Business Rural Summer 2021

10 | Wool strength, length testing a focus Karen Phelps MEAT & WOOL » Balmoral Station B almoral Merino Stud has started individually testing its stud animals for wool length and strength, which one of the stud owners Sam Simpson says could generate improved returns for the family business. “We have an end-to-end contract with clothing company Devold of Norway that seeks very high quality merino wool. It has to be over 38 Nkt and be at least 80mm in length. “We have our first test results back and the variation in strength can be huge. A couple scored around 22 and some up to 61. So if we can elimi- nate all the ones scoring under 38 we should be able to lift length and strength average across our wool clip quite quickly. “Last year we estimate we lost $100,000 of revenue because of wool not reaching the spec it could have been due to being held back by a few lower performing animals.” The Simpsons will also place greater emphasis on ensuring the sheep have a consistent diet to avoid breaks in the wool strength when the animals are placed under greater pressure – for example being transitioned between dry and irrigated land and at key times in the season such as mating or shearing. The family then feeds the sheep sup- plementary feed including peas and barley to keep nutrition levels high. The stud, which comprises around 400 ewes, was originally started by Sam’s father, Andrew, on a base flock of sheep from his Grandfather’s Mt Hay Merino Stud, established in 1954, reflecting genera- tions of breeding by the family. The breeding goal is to produce a free skinned sheep with sound white bright wool of 17-19 microns with a defined crimp and good length and strength. The stud also targets robust structurally sound animals that stand upright on their feet and can be finished under irrigation. Foot rot susceptibil- ity is targeted using Lincoln University’s foot score method and the stud includes some polled merinos for a quicker maturing option. Around 20 rams from Balmoral Merino Stud are sold in an on farm sale each January. Balmoral Station is a 9700ha farm to the west of Lake Tekapo. It takes in Mt John Hill and the tussock grass- lands around Lake Alexandrina and Lake McGregor. The land rises from 640m up to 1066m. It has 9000 stock units including 170 breeding cows, whose progeny are finished, on the 270ha irrigated portion of the farm. All the lambs are finished, around 2700 this year. The farm is owned by Simpson Family Hold- ings and the business is diverse including land development company Lake Tekapo Enterprises, tourism business, The Cairns Alpine Resort (which has recently added six new two bedroom high spec huts), a golf course and a helipad. The family has also just bought a half share in Mt Hay, Andrew’s original family farm that he grew up on. Sam says that as Mt Hay doesn’t have a lot of paddocks to cut supplementary feed from this has to be sourced from Balmoral Station, which has put some pressure on the system. They plan to develop more of the dry land on Balmoral Station so they can move more young stock from the irrigated land in autumn. This will free up this land for making more winter feed and also reduce potential for young stock to develop high worm burdens on the irrigation and the poten- tial to develop drench resistance. More nutrient dense crops will be planted on the dry land to ensure stock has enough good quality feed to meet feed demands at critical times of the year. Sam Simpson (above) checking on some cows and calves at Balmoral. Moving freshly shorn ewe hoggets to their summer country Photos: George Empson Peter McPherson, Chris Heath, Peter Cockburn, Wayne Morgan, SandraWiggins & Supporting Sta Proud to support Balmoral Station Balmoral Merino Stud is individually testing its stud animals for wool length and strength that could generate better returns for the family business. Photo: George Empson monk fencing mackenzie basin - rural fencing Email Proud to be associated with Balmoral Station Phone Nathan 021 203 1076