long career in the wool industry, had always had a passion to breed sheep so it was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. The 75ha property is genuine hill-country running to the summit (about 500 metres above sea level) overlooking Akaroa Harbour. Essentially southeast facing, it is late country prone to cold southerlies and prevailing easterly winds. In summer, droughts are not uncommon. Lamb survival and wintering is testing and im- portant to Ken’s breeding philosophy to breed tough sheep, which perform to expectations. Importantly sheep are not grazed off the property meaning they are bred to weather the tough conditions. As testa- ment the farm has just gone through its second year of a major drought yet the scanning results of his two, three, four and five year old ewes averaged 181.5%. One group, the four-tooths, scanned at 187%. It’s a reflection of the fact that in the 80s Ken focused on fertility but once 75-80% of the ewes were producing twins he shifted selection emphasis to weaning weight and autumn live weight breeding values. “These values directly reflect individual lamb genetics for growth rate as well as a ewe’s ability to be able to milk and feed her lambs to a good weight,” he says. “It means we produce fast grow- ing lambs for finishing and also ewe lambs able to reach ideal ewe hogget mating live weights.” The aim is to produce ewes that can raise twins with a weaning weight in excess of 30kgs. Ewes must recover condition quickly in tough conditions to reach acceptable pre-mating live weights. Ken always records the condition score of lambs at weaning. “Some people say it’s not worth it but I believe you need to know a ewe has done what she needs to - reared two lambs that have good live weight and condition scores.” Typically Dolomite Perendales achieves 100-day live lamb weaning weight averages of 34-36kgs and 200-day weights of 45-50kgs. Figures have been higher but it is of course dependent on the climate. His flock is also almost dag-free due to ruthless culling of any lambs showing signs of scouring. “To do this you need to expose weaned lambs to a period of parasitic worm burden in summer/early autumn,” he says. Ken is proud that one of his rams was accepted into the Beef+Lamb NZ nationwide CPT (central progeny test) trial. “Across all maternal breed rams, at weaning my ram was the sixth best for maternal worth index out of 64 rams in the trial. To me that was a real achievement against all the top rams and breeders in the country. I was very proud to have one of my rams right up there.” As a member of the Perendale Sheep Breed Society Ken says he is fortunate to be involved with a team of very committed breeders determined to adopt new technologies in order to continually make on-going genetic gains for the breed. Dolomite Perendales sell rams privately each year and they are usually in high demand, which keeps Ken’s passion for his stud strong. “After a lifetime of breeding it’s very satisfying to see a healthy, active, high performing flock.” “These values directly reflect individual lamb genetics for growth rate as well as a ewe’s ability to be able to milk and feed her lambs to a good weight. It means we produce fast growing lambs for finishing and also ewe lambs able to reach ideal ewe hogget mating live weights.” Dolomite Perendale Rams. Dolomite Perendale Stud AKAROA, BANKS PENINSULA “ Healthy active high- performance ewes are essential for profitable sheep farming, lower bearing and ewe mortality rates ” Achievements • SIL Genetic Trend Graphs show Dolomite’s maternal worth with meat index is 1200 cents ahead of the average for all other NZ maternal breed flocks • Record 2017 100-day weaning weights average at 38.1 kgs. Genetic trend graph weaning weight eBV is 50% higher than average of all other flocks • Record 2018 200-day autumn ewe lamb liveweights average at 52.9 kgs RAM BUYING For friendly personal attention to your requirements contact Ken Elliott, 194 Okains Bay Road, ph 021 2214185 “ Progeny tests have proven the Dolomite stud’s outstanding lamb growth rates ” 30 years of breeding in a challenging hill-country environment have generated the genetics for guaranteed performance improvements in your flock