“Sheep numbers recovering,” says breeder

By Rob Tipa

WAIPUKURAU ram breeder Robin Hilson of the One Stop Ram Shop is a big fan of the biennial Southern Field Days at Waimumu in eastern Southland.
“I’ve shown sheep throughout the country, but this show is the best,” he said. “It’s a real pleasure for us to come down from the North Island and experience southern hospitality.”
Mr Hilson said sheep had special requirements to look after them during a three-day show and he was impressed by the effort and commitment of Southern Field Days volunteers to meet those needs.
Mr Hilson is confident of a recovery in sheep numbers, despite claims by pundits to the contrary, and he proved that by bringing stock from Hawke’s Bay to Southland for the field days.
Nationally, sheep had moved off the easier country, but people were returning to the industry, he sad.
“Many sheep farmers I’ve spoken to are increasing stock numbers quite considerably,” he said. “Many farmers have come to the conclusion that what they do best is sheep. They have realised that dairying doesn’t meet all their requirements.”
In the North Island, sheep numbers had dropped to about 80 per cent of capacity because of drought, but farmers were now restocking.
Sheep were producing at record levels, both on the land and on the hooks, he said.
“We can get the lambing numbers we want and a resurgence in sheep numbers very quickly and we can do it with very good quality.
“The markets have always been there and people always want good quality food.” he said.
Unfortunately, the economics of sheep farming “don’t look brilliant” at the moment, Mr Hilson said.
It was vital sheep farmers got a better return from meat, because they were not getting a return from their wool, so better prices would have to come from the end users or the intermediaries.
Mr Hilson, who actively lobbied against farmers paying levies to Meat and Wool New Zealand in last year’s referendum, supports a unified approach to international lamb marketing.
He said amalgamation of the meat industry was inevitable and had to happen sooner rather than later.

STRAIGHT FURROW, February 23, 2010