| 67 The Gums ramping up for ram sale Mark Stevenson and son, Ted. A draft of prime lambs at The Gums, out of Halfbred ewes (below). Richard Loader MEAT & WOOL » The Gums Partnership • Concrete • Fertiliser Spreading - Farm Mapping - GPS Tracking - Varible Rate Spreading • Livestock Cartage • Grain Cartage • Shingle Supplies • Daily Freight Leeston: 03 3248 070 Dunsandel: 03 3254 039 email@example.com O n the first Thursday of December each year, the Stevenson family hosts their on-farm auc- tion of Poll Merino, halfbred, quarterbred and Dorset Downs rams, and this year is absolutely no exception. Held on the family farm, The Gums, just 10 kilometres west of Cheviot in Leamington Valley, the sale this year falls on the 2 nd of December. Mark Stevenson says while there is a lot of work that needs to come together between now and then to make it all happen it’s a very satisfying day when the fruits of the family’s work comes up for sale and people take them home to improve their own flock. “We normally get eighty to a hundred people at the auction, typically from throughout the South Island but some rams do go into the North Island. We usually sell around 200 rams. Most of the rams that are sold will be going to commercial flocks but there are a few stud rams sold to other breeders.” Mark says buyers will get genetics that are focused on the commercial farmer and commercial farming conditions. “We run our own commercial flock so we are utilising our genetics and seeing how they perform. We’re not just a stud breeder. Our stock has to run in commercial farming conditions and handle the challenges that presents.” While the Stevenson family has been breed- ing Merino sheep since 1903, they have farmed The Gums since 2003 when Mark’s parents Ian and Trish moved there. Mark and his wife Joanne moved onto the farm in 2014, initially farming in partnership with Ian and Trish but in the last 18 months have taken the farm business over in their own right. Ian continues to play an active and valu- able role on the farm. Totaling 920ha, The Gums consists of 220 hec- tares of flat to rolling country, and 700 hectares of more challenging medium to steep country that the stock must make their home. Mark says the purpose of the four studs is to meet market opportunities and conditions. “With the merinos we have a 10-year contract with Icebreaker, so the merinos are focused on producing wool for that. Along side that we are focused on having a fine wool animal that produces good lambs, grows well and provides a good meat income opportunity. In terms of the Dorset Downs we’re very much focused on early maturing quick growing lambs, that allow farmers to sell prime lambs early in the season.” The Stevenson’s commercial flock includes 1850 commercial ewes, of which 1300 are Halfbreds and Quarterbreds, along with 550 merinos. “The commercial flock goes to a terminal sire and we wean the progeny in December. Prime lambs go to Alliance, and what’s store goes store. We also run some trading cattle. At the moment we have 230 rising-two steers and heifers. The cattle are our release valve, so when seasons get hard the cattle provides the flexibility.” Looking forward to the auction in December, Mark says as well as a great opportunity to buy some great genetics, everyone enjoys the social experience and the chance to catch up over a beer and bbq afterwards.