The largest export order in living memory from Britain of breeding sheep has recently gone to their new home in France, comprising some 550 head of New Zealand Romneys, all M.V. accredited and Scrapie monitored, which enabled them to be eligible for export.
What has made this so unique is that they went from one farm to one customer - quite a feat! The breeders are a family farming partnership, Chris, Caroline and sons Rob and Andy Hodgkins, who farm near Pulborough in West Sussex; the purchasers are Mr Dominique Mainard and his son Cedric who farm in the Deux-Sevres area of west-central France.
Caroline said “The Mainards wanted to establish a properly structured flock so they came across with their New Zealand stock advisor and picked a mixture of ewe lambs, shearlings and mixed-aged ewes as well as 10 rams. The shipment, on two trucks, took place under fully controlled EU harmonised health and welfare conditions and they arrived safely and comfortably at their new home.”
The Hodgkins’ flock exceeds 3000 New Zealand Romney ewes, run on a tenanted 1400 acre farm grazing in the South downs National Park, which is farmed under the South Downs ESA (now HLS) regime where no fertilizer or chemical is permitted.
Chris commented “We formed Wairere UK in a joint partnership with Derek Daniell of Wairere Station in New Zealand, from whom we sourced the sheep. We focus on several key traits: easy lambing and good mothering ability to produce Romney sheep with a strong constitution, good longevity and structural correctness, with high prolificacy, high growth rates and good muscularity. We use both the UK Signet and New Zealand SIL recording schemes to help us achieve these objectives.”
In addition, eldest son Rob has just completed a Nuffield Scholarship in Australia and New Zealand, studying how sheep genomics are being used in the southern hemisphere, and whether they can be a useful tool in the Wairere UK flock. This has helped him to win the Sheep Innovator of the Year award at the Farmers Guardian award ceremony in November 2013. And in 2009 the family won the Farmers Weekly Sheep Farmer of the Year Award.
Henry Lewis of the British Livestock Genetics Consortium said “I really commend the Hodgkins family for their excellent enterprise in securing and undertaking this fantastic sheep export, a great example to other breeds and breeders.”
The Romney sheep breed originated in the Romney Marsh area in Kent (it is sometimes known as the Kent breed) but has since been exported around the world. It is renowned as both a meat and wool producing breed but these days the greater focus is on the former trait.
For more details of the flock see www.wairereuk.com
The picture shows some of the sheep being loaded at Locks Farm prior to leaving for France.
10 December 2013