Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Our Second On Farm Sale: This year it will be held at 3pm on Wednesday the 24th of November 2010 with around 150 Romneys, Southdowns and South Suffolks in total being put up for sale.

Unfortunately we have had to move it to the afternoon before last year, as Mr Giddings who traditionally had his sale on Thursday afternoon in Fairlie has moved his sale to 10am and taken it through to the afternoon as well. Accordingly it’s just not possible to get both sales in on the same day, which I would still prefer if I could, as it must be more appealing to farmers to see as many rams as they can in one day, but at the moment it’s simply not possible.

As most of you know I believe my rams are better anyway, so I hope you all will come to my sale the day before in any event. If you do want to stay the night before and/or after the sale, I can accommodate 6 or 8 people in my home, my mother a couple more if need be, and there is obviously some local accommodation, which I can book for you if you wish.

On Line Sale

Further to alleviate the difficulty of attending the sale, this year the Helmsman sale will be run in conjunction with an online sale (run by Agonline, i.e. PGGW as well). You will have to register in advance with Agonline and from that point you will be able to bid from home both prior to and during the sale. Those attending the sale and bidding will be kept up to date with any bids being made on line and vice versa, until there is only one winner at the close of the sale on 24 November. More details of how this will actually operate will be included in the catalogue.

The logical advantage of this is that if you know you cannot attend the sale, then as the rams will generally be available for inspection in November prior to the sale (I say generally as I will be away at the Feilding ram fair for a few days) you can come at your convenience and sort out what you may be interested in and then bid from home on the day. I again will be posting 20 second videos of all rams being put up for sale via you tube which may assist you in making a selection as well. As you know I am straight up guy, so if you can’t attend and want to know more about a ram, feel free to give me a call and I will tell you what I think.

Visiting Clients

I have been to see a few clients during the winter, but not many, quite simply because of the winter we have had, its been so bloody wet that I did not know from day to day where I would be putting up my next break for the ewes, it was just one big juggling effort for the majority of the winter, I hope we don’t have another one like that for a while. As I couldn’t set things up for days in advance I simply couldn’t get away to visit clients and those locally I felt were probably as miserable as I about the weather and the last thing they would want to do was show me around the farm. Ironically in the last fortnight we have gone from being ridiculously wet to needing rain at the time of writing of this, we missed all the really bad weather Southland etc got, but got lots of cold nor'westers, which has dried everything out.

I do intend in the next month to see as many of you as I can, some may see me before you get this letter. I will simply turn up on the off chance you are there as I don’t want to force anyone into thinking they have to entertain me, if you are not there or your busy that’s okay, but if you have an hour or so, I would greatly appreciate it as it gives me some understanding of where you farm and under what conditions and as such what sort of things you expect from my rams.

Worm Resistance/Resilience

There is a lot of gimmick advertising in this regard in my view, guys simply climbing on a band wagon to sell rams. I don’t use the worm star gene test, as in my view it’s a scam. The worm star test is approximately 80% about growth and 20% about worms, I am sure that if it was called the growth star test, even less people would be using it. The reason I say this is the most reliable figures you get out of SIL are the weaning weight and live weight 6 or 8 breeding values, yes your growth rates, so you don’t need a gene test to sort that one out. On top of this, those animals with good growth rates are likely to be those that are handling the worms better, hence the better growth rate.

I am looking into the Carla Saliva test that has been developed by AgResearch as to the merits or otherwise of doing this, it won’t be this year but if its not garbage like I believe wormstar to be, then I will certainly see how I can use it with my lambs come February or march next year.

In terms of my farming practice, I don’t drench the ewes at all from the age of being a 2th onwards. Since doing this I find that I may cull a few more ewes than I used to every year that are struggling to handle things at weaning time, but I figure over time this should diminish as logically those ewes that handle worms better will be those that remain. Also I practice the extended drenching idea with those lambs that I retain: I drench them more like every 6 weeks or longer even as lambs. I don’t do this with the culls as I regularly drench those so I get them killed as early as I can.

Ewe Efficiency (size of the ewe)

Again as a breeder I find it irritating what some people push about this. There is no doubt that Romneys got too big, too slabby and narrow, and I like most breeders have for some time now changed our sheep to be smaller thicker and stockier, but smaller does not necessarily mean more efficient, look at humans, some big people eat a lot less than some little people. If you get too small you also run the risk of lambs not reaching target kill weights, which from reading the rural mags it would seem inevitable that such weights will increase to perhaps 20kg to somewhat off set diminishing sheep numbers. I like to think that the size of my Romneys are about where they should be at now. Accordingly to make a sweeping statement that an x kilo ewe is the most efficient is just garbage, you must have regard to the ewe, is she a good doer and raising good lambs etc, that is what intensive recording systems that breeders like myself have which allow us to get rid of those who don’t come up to the mark.


