Texel/Suffolk Mix A Winner

North Canterbury suffolk ram breeder Grant Beckett has moved with the times and added texel genes to the mix. His aim is to give his clients another option for producing early-maturing, meaty lambs.

Beckett, who started the Phoebe Suffolk Stud in 1994, had built up a flock of 300 registered ewes by 2005.

But there has since been a swing towards the texel/suffolk cross, and he says they’ve started to take over his operation.

He now puts 300 suffolk ewes to the texel and 150 top ewes to the suffolk to maintain the quality in the female line.

“It’s a cross that does work very, very well. Bringing the texet in certainly adds a bit more quality to the carcass; they also seem to get up and go a bit quicker, and survivability is great

‘However, I still believe that in the dry of North Canterbury where ‘days to kill’ is probably the most vital measurement, the suffolks are as good as any

Last year he combined with neighbour Ian Stevenson, whose Flaxton Stud breeds dorset downs, merinos and halfbreds, in a highly successful on-farm sale.

‘There was a huge crowd,’ says Beckett. ‘I put forward 48 texell/suffolk and about 32 suffolk. We’ve got to build on numbers because they just went mad on them.

‘The texel/suffolks averaged $840. Before the auction we were selling them privately and probably averaged only half of that.’

“When you go through the registration forms, there were a lot of people who missed out. We hope they’ll come back again and we can supply what they need.’

At this year’s sale – on the first Thursday in December – Beckett expects to have 100 texel/suffolks and 30-35 suffolks up for sale. All of the suffolks will go up at auction, none will be held back for ram fairs.

Grant Beckett takes a traditional approach to breeding. “The suffolks are on SIL, but to me, that’s only a small part. We do all the weighing and eye-muscle scanning, but I think good feeding, animal health and good stock sense and judgment are every bit as good as some of this modern technology.

‘If you put a quality product in front of people, it will sell well. I’m quite confident that what I’m producing will perform.

” Beckett has also diversified – into breeding racehorses.

‘I’m breeding from five straight-out trotting mares and focusing on the yearling sales market. It fits in well with the rest of the farming operation, and it’s a passion I have and my grandfather had.’

The aim is to put four to six yearlings through the sales a year. ‘We had our first crack this year and came out with a successful result in a sticky market.

‘I love stud stock breeding and find pedigree-recording very interesting. The horses take that to another level. The history and the champions that show up is fascinating.

‘Frozen semen from some of the best stallions in the world is available to us now. I’ve got a mare this year that’s in foal to semen from France, so we’re quite excited. This stallion’s only two sons to have been put through the sales ring this year topped both the Auckland and Christchurch sales.’

Business Rural/May 2010
Tony Benny