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EWE WANT A RAM
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BRIGHT WHITE WOOL
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Sheep Industry Advertising Feature
Sheep breeders should not rest on their laurels
By DON WRIGHT
Prominent Mimihau sheep breeder and
farming administrator Bruce Robertson,
of Duncraigen Farm, says a man is in
trouble if he thinks he has bred the perfect
The former president of the New Zealand
Dorset Downs Association of New Zealand, the
Hereford Association of New Zealand and
Wyndham A and P Association is a household
name in farming circles for operating a
successful satellite offshoot of the vast Motu-
Nui operation in the Wairarapa. Motu-Nui sells
upwards of 1100 rams a year in the North
Island and 600 in the south.
Robertson, his wife Carolynn and their son
Marc, run a 644 ha property where Bruce has
lived for 36 years and his wife all her life after
her parents Harry and Jean Anderson
established the farm with 200 ha. The property
has been gradually added to and now runs
about 5000 Development Romney ewes and
150 Dorset Downs ewes stud breeding stock.
The upsurge in dairying prompted the
Robertson family, which has been in sheep all
their lives, to shift focus to a hill like sheep
operation when they saw what was
happening to dairying.
''Our sheep had to be tough and thrifty...We
can get cold coastal weather at lambing time.
We sell most of our rams to West Otago and
Central Otago because they have been
brought up to handle that kind of
environment,'' Bruce said.
''A lot of our rams are sold to Lawrence,
Waitahuna, Middlemarch and Ranfurly where
there are a lot of sheep to complement our
loyal local clientele, spreading as far north as
Devoted sheep breeders should always be
trying to improve their breeds, he said. No
breeder could afford to rest on their laurels.
''We have in a commercial sense focused on
breeding easy care, resourceful, early maturing
and solid sheep. You must always strive to
improve strains and types because you are in
trouble if you think you've got the perfect
The Duncraigen operation is primarily driven
by its clients' particular requirements, he said.
''We try to visit every client in a five year cycle
to get feedback and establishing if they are
happy with our product and service,
particularly how the sheep are managing in
Bruce explained that hardiness was a key
factor his sheep were bred for in terms of
resilience at lambing time. Easy care and
fertility were also of paramount importance.
''We can pregnancy scan ewes at 190 plus and
lamb at 150 plus and the sheep must do it on
their own,'' he said.
''Clients don't want to be full time lambing
shepherds. The earlier generations have been
there and done that and messed it up. We
don't want more of that.''
The Robertsons constantly strive to give clients
a better product ''and we want to keep it
solely a family run business.''
They acknowledge that technology, which is
effectively a tool, and stock sense can be
compatible if sensibly and practically
integrated ''but scientists who think other wise
can make matters difficult.''
''W are totally self sufficient here and not like
some of our opposition. I enjoy the regular
contact with clients. Technology and science
are valuable but, at the end of the day, you still
have to breed sheep with four legs in four
corners and are sound and durable.''
His involvement with the Wyndham A and P
Association of which he was president in
1997-98 has proved rewarding in that the
Gore and Wyndham shows have retained their
popularity. Carolynn was the only woman
president in 2005-2006.
He has enjoyed exhibiting sheep and cattle at
them since 1977 and goes as far north as
Unbeknown to many perhaps, his father Frank
of Greytown in the Wairarapa, bred the
famous thoroughbred racehorse Rising Fast
and sold him to Lester Spring at the Trentham
Yearling Sales. Rising Fast (Alonzo-Faster) won
two Caulfield Cups, a Melbourne Cup and was
second in another to lightweight Toparoa.
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