Making way for the next generation

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By Toni Williams

Stud breeder Stuart Sinclair, of Wakanui in Mid Canterbury, is clearing the way on-farm for the next generation.

After nearly 50 years building up an enviable sheep stud, the 64-year-old has sold off the majority of ewes at an off-farm dispersal sale.

It was held at the Ashburton A&P Showgrounds on February 7.

Among the 350 South Suffolk, Suffolk and Cheviot stud ewes up for auction, only 10 did not sell.

Those that did went to breeders from around the country, which was pleasing, says Stuart.

He says there was good support from breeders nationwide for the sale. Around 65 people had registered as buyers for the sale.

Stuart says after a few personal health issues, not helped by dealing with animals weighing upwards of 120kg, it was time for him to bow out and handover to the next generation.

“It was enough of a scare to get me to ease back,” he says.

South Suffolk, which on average can weigh between 120kg to 150kg, are a good meat breed while the smaller Cheviot breed has a dual purpose (meat, wool) as well as being an easy care sheep and good for hogget mating.

While he, and wife Teresa, will have more time for golf or travel; daughter, Katherine, 30, is a lawyer in London, their sons, Nicholas, 32, and Hayden, 28, are keen to take over the farm.

It’s taken a bit of planning to get the handover sorted.

Stuart, who is the fourth generation on farm, says the boys were not as driven about the sheep stud and planned to focus on store lambs and, with pivot irrigation being introduced in the coming days, increase the crop operation.

“The sheep stud is my passion not theirs,” Stuart says. But to keep some interest he still has the 10 top rams of each of the three breeds, which he will retain until next year.

He will also stay involved in competition judging, which will keep him in contact with breeders he has met over the years.

The farm, which is bordered by a dairy farm and two crop farms and is just five minutes’ drive from Wakanui Beach, gets its water from an underground bore, not through an irrigation scheme.

The automated pivot system will help them be more sustainable and efficient users of water.

Getting the pivot installed also means Nicholas and Hayden can continue to work off-farm; Nicholas as a farm adviser and Hayden an apprentice electrician.

Stuart says he will stand back and let them farm their way but will be around to offer advice and help out where needed like “a general gopher around the place”.

“The boys will take on more responsibility and (there will be) less for me. It’s one less thing to worry about,” he says.

Stuart, the fourth generation on farm and an only child, took over from his parents, James and Ruth Sinclair.

They ran the 174 hectare property as a sheep and mixed cropping operation, which Stuart continued.

He introduced the first South Suffolk breed in 1972, and at peak of his stud had around 150 South Suffolk, 120 Suffolk and 120 Cheviot.