Business Rural Summer 2021

34 | Border Leicester ideal breed for hybrid vigour Kim Newth MEAT & WOOL » Ravah Farm: John Campbell K nown as the crossing sire for producing high performing first cross ewes, the Border Leicester has played a pivotal role in shaping this country’s composite sheep history. Keeping the tradition alive in South Canterbury is sheep breeder John G. Campbell, whose Border Leicester stud Ravah (formerly Mantle Grove) is producing high quality rams that have a lot to offer as sires. While he plans to keep three of the 19 hoggets retained this season, the rest will be sold over the summer to farmers looking for that border cross vigour. John comes from a line of southern sheep farmers. Both his father and grandfather bred Bor- der Leicesters before him. John started his own Border Leicester stud flock in 1968 and within a few years had bred his first truly exceptional ram, Mantle Grove 21-70, who became very influential in his flock. “Lambs by 21-70 were better, healthier and had less dags than lambs by a ram I’d bought in that year. Since then, I’ve always tried to breed from sires that pass on those same attributes.” John makes tag tabs out of 0.8mm copper wire, coated in different colours, so he can easily identify each lamb’s sire. Effectively, he tags the lambs in series by sire, rather than in chronological order. Being able to group lambs by the colour of their tag tabs also facilitates effective four-way drafting in the sheep yards. “It makes it easy to see how each ram breeds. I can see what I like and cull accordingly.” The system is evidently working very well. Last November, Ravah stud took out top honours at the Southern Canterbury A&P Show, with Ravah 342- 19 named as Champion Wool Breeds Ram Hogget. In 1987, John moved from Wyndham, South- land to Pleasant Point, South Canterbury where he and wife Reyleen run the stud alongside mixed cropping and dairy support on their 118ha dry land farm. Since 2005, the stud’s rams have been DNA tested and scored for footrot, with exciting pro- gress made over the past three years. “This season all six sires used have 1 – 1 foot- rot scores, [‘least likely to get footrot’]. A game changer for this stud was 139-15 which scored 1 – 3; all six sons and three grandsons by him, bar one, have a 1 -1 footrot score. Another sire we used in 2020 and 2021 – Alyth 24-18, bred by Roger Caird - also has a 1 -1 footrot score.” A minimum of six sires are used each year to maintain a strong genetic base and most rams are only used once. Some 300 different sires have been used over the stud’s 53 years. John and Reyleen had drought conditions to the end of May – with over 20 tonnes of barley used to get their sheep through the drought – and were then inundated with rain not long after when South Canterbury was hit by floods. “We have kept the sheep well fed and thankfully we had good weather for lambing and all went well.” Today, John’s flock of some 240 ewes is one of the largest Border Leicester flocks in the country. Photos: Ravah 342-19 (top) was the Wool Breeds Champion Ram at the Southern Canterbury A&P Show, last November. Coated copper wire used to make “tag tabs”and used to identify what ram the ewes are mated with. Ewes after mating (above left). John Campbell 036147179 or 0211551049 Over 200 ewes in the lock, making it one of the two largest in New Zealand. Fertility records. Selected for strong constitution, a good even leece and breed type. Over half the rams for sale this year have a DNA footrot score of 1,1 RAVAH Border Leicester Rams PLEASANT POINT • EST 1968 • FLOCK 1139 Pleased to support John Campbell