2016 Ewe Hogget Winners

May 2017

Balancing performance, profit and environmental constraints on a Southland farm

Willie and Phillipa Menlove were the national winners of the NZ Ewe Hogget Competition in 2016. They were 11 finalists with more than 250 flocks entered into competition. The Perendale hoggets were described by the judges as being in tremendous order for the country they were living on. The Menlove flock was shown to judges in back country yards eight kilometres away from the farm's main yards and the ewe hoggets were brought up on developed country replacing native tussock and other plants. The Menloves also won the Perendale breed award, the large flock award and the phenotype award. 

The Ewe Hogget Competition is run by the NZ Sheep Breeders’ Association. The national competition was held in 2016 for the 20th time and is run is six sections – Romney, Coopworth, Perendale, Crossbred, Composite, and Fine Wool. 

The objective is to recognise the best sheep flock replacements that are likely to be more productive and profitable over their lifetime. Farmers who enter are able to benchmark themselves against top flocks run by neighbours, others in the district, and nationwide. Half of the points awarded by judges are for production, 20% for breed type, 15% for breeding objectives and 15% for wool. Entrants must display 80% of their replacement ewe hoggets with a minimum of 200 head. They must be bred by the entrant, could be woolly or shorn, and being mated is optional. 

The competition attracts between 250 and 300 flock entrants each year, and the organisers would like to see better representation from the North Island. Out of the 20 national winners so far 16 have come from the South Island. Entries are received by the NZSBA up until the end of March each year. 

The Menlove’s farm just north of Lumsden is a large 2015ha Southland property that ranges from river flats to steep hill country up to 600m ASL, and carries sheep, cattle and deer. Cultivation is possible on 780ha, of which 58ha can be irrigated, and over 100ha of swedes, kale, turnips, followed by annual rye grass, is sown each year. 

The property runs 4020 mixed-age ewes, 1280 two-tooth ewes, and 1270 ewe hoggets. It also runs 111 mixed-age cows, 23 in-calf heifers and 122 mixed-sex calves. Around 700 deer hinds are stocked, including R2 pregnant hinds, 650 mixed-sex weaners and 35 velveting stags and wapiti sires. 

Sheep returns were just over 50% of the farm total, deer returns 21%, cattle 15% and the rest other returns. Farm working expenses were 60% of gross farm income in the last full financial year. 

The breeding and selection objectives are as follows:

  • To produce an efficient medium-framed ewe that is easy care and has low labour and animal health inputs.
  • Ewes must have good constitution to enable them to thrive in adverse conditions.
  • The flock will consistently produce in excess of 140% unassisted lambing, survival to sale.
  • Maintain strong maternal traits while producing lambs of good carcase conformation that will consistently finish quickly to 18kg-plus CW.
  • Fleece wool will have good style and crimp, avoiding fine, tight types and weak backs.

Willie believes that the balance between performance, profit and environmental constraints is being achieved under a sustainable management regime with this Perendale flock. The flock thrives in the weather extremes that Northern Southland can provide. 

The ewe scanning results have been in the range of 167 to 173% in the five years up to 2016, while the hogget scanning was more variable and averaged 37%. Ewe lambing has resulted in 135-150% and the hogget lambing 15-38%. The average lamb weight achieved has been around 18kg CW and the average prices were $92, $90.50, and $80.50 in the past three years respectively. 

Ewe hogget selection:

Willie aims to keep a consistent type of hogget, so the flock is even. Hoggets must have good constitution, body length and good, thick bone structure. In the fleece, he is avoiding tight, fine wool and black spots. Hogget selection begins at lamb shearing in early to mid-February, and from then onwards 1600-1650 desirable types are run together to enable genetic potential, and not just environmental and management potential, to be displayed. The numbers are cut to 1350 at the start of April.

Ram selection:

For the breeding flock, rams must be from twins, have solid hindquarters but not big shoulders, have good length and sound composition and constitution, have a sound fleece and feet, a thick bone structure and good eye muscle.