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Waimate-bound . . . The foundation stock waiting to load as part of Waimate High School’s agricultural programme. PHOTO: RACHEL MACDONALD

By RACHEL MACDONALD

Ten Corriedale ewes bid good-bye to North Canterbury last week and headed south to provide the foundation stock for a new stud as part of Waimate High School’s agriculture programme.

The idea is similar to initiatives in Australian schools, says Horrellville farmer Tom Burrows, who took on the job of collecting the sheep from their donors, ready to be picked up last Thursday.

“I’ve been going to Australia to judge at the Corriedale shows since 2008 and they’ve got a really good junior judging system over there to get young people interested in learning about the breed,” he says.

“It’s so important because, lets face it, those of us who have been breeding them for decades aren’t getting any younger.”

Corriedales are nice and quiet and easy to handle, Tom says.

“They’re also dual purpose – they have good-quality, mid-micron wool and the lambs make good prime lambs as well.”

He says that at last year’s Corriedale conference in Bendigo, on the other side of the Tasman, about six schools were there, showing around 100 sheep.

Every second year, a Corriedale youth ambassador is chosen from New Zealand to visit Australia, while this country hosts their Aussie counterpart every other year. Young Australians come across the ditch for the Canterbury Show as part of a two-week programme each year, as guests of the New Zealand Corriedale Society; while young Kiwis also compete on the Australian Royal Show circuit.

“We in the Corriedale Council have been wracking our brains trying to work out how to emulate the Aussie sheep-in-schools idea. Then I met Stuart Albrey, the head of Agriculture at Waimate High – we both breed black and coloured sheep,” Tom says.

“In the New Year, I put a proposal to the council that we give the school five sheep to start a stud, and then got on the phone and started calling the breeders.”

The idea was so warmly received, the school will receive 11 in-lamb ewes which will run on land being developed behind its playing fields as a small working farm.

The New Zealand Corriedale Society has offered to cover the costs of registering the new stud, and Stuart will start teaching his pupils what to look for in the breed, along with all the requirements to maintain a fully recorded sheep stud.

“If the school can build up to a stud of 40 ewes, it will end up with a handy – and profitable – little operation,” Tom says.