New Zealand's largest red-meat genetics company, Hawke's Bay-based Focus Genetics, has merged its resources with the United Kingdom sheep technology company Innovis, providing UK farmers with a wider range of sheep genetics.
Innovis chief executive Dewi Jones recently met farmers in Hawke's Bay, where he signed a distribution agreement with Focus Genetics (previously Rissington Breedline UK) that will enable the organisation to market rams from one of the biggest sheep gene pools in the world.
Focus Genetics UK general manager Bayden Wilson says the collaboration will enable it to increase investment in ground-breaking research and development technologies.
"By working with Innovis, we can produce better genetic gains from our UK stock and create efficiencies from the ability to share resources, skills, technologies and equipment," he says.
Focus Genetics now provides about 300 Primera and Highlander rams a year to UK farmers, from southwest England to the Orkney Islands and Ireland.
Innovis has already established a substantial customer base, with more than 450 farms using Innovis' Aberdale, Aberfield, Abermax and Abertex breeds.
As a result of the collaboration, more than 800 rams will be available through Innovis this year.
Wilson will continue to be involved with the UK business, working with British breeders and assisting Innovis to service farmers and grow the business.
"We already have a significant number of farmers using Focus and Innovis rams. Collaboration means farmers will have better service year-round and we expect to significantly increase the sale of both genetics over the coming years."
Jones was impressed by what he saw in the Bay and believes UK farmers would benefit from the Focus Genetics breeds.
"The move will give UK breeders access to a wider range of genetic lines that have been developed to improve on-farm productivity and efficiency," he says.
"The Focus Genetics breeds are complementary to our own Innovis breedlines. Like us, they have a long and successful history in innovative sheep, cattle and deer breeding programmes. They have also been instrumental in the development of CT scanning, progeny and parentage testing and genomic analysis."
David Turner of Mendennick Farm, Torpoint, Cornwall, has developed a purebred Highlander flock and recently has been using Innovis' Abermax terminal sires over his draft ewes to produce quality finished lambs. They have gradually been moving their sheep enterprise from an intensive, indoor lambing system to one which is grass-based and lambs outdoors in April. He welcomes the collaboration.
"Innovis has an excellent reputation in the UK and a good presence at the key shows and sheep events," he says.
"This link means we will be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone in the UK that really understands our systems and can help us source the right genetics to get the most from our sheep enterprise.
"We have seen a significant improvement in the quality and consistency of the Highlander rams over the past few years and are now benefiting from the significant investments that Focus Genetics and Innovis have made in their breeding programmes.
"We're looking forward to working through Innovis and being able to source our rams from a single UK supplier."
Hawke's Bay farmer Shane Tilson runs a Primera nucleus flock at Awapai Station. He says the joint venture will also be good for New Zealand farmers.
"It gives our products another leg up into international markets.
"The Focus Genetics programme is cutting-edge. They're a focused bunch and they're working hard to help improve our production and efficiency on the farm."