Season Update Summer dry is the norm so we try to farm accordingly. This year was an exceptional and extended dry. March tupping is usually challenging as it is often when feed covers are at their lowest and low quality, ewes are often losing weight. Our philosophy is to produce sheep that can handle the conditions without supplement, with ewes on a no drench policy, rebounding quickly after a tough season. The ewes were in good condition going to the ram but feed availability was rapidly going off. We did have some much needed rain in May which grows grass but also parasites and FE. Spore counts were very high for an extended period. 190 % scanning for Stud ewes with a 4% dry rate. Higher dry rate than average but a good result for the season. Stud hoggets scanned 134 % .
Hogget Lambing Hoggets are farmed exclusively on grass. I strongly believe that by successfully mating hoggets on grass we are developing genetics to perform in any environment. This year was a tough for the hoggets. We had one of the worst droughts this area has ever seen and then high Fungal loads. I use this to cull any low tolerance animals by doing a blood test to check liver function. All young stock are blood tested to assess GGT- an enzyme released by a stressed or damaged liver. Any showing even slight liver damage are culled. This lifts the integrity of the ewe flock and all rams sold have passed the Natural Challenge test. Clients using top feeding and management are achieving consistent hogget scanning rates of over 130%. They are realizing the full genetic potential of these sheep. It is a challenge most years getting hogget lambs up to tupping weight by April as they are Sept/Oct born. The only dry hoggets retained in the stud flock are those that are themselves hogget lambs, these must produce twins at their 2th lambing.
5 Longevity At theother end of the flock are the old ewes. Longevity is highly valued and Nikau has a 'longevity mob' of aged ewes, 6 yrs plus. These are Nikau genetics; commercial ewes with consistent twinning and solid feet, mouths and constitution. An old ewe in this environment is the gold in the flock. She has never been 'on the radar' and has survived and produced through drought, FE, parasites and all the other challenges our areas has. This mob is mated to top Nikau rams with the goal of producing daughters to screen into the stud flock. This is another source of female genetics based on longevity and performance.
Facial Eczema Tolerance Flock sires are all Facial Eczema (FE) tested at .6mg/kg. FE testing has been done for the past 37 years. Nikau Coopworth is an FE Gold flock, leading genetics for Facial Eczema tolerance.
We also GGT test all ewe and ram hoggets in the face of natural challenge to assess them for FE tolerance. It is very important to be screening out the intolerant females as well as dosing the sires.
GGT is an enzyme released in the blood that is apparent when liver damage has occurred. This gives an indication of an animal’s tolerance to FE. All animals with elevated GGT are culled from the stud flock.
We are farming in a very 'hot' FE area, meaning we see spore counts each autumn. The GGT screening one of the most important tests we do. Screening our ewe flock this way, dosing all flock sires at 0.6mg/kg of sporidesmin and farming in such a challenging area gives us confidence that we have one of the most FE tolerant flocks in the country.
2016 was one of the hottest FE years on record yet many Nikau clients reported higher than average lambing results. With top FE tolerance they were able to take advantage of the good feed available. Again 2021 is proving to be another ' Hot ' year. Nikau clients report minimal effect and good scanning.
SIL ACE Nikau features highly on the SIL ACE DPX list. This index is a assessment of FE tolerance, however the ACE run does not take dose rate into account. Look at the star rating to differentiate flocks testing at different levels. 5 * is the highest level. The new NZGE on SIL shows Nikau genetics to be at the top for health traits, FEC and FE. Selection for over 40 years for a strong immune response has rewarded us with top rankings on SIL with over 1100 flocks in the evaluation.
Sheep Industry Award Winner Nikau Coopworth - Maternal Trait Leader for Parasite Resistance. Nikau has had a strong focus on parasite resistance. The ewe flock as been no drench since 2002. Lambs are on extended drench intervals and selection is based on above average performance with exposure to high parasite challenge.
Rams Selection is based on the use of DNA to assess heritable traits, ultrasound CT muscle scanning, faecal egg counts, GGT testing, frequent weight taking and wool weights.
Rams are sold by auction in early November. They are presented in index order with the first draft having a Reserve Price of $1000. 2nd draft $750, 3rd draft $500.