My ram hogget 30 week wool weights will be a waste of time this year, they just got covered in mud, horrendous shearing. So you will have to rely on SIL and eye this year.

In terms of wool as a director and councillor of NZ Romney, we have been trying to make a difference but it’s hard work. I firmly believe we need to get paid $10 a kg to be viable, combine this with a $100 plus lamb and sheep farming may be profitable and compete with other land uses. It seems to me that the bar is set too low and on top of this it’s governed by shareholders of companies brokering wool, who are more interested and legally obliged to make money for the shareholders and the Company (which does not equate to growers). Accordingly the easiest way to make more money is pay the grower less and any rhetoric that they have the growers’ best interests at heart is quite simply not credible.

I don’t believe WPI will succeed unless global demand and the price for wool increases as well because they cannot get anyone to pay a premium for the wool now while providing them with an ingredient brand, back up, promotions etc, so how will they get it later on (unless wool price increases across the board, which if it does why be part of WPI?). If the wool price globally does not increase, then when WPI do demand a premium, I am sure that those same people will buy their wool for less money from someone else that can provide a similar story, back up and promotion. Wool demand has been decreasing as quick as wool supply. Its only recently where demand seems to be outstripping supply, with the recent trend of price increases, may it long continue.

The Elders/ Primary wools’ brand Just shorn is being marketed with a premium but not that significant and not significant quantities, and again Elders need to make money, so why are they going to give the maximum amount back to the grower. Its really become a procurement war between Elders and WPI. I hope they all succeed as we need it, but I am not overly confident about it.

I personally would like to see all farmers buy a niche carpet manufacturer (that is doing well not failing) i.e. make it a cooperative, so there is no competing interests to make money, as it has become clear to me with my frustrated involvement in the last few years, in trying to make a difference, that the only certain way to get more money for growers is to own the product to at least wholesale, then its not hard to pay the grower $10 a kilo. I would be very interested in your thoughts on this.

My Blog

Some of you may have noticed coupler articles of mine that have been published in the Straight Furrow; these have come from my Blog site: “WaidaleRams-Ike Williams”. I have got back into this in an attempt to improve my website’s showing on searches, so it comes up first ideally, if your not on the first page it’s a waste of time. Plus its an outlet for me to say what I think, as there is plenty in these rural mags that annoy the hell out of me, I hope to put something up once a week, but with lambing it has taken a back seat, but if you are interested in some of my rantings take a look, it might amuse you.

Some Key things to remember about Waidale:

• All flocks SIL recorded and Macro stock recorded

• All Romney ewes that have two singles in a row are culled

• DNA profiling for Footrot and cold tolerance of sires for several years now

• All ram hoggets are eye muscled scanned

• We consistently wean in excess of 150%

• All rams put up for sale are sound, genuine stockmanship is applied: we are not just about figures.

• Only sires that look the part and have the figures are used at Waidale, they must be both.

• Probably the most good looking ram breeder in the country!!!!!!! Got to have some humour yes?

Well I hope to see you most of you in the next month, and most certainly at my sale, if you want to know anything that I have not covered or have covered, please feel free to give me a call.


Ike Williams.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SFF Landcorp and PGGWrightson, is this partnership benefitting the industry or just these three entities?

Like many people in the last few weeks I have been hearing and reading about this new three way partnership between Silver Fern Farms (SFF), Landcorp and PGG Wrightson, whereby as I understand the Government is contributing $59.5million from the Primary Growth Partnership.

