6 Jul 2017

Sheep breeding pioneer wins award

8:20 pm on 6 July 2017

An 87-year-old retired sheep breeder has won an award for his contribution to the sheep industry.

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Photo: 123rf

Hawkes Bay Romney breeder Tony Parker took home the 'contributor to the industry' award at last night's Beef and Lamb Sheep Industry Awards in Invercargill.

Awards were given out for top performers in science, innovation, training and genetics.

Head judge Hamish Bielski said in 1961 Mr Parker was the first to produce a Selection Index for sheep, