Leanne Gichard

David Thompson is a humble man of few words but the prize-winning ribbons that line the entire length of his garage wall (and then some) speak volumes of his achievements in breeding coloured sheep. 

David didn’t always have a passion for sheep – he much preferred cattle – but that passion has led to breeding coloured sheep that have gone on to win many awards and bought him great satisfaction. 

His interest in coloured sheep was piqued in the 1950s and 1960s, when his father was farming at Owaka in South Otago.  “Dad decided that he would like to breed coloured sheep, but he had been told by his neighbours that he couldn’t breed black and coloured lambs from black and coloured ewes – he decided to prove them wrong!  He bought some black and coloured ewes and a Corriedale/Romney cross ram and every lamb was born black.  After that a pure Romney ram was used.  Dad discovered that as long as there were black genes on both sides, a black or coloured lamb usually results,” said David.

In due course, David took over his father’s farm and later shifted to Springston.  He decided to take half a dozen coloured sheep only, as he was concentrating on dairying.  After farming in Springston, he then decided to farm near Chertsey and once again took a small flock of black and coloured sheep with him.  This flock increased to approximately 35 before David moved to the Seafield area.  He took eight black and coloured sheep and two white pets with him to his Seafield property and concentrated on black sheep from 2006.

David began to show his sheep in 2010.  This enabled him to discover any faults and to improve the flock through breeding.   His best achievement to-date was at the Canterbury A&P Show 2016 (now known as the New Zealand Agricultural Show), where a ram bred by David won ‘Champion Strong Wool Ram 2016’.  This ram then competed against the ‘Champion Fine Wool Ram 2016’ and won the coveted title of ‘Grand Champion Black and Coloured Ram 2016’.  “That award meant a lot to me, as I had bred the ram myself.  The same ram went on to be judged ‘Champion Black and Coloured Sheep’ at the Waimate Black and Coloured Sheep Sale.   I normally enter about nine shows per year and just love the camaraderie between the breeders.  It is so enjoyable,” David said.

David has shown fleeces at local shows, with mixed success.  “I sell wool to private buyers and have seen an increased interest of late, with some wool being exported.  I love the challenge of trying to breed better sheep and wool.  There’s always something that can be improved upon,” David said.

The colour variations and lustre of the fleeces are stunning and sought-after for handicrafts.   David’s wife, Anita, is currently knitting David a new jersey from one of his fleeces and she said it is beautiful wool to work with.  “Fleece is measured in microns, with 31 microns being the borderline between fine and strong wool,” David explained.  Generally fine wool, such as Merino, is used for luxury garments, baby wear and is popular for felting.  Strong wools vary greatly and their use depends on factors such as lustre and breed.  They have many purposes, including handicrafts, clothing, fabric etc.  The likes of Drysdale wool (40 microns plus) is used for rugs and carpet manufacture.

David breeds replacement stock and sells surplus sheep at the Temuka Sales.  He has both commercially registered sheep with the Black and Coloured Sheep Breeders’ Association of New Zealand and sheep registered as studs. 

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.