The farmer's first sale of Beltex cross rams is over and he's now a curious mix of pleased, relieved, disappointed, impatient and positive.
Beltex sheep are new to New Zealand and the sire of the 25 that went to the auction at Wellsford last week is a Beltex ram bought at the first auction of the breed last year.
Northland isn't sheep country to the same degree it once was, so the farmer expected lower demand than down south where sheep still rule. More than half sold with a top price of $1100.
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On sale day, the farmer also wanted to show prospective buyers his Beltex-cross lambs which are more impressive as youngsters than at 12 months. He took 10 lambs on his ute for a day out at the saleyards; some weighed almost 50kg at 3 months old.
Beltex are fine-boned and double-muscled so produce a high yield of meat. Newborn lambs are small, therefore making birth largely easy, and thereafter they grow like topsy.
As Rex predicted, the farmers at the sale were impressed and he's now got growing interest in the breed and next year's sale.
"It's hard to get people into new things," he's been heard to grumble. "I think I'm too impatient for this business."
As sale day loomed, we held an open day which, remarkably, was attended by Dr Jock Allison, who's been instrumental in bringing Beltex into New Zealand. He and his wife flew up from Dunedin.
Prior to their arrival and the open day, there was much to do. The new five-bay shed was smartened and tidied to a level unseen in my 20 years on the farm. Info was prepped, including a list of the rams to be sold, a photo of their dad, also named Jock, and his story which has a heartbreaking end.
In May and June, dogs attacked twice and killed about 20 sheep including Jock and six of his sons.
As sale day approached, I asked what I could do to make myself useful.
Well, replied the farmer, after the sale we might need you to guard the ram lambs so no-one nicks them if I have to take any unsold rams home first.
I had no idea farmer's might do such a thing, but was I up to fending off any bad doers? You bet.
"Sure," I replied. "But I'll need a special hat and a pearl-handled pistol."
"You could dress up like one of those sheep guarding dogs we saw in South Africa," he replied. Yes!
But I soon learned there would be drawbacks. Anatolian shepherd dogs weigh about 75kg, but hopefully a thick faux fur coat would make me look larger than I am.
Plus these amazing creatures are trained from puppyhood to protect their herd of sheep or goats, can run at 75km/h and have a loud bark. They use these skills to scare off predators before they, reluctantly, resort to latching onto the attacker's throat and . . . you know the rest.
With memories of the recent attack still looming large, the idea of having a devoted Anatolian shepherd dog on hand is attractive.
As it happened, the unsold rams came home in a stock truck and even the most alert and speedy dog wouldn't have stopped the ram that did a runner.
After having lived in a flock for his entire life, this ram was alone in a pen when a bunch of his mates trotted up a ramp and onto a stock truck.
In a New York second, he'd bounced over a gate and joined them. Quick footwork by the stock agent soon saw him in a pen – and much calmer. Now he had company – the ram who will be his pal at his new home.