Business Rural Winter 2022

32 | MEAT & WOOL » Quentin Whitehead Karen Phelps Target of 23 microns with Snowline genetics Mixed aged ewes above at the Whitehead farm (above) and ewes behind the wire a month early due to the Southland drought. Gore farmers Quentin Whitehead and Heidi Blake are using Snowline genetics over their Texel Poll Dorset cross ock in a bid to further lower the micron of the wool. They are targeting 23 microns with no loss to the good meat production they are aiming for. “Wool is a cost for farmers at the moment so we want to get to the point where we are at least breaking even,” says Quentin. “It’s about ning up the wool as much as we can without losing any of the meat attributes. If we can get our wool to even 25 microns it would be worth three times what normal crossbred wool is worth. It’s about trying to add value to our product rather than just sitting and hoping wool prices will come up.” They are aiming for sheep to produce three kilograms of wool as opposed to ve to six kilograms that most crossbreds shear. This will mean their sheep will be converting more protein to meat and their meat percentage has been on the rise as a result. “By growing less wool we only have to shear once a year with no crutching the ewes or lambs, and we only have to dag about a third of our sheep.” Using Snowline will also bring more hybrid vigour to the ock. They will continue to source some rams from Garth Shaw at Wharetoa Genetics who Quentin says is working hard to produce the type of sheep with the attributes he is after. Quentin and Heidi farm 1800 ewes and 3500 stock units. They average around 158% lambing from the ewes with hoggets lambing 100% to the ram last year. They mate all their hoggets and anything that doesn’t get into lamb is culled. Two big issues this year have been an autumn drought combined with only being able to get 4050% of the killing space they had booked in due to the pandemic. This has meant they’ve had to buy in and feed 400kg of sheep nuts a day over May. “It’s the driest autumn on record in Southland and we really rely on the autumn for grass growth heading into winter. The drought has meant problems with grass grub as well. Buying in feed has been a huge cost but we can’t interfere with next year’s production so we have to isolate the problem to this season,” says Quentin. “But it’s a very stressful unknown feed situation for winter.” In ation is also impacting business running expenses but on the ipside they are also getting good prices for their meat. “Internationally there is still huge demand for food so New Zealand is sitting in a really good position as a food producing country.” Quentin says mental health is something that’s never really been an issue in the past but lately he’s become more aware of it. “It was always something other people suffered from but not me. Your hands are tied on the farm when there’s a drought. You know what you want to do, feed your animals better, but when it won’t rain and you can’t grow the grass or buy baleage because it’s either not there or too expensive you feel really helpless. It’s easy to start blaming yourself and going over scenarios in your head and what you could have done differently.” He says getting off the farm and talking to others is an absolute must. “This year I’ve gone to a lot of dog trials. That’s been invaluable – to talk to other people and have a life away from the farm because when you’re looking out the window all the time and nothing’s changed since the last time you looked it gets to you eventually.” Quentin has also been busy with extensive self-funded native planting this year, constructing 2km of fencing, shelterbelts and clump plantings. Quentin wishes the public could see all the positive stuff farmers are doing for the environment. “We plant natives every year and we bene t with shelter at lambing but we like to look at it too and it’s great for the environment. Farmers are doing a lot of really good things.” Quentin has been busy with native plantings constructing 2km of fencing, shelterbelts and clump plantings. Cody Waihape 027 849 7314 03 208 1315 “Where quality speaks for itself”