New Zealand’s 6,500 hectare Lake Hawea Station could have the most important sheep on the planet
WANAKA (NEW ZEALAND) – Classical music, comfortable mattresses and the gentlest contact of a wool shearer: welcome to a New Zealand farm eliminating the world’s greatest sheep.
Forget any preconceptions of rough-hewn shearers dealing with the flock as they’d shortly harvest their fleece in crowded, noisy woolsheds.
At Lake Hawea Station on New Zealand’s South Island, homeowners Geoff and Justine Ross champion the softer, extra soothing artwork of “gradual shearing”.
The sounds of Debussy, Vivaldi and Mozart could possibly be wafting by the shed because the shearers take the sheep from their pens earlier than their thick wool is shorn with gradual, methodical strokes of the shearers.
Shearers are paid in keeping with the general expertise of the sheep: stress, member pressures and cuts can result in decrease wages.
The skinning is finished on washed whiteboards, to higher reveal any advantage of the sheepskin.
Once harvested, every berry is guided in direction of a chute, the place it slides right into a holding pen – it doesn’t land on gravel however on a comfortable mattress.
It is sheep shearing, reconsidered from the perspective of the sheep.
“It first got here from a spot of care for the animal,” Justine Ross instructed AFP.
“We have happier and quieter sheep. That begins with the best way we deal with them.
“We raised lambs in our first season. When you see their distinctive character and character, the good duty of their care. And we now have 10,000.”
– Silence for the ages –
On the station, there are “quiet yards” the place barkless working canine are skilled whereas the merino herd is moved.
In the hospital paddock, sick sheep obtain further vitamin and medical remedy.
“You lose animals in farming, that is a truth, however typically with slightly further love and care, they arrive again good,” Ross mentioned.
After studying that cows produce extra milk if classical music is performed, Ross determined to make additions to the playlist within the shearing shed, the place quick rock, pop or rap music is often heard.
“We play Mozart typically. Some dairy farmers use it as a solution to calm the animals down,” Ross mentioned.
“Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ might be my favorite.
There are 5 million folks and 25 million sheep in New Zealand.
It is without doubt one of the world’s main wool exporters, having shipped 84 million tonnes, value US$232 million, abroad within the final monetary 12 months.
Meanwhile, shearing is tough, bodily work.
It requires talent and stamina to deal with the sheep. They weigh as much as 60 kilograms (132 kilos) every and might often kick painfully. An excellent mower cuts a whole bunch of berries a day.
Traditionally, shearing was all about pace, and typically chopping was of little concern.
Today, animal welfare is a key issue, Carolyn Clegg of the New Zealand Shearing Association instructed AFP.
The precedence remains to be to shear the very best quality wool, she mentioned, “however that extends to the sheep – you do not wish to minimize them up or stress them out, as a result of that impacts their welfare”.
– ‘Always loosen up’ –
On Lake Hawea station, farm supervisor Jack Mansfield mentioned he likes to “see a pleasant gradual, tidy job and the sheep are at all times relaxed”.
Pay relies on how the sheep are dealt with — referred to as stocking — and whether or not they’re scratch-free, with the additional care coming at a quantity value.
“We’re right down to possibly 50 sheep a day, and doubtless just a few NZ$100 out of our again pockets,” mentioned shearing gang chief Kevin Patrick O’Neill.
“That’s a spot with a bonus from the farmer.”
The slower tempo additionally means the sheep are much less susceptible to tearing or kicking.
“If we’re calm and relaxed, so are the sheep,” added Ó Néill.
After promoting their profitable vodka enterprise to a global spirits firm, Geoff and Justine Ross purchased the sheep station in 2017, decided to make it sustainable.
It was the primary farm in New Zealand to be licensed carbon impartial by a authorities analysis institute.
As nicely as protecting emissions down, the couple needed to scale back the stress on their sheep.
And specializing in animal welfare additionally has enterprise advantages, Justine Ross mentioned.
“Our purchasers are demanding animal welfare credentials as a part of their fiber purchases. If an animal will not be careworn — filled with that battle or flight power — they are going to use that power to develop extra wool,” she mentioned.
UK merino knitwear firm Sheep Inc. one of many firms that buys their wool.
Co-founder Edzard van der Wyck mentioned they have been drawn to Lake Hawea due to its clear carbon standing and animal welfare insurance policies.
“If you introduce much less stress right into a sheep’s life, there’s much less breakage within the wool fiber, so the standard promotes itself,” he mentioned.