DVD – Sheep Station NZ

The ultimate large-scale sheep farming DVD with TV & Radio presenter Dylan Winter

Sheep farming on a huge scale in New Zealand

If you assumed sheep farming in New Zealand was just the same as anywhere else, think again!

This DVD takes you right into the heart of several large scale sheep stations in New Zealand and shows just how different shepherding is over there.

Note: Disc 2 contains vivid hunting scenes.

You'll see contrasting styles of Border Collie (eye dogs) and the noisy, but highly effective, Huntaway dogs working together, backing and herding sheep as well as gathering on vast areas of land in this beautiful country.

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Masses of sheep moving over a hill in New Zealand
This is sheep farming on a scale unheard of in the UK

To make this 2xDVD set, Television and radio presenter Dylan Winter spent three months travelling throughout New Zealand recording everyday life on a wide range of sheep farms.

New Zealand's well known for its high annual rainfall. The wet climate is ideal for growing grass and is therefore well suited to sheep rearing.

Sheepdog peering out from a storage locker on a cattle truck
A hard working sheepdog needs to see where he's going! Sheep are transported across New Zealand in massive trucks. The drivers often take their own dogs with them.

On one sheep station covered in this DVD, 40,000 ewes run on 68,000 hectares of grassland, along with 1,500 cows and 4,000 deer.

Some of the sheep breed names will be familiar to British viewers - Romneys, Merinos and the Romney x Cheviots known as Perendales, but the management of sheep in New Zealand is very different.

Whereas in Britain, the border collie is the predominant sheepdog, in NZ huntaways are used alongside kelpies and border collies, helicopters and fast-moving tailing crews.

Sheepdogs are even carried in special containers mounted to the helicopters, to enable them to be transported quickly to where they are needed.

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(For despatch the same working day)

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Some of the spectacular New Zealand landscapes you'll see on the DVD
Sheep Station NZ includes some of the most breathaking scenery from lowland desert to mountain rain forest on the North and South Islands

Dylan digs under the colourful surface of a variety of sheep enterprises from all parts of New Zealand. He explores the change in the meat / wool price, the part cattle play on sheep farms, the continuing importance of the UK Christmas lamb market and how the Kiwis have coped with the ending of their "special relationship".

Moving a massive mob of sheep in New Zealand

Dylan sets the farming scene in its context with some of the most wonderful scenery you will ever see, and includes features on livestock markets, transport, threats to indigenous flora and wildlife, how to trim 60ft hedges, the New Zealand Royal Show and the high-energy lifestyle of New Zealand shepherds. Interviewees include farming immigrants from Scotland who compare experiences.

This is "God's own country" with a strong work ethic where the shearing gang and the grader are kings. A great place to raise sheep.

Comments from Dylan Winter

"Sheep Station NZ was filmed on more than a dozen different farms in New Zealand - the terrain varied from alpine mountain to flat pasture, low desert to mountain rainforest - and every farm was utterly dependent on its working dogs

"Most shepherds in New Zealand will run at least four dogs - a few work six or more. They use border collies, which they call eye dogs, and of course, the huntaways.

"When working on the hill the big barking huntaways provide the 'push' from behind while the eye dogs do the subtle work of flanking the big mobs of sheep. The huntaways are also essential around the yards - keeping the sheep bunched up and moving them on through the races."

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dogs being loaded into a helicopter before being taken to gather sheep
You won't see this in the UK! A sheepdog jumps into the cockpit of a helicopter while another dog is carried in a cage mounted to the fuselage.

Dylan Winter comments:
I have to say though, that the constant barking does become a bit annoying by the end of a ten hour yard day. When back at the kennels or in the yards, the eye dogs tend to be the dominant individuals while the huntaways fulfill the role of the amiable buffoons with 'in your face' greetings on offer to everyone they meet.

It was really interesting watching the way that different shepherds treat their dogs - some would show almost no affection to their animals at all - other dogs were like much loved members of the family - yet all the dogs I filmed were brilliant workers. Of course, if you knew a bloke was coming with a camera to film you at work you would make sure that the underperforming dogs were left at home.

Huntaway sheepdog at work driving sheep at close quarters

Big noisy huntaways provide the pushing power, whilst the border collie eye dogs cope with the precision work as the vast flocks are moved around.

One farmer I filmed has a real problem with wild pigs on his farm. He loses around 500 lambs a year to them. So his dogs not only have to be able to work sheep and cattle but also track down the local wild pigs and bring them to bay until Dan could catch up and dispatch the pig.

I filmed dogs working with men on foot or driving quad bikes, mounted on horses, or flying helicopters - all in a day's work for a New Zealand sheep dog.
Dylan Winter. November 2009.

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Watch a trailer - Sheep Station NZ

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