Kaipara Lamb – as good as it gets....
The original sheep breed on this farm was Romney, the backbone of the early New Zealand sheep industry. Whenuanui Farm runs a flock of Coopworth ewes which traces its genetics from a Romney cross.
Whenuanui Farm is in its second year of supplying premium spring lamb to Countdown under the Kaipara Lamb brand. Farmed on flat to easy rolling hill country, lambing starts in late June to ensure prime spring lamb can be early to market. Kaipara Lamb is supplied by a select group of farmers in the Kaipara region. With their close proximity to Auckland, lambs can be drafted directly off the ewes and transported to Auckland with minimal stress. This is producing a high quality product that has gained early recognition and demand for both taste and tenderness. Grass fed with no hormones, Kaipara Lamb is building a reputation as a premium NZ lamb product available through Countdown stores.
Our Coopworth rams go to the younger ewes, to produce replacement females for the ewe flock, and a "black face" ram goes over the older ewes for meat production. This is either a Dorset Down, South Suffolk or a Poll Dorset breed. The main flock of Coopworth suits the conditions well on New Zealand's Whenuanui Farm, with generally good quality grass feed supplemented with some crops to manage the dry summer conditions expected in the North of Auckland.
The genetics of the Coopworth flock extend back to the 1970s when the then farm owner Bob McCown, decided to mate a Border Leicester ram to the Romney ewes. This was the start of the change in the ewe breed that later became known as the Coopworth. For the last 25 years highly fertile, facial eczema resistant Coopworth rams have been purchased from Northern stud breeders to cover the ewe flock.
The lambing percentage (the number of lambs per ewe) was 162% in 2015. Due to improved genetics and improved management, the lambing percentage has gradually improved from 90% in 1979. Ewes are scanned in May & June to determine whether they are dry or in lamb (single or twins). Dry ewes are sold early to ensure valuable winter feed is not wasted on unproductive animals.
Triplet and twin bearing ewes are given preferential feed, and the traditional lambing beat takes place each day over the lambing season to save as many ewes and lambs as possible.
With hoggets lambing into September, our lambs continue to be sold through until May. The later hogget lambs are finished on crops such as pasja and rape.
Farm income is primarily from lamb, beef and wool. Because the farm is so close to Auckland, Richard has preferred to sell all livestock to the "local trade", through their long standing relationship with Progressive (Countdown ) who market and distribute through their chain of supermarkets in the North Island.