Greetings to you all. How things have changed in just 12 months. From the highs of 12 months ago, it’s now back to reality. Those farmers lucky enough to sell store lambs last December at $140 benefited greatly, but sadly this was at the expense of those who bought them. It is a sad commentary over the past 40 or so years that sheep and beef farmers have had very brief highs and very prolonged lows.
Over the past 12 months, I have been quite heavily involved in – as a member of the newly formed (in June 2010) Landowners and Contractors Protection Association (LCPA). This resulted in myself and John Turner (a former president of the Angus Association) placing submissions before a Parliamentary Select Committee on local body governance and environmental concerns. We also met with our two new northern National MP’s with regard to Government funding of the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and the RMA, as to how this group, and this law, are negatively affecting those involved in agriculture and development, and the wider community. A deal of time has also been involved in taking up cases of rural people who have quite clearly been bullied by Auckland City officials. We may not win all these battles, but at least in trying, we have some effect, and I believe our actions tend to temper the excesses of some of our more aggressive bureaucrats.
Conditions at Kikitangeo
The past year has been a dream run for us here at Kikitangeo. I cannot remember a better summer, autumn and early winter. Back prior to 1965, we had some very good periods. Sheep health has been great in stark contrast to last year (and other recent years) when stock health has been a major problem. Last year, we battled with the ram lambs right through, first with pneumonia and later with yersinia. When such diseases are present, the pasture is loaded with fungi and other micro-organisms, some of which produce toxins which affect animal health and in particular, lambs. By sale time last year, the rams were still suffering the after effects of these conditions, so lacked size and condition, and did not show their true potential. However, such environmental influences do not affect the genes they carry.
In contrast, this year’s rams had better than normal weaning weights, due to the kind spring. Over the summer, in spite of regular rains, which was ideal for worms, pneumonia had little effect, due, I believe to a February which was much cooler than usual and with much less humidity. (Over the years, it has been noted that when there is high humidity over the late summer period, pneumonia is most severe, with between 5% and 10% losses and a lot more very sick animals) All the lambs had one drench while still on the ewes in mid November, and about one third of the ram lambs went through the summer-autumn period without further drenching. This year, I plan to dispense with this early drench. Yersinia was not a problem this year. (This disease is ever present in the soil, but generally does not show up until May through July and can cause considerable losses with young deer calves as well as lambs. Similar to Salmonella, it causes severe scouring and losses will occur within a week. (Can be stopped with antibiotics) This June, some ram lambs started scouring, but still looked healthy and on sending dung samples for analysis, the finding was a mild form of Yersinia.
Changes in Sale
This year, I will be offering a few less rams for public auction, as in the last year or so there have been some passings. However, there has always been the fear that some large station will come and purchase a large number of rams thus leaving my regular clients short. So this year, I will have a number of good rams for private sale, but the prices for these sheep will be above the auction ‘upset price’. I am intending to add more information to this year’s catalogue.
This year's lambing
This year, the ewes were in much better condition at mating and I believe there was lower population of harmful fungi in the pasture. The result has been fewer dry ewes and more twins. Although a final tally has not been made, at this stage, I am confident there will be 100 to 150 more lambs surviving this year. The ewes have been excellent, with few dead lambs and the ewes being great mothers. Because most ewes are in prime condition the lambs are looking good, with very few tailenders around.
Moving with the times
This year, as you have discovered, we've developed a website. I am hoping that this website will make more farmers aware of my efforts over many years. Please spread the word and a link to the site amongst your friends and colleagues.
Over the past 12 months, I have been able to visit several clients and gain a ‘feel’ for their farming operation. This has been a pleasure and I have gained a lot from these visits. If you would like me to visit to see your farm and your sheep, do not hesitate to ask me about it.
If I do not see you at my Sale, I wish you all the best for the coming season.