Motu-nui Romneys – The Perfect New Zealand Hill Country Ram
Three Decades’ Worth of Romney Experience
Motu-nui Rams was established in 1982 by John and Dianne Le Grove with the purchase of 215 recorded ewes and a ram 149/79 from John Daniell of Wairere. The objective was very clear – to produce thrifty sheep of good size and sound body which would perform under commercial conditions anywhere.
After initially breeding for size – which was what the market demanded at the time – the Le Groves soon realised that the smaller ewes in their flock were much better at handling the drought conditions typical of the hilly eastern part of Wairarapa.
With the very best Romney genetics available through the Wairarapa Romney Improvement Group, Motu-nui’s recorded flock grew to 1,100 by 1995 with a commercial flock of around 1,000 and ram sales of 250. Ram sales increased steadily during the late ’90s.
During this time the Le Groves introduced eye muscle scanning of the ram hoggets to identify animals which better met John’s ideal conformation – sheep which were slightly shorter but with a deeper barrel and able to hold their condition during periods of stress.
In 2002, following client request, the decision was made to start breeding crossbred rams using the recorded Romney ewe flock as a base. Finn, Texel, Coopworth and Perendale rams were all used with some success but in recent years the demand has declined and there has been a return to the Romney which held on much better during the harder drought years between 2006 and 2008..
By 2004 Motu-nui was selling around 700 rams, mainly in the North Island, and a strategic partnership was formed with Bruce and Carolynn Robertson of Wyndham in Southland resulting in ‘Motu-nui South‘. Similar partnerships have since been set up with Michael and Kate Tosswill at ‘Motu-nui Crossbreds‘ in the Masterton in 2012, and Davey and Wendy Moore at ‘Motu-nui Terminals’ in Homewood.
North Island ram sales hit 1,030 in 2006 and have steadily grown through very tough times to around 1,500 today.
The Tradition Continues With the Next Generation
John and Dianne Le Grove’s son, Jason, now heads the stud and is surrounded by a top team to help him achieve the specific breeding targets set up in consultation with his father over the years.
With efficiency and hardiness as top breeding objectives, Motu-nui Rams aims to breed ewes that can wean their body weight on summer dry hill country, retaining around 80% of the ewe flock that have achieved this target. This standard is aimed at delivering risk management for hill country farmers.
Motu-nui Rams are deeper and shorter than the traditional Romney. Our good-gutted animals hold on superbly well in tough seasons and still deliver strong yields. Motu-nui’s most efficient ewes weigh in around 65-67kgs.
Maternal ability is a strong focus at Motu-nui. Tagging lambs at birth allows first-hand assessment of a ewe’s mothering ability and has formed the basis for culling to improve maternal traits, something that is showing benefit now.
There are many new innovations now being used in our continuous quest for the perfect Romney – pregnancy and meat yield scanning, testing for resilience and resistance rams – but probably the best new tool at our disposal is electronic ear tagging.
Being able to record lamb weaning weights at the rate of 400 an hour, plus weigh the ewes and draft off the cull ewes and lambs all at the same time, makes these jobs so much easier and more accurate.
When you’re selecting your annual supply of rams, having all the technical data right in front of you is a huge advantage.