The cynic in me is wondering is this a scheme designed to benefit the industry or principally to benefit each of these entities?  Why do I say this, well:
  1. From my reading of the article in the High Country Herald dated August 25 2010, SFF want farmers on board, they can sign up to contracts etc, in other words, you must supply lambs to SFF to be involved in it.  Sounds to me like a pretty self serving use of the 59.5 million put up by the government does it not? Further I have just recently attended an Alliance meeting and it would seem they have starting with what the consumer wants and working backwards for many years, surely  SFF has been doing the same, so why all of sudden is there some amazing plan now?; and
  2. Again from the same article it would seem Landcorp's role will be in genetics and developing the database.   In the sheep industry Landcorp breed Romneys, composites and Texels.  I am fairly confident that there are many better Romneys in the Country than Landcorps, composites probably also, and you must remember that composites are most certainly not the hot property they were five years ago, as farmers have discovered that there are some major issues with them, there has and is a major trend back to using purebreds or first crossing.  As to their Texels, I have not seen them, but  a Texel breeder mate of mine, assures me that there are better texels around than Landcorps.  So if this partnership is indeed for the industry good as claimed, wouldn't you try and source the best genetics available, get a cross section of breeds and not limit yourself to a small cross section as described above, which are arguably inferior to other genetics that are available in NZ.
  3. I also note Landcorps role is developing the database, what does this mean.  Why does Landcorp have its own database in the first place, why is it not already all incorporated into  Sheep Improvement Limited's database ("SIL"), a partially funded database by Meat and Wool (now Beef and Lamb), particularly given that it has been struggling for funding in the last few years  Wouldn't the time and money in this regard be better served in incorporating Landcorp and other breeds and breeders into SIL who are not already there and then developing SIL to better serve the whole industry, not just Landcorp? (As clearly SIL is of value in some areas, but rather meaningless or misleading in others).
  4. PGG Wrightson's role is apparently to "advise farmers how to become more productive, such as the use of grasses for higher stock weights."  This is a bit revolutionary is it not, I guess this is based on trials to see what grasses are better and in fact achieve higher growth rates, then you patent them, and sell these proprietary grasses, brassicas etc to farmers for these purposes at a good price, i.e AR1 grasses are not too shy of $5kg.  I am being rather sarcastic here, isn't that what they do now, or are we going to be able buy these grasses for $2kg, given that $59 million of tax payer money being poured into this partnership, I suspect not.  Are they using this money to carry out the research, which they now charge a high price per kg to recover such cost? What in fact are they going to do that is indeed different or new and as such a major benefit to the industry?  Or is this just a lock of those farmers who want to be part of the SFF's contracts in that they now must also get their advice from PGG and buy their grasses etc?
Apparently they want others to join, well who are these others, is that me, they will source my genetics and incorporate my database, or is it Alliance so they can sign up farmers to the same contracts or is it CRT so it can give me advice on what grass I use.  I would dearly love to believe that this programme will indeed benefit the whole industry given the injection of tax payer money, but I would have to say from what I have read to date, the big winners in this project will be the three entities above.

Mr Gardynes letter to straight Furrow re my Glammies article

I have just read Hugh Gardyne's letter to the editor in the Straight Furrow dated 31 August 2010 slagging what I wrote last week. I enjoy a good argument and I hope a few more people have considered my article and Hugh's response, however his response does require me to point out a few things:
  1. 'The CPT trial is simply a ram versus ram basis, and is unrealistic to use it as a breed comparison.  CPT state this themselves.  I only quote the following CPT figures as Hugh is using this to back up his argument, but realistically you should not use CPT as a breed comparison as it covers too few rams.  I would take a lamb finishers' word (who make a living out it) any day over a trial that to date has only evaluated a total of 193 rams.
  2. The meat indexes and growth indexes are about as reliable as the weather reports for South Canterbury at the moment.   They have subjective economic weightings which realistically should be different for different parts of the country, for example growth rates are much more important for summer dry areas, then perhaps where Hugh farms.  However if you want to use SIL data to back up your argument, then try breeding values, these have no hidden attributes or subjective weightings that indexes have which may distort the results.
  3. Even if you look CPT results for this last year:  There are only two texels in the top 25 for the weaning weight breeding value, which I had assumed was one of their strengths, but perhaps early growth is as much of an issue for Texels as later growth, I am sure a Southdown could fix this for you Hugh!!!.   Now look at the Eye Muscle Area bv and there are 14 Texel, texel cross or composite rams (which I assume includes part texel) in the top 25, in other words they yield well (assuming hybrid vigour is not totally responsible for the high yield).   These two values simply back up what I said and what lamb finishers have told me, good yielders, slow growers.
  4. Even if you use the growth index figures that Hugh quotes, two rams with good growth, sure, one other crossbred texel is 18th, but the rest of the remaining 25 are not texels. The rest incidentally are all those breeds of the past that Hugh refers to and includes a Southdown which I would consider a new breed of the 90's that Hugh refers to, as they are breed that has changed to meet the markets requirements more than perhaps any other breed in the last 30 years, many farmers can testify to this.
  5. Sure the lambs are subjected to a tenderness test and they have to be below a ph of 5.7, but the weighting is 50:50 on yield and tenderness.  I have seen the results for the lines of lambs in the last Glammies and the reality is, with a few exceptions, that almost all the top yeilders make the final.  It is all about the respective weighting you give to the tests or lack of it perhaps.
As I stated in the initial article this is not a dig at texels, but Hugh seems to have taken it as such, it is a dig at those supposedly leading our meat industry, growth rate is a significant issue for many farmers and I (along with many others) sincerely believe that there is a strong correlation between very high meat yield and low growth rates, but the present criteria for the Glammies makes no allowances for growth rates and moreover it puts a significant weighting on yield, which I would think has little bearing on the taste of the lamb.

