Business Rural Spring 2021

58 | Shearing – it runs Megan Whitehead in action on her way into the Guinness Book of Records, shearing 662 sheep to claim the solo women’s nine-hours strongwool lamb shearing record. The previous record was set by Waikato shearer Emily Welch of 648 in 2007. Photo: Barbara Newton. Virginia Wright MEAT & WOOL » Quentin Whitehead With our Case CX26 and CX130 diggers we offer a wide range of services including: We offer a shelter belt, hedge trimming/cutting and tree shear service. With an 8 metre reach, highly manoeuvrable machine with the 2.3 metre cut, and a quick and easy clean up system. We also offer a specialised digger set up on dozer tracks with a blade, auger and compactor for all your fencing requirements. • Hedge & shelter belt trimming • Drainage • Water schemes • Tile cleaner • House site preparation • Rocking requirements • 3 tonne digger hire • Lane/track building & maintenance • Tractor & tip trailer hire • House demolition • Driveway preparation • Root raking 03 203 9010 Your local transport specialist 03 203 9010 | find us on facebook | Call us today to discuss all your transport requirements Proud to be associated with Quentin Whitehead For a competitive, no obligation, free quote, contact us today! 15a Hokonui Drive, Gore PO Box 172, Gore 9740 Phone: 03 208 9240 Email: Pleased to support Quentin Whitehead Mike Millard | Craig Carran | Nathan Heenan | Sarah Collie Q uentin Whitehead grew up on a farm in Taranaki before he spent 12 years travelling the world shearing and saving the money that allowed him to buy his first farm in the Waitotara Valley, in South Taranaki. By 1993 he’d moved to Southland and nine years ago he took the opportunity to buy the current farm just outside of Gore with his partner Heidi Blake, who is a chef in town. “It was a good price because it needed a bit of work and at that stage we were contract dipping around 430,000 sheep a year so that gave us the chance to pour some money into this place and develop it.” The farm’s 230 hectares includes about 16 hec- tares of rough gullies, tree blocks and areas they’ve been steadily planting for the last seven years with natives such as cabbage trees, pittosporums, and broadleafs. “Mainly as shelter belts but we fence up wee corners and plant that up as shelter as well,” says Quentin. “I don’t like the maintenance and shading that comes with box-hedges, and they tend to get quite muddy on the edges of them which can lead to a bit of disease getting into your lambs. Whereas the natives aren’t such a solid wall so they let a bit of light and air through. Plus you’ve got to drive around your farm all day so you might as well have something decent to look at!” Shearing clearly runs in the Whitehead blood if Quentin’s daughter Megan is anything to go by. Megan had once done a shearing course at school but took it up as a profession almost by accident when she offered to fill in one day for a shearer who hadn’t turned up. She shore 80 sheep that day and never looked back. On January 14 this year she won a place in the Guinness Book of Records with her nine hour, strong-wooled lamb shearing world record. It was a proud moment for Quentin who was heavily involved in setting up the attempt. His sheep were too feisty so they purpose bred the lambs for the record attempt at a friend’s place. “The Grant brothers have about 30,000 Wairere Romneys, so I talked them into putting the Snowline ram which is what we use here for it’s finer wool, over their five-year-old ewes to get a more opened face sheep with that placid Romney temperament to make them easier to manage,” explains Quentin. Less wool means fewer blows to get the sheep shorn, but they still have to cut .9 of a kilo to pass the World Record Society’s rules so the lambs play a big part. The rest was up to Megan, her skill with the shears and the pattern she learnt from Quentin once she started shearing seriously. “It was taught to me by John Fagan back in the 90’s,” says Quentin, “and obviously John Fagan taught his younger brother Sir David Fagan who’s probably the greatest shearer the world’s ever seen.” Quentin is also an award winner having recently won the New Zealand Sheepbreeders Ewe Hogget contest for the Southland- West Otago Composite section. Because of Covid it didn’t go to the national level where they came second five years ago and, with their sheep’s increasingly fine wool thanks to five years using the Snowline ram,Quentin thinks they would have been in with a good chance. “I target the lower micron rams and we’re aiming to get our ewes down to around 25 microns which means we can get into the apparel market,” says Quentin. Unusually for Southland they mate their hoggets to a merino ram for ease of lambing. They take any of their lambs that don’t make 20kgs through the winter, shear them, and kill them in the spring thereby giving their income a boost from both the wool and the meat. They cull any hoggets that don’t get in lamb, which this year was only 6%. Their empty rate in ewes is only .9% which Quentin puts down to breeding only through sheep that have lambs as hoggets. The returns are hard to argue with. The hoggets lambing at over 100% means an additional 500 lambs to sell every year. “This year we should average over $150 per animal so you’re looking at around another $70,000 to $80,000 income by mating your hoggets,” says Quentin.