Meat & Growth
The Waimai Romney Stud is situated on the West Coast of Waikato, north of Raglan Harbour in the Te Akau district. The property has been farmed by the Reeves Family since 1932 and today totals 800 effective hectares, of which 180 is leased, of steep to rolling hill country.The stud is managed by Alastair Reeves and today comprises around 900 SIL (Sheep Improvement Ltd) recorded ewes.
The climate is very challenging, wet in the winter and summer dry, with the major animal health issues being facial eczema and intestinal worms.
The Reeves family came to the Waimai Valley from Tologa Bay on the East Coast.
Whatawhata farmer Togo Johnstone, on behalf of Waikato Federated Farmers, pressured the Government to direct Dr CP McMeekan from Lincoln College to set up the Ruakura Animal Research Station to find the cause of facial eczema, how to prevent it and cure it.
The Waimai Romney Stud was started by John Reeves with the purchase of 31 ewes from Arthur Southey.
The fungus responsible for facial eczema was identified. John Reeves, with some of his neighbours, had noticed that not all sheep got the disease, encouraging the study of the genetics of such animals.
"The result was a massive breakthrough where scientists came up with a protocol where the fungus was grown in the lab, the toxin extracted, and young rams were dosed with small amounts to measure their resistance. Rams with high resistance were then used as future sires."
— Dr. Clive Dalton
The Reeves acknowledged that facial ezema was stopping the potential of the animals. The Reeves continuous ramgard eczema testing programme begins, pioneering this activity and starting the journey of allowing the animals to express its genetic potential in other areas.
“There’s been a lot of hard work; expense and sacrifice to some good sheep over the years to get a pool of genes capable of mitigating this cruel disease.”
— Bruce Orr
Waimai Romney is Flock 33 and started performance recording on Studfax (which is now called Sheep Improvement Ltd (SIL)) December 2001. Now having over 900 ewes fully recorded.
Waimai Romney focuses on internal parasites which cost the sheep industry massive amounts of lost income in poor performance and dagging and crutching. They started selecting for worm resistance by facial egg counting ram hoggets.
"The Reeveses' flock has made spectacular progress and their rams are in great demand by farmers wanting to cut down costs, and not end up with worms that became resistant to chemical drenches, which is an ever-increasing risk."
— Dr. Clive Dalton
With further access to testing, Cold Tolerance testing added to lamb survival, and gene marker testing for footrot starting being recorded.
Waimai Romney Started mating ewe hoggets allowing further genetic progress. This identifies the animals that are more fecund, promoting selection pressure to improve reproduction performance.
After 30 years of hard dedicated work, a group of breeders formed a group called FEGold which identified those breeders leading facial eczema genetics.
Started EMA scanning all sale rams hoggets, actively seeking high meat and growth sires.
Waimai Romney started using DNA technology in 2015 and now tissue sample nearly 200 rams every year using AgResearches Sheep Genomic 60K Plus test.
The GenomNZ service utilises the new 60K SNP chip developed for the NZ sheep industry, allowing genomic breeding values to be delivered, enabling more informed selection decisions to be made on NZ maternal traits such as Growth and Fertility, through to meat quality and methane genomic breeding.
The EBVs derived from genomics increases the accuracy of predictions for Waimai rams to what their performance and genetic potential will be.
Waimai Romney becomes WormFEC Gold accredited.
The aim of this group is to promote breeding for parasite resistance in the New Zealand sheep industry.
"Genetic improvements through selection offers one of the best long-term solutions to the increasing problem of drench resistance."
— SIL Technical Note
First on site sale at the farm – Thursday 7 November 2019
Waimai Romney becomes one of the first flocks in New Zealand to methane test its rams, running 192 rams through AgResearch’s Portable Accumulation Chamber (PAC) trailer.
All rams measured for low dag score and large breech as Waimai keeps driving toward a low input sheep.
"Dad loved farming and was very passionate about it and especially about genetics and all its challenges. He had absolute confidence in himself, and self-belief that what he was doing was right and one day it would benefit the wider farming community.
This self-belief was imperative as he went down a genetic pathway focusing on eczema tolerance, while most of his contemporaries went down another pathway, and thought that John was a bloody idiot. Thirty years later, John has proved the doubters, that he was right, and the rest were wrong, and where Waimai Romney is today is a credit to his perseverance.
Waimai Romney are one of only a handful of sheep breeders throughout New Zealand who have both FeGold and WormFec Gold Accreditation, which goes to show that Dad was a true pioneer in sheep genetic breeding.”