Drenching is a job most sheep farmers hate.
But Kaiwera farmer Andrew Tripp hopes to eventually throw away his drench gun as he continues to focus on breeding sheep that are resistant to internal parasites.
"It could still be 10 to 15 years away, but we are heading in the right direction," Andrew said.
He and wife Heather started breeding for parasite resistant sheep when they joined the Southern Romney Development Group in the early 1990s.
They were already achieving high fertility, growth and wool production in their commercial and stud romneys and it was the next logical step in their breeding programme.
"There was a lot of debate about whether we should be breeding for resistance or resilience.
"But a parasite is still a parasite and if we can breed a sheep that is resistant [to parasites] and still achieve good production, then that is the way to go," Andrew said.
Breeding sheep resistant to internal parasites is one of the key policies on Nithdale Station and after 20 years the Tripps' hard work and dedication is clearly paying off.
The couple won the SIL-ACE Dual Purpose Internal Parasite Resistance Award at the 2013 Beef+Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards following on from their success in the inaugural competition last year, when they won the top Dual Purpose plus Worm FEC flock.
"It was great to get the acknowledgement,"Andrew said.
Nithdale Station also won the SIL-ACE Dual Purpose Reproduction Award, while Andrew's cousin Robert Peacock, who farms Orari Gorge Station, won the SIL- ACE Dual Purpose for Meat Yield Award.
The Tripps run an intensive sheep farming operation at Kaiwera that has been described as the "Siberia of Eastern Southland" because of its fickle climate.
They farm about 1100 stud romney ewes that in 2008 included the purchase of Murray Rohloff's Awareka stud, and 3500 commercial romney ewes.
The commercial ewes are mated back to the romney for the first cycle and then suftex (suffolk- texel) rams, which the Tripps have bred from their 400 stud suftex ewes.
They also farm 1850 stud and commercial hoggets.
Six years ago, the Tripps converted part of their 1478-hectare property to dairy, where they now milk more than 800 cows, which has diversified their income.
While Andrew enjoys the business side of dairy farming, he is still extremely passionate about sheep.
But achieving top production has become more challenging since the sheep have been pushed off the productive flats and onto the hill country.
However, their stud ewes are lambing around 165 per cent and the commercial ewes around 140 per cent.
"We've got clients doing better than us but they are also farming in a better environment," Andrew said.
Since the Tripps started selecting for parasite-resistant sheep, they have managed to reduce the internal parasites in their ewe flock by about 50 per cent in the past 20 years.
They also focus on breeding low dag score sheep.
The commercial ewes are drenched only three times during their lifetime, and lamb drenching has also been significantly reduced.
"We're seeing the lambs develop an immunity to worms much earlier and we've managed to cut our lamb drenching back by about half.
"I hope we will get to the stage where we don't have to drench our lambs," Andrew said.
The Tripps have challenged their ram lambs for the past two seasons by not drenching them until mid-February and they have performed well, but where necessary have adopted a "drench and/ or cull" approach.
Their rams are sold by private treaty from mid-November through until February with increasing numbers of rams going into the North Island.
They also had several organic-farming clients.
Reducing their drench use has also resulted in significant cost savings for the Tripps and is part of their overall low-input philosophy.
Breeding sheep resistant to internal parasites was part of the solution to ongoing drench resistance, and Andrew believed it would be only a matter of time before consumers demanded meat that did not contain chemical residues.
"We've seen consumers kick up a fuss about Fonterra's quality issues.
"This problem isn't going to go away," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News