Episode 16: A New Breed
A New Breed
When Hawke's Bay farming couple John and Star Absolom had four sons their friends joked they'd have to buy four farms. That was never an option but, in an era of declining sheep numbers, the couple wondered what future there could be on the land for the next generation.
This week, Country Calendar visits the Absoloms to find out how they have built a farming operation that involves three of their sons with room for the fourth if he decides to swap a career in building for life on the land.
Eldest son Jeremy Absolom studied commerce at university and wasn't keen on traditional farming. However, a trip to the United States with his father got him excited about sheep and cattle genetics and the possibilities in developing a larger, innovative farming business.
After John Absolom joined with two other farming families to create Rissington Breedline. Jeremy joined the company and is now CEO. Second son Daniel is responsible for quality control and sire and breeding selection while the youngest, Ben, leases the Absolom home block and is a Rissington farming partner.
Rissington Breedline owns no land but has access to a big pool of sheep and cattle genes through its farming and breeding partners around the country. It's developed its own breeds, like the Highlander and Primera sheep, to create animals that are fertile, meatier and fast growing.
Rissington employs a geneticist, Aimee Charteris, who is one of the few scientists working in her field in New Zealand. She constantly gathers data from the flock to help the company's farmer partners to produce a lamb that's exactly what the market wants.
The icing on the cake for Rissington farmers is a contract to sell lamb at good prices in the upmarket food aisles of Marks and Spencer stores in the UK.
Rissington was offered the contract because its vast bank of genetic data means it can grow lambs with the characteristics that Marks and Spencers want - cuts that are the same shape and size every time, have plenty of meat and taste good.
The Absolom family connection extends well beyond the workplace - each of the four sons has built a house on John and Star's property and there are now five grandchildren who might one day have a role in the business too.
These days John Absolom says he is the 'boy' in the operation although he plays a very important role in keeping a family feel to Rissington by regularly visiting its partners around New Zealand.
Other sites to view:
* For more information on Rissington Breedline, go to www.rissington.com