The Group Soul of the Sheep

Smallholders learn the basics of all things sheepish from Ian Henderson.

Each year, over the last three years, I’ve organized seminars at my place in the Murawai Valley, inviting speakers and the local community.
The district is about 35km north west of Auckland and is predominantly five and ten acre blocks. It is lucky enough to have a very active local Smallholding Association with monthly evening talks and weekend field trips. This group helps people find their way in the local community. But the idea of more in-depth teaching and learning, using an organic approach, has proven both popular and informative.

It is great that a wonderful array of speakers make themselves available to come and talk to such far-flung groups.
This is definitely a worthwhile initiative if you have a catchment area of people interested in learning. People bring their own lunches and drinks so time is not spent
with catering. A small fee charged for the day goes to the speaker and enables them to cover their costs for giving up a day or so and travelling.

The thought-provoking side of a day of listening to new ideas and seeing different approaches makes such seminars so worthwhile. The latest in the series, in November, saw Ian Henderson of Milmore Downs (biodynamic farmer for nearly 35 years) come to Muriwai Valley for a seminar aimed at people who have a lifestyle block and are running sheep or thinking about it. A lot of lifestylers living on the urban fringe of larger cities do not necessarily have a strong rural or farming background. Many have moved out of the city without good knowledge of animal husbandry or pasture management.

So how do you find out what to do with your land?
Whether to mow or graze? What to graze, where to start, and then where to next once you have your stock? The seminar looked at these and other issues.