Couple take on an unusual breed of sheep
A decade ago an agricultural exchange student from Canada piqued Chris and Annabelle Hampton's interest in Charollais sheep.
At the time foot and mouth restrictions prohibited them from bringing the breed into the country, but a few years later they were able to import embryos from Australia, and start their own Charollais stud.
The Hamptons currently run 3100 ewes on their 860ha property, Belmont Station, near Cave in South Canterbury. Three hundred and sixty of the ewes are from their stud flocks.The main commercial flock is Perendales, but the studs, of which there are three, consist of Suffolks, South Suffolks and the Charollais and Charollais Crosses.
Chris Hampton says the Charollais are a straight-out meat breed and produce a lamb the industry requires in that they grow fast before the schedule drops but still have meat in all the right places. They have a very well muscled carcass and exceptionally high meat yields.
"A Charollais was part of the Alliance CPT trial and came out number 10 for growth rate out of all breeds. We also did a trial where a Suffolk, a Charollais and a Charollais Suffolk were killed together and compared. The Suffolk had the best growth rate; the Charollais Suffolk yielded better and the Charollais had the superior hindquarters."
He said the stud, called Waterton is one of only four Charollais studs in the country. They have had the breed for four lambings now. They started with inserting embryos into Border Romney cross ewes, then repeated the process again the following year. Last year they took embryos from six of their top-end Charollais ewes and flushed 95 embryos, far more than expected. These were inserted into the Border Romney ewes.
"Hopefully we will get a lot of purebred lambs out of this. We are hoping for a 70 per cent take from what we've implanted; that's 60 lambs from 95 embryos.
The Hamptons have also mated a Suffolk ewe to a Charollais ram and each year put the Charollais back across the progeny to get closer to a purebred.
"Once we get over 87 per cent we can call them purebred. We haven't reached that stage yet; we've got to 75 per cent but not 87 per cent.
"We have have been selling Charollais Suffolk rams for two years. The buyers are very impressed. The lambs have a higher killing-out percentage and can kill at an earlier date. They have a better yield, good hindquarters and growth rate.
"We sold Charollais Cross rams again last year - they went as far as the Chatham Islands. Everyone who used them for the first time has wanted more rams this year."
A highlight for the Hamptons was winning the Sire of the Future class at the recent Mackenzie Highland Show.
"This class highlights the changes in showing livestock," Chris Hampton said. "It used to be that the biggest and prettiest animal won; now it's the most functional and commercial. The class reflects this.
"There were 14 entries and we came first with the Charollais-Suffolk and second with the Suffolk. The estimated muscle area (EMA) was 24.5 and 23.9 respectively. It shows we are breeding animals the industry wants."
The Hamptons' next ram sale is scheduled for December.