As a ''one-man band'' Earl Attfield is also a follower of the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle.

That allows him to ''tweak'' his operations when necessary for efficiency and wool quality, and that paid off when he and wife Bernadine won two trophies for their merino wool clip at the Otago Merino Association's recent annual awards in Alexandra.

In addition to winning the Clip of the Year ''up to 17.3 micron'' section, they also won the trophy for the top commercial flock.

Mr and Mrs Attfield own the 1600ha Waikeri Downs property near Alexandra and run 2000 merinos.


Although they have won six first or second placings in the association's competition since 2010, they were delighted with their success and thrilled when they heard their name mentioned at the awards' presentation.

Earl Attfield drenches some of Waikeri Downs' trophy-winning merinos, on his property near Alexandra. Photo / Yvonne O'Hara
Earl Attfield drenches some of Waikeri Downs' trophy-winning merinos, on his property near Alexandra. Photo / Yvonne O'Hara

''With winning them, it shows our persistence to strive [to do better], to be consistent and keep to a high standard,'' he said.

Waikeri Downs' merino fleeces average between 15.3 and 17.8 microns.

''Last year we only had one bale over 18 microns,'' Attfield said.

The hoggets sheared 3.7kg on average, while the ewes averaged 5.25kg per shear and the wethers 5.8kg, with some of the wool going to their contracts with clothing company Reda and shoe manufacturers Allbirds and the remainder of their wool to Merino New Zealand.

''I am a one-man band and use contractors, including Peter Lyon Shearing and wool-classer Shirley Munro,'' he said.

''It is a team effort.

''If I care, they care.''


He said the KISS principle meant he could adjust his operations when needed.

He lambed 108 per cent last year, and he culls selectively, retaining 40 per cent of the top animals.

''We do a little bit of irrigation - 65ha - to guarantee our winter supplement, baleage.''

They also grow lucerne, some stands having been planted in 1972 and 1974.

They have had a long association with Moutere Station, buying four rams each year from the property.

As Moutere Station improved its genetics, it took the quality of Waikeri Downs' flocks along with it.


''With only 2000 merinos, we have to have every sheep to its best if we are to be financial.''

They own a block near Chatto Creek, and run their 700 wethers on that, gradually building up numbers as they provide some of the best fleeces in their flock.

The family has been on Waikeri Downs since 1903 and Mr Attfield is the fourth generation of the family to farm it.

The fifth generation, Adam, Lucas and Sarah, are working in Australia and Auckland.

Mrs Attfield is a Plant and Food Research technician.

''She gives me moral support,'' Mr Attfield said.


Rabbits were a major problem, but a team of shooters and a rabbiter he employed had removed 17,000 in the past 17 months.

He and his neighbours had installed rabbit fencing, which had been effective, unlike the Otago Regional Council's release of the K5 virus, which was not, he said.