If the Glammies is to be used as industry beacon then it needs to use criteria that ensures it sends out the right signals as to what type of lamb we should be growing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Glammies, the best tasting lamb in the country or is it?

The Glammies, yes the supposed best tasting lamb in New Zealand competition.  This competition has annoyed me for year or two now as it is competition whereby only top yeilding lines of lambs make it to the final, where it is tasted tested for the first time.

Lines of 20 plus  lambs are killed through Alliance by those who wish to enter.   These lambs are subjected to a coupler tests, the principle one being yeild.   12 or 14 lines of lamb, I think, make it to the final in 3 or 4 categories.  It is only these finalists that are actually subjected to a taste test. 

It is my understanding that it is only the top yeilding lines that make the final, which has been held at the Wanaka show.  Accordingly it is a competition principally about the yeild capability of the lamb, the actual taste is essentially an "aftertaste" if you get my meaning.

I appreciate that yeild is important, but I also know from anecdotal evidence as a breeder of rams and as a finisher of lambs and from my discussions with high quantity lamb finishers, that those very high yeilding lambs are often very slow growers.

It just so happens that the exceptionally high yeilding lambs tend to be texels or texel cross, (who tend to be dominating the glammies as they yeild very well), are the same high yeilding lambs that a lot of farmers will tell you, that if you get them to the works off mum, they are great, but if not, they are not so cool, because they are very slow growing and accordingly take ages to hit the target kill weight.

This is not a dig at Texels, it is a frustration with our industry, these glammies are promoted as the bees knees, but are they really in light of how the competition is run, given there is my opinion and others, a strong correlation between very high meat yeild and slow growth, is this really the type of lamb we want to be encourage farmers to supply to our meat processers.

Those farmers who have a very short time frame to get their lambs to the works, need lambs that grow and mature very quickly and hit that target weight as fast as you can.  Even those farmers who don't have the same pressures will probably find that they make a lot more money from lambs that say hit the target weight two weeks quicker than super yeilding lamb, logically you can turn over more lambs, less drench, less grass etc required as input to finish that lamb.

Finally ask any farmer that has been around for a 1000 years and they will tell you, (9 times out of 10) that the best tasting lamb or mutton is a southdown (or southdown cross) OR a fat merino, probably because very fine wool is generally associated with fine texture in meat.   So what is the point of mentioning this, if you want to expand your market and encourage more people to buy it, wouldn't you get people to try what is in fact the best tasting lamb and not some high yeilding lamb that is adjudged the best tasting of the high yeilding finalist lambs.   But hey what would I know I am just a dumb farmer!!!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hogget lambing articles in Rural News and local High Country herald

I have recently read a coupler articles in Rural News and our local High Country Herald re hogget lambing regarding a professor  from and a study from Massey University. 

I was somewhat concerned about some of the claims in there, including interalia a claim for example that a hogget lambed as opposed to one that has not, has only a 5kg difference in body weight as a 2th, no affect on long term longevity etc. 

I am concerned about the claims being made, because if it is based on a Massey study that started around 5 years ago, then it is my understanding that this trial mated a mob of ewe hoggets to rams, and those that got in lamb became one trial mob, and those that did not get in lamb became the control mob as a comparison.

For those of us who do mate ewe hoggets, I think we are fully aware that 80 to 90% of our bigger and better ewe hoggets, or something around that figure, get in lamb, while the majority of the balance who don't get in lamb are the smaller and often poorer quality hoggets.

So what is the significance of this, well quite clearly if you compare those that got in lamb with those that didn't, over their life time, then its a totally meaningless comparison: as you are comparing on average bigger better quality hoggets with inferior poorer quality hoggets.  

To ensure such a trial was of value and produced results of merit, a mob of hoggets would need to be randomly drafted in half, with one mob being mated and one not mated or covered with teasers, then those in lamb  are then compared with a random mob of the not mated, or better still with those who were covered by teasers with the other mob.  Just a basic premise one must adhere to end up with reliable statistics. 

Accordingly for example any claim that ewe hogget mated is only 5kg lighter as a 2th than had she not been mated based on a flawed trial, if it is based on the trial as I understand that it is, then  quite simply  any conclusions drawn from it are probably crap!