Perendales Shine in Australia

The following is an article written by NZ Farmer’s Rob Tipa. Rob attended the recent Newhaven Perendale field day and caught up with our business partners, Tony and Trudy Boyer of ‘Mount Monmot Perendales’. Tony and Trudy travelled out from Victoria, Australia to attend the Newhaven field day and the Perendale NZ National conference in Wellington with Blair.

‘Joint Venture Opens Doors Offshore’ – By Rob Tipa, NZ Farmer.

Newhaven Perendales is stretching the boundaries of the traditional family-run farm with an innovative joint venture with leading Australian sheep breeders.

David Ruddenklau, Trudy Boyer and Tony Boyer, Photo Rob Tipa, NZ Farmer.

David Ruddenklau, Trudy Boyer and Tony Boyer

A buoyant Australian market for lamb and strong demand for New Zealand-sourced dual-purpose sheep genetics have paved the way for an innovative joint venture between perendale breeders on both sides of the Tasman.

The partnership between Newhaven Perendales near Five Forks in North Otago and Mount Monmot Perendales from Skipton in Victoria was established in 2011 with the export of 32 twin-bearing perendale stud ewes across the Tasman.

Newhaven Perendales was established by David and Robyn Ruddenklau in 1972 with the aim of breeding robust, high-yielding ewes and rams able to survive and perform in challenging climatic conditions.

Today David and Robyn, their daughter Jane Smith and son-in-law Blair Smith run a complex 10,000 stock unit stud and commercial sheep and beef operation on 1495ha of rolling to steep tussock hill country on the flanks of the Kakanui Range.

With a stud flock of nearly 2000 perendale ewes, Newhaven genetics are now widely spread on both sides of the Tasman, producing an estimated 350,000 lambs on the ground every spring.

Blair and Jane Smith won the supreme award in the national final of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 2012.

Mount Monmot Perendales founder Malcolm Fletcher, a stud breeder of 25 years, was drawn to New Zealand by the strong genetic base of the perendale breed here, with over 28,000 registered and performance recorded stud ewes.

His daughter Trudy and son-in-law Tony Boyer came to New Zealand on holiday in 2011, stayed with David and Robyn and the joint venture started from there.

Tony and Trudy present to guests at Newhaven

Tony and Trudy present to guests at Newhaven

On his stud’s website, Fletcher says he believes the perendale breed will play an important role in the future of prime lamb and wool production in the Australian livestock industry.

“It was important to align ourselves with a progressive family-run stud operation that had the skills and knowledge and were committed to long-term genetic gains for the benefit of their industry and ours,” he says.

The Mount Monmot team believes the joint venture offers Australian lamb producers a unique opportunity to use Newhaven Perendales’ 40 years of genetic progress in their commercial flocks.

Speaking at Newhaven’s seventh biennial client focus field day, Blair Smith told guests the joint venture also safeguarded Newhaven’s future by having a source of its own perendale genetics available offshore.

The partnership began with the export of 32 twin-bearing perendale ewes from Newhaven in 2011.

“It cost more to put them in a crate than to put them in the cabin,” Smith joked.

Since then Mount Monmot Perendales has been building flock numbers, selling stud rams and actively promoting the breed by showing them at agricultural shows around Australia.

Jane Smith said she and Blair were passionate about the red meat industry and wanted to make sure the family farm continued to operate sustainably by networking with others.

She said they were intrigued by the relationship between Australian farmers and their urban markets and were keen to see how their Newhaven sheep coped with the harsh environment of a prolonged drought.

Trudy and Tony Boyer were at the Newhaven field day and fielded questions from Newhaven’s ram buying clients on industry trends across the Tasman.

The Boyers manage a large 2000ha arable, sheep and beef operation in Victoria that grows 1200ha of barley, wheat and canola, and runs angus beef cows and a small flock of first-cross ewes.

Their annual rainfall is traditionally about 22 inches (558mm) “which is not a lot”, Tony Boyer said.

“A lot of good sheep country has been turning to cropping because of the dry years we’ve had,” he said. “It seems a lot of my generation would rather drive a tractor than crutch sheep, which is probably fair enough.

“Last year was a very poor year for us crop-wise, but stock did well so we made up for it that way.”

With the slump in wool prices in Australia, he said interest in fine wool merinos had dropped by nearly a third in the last 20 years. Despite that decline, the lamb market in Australia was quite buoyant.

Traditionally, the merino-border leicester first-cross ewe had been a popular choice for fat lamb production and some sheep farmers had also tried composites to replace more traditional crosses.

“It’s getting harder and harder to source that first-cross ewe for fat lamb production,” Boyer said. “A first-cross ewe lamb at eight months of age will make somewhere between $180 and $200. A first-cross ewe is worth between $200 and $280, so the cost is starting to get up there.”

Mount Monmot Perendales was now offering the market another option with a dual-purpose meat and wool breed.

Boyer said perendales were thriving in Australia and interest in the breed as a self-replacing (dual-purpose) sheep breed had taken off, with demand out-stripping supply.

“Newhaven’s experience has opened our eyes on how to run perendales and do it a little bit better,” he said. “People seem to be coming to us, which is good and we’re having a pretty good success rate with what we’re selling.”

Mount Monmot had steadily increased flock numbers and this year put 115 ewes to the ram. They are using artificial insemination and embryo transfer programmes to import new genetics from Newhaven without having to import new rams all the time.

For the first time this year Mount Monmot exported perendale rams to Bangladesh, an experiment with that country’s government to see how the breed performed in a hot climate.

Turning to the lamb market, this season Boyer sold 1100 lambs for an average price of $131 a head, 80 per cent of them sold on contract to domestic supermarkets. Those that were too light or too heavy for that specific market were sold through the local saleyards.

The dressed weight of those contract lambs was between 22 and 24kg. Any lambs above 24kg carcassweight were exported and some were sold for $180 a head, but Boyer said it was very hard to get lambs up to the target liveweight of 33 to 34kg.

The outlook for beef and wool was also positive.

He said Australia was aiming to produce more grass-fed than grain-fed beef to supply a specific market in the United States and was currently paying a premium for it.

“I think grass-fed beef has a huge opportunity in our part of the world compared to big feedlots,” he said.

At the moment that market was paying $5.90 a kg for steers 460kg and above and Boyer had also sold eight-year-old empty cows for $980 a head.

The wool market had also shown signs of recovery with prices for 32 micron fleece steady at 500c a kg.

The Boyers were impressed by the New Zealand sheep industry’s advanced genetic recording systems and the work that Beef + Lamb Genetics has done with the SIL recording system, which has assisted in genetic gains in crossbreeding.