A good year for Geraldine black and coloured sheep breeder
It's been a good year for black and coloured sheep breeder Phillippa Sanders. Not only did her fleece feature amongst the winners in the National Golden Fleece Exhibition, but she was voted in as the new president of the Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders Association just last month. This after only having been in the game of breeding black and coloureds for six years.
"I'm a newbie ," she says. "I've always wanted some black sheep but it wasn't until 2009 that I was in a situation where I could have some. I bought a black merino ewe and a black romney ewe off the late Bruce Anderson to get me started."
"It was through Bruce that I got interested. He was renown for the quality of his wool and won a lot of prizes at the shows."
Sanders lives on the outskirts of Geraldine with her partner William Turnbull. Her sheep live on a separate 2.5 hectares block to the north of the town. The land around the house is too wet for merino "feet", she says.
This year she will breed from 20 ewes and it will be the first year that all her lambs come from her own bloodlines. She still has one of Anderson's original ewes and wants to get "the matriarch" in lamb again this year. The other ewe died, she says, although she still has a lot of its bloodline.
She also used pet lambs to get her flock started. Anderson had a year of triplets arriving and he gave her the extra lambs to raise.
"Our land dictates how many sheep I can run, "she says. "I have about 30 oddments that I am going to have to cull. And four rams; that's far too many."
Merinos are her predominant breed but she also has a few romneys.
"I like the romneys but the merinos are far easier to handle. I can tip a merino over but not a romney."
"I run two different studs and both are distinguished by being coloured. They aren't registered because I prefer to be straight commercial," she says.
Sanders began showing her sheep and fleece early on. The two Anderson ewes were show quality, and in her first event at the 2009 Christchurch A&P Show she got reserve champion with a fleece. This year she has travelled from Milton to Little River for shows. She doesn't mind the miles and will regularly tow a trailer with a dozen sheep.
Sanders will sometimes put a fleece in multiple events, but says it doesn't do it much good. The judges tend to pull it to bits, she says.
"By the time you keep out the top fleece for our (Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders Association ) national competition, then the Golden Fleece Exhibition, then the local shows , your wool can start to look a bit tired ."
Sanders says she hasn't shown as much wool this year because she hasn't been happy with it.
"I think it's the result of the drought. Fleece quality is often weather orientated. But I've had fleeces up at our national conference and got a placing. And three in the Golden Fleece where I got a second and two third placings."
"It was the first year the Golden Fleece featured black and coloureds and I thought I should support it.There was a good showing- about 30 fleeces entered."
When showing a sheep, the judges look at confirmation and wool. Sanders believes the two go hand and hand and good conformation in an animal should give good wool.
"There is the odd sheep that has a conformation fault but still has a beautiful fleece. I have one or two that will never be shown but give wool that's show standard."
When selecting two tooths to keep, Sanders looks at the wool and its conformation
"Then I say 'see you in 12 months time and if you haven't made the grade then you are out.'"
She tries to do some shows in the autumn and some in the spring. In the autumn she is on the road every weekend.
Partner William has joined her in her passion.
"He decided he had better get on the bandwagon, so bought another dozen ewes. We run them together but I know which are his and which are mine. There is not really any competition between us."
A good market exists among spinners for black and coloured wool and particularly for fine wool from merinos, polwarths and perendales. She doesn't spin herself.
"I just like the sheep and the challenge," she says.