18 March 2014
Hogget Mating Becomes Big Focus for Hill Country Farmers
Hogget mating is becoming a big focus for more and more hill country farmers.
Wanganui Farmer and Focus Genetics ram breeder, Donald Polson held a farm field day recently and told farmers that farm
profitability on hill country was driven by the number of lambs weaned.
“Our main goal is to put as many lambs on the ground as we can in a challenging environment. To achieve this we need to
grow out good replacements and then we mate our ewe hoggets, which is efficient and more productive. We also run
cropping systems which is another simple way to boost productivity.”
Donald & Liz Polson run 8000 ewes on Waipuna Station on the Para Paras, which include 1000 Primera ewes and 700 Elite Highlander
ewes for ram production and the balance are Highlander ewes, which are mated to either Highlander or Primera rams.
However Donald says the key to his farming operation are separate support property’s, Te Tui on Fields Track running
4000 Highlander ewes to provide the bulk of Waipuna’s replacements and Awarua at Raetihi where 3000 replacement hoggets
“The Raetihi property, though colder, is summer wet and that fits in well with hoggets lambing later in October and
having plenty of grass in December which is important,” said Mr Polson.
Waipuna has used ram hoggets across its commercial ewe flock for the past 35 years, which Mr Polson says maximises
genetic gain. Waipuna docked 143% even after a severe drought last year.
Farm consultant, Rob Gollan says that high lambing percentages drives hill country profitability and should be a big
focus for hill country farmers.
“It is not necessarily about the weaning weight, the focus needs to be about getting plenty of lambs on the ground.”
Mr Polson says Highlander ewes have excellent fertility and rearing ability and the Primera-sired lambs produce higher
yields and superior growth rates, which works well on his steep hill country.
He sells about 400 Highlander and Primera ram hoggets and two tooth’s to other farmers around New Zealand each year for
“Ram hoggets are the way forward for us. It’s a more efficient way to run our commercial operation. They are getting out
and doing the business quicker, so we are getting the production gain and we aren’t holding onto them for an extra nine
months. By getting better genetics into the flock earlier we are getting better meat and growth rates too.”
Focus Genetics national sales manager Graham Morris says selected ram hoggets are sexually mature and fertile, which is
proven by on farm scanning and lambing results nationwide on a large range of properties.
“It’s been commercially and scientifically proven that ram hoggets, selected and managed correctly can have good libido
and semen quality that translates into mating ability and fertility. They’re selected and specifically grown to be
physically and commercially up to the job. ”
Mr Polson said if farmers wanted to survive on hill country and run a profitable farm they needed to focus on meat
“In 1990 wool was $3,20 a kilo, in 2010 it was still $3.20. We used to make $20 a stock unit off wool and now we make
$7.00. Our focus has to be on getting good lambing percentages and the way to achieve this is through good genetics.”
Mr Polson has also made good use of the flat areas on his property, turning some of it to crops including Plantain and
Turnips. This alternative pasture enables him to fatten lambs efficiently.
“We cannot get good growth rates on hard country without alternative pasture. The average national growth rate for lambs
is 80 grams a day. We need to be aiming higher than this if we want to make any money.”
Mr Polson keeps replacement ewe lambs and breeding ram lambs but all other lambs are sent to the works.