Business Rural Spring 2021

| 73 MEAT & WOOL » Parkdale Valais Blacknose Valais Blacknose have the looks Parkdale Valais Blacknose ewes showing off their woolly good looks. V alais Blacknose Sheep, from Switzerland, have become part of Melissa and Hayden Cowan’s coastal North Canterbury farming business whose main-stay farming on their 850 acres farm is mixed cropping and grazing. Initial introductions to the breed were ‘more a twist of fate’ than by design, when Melissa saw the breed on the internet and fell in love with their gorgeous disposition and looks. As a fourth-generation farmer and stud breeder, Hayden immediately thought that the rarity and cuteness of the Valais Blacknose would be as popu- lar with people in NZ as it had become in the United Kingdom where the Valais were first introduced in 2014. The stud establishment process began in 2017 when the Cowan’s managed to source embryos from one of the top UK Valais breeders. All those embryos came from animals with the best Swiss genetics. “We felt this would get our own stud develop- ment off to the very best start and that has proven to be true,” says Hayden. The first shipment of embryos arrived from the UK in early 2018. It was an exciting time for the Cowan household, including the couple’s two chil- dren, Emma and Ben, when in August 2018 the first 18 Valais Blacknose lambs were born. From there soon grew into what is today one of only a small number of purebred Valais Blacknose studs being developed in this country. Since 2018, the Cowan’s have continued to source embryos from top UK breeders and then in 2020, the mile- stone of having lambs from their original Valais ewes, was reached. Melissa and Hayden are both passionate about the breed and are excited to be working with other breeders both in NZ and around the world to estab- lish the breed. Melissa is on the Committee of the newly formed NZ Valais Blacknose Sheep Society and Hayden is the Valais Blacknose representative on the New Zealand Sheep Breeders Association (NZSBA) Council. The Valais Society has been registered under the NZSBA and has developed a Valais Breed Standard based on that of the Swiss Standard. With only approximately 17,000 animals reg- istered in their native Switzerland, the Valais are considered a rare breed. In NZ there are currently only 510 purebred Valais registered with NZSBA. As a result of their rarity, the huge demand and the high cost to establish a purebred breeding flock in NZ, the Valais Society have also established a ‘breeding/grading up’ protocol. The process involves using a foundation ewe and breeding to a pure Valais ram. After 5 successive generations of breeding out the original foundation ewe, watching carefully to ensure the correct traits in appearance play through, the resulting offspring can be registered as a NZ Valais Blacknose in breeding/grading up flock with the NZSBA. This programme has proved very popular in NZ and there are now approximately 60 Grading up flocks registered. In conjunction with their pure Valais Stud, in 2019 Parkdale Valais Blacknose joined the breeding/grad- ing up programme, mating two of their pure Valais rams with their Romney ewes. As a result, 50 first generation (F1) ewes were born; these were subse- quently mated with another Valais ram in 2020. This year, the Cowan’s are expecting third generation F3 cross lambs. “We chose Romneys to breed through because their conformation is similar to the Valais Blacknose and so far the programme is producing great results. It’s quite exciting to look forward to each generation of lambs to see how the Valais traits are coming through,” says Hayden. The aim is to grow the breeding flock to 100 purebred Valais ewes and retain the best rams each year for breeding. Surplus ram lambs and wethers are sold and there is no end to demand for the sheep, particularly from life-style block owners and those participating in the breeding/grading up programme. “This year we have also started selling semen and embryos here and overseas,” says Melissa. Parkdale Valais Blacknose have taken their sheep to local shows and Emma and Ben’s pet lambs have proved a great hit at their school’s pet day! For those wanting to see the fluffy bundles of joy up close, Parkdale Valais Blacknose will be showing their rams and ewes at the NZ Agricultural Show in Christchurch in November. For the first time, the NZ Valais Blacknose Society will be hosting four purebred classes at the Show, an exciting step for the breed in New Zealand. More information is available on the Parkdale Valais Blacknose website: and Facebook/Instagram pages. Sue Russell Proudly supporting Hayden and Melissa Cowan and Parkdale Valais Blacknose by providing high quality reproduction services | Tararua Breeding Centre Part of Totally Vets Ltd ŹƒĞĀÏбĮƐ ŹååÚĞĻďƐ„ŤåÏбĮĞžƒž A GRICULTURAL S ERVICES Hakuna Matata Brendon Demmocks 027 495 8917 “ Great farmers deserve the best service” Mob: 021 134 8514 A/Hrs: 03 314 8157 Email: Tracmap proof of placement • Spreadmark Certified Your local certified spreading specialists!