Is there any reason to wait until you are a grown-up to run your own farming business? The answer is no, according to a 12-year-old North Canterbury girl. Annabelle Latz reports.
Casey Mackintosh is a Charollais sheep stud breeder from White Rock, North Loburn.
She began her farming business venture two years ago when her parents Duncan and Tina gifted her an appendix flock of 15 halfewe crosses - Charollais crossed with Focus Genetics’ Romney ewes. And she has one goal.
“To have a better stud than all the others.”
Her learning curve began quickly. After buying an additional 10 Charollais hoggets from breeder Peter Ponsonby of Otago, by whom she was also lent a good ram, she ventured into some breeding of her own.
The weather wasn’t the best in the 2018 season and her lambing percentage was down.
“There will always be highs and lows. Mum and dad told me the first year is the hardest year.”
But the lambs that made it looked great.
“They were small to start with, but they grew fast.”
Casey knows it will all be worth it.
“There is one hogget - I don’t want to get on the wrong side of her - she is big!”
In 2017 Duncan and Tina came across the Charollais sheep at the Canterbury A&P Show.
They liked what they saw, especially the fast growth qualities.
“This is really what they’re known for,” says Duncan.
Charollais sheep breeding was turned up a notch in 2019 on their 1056 hectare White Rock Mains farm where they also have cattle, breed rodeo bulls, and have 91 ha sectioned off for QEII Conservation.
In 2019 Casey enlarged the appendix flock, bringing the stud and ewes to 69 and resulting in 99 lambs. This year she has also mated her ewe hoggets, which average 49.9kg.
Business life is in full swing too, Casey explaining that her ram hoggets went out with her parents’ ewe hoggets.
“They hire them off me in exchange for grazing.”
Her stud is called CM Charollais and listed 12th on the Charollais breeders’ list.
She enjoys everything involved in breeding sheep, from the book work to seeing the new hooves safely on the ground. Casey has equal love for competing on her pony Me and is looking forward to being able to fund this passion through her farming. She will head out before school to do a lambing beat, then relay to her dad what needs to be done before jumping on the school bus.
“I think it’s good we can produce meat for people; it’s quite rewarding when you produce a great lamb.”
Casey has 30 stud ewes, 40 appendix ewes, 35 ewe hoggets, 45 ram hoggets, three stud rams, and some two-tooth rams that have just come out of her parents’ commercial ewes.”
In the evenings Duncan and Casey study the breeders’ catalogue.
“I teach her about EBVs, how genetics work, and SIL data,” says Duncan.
Casey has been learning about budgeting and keeps her figures in a book where she can plan financially for the year ahead.
She will borrow money from her parents to buy the next few sheep, and pay them back when the money comes in.
“She said to me she was going to go bankrupt. I have taught her that through the year she can balance the books,” Tina says. She added it’s about teaching the kids financial education.
The study paid off. Casey and Duncan took their knowledge to a couple of sales earlier this year in Feilding and Gore, buying a stud ram for Casey from Peter Ponsonby and three commercial rams for Duncan and Tina.
Casey also bought nine stud two-tooths and 13 stud ewe hoggets from Elite Charollais in Feilding.
She is already looking to the future, and earlier this year lent close friends, Dan and Mandy Shand from Island Hills Station, two rams on a trial.
“It was her idea,” says Duncan. “She said ‘I need to get my rams out there.’”
She has been using her rams in Duncan and Tina’s commercial flock as terminal sires. Originally it was about crossing the Charollais with the hoggets, now it’s about putting them across the commercial ewes too.
Duncan and Tina explain they’re good for breeding hoggets with narrow shoulders, creating a wedge shape for ease of birth.
They have noticed a dramatic reduction in birth assistance at lambing coupled with aggressive growth rates.
“And the meat is where it counts,” says Casey.
The data suggest the Charollais meat eating quality is in the top tier.
Casey has this in mind for when lamb does eventually get rewarded for meat eating quality - she knows she will have a product ready to go.
Duncan has been using the analogy of his bull breeding to teach Casey a thing or two about breeding good sheep.
“There are sires that leave their mark and are rock solid breeders. It’s not necessarily about the newest and flashiest ram but one with good history. It’s about having a good, solid female foundation,” he says.
The Mackintosh family are all dedicated to farming, and “since day dot” Casey and her little sister PJ have been in the yards.
“I will now start looking at the marketing side to get a client base. I’m looking at options for an on-farm sale combined with another breeder.”
She enjoys showing sheep, and took a ewe and lamb to the Amberley A&P Show last year.
“I think it’s pretty cool that you don’t have to be an adult to do something. You can actually live up to what you want to do, even at a young age. I think it’s pretty cool, yeah.”