Day At The Track

Southern Light – Southern Might

04:21 PM 30 Dec 2018 NZDT
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Southern Bred Southern Reared
Southern Bred Southern Reared

Not many would argue with the fact the Southern region of the South Island is one of the best places to raise young stock, whether it be lambs, calves or young harness racing Standardbreds.

At February’s NZB Standardbred National Standardbred Yearling Sales fifty two yearlings will be presented under the Southern Bred Southern Reared umbrella and buyers know these youngster have had a good start to life.

Lawrence breeder Dan Cummings has produced yearlings for the National Sales for years and he says daylight hours play a big part in a young horse’s development.

“The days are shorter and colder in winter, but as spring progresses into summer the days become two hours longer, one in the morning and one in the evening. I think the process of light affecting grass growth (photosynthesis) lets the grass grow for two hours longer at the height of summer in the south,” he says.

Cummings says he’s spoken to a lot of local dairy farmers who bought cows down from Taranaki and Waikato in the late 1990s and early 2000s and they have noted an increase in production in their herds.

“To their great surprise the same cows produced around 20% more milk in the south than they had in the north. The farmers attributed it to the longer days.  Apparently in the north milk production peaks just before Christmas then tapers off till May. In the south the peak is during January and the taper is far more gradual.”

He says another significant influence of light for breeding in the south is the fact that an increase in daylight is what stimulates cycling in the mares and that increase occurs later in the south. So foals tend to be born a month to six weeks later than in the north. 

“That’s a generalisation of course but it’s an influence that will still be apparent when the foals come to be sold as yearlings.  This factor definitely still has an influence at the yearling sales.  We live with it but will continue to try and counter its effect. But because of the way the seasons work the foals catch up quickly.” 

Local vet Brendon Bell has worked in Southland for 22 years and he also says our climate is well suited to raising young stock.

“Our temperate climate means there is plentiful grass over most of the critical phase of the foal’s development – from birth to yearling stage. This supply of grass means minimal hard feed is necessary to raise young horses.”  He adds that the summer climate gives the Southern region an advantage over the rest of the country.

“Moderate temperatures – not too hot but not really cold. Adequate rainfall ensures grass growth over the summer. Somewhat cheaper land prices means more people can own and graze their own horses, keeping control in the hands of the horse owner.”

He says the dairy boom has changed farm ownership but there’s still a groundswell of farmers who own or graze horses on their properties, in contrast to many horses in other provinces which are agisted at studs. 

“Farm based horses exist with other stock which ensure minimal health issues, minimal parasite burdens from cross grazing, and normally plentiful feed.”

He says Copper, Calcium, Phosphorus and Magnesium are important minerals for good animal development.

So plenty of hard evidence to suggest southern foals get the best of starts to life.

Bruce Stewart

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