Robert Hodgkins  -  Using genomic selection technology to advance the development of a ovine maternal breeding line

South of England Agricultural Society

31 year old Sheep farmer from West Sussex.

Locks Farm is a tenanted 1,400 acre farm, most of which is situated within the South Downs National Park. 90% of our grassland in permanent pasture and is the farmed under the South Downs ESA regime where no fertiliser or chemical is permitted, therefore there is very little we can do to manipulate or extend our grazing season.

Productivity of some of the swards would be considered very low – the ESA agreement stipulates an annual maximum stocking rate of 3 ewes per acre. The farm rises up to 783ft above sea level, and field contours range from flat ground at home to steep banks upon the downs.

We are large commercial family run sheep farm running 3000 plus NZ Romney ewes. The farm is a spread out unit (25 miles round trip to visit every flock) on good to mediocre grassland, land class 3-5. We operate a single breed, closed flock and take great care and interest in selecting future progeny to make shepherding as enjoyable and stress free as possible.  We are one of the largest Signet recorded flocks in the country, single sire mating and recording over 1500 ewes and there progeny per year.  We sell high quality, NZ Romney rams and females, this year we have sold around 110 2 tooth rams, and all of the breeding females (800+) we had for sale.

Arrived in OZ

First couple of days on study tour

Posted by Robert Hodgkins on October 31, 2012

Appears in Livestock

Well it is now coming up to my 2nd night in Oz, it has been a fairly busy few days. Loaded up onto a flight on Sunday night, economy class is defiantly not suited to someone my size, I am sure if I was keeping sheep in those kind of confined conditions I would be shot! First problem of the holiday appeared very shortly after when I tried to switch on my shiny new laptop on the plane which was loaded with all the information I would need for the study. A blue screen appeared and then it told me it was shutting itself down for its own protection!! Needless to say a lot of panic set in at that point and I have to give an amazing amount of thanks to my wonderful girlfriend who took a very panicky call from me at a ridiculous time in the morning while I was at a fuel stop in Bangkok and had sorted out and texted several address for computer repair shops in Sydney by the time I landed which took a huge amount of stress away! So major crisis averted!! Laptop went in for repair and was out in time for me to grab it that afternoon  get my hire car and start my drive north via the pacific highway to Armidale.

On the drive up (it being a 7 hour drive!!) I kept noticing the fencing they use it was all metal posts with 4 stands of plain wire and 3 of barbed wire, it seemed such a good idea I was getting more intrigued by it as the miles rolled on, (having pulled over several times to give a random fence line a poke and prod!) Then the first detour of the trip was when I saw a rural farm supplies shop, the owner was incredibly friendly and took an hour out of his time to explain how the fencing system works, the costs, how to put it up etc and also its name “Waratah fencing”.  I also emptied him out of all the brochures relating to Waratah and even borrowed his tape measure to get all the dimensions for the stakes, with a view to maybe getting some prices to have some made up when I get back to England.  It was only a half hour down the road I realised I should have just bought a post, cut it up and put it in my backpack! So that’s a job for the next few thousand km, find another farm shop and a hardware store for the hacksaw!

I can really see this being a great product to bring home – although the unit price per post is a lot more than a tantalised wooden post since the EU ban on arsenic preserving I am lucky to have fence posts last more than 5-8 years – some of the posts out here are over 70 years old!! I appreciate the climate will have a major impact, but a metal galvanised post will always significantly outlast a wooden one.  

For those interested have a look at the online Waratah brochure it might help clarify my fairly poor explanations.

First meeting at the University of New England tomorrow with the sheep CRC will tell more about it in my next posting. 

Edit: after some searching i found a small company that imports a varity of southern hemisphere equipment and they do import these stakes 

So no need to break out the hacksaw!!





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