Taiamai Corker is the son of Kay Baxter. Along with his dad, Bob Corker, Taiamai manages the farm at Koanga Institute’s Thorny Croft Farm. He lives there with his wife Franzi and their two-year-old daughter Elanor. Working with animals is his great passion. Taiamai and Bob with be taking the up-coming, four-week, animal internship which covers all facets of running a small organic farm...
…It’s an exciting time for the sheep at Thorny Croft – this is the week we put the rams in with the ewes in order to get our spring lambs.
We’ve been building up our stock ever since we arrived in Wairoa, three-years-ago and now have about 80 ewes and a couple of rams from 15 original ewes.
Ideally in the future we’d like a flock of around 200.
In keeping with the Koanga kaupapa, our sheep are all heritage breeds: Wiltshire Horn and East Freisians.
Wiltshire Horn are one of the oldest English breeds, harking back to Roman times. Producing an average of 1.8 healthy lambs a year, they are a hardy, easycare breed, which makes them well suited to organic farming.
They are well adapted to the warm weather as their horns help to cool them, while shedding their wool helps prevent fly strike.
The East Freisians are a milking sheep from Holland and Germany. We started out with three lambs which we hand-raised and added a black ram and ewe to the mix because the pure white ones get sunburned on their pink ears, feet and noses. Soon we will have bred this out of them.
While less hardy than the Wiltshires, East Freisians are a friendly, breed, who are easily trained with treats. They produce two to four lambs a year.
As so many of our sheep have been hand-raised, they are not skittish around humans. This makes them great to work with because you can just walk up and check on them. Keeping them this tame will be one of the challenges of having a larger flock.
I love working with them and get a kick out of watching how excited they become when exploring a new paddock, literally jumping and skipping about. The Freisians are quite animated compared to other breeds.
In line with organic principles we don’t vaccinate or use commercial drench or chemicals for parasites or flystrike and we don’t dock our sheep’s tails.
Like in the garden, the emphasis is on getting the right minerals into the sheep food so they are natually hardy enough to withstand parasites and diseases.
We give them a stock primer from Environmental Fertilisers which is beneficial for gut function and drench them with a cider vinegar-garlic mix.
Eventually we will start rotational grazing the sheep (more fencing needed) which will largely break the worm cycle.
As with the vegetables we grow, we are putting a lot of effort into re-mineralising the soil, via organic fertilisers, so the sheep’s grass is nutrient dense.
The intention with biological farming is that eventually we won’t to have bring in any outside fertiliser. Once the minerals in the soil have built up, the whole system should be self-regenerating. The use of selected fertilisers is just a quicker way of restoring the balance to the soil, after so many years of set stocking and a superphosphate based fertiliser regime
In a few years time our lambs and sheep will be skipping happily around on lush, sustainable pastures and the East Freisans will hopefully be producing delicious cheese.