Cheviot Farmer Strives to Produce Top North Canty Rams

Grant Beckett strives to product a good line-up of rams suited to North Canterbury conditions.

Mr Beckett and his wife Di will put 20 Suffolk rams and 60 “Suftex” (Suffolk-Texel-cross) rams up for auction at a ram sale at Cheviot on Thursday December 6. He says most of the 20 Suffolk rams are the first crop of rams from a new sire ram he purchased two years ago.

“Hopefully it will be a good rainy day, so fanners are not out making hay. We are hoping there will be no rams left after the sale, so we are keen to get plenty of farmers along.

“I just like to put up a good even set of rams which are bred for North Canterbury conditions.”

The Becketts run a 120 hectare property at Cheviot with 570 mostly Suffolk stud ewes. Mr Beckett is the fourth generation on the property and the couple have two children, Zoe (9) and Gemma (7). His father was a successful Borderdale breeder until he died at age 48.

Mr Beckett continued breeding the Borderdales until a change of circumstances led to him starting the Phoebe Stud in 1994 with nine Suffolk ewes.

“There used to be a Phoebe Station here. People give me a hard time about using a girl’s name for my stud, but in fact I have named it after an area, not a girl.

He says the advantage of the Suffolk is the lambs are early maturing.

“At the time there was something new happening in the breed (Suffolk) with the first American bloodlines coming into the country. The other breeds were at a standstill so farmers were looking for something a bit different.

Mr Beckett served three years as the Suffolk breeders northern South Island region president, stepping down earlier this year.

He buys in Texel rams to cross with his Suffolk ewes to produce Suftex rams, which he says “have become the flavour of the month with local farmers.”

“The Texel has added some toughness and more survivability to the rams and improved their meat yield, but it takes a wee bit longer to get the lambs off to the works.”

Mr Beckett sells rams to farmers as far afield as Southland and Hawkes Bay, but the majority are sold to North Canterbury farms.

Ian, Trish and Bryce Stevenson will be selling Dorset Down, South Dorset Down and Merino cross rams (Romino, half Romney, and Borino, half Border Leicester) from The Gums Partnership property at Cheviot, while Colin and Liz Smith will be selling Dorset Down and South Dorset Down rams from their Bankhead stud at Cust.

“It depends on what farmers are looking for. With three vendors there is a bit of variety in the breeds and a variety of prices. So there should be something there for everyone.” Mr Beckett says. That is why it works too well. We are really in opposition to each other, but the only way you can do it is to work together.”

Hurunui News Thursday November 8 2012