Australia Discovers Newhaven Perendales

Excerpt from an article written by Mona Timms of ‘The Speculator’ in Hamilton, Victoria , Australia – following David’s recent trip to Victoria to meet with sheep breeders. Hosted by Malcolm Fletcher, a Victorian Perendale breeder, he had a tour of the region.

Knowing of the strength of the breed in New Zealand and being convinced that Australian breeders were missing out on all the work done over there, Malcolm joined the Perendale Association of New Zealand and made contact with one of that country’s leading breeders, David Ruddenklau. Interested in the situation here, David decided to come and see for himself and he recently spent a couple of days in the district visiting properties and attending livestock sales in both Bendigo and Ballarat. David was hosted by Malcolm Fletcher – a Perendale breeder in Victoria. Malcolm states “we have to do something to get the breed going. With the genetic pool we have in Australia being so very small, we were starting to breed within studs,” he said. David said that the situation of the Perendale in New Zealand is vastly different to that of the breed in Australia.“In New Zealand, Perendales would hold a substantial share of the overall breeding ewe numbers and that has changed significantly in the last 10 years because of land use change. Perendales have become more prominent as the better country has been taken up with dairying and horticulture,” David said.Essentially they were a hill country sheep, designed for that but proving to be equally good on flat country and now the NZ sheep industry is being pushed more into the hill country, which actually suits the Perendale really well.“.David explained that the sheep industry in New Zealand is also getting some pressure from the locking up of large estates by the Department of Conservation. The other factor that has lead to their increasing popularity is that a number of the major meat companies now scan all carcasses after they are killed and the Perendale fits very nicely into that high yielding meat class. Substantial premiums are now being payed by a number of our larger meat companies for the actual meat value of a carcass. They are definitely a dual purpose animal with really good bulky wool while they also have an excellent carcass,” he said.’s once excelled however this has led to the substantial demise of some Merino wether flocks. Also, some of our hill country is being planted out in trees for carbon tax credits . We have an active carbon credit market where we can sell our annual increments of carbon.. Some of the timber production off that country can be marginal because of the extraction costs so they are now looking at solely putting substantial areas into trees for carbon credits.” While in Australia, David has been able to observe many differences between the industry here and that in New Zealand.So what I’m saying is that the industry is under a bit of pressure from land use changes ,both the very good land and the poor land are seeing changes, yet at the same time I can’t recall there being such a huge world wide demand for sheep meat or sheep products,” he said.We attended the Bendigo sale yesterday and Ballarat today. I’ve been very impressed with not only the number and size of the lambs coming forward but also the quality and quantity of the feed that is available.“In New Zealand, we would very rarely see many prime lambs going into the saleyards; that wouldn’t really happen. The meat companies, which are normally co-operative meat companies, have their own drafters, who come out to the farm. So the lambs go directly from the farm to the meat processors.”Malcolm noted how different our methods are to those used in New Zealand.“In New Zealand, the lambs go straight from the farm to the abattoirs, with the least possible stress. The situation that we have here has opened David’s eyes. We have stock coming off farm yesterday, having been weaned the day before, trucked to the municipal yards, sold, loaded onto more trucks for the abattoirs, which can be anywhere to a further 12 hour run.“Today we watched one truck load: he’ll be in Dubbo at midnight and those lambs will not be killed until tomorrow. Now that’s long drive in a transport.”David said that minimising stress was essential for New Zealand export markets.

We run a lot of our stock in what we call native country, so it’s very fibrous with tussock and things like that. Having a Scottish cheviot portion in the breed makes them very robust. They’re not what you call a soft sheep’t supplement feed, only when it’s incredibly snowy or extreme drought.’t get pampered!“To date we are have not exported any ram semen. We intend to have semen available this season which will include our 2009 New Zealand Royal Show Supreme Champion Ram. Malcolm’s phone call was a bit of a impetus for us to think more seriously about that and one of the reasons for me to come over. While we have rams that are well suited to export I wanted to come over and have a look at the area and the stock and the industry here because clearly there are some prime differences between what is required here and what is required in NZ. Then we can tailor make the sires that we potentially will send over, so it all meshes together nicely.“From his observations in Australia, David believes there are a number new aspects that he can offer. We have been doing a lot of work with a number leading animal scientists.There are differences here with the type of Perendales and they may well be environmental. We have a major gene pool to work with in NZ. I’m currently the chairman of a national Perendale progeny test and we have just screened 28,000 ewes to get the nations top 12 rams to trial over 1,000 Perendale ewes, to make sure we are nationally actually breeding from the best of the very best,” David said. “We now offer all our rams for sale that have never been drenched in their life – it’s taken over 15 years to get to that stage. We also offer rams that have been cold tolerance tested – they have the ability to withstand much colder conditions when they are born than just a standard lamb. That’s through DNA testing, using a DNA marker, and likewise with tolerance to footrot – that’s another DNA marker. “A proportion of our sheep are ‘naturally mulesed’ (naturally have a bare breech that lessens the need for dagging and decreases the chance of flystrike) and we have been making sure that we are not going to disadvantage ourselves on wool weight by breeding that into them. Any loss of wool has been independently accessed as being minimal. “In NZ, stock managers are having to increasingly manage larger flocks – so we’ve been developing flocks over the past 20 years with the need of very low labour input and high meat yield. With regard to fertility, they really need to have twins year in, year out, with out intervention and then look after them. We want our ewes to produce two lambs that equal the mother’s weight within 12 weeks,” he said.’s visit to Streatham was little more than a whistlestop, he has been able to impart a lot of knowledge about his operation in New Zealand and open up some possibilities for Perendale breeders in Australia.

In the meat quality trials that we run, we find that any form of stress creates a higher ph level in the meat and because elevated ph in chilled meat means that it goes quite dark and unappealing, thus affecting shelf life and eating quality. With the great majority of our meat being exported in chilled form, we have to try and minimise stress – just get them to the works and get them processed.” “As far as the Perendale in Australia goes, it is hard to say how far the adaptability can go. The rainfall on our home property is certainly no more than many parts of Australia, and we seem to be subjected every second year to drought. It is very hard to compare the two climates – I think that a lot of people outside NZ think we have a farmers land of milk and honey and while we don’t often get crippling droughts every year, we get a huge variation, climate wise. We often get snow, frosts and gale force winds and with altitude and exposure it is often really challenging. It’s not unusual for us to be out tagging stud lambs in the snow and yet we also sell rams to areas that have 100 inches a year or more on our west coast or to the top of the north island which is subtropical. What I’m saying is that I believe the Perendale is incredibly versatile.