Taihape breeders impress with 'tiger'

By Laurel Stowell

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READY TO GO: These "Taihape Tiger" rams are five months old and were shorn in December.
READY TO GO: These "Taihape Tiger" rams are five months old and were shorn in December.

A request to breed sheep for remote Ngamatea Station has grown into something much bigger for Danny and Daniel Mickleson.

The two come from a family that has bred sheep during generations of farming near Taihape. The family started with Romneys and has now moved to a mixed breed in demand for its fast growth and high fertility.

By the year 2000, when Ngamatea asked for 150 special rams, the Micklesons had a half Romney-half East Friesian flock. To get the special rams they put a Poll Dorset/Texel ram across their ewes - the result was a composite ram lamb of four different breeds. Since then more breeds have been added.

The result of their breeding is lambs that can grow up to 450 grams a day from birth to weaning on hard hill country. The New Zealand average growth rate is 85g a day.

Another advantage of the sheep is a bare patch around their backsides, so that if they do scour due to gorging on good feed after going hungry they don't get dags.

"We had 1300 ewe lambs shorn this year and didn't dag one of them."

Their wool is good and their meat is described as "beautiful". The Micklesons won a third place in the open section of The Golden Lamb Awards (Glammies) in 2014.

The aim of the breed is to get all the lambs weaned and up to sale weight before the height of summer, when the central North Island gets dry and feed often runs out. The Micklesons sent some lambs away before Christmas, and more in mid-January.

Ren Apatu, from Ngamatea Station, has nicknamed their mixed breed Taihape Tigers "on the grounds that nothing beats them".

He's very happy with it, and buys 150 to 200 rams a year.

Now others are buying as well.

This year the Micklesons are selling a total of 400 rams, priced at $340-$400 each.

Buyers are from Rangiwahia, Taihape, Raetihi and now also Hawke's Bay.

One new Hawke's Bay client has bought 1000 ewe lambs as well, to speed conversion of a flock.

With buying rams only, even putting them across the whole flock, it would take five to six years to convert.

The Micklesons say where they are isn't the end of the story.

"We have always been a breeding family, but we've now gone right away from the Romneys into something that more meets the demands of the end consumer.

"It's an ever-evolving plan really. There's no fixed plan on where we will go. We just keep on watching what's happening and who's doing what and what's performing best."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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