The weather in this region followed usual patterns, although the spring was late with little bailage being made before December. Since New Year, many areas of the North Island were unusually dry. Until the end of June, we have recorded only 325mls as compared with 1000mls in the same period last year. Mind you, last year was wetter than normal. Most dams at this point are still half empty, and if this weather pattern continues, water could be a problem on many farms. The flip side is that we have had unprecedented grass growth over the June/July period with soil temperatures being good, no water logging and little pugging. These conditions unfortunately, will also favour parasites, fungi and microbes, many of which affect animal health – especially sheep. As a result of these conditions, scanning percentages have through most of the North Island been down 10% to 20%. Part of this could be caused by a toxin called Zearalenone, produced by a fungi, Fusarium. This toxin suppresses ovulation rates and results in more dry ewes, fewer multiples and more late lambs. Warm autumn conditions favour all fungi which thrive in rye grass dominant pastures. From my experience, young ewes are the worst affected by this toxin with older ewes developing a degree of resistance. This year, my older ewes scanned reasonably well, but my 2 tooth scanning was the worst for many decades.
By far the biggest health problem on this property over the past 70 years has been pneumonia, commonly known as viral pneumonia. From what I understand with this very complex disease, that pneumonia is not the problem. The problem is that bacteria, mycoplasmas and viruses that develop after the pneumonia weakens the immune defenses of the lungs. As a teenager, I well remember our first case of pneumonia. A well grown ewe lamb, standing, not wanting to move, with its back slightly arched, head hanging down and nose dripping a clear fluid. It was also hollow and hadn’t grazed for a day or so. My father hadn’t seen anything like it. Obviously the disease was brought on to the property, probably by a ram purchase. Since that time, serious outbreaks of this disease occurred every February which resulted in deaths – between 4% and 10% over the February/March period. Two scientists, one working in the 1980’s, the other in the early 2000’s, did extensive research into all aspects of this disease. Both found that about 96% suffered lung damage to varying degrees. The disease always appeared around 20 January with many lambs dripping from their noses. A week or two later, all lambs would cough especially when they had a sudden scare, and a week later, deaths would occur. In addition to numerous deaths there were a greater number of walking skeletons, most of which would eventually recover with reduced productivity. This year, strangely, had a different pattern. Coughing started in December with about 4% death during January. By mid-February, they were recovering, and by June weighing they were in better condition than usual.
Progress in the Worm Resistance Trait
I am delighted with the rate of progress in this area. Worm resistance in the SIL programme is the DPF figure which combines a number of worm resistant figures. The mean figure is 0.00 with a plus figure indicating resistance and a minus figure showing susceptibility to worms. In 2013 the average for the flock was around a DPF of +300, with a few sheep reaching a DPF of over +600. Five years later, the average DPF figure reached +630 with the top sheep reaching over +900. This means that the progress made over the past five years was about what was achieved in the first 28 years of breeding for this trait. So what does all this mean when applied to field worm challenges? I believe that if sheep have a DPF of +500 they will withstand any worm challenge where the Barbers Pole worm is not the dominant species. A ram’s progeny with this level of resistance may only need an occasional drench at the peak of the worm challenge. Where the Barbers Pole worm is the dominant species, I believe that a DPF level of +650 or over would give a reasonable chance of total resistance to this blood sucking worm. Again, the progeny of sires with this high degree of resistance may only require an occasional drench in late January. Bear in mind that the DPF (like all other SIL figures) is not absolute, but the best figure based on the information. For instance, my best sire had a DPF of +662 on his first assessment. Since then, his DPF has improved as more information from his progeny has been fed into the system. In the April report, his DPF figure stood at +1003 which was the second highest in the country. One of his sons had a higher figure of +1078. I believe that the current rate of progress will continue. Also, if selection pressure is maintained the immune systems will contain any worm challenge.
Facial Eczema Testing
We have tested rams for FE tolerance every year since 1986. We are currently testing 20 rams at a rate of between .50 and .60 mg/kg.
New Sheep Breed
Kikitangeo has purchased a Beltex ram lamb at a cost of $8,000. This double muscled Texel breed was developed in Belgium and imported into New Zealand a couple of years ago, the first sale of purebreds and crosses was in 2018. The Suffolk/Texel cross has proved a very popular terminal sire and I believe the Beltex sire when crossed with other Down breeds will be even more valuable with superior meat yields. Mated with Suffolk, Southdown and Texel-cross ewes, his sons will be for sale next year.
Sale of Semen
We have decided to offer for sale semen from our top worm resistant sire – G197-14. Particulars on our website.
This year’s sale rams
Over the years, we have had tail end lambs that are twins from old ewes or from ewes that, for various reasons, are in light condition. These ram lambs, often with good records, are seldom big enough to reach sale standards and are sent to the works. These lambs receive a drench in mid-January. This year, about mid-February some 200 of these small lambs – about 70% ram lambs – were sent to another property which hadn’t been grazed by sheep for a number of years. They returned home after 10 weeks and the transformation was unbelievable. Most were in prime condition and much better than the bigger lambs left on the home farm. All ram lambs have their winter weighing in mid-June, and the small lambs that spent 10 weeks off farm, had double the weight gain from weaning to winter weighing. The “home” lambs also fared better than usual over the difficult late summer/autumn period. All of this means we will have many more rams of sale quality this year. At this stage, we have approximately 250 ram hoggets that make our physical and quality standard. When we receive all the productive data a further cull will be made. At this stage, I estimate that about 200 will meet our sale standard. We will catalogue about 140 Romney rams, so this will leave about 60 good rams for private sale after sale day, which will be Wednesday, 4 December 2019. In our first cull, around 200 ram lambs were culled, out of about 450 in total. There will also be the sale of the down breeds – Suffolk, South Down, Suff-Tex and SD-Tex. This year sale rams were weaned a month earlier than usual, around mid-November, so weaning weights are light.
Catalogues will be posted out soon after the middle of November. If you are not on our mailing list, please email us for a hard copy. It will be available on the website. If you wish to discuss any matter, I am available for a visit or phone call.
Recently, we won the Husqvarna North Island Farm Forrester of the Year award. My father planted trees, mainly Macrocarpa shelter belts and several plantations. These have been milled and used for farm building and home renovation. All my life we have planted trees for forestry to supplement income, prevent erosion and add to the aesthetic merit of the property. We will be having field days in early November to view the sale rams, and have a farm tour to view the many plantations which contain many different timber species.
Finally, I thank my staff who keep the wheels turning, and my ram clients, many of whom have purchased Kikitangeo rams for a long period, thus enabling a different approach to sheep drenching.
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