Business Rural Summer 2021

18 | Merinos at the heart of farm operation Sue Russell MEAT & WOOL » Rob & Sally Peter R ob and Sally Peter own three farms in Marlborough, extending from a historic Cape Campbell property of 1300 ha, a 45ha lifestyle property approximately 20 minutes inland and the 480ha Isolation Run at the head of the Ure (Waima) Valley, a further 20 minutes away to the west. The Peter’s have had a long association with the merino breed, well suited to their farming condi- tions. “They mob up very easily and we usually have between 1100 – 1200 ewes and 600-650 hoggets,” Rob says. Steep limestone country is well suited to the breed enabling them to run a very healthy flock with very low chemical inputs. The breed can tend to suffer from foot-rot on heavier country. Asked about the yearly cycle of activity Rob says the highlight is shearing time, when a team of blade shearers step into the wool-shed and clip back the fleece leaving 20mm of wool on the animal. “They’re just like a big pair of scissors and this technique has been used for thousands of years. It’s amazing to see how these skilled operators can get through a large mob in really efficient time. John Bruce, from Canterbury comes up to our farm and takes care of our blade shearing.” Rob says, a bi-product of using the blades is that the environment inside the wool shed is much qui- eter and calmer and he believes, slightly easier on the sheep. Shearing occurs in August and it takes two days to work through the flock. Merino’s are a wool breed and slightly slower to mature. Lambs from the property are sold at 12-14 months of age, though the farm keeps the best wool lambs to grow into the flock. The strain of genetics on the farm originates from Saxony (Germany). Rob says they are a smaller, robust sheep well suited to the conditions living on high country presents, including 1000ml rain fall. Their wool is also very white. “For us the main appeal is the beautiful white wool of 16-17 microns.” Over the years there’s been a definite process of reducing use of animal health products. The flock is still drenched though, once a year. “We are focussed on breeding a sheep for this property and we feel health interventions should be less and less. We haven’t drenched the rams for 6 years now and no fly control is needed on the adult sheep.” To add value to the business and from a passion for natural fibres, especially for babies, Sally estab- lished Isolation Merino which originally was entirely NZ-made from wool clipping, through combing and spinning and on into baby ware, popular with consumers because of the breathability, warming and cooling properties of merino wool. Unfortunately the processing of the fleece entirely in NZ became more challenging and it was very difficult to continue without going offshore. Sally is now revisiting the opportunities within NZ, and has a small flock of coloured Saxon Merinos that may in time become available for home spinners and knitters. In September, the ewes are split up and by October Rob says they very much need leaving alone to lamb. “We find the less interference at this time the better for ewe and lamb alike so we just give them a good space to get on with lambing.” Lambing occupies about 6 weeks from the beginning of October and then by early February lambs are weaned, and separated from the ewes. The lambs are given preferential blocks to grow on. Each year in February/March rams are put up for sale. “We usually have only about 25-30 ram hoggets. The whole Saxon breed is still very small around the world.” There are big changes happening in the wool in- dustry with some positive emerging for the national wool clip accordingly. On the Coastal, Cape Campbell block, is full time head shepherd, Lane Spence, whom looks after the day to day activity while sons Jimmy and Thomas work between the two properties. Rob says Sally’s commitment to the success of their farming business has been pivotal to their success. She is also a stalwart for the community in other ways as well, actively voluntarily in lots of ways. One current project Sally’s very involved with is the rebuild of the Flaxbourne Heritage Centre in Ward, after loosing the districts small museum in the 2016 earthquake. The Flaxbourne district is mainly sheep and beef, with several beef studs, fishing holds a very long history along the coastline with Viticulture being a new but successful industry, along with deer and hosting a small olive grove. A long standing lime works sits within the district and many eco tourism operations attracting tourists to the East Coast of Marlborough. Rob and Sally Peter own three farms in Marlborough, extending from a historic Cape Campbell property of 1300 ha, a 45ha lifestyle property approximately 20 minutes inland and the 480ha Isolation Run at the head of the Ure (Waima) Valley. SOLATION Saxon Merinos Isolation Saxon Merinos - Flock No. 317 We have a small number of selected 2th Rams available for private sale in March – April 2022. Contact Rob & Sally Peter 027 441 8309 or 03 575 6866 Blade shearing occurs in August, with the shearers leaving 20mm of wool on the animal and taking two days to shear the flock.