This week, our guest is Ben Todhunter from Cleardale Station in Canterbury NZ.
Ben's grandfather purchased Cleardale in 1943 and is named after its geographical "snow shelter" attributes. Cleardale is only 4 km from Mount Hutt as the crow flies.
Stud breeding is in Ben's genetics, with his great grandfather founding the Blackford stud in 1924. In Ben's time, they had a traditional first cross English Leicester/Merino flock. But, since Ferg has been around they've been doing things a "bit different".
One of those things is breeding the Cleardale SX Fine Wool. A 21-24 micron sheep with crossbred performance.
"We'd been getting similar results in production traits from the SX fine wools.. finer micron, similar reproduction and growth rates." Ben explains. "We've made the choice to go that way, and go quite fast that way. Given the way we're going with disease resistant traits its giving us confidence to go fast that way too"
Cleardale has been involved with the Footrot breeding value since the start of the programme. And because of that, Cleardale has not only one of the most linked flocks on the footrot trait. putting them in the top 5% of the breed.
Alongside the sheep, Cleardale run an Angus stud producing cattle for a high country environment. "Functional and efficient cows that have progeny that provide a first class eating experience" is the aim of their breeding plan says Ben,
Ben recently visited the US to have a look at the genetics there and also their market chain for beef. Ben says it's hard to compare genetics as it's mainly grain/feedlot based systems. However they are bringing a 3-5 back to the country to give them a try.
What impressed Ben in the US was the Certified Angus Beef Headquarters, a programme where they have a value chain trying to line up products to consumers and then the profits returned back to producers.
Ben says this has led to an increased demand for the product in a country which already has the highest consumption of beef per capita in the world.
One thing that's never too far from Ben's mind is value chains; working out which consumer sets are going to be doing what. Mark asks what Ben sees playing out in the future.
"Breeding for the consumer." is very much the focus at Cleardale. But as ever with genetics, it's not as easy as it sounds.
"You've got to predict what the consumer wants before they want it." Explains Mark. "Because if you want to put a lot more IMF in your beef you have to start now, because it's going to take time."
Mark and Ben discuss the importance of writing those bets down. "It's awesome when you pull the document up from 8 or 10 years ago and you can tick off those boxes, that there's an objective that's been met".
Cleardale is a great example of where commitment and enthusiasm can take a breeding plan in a short time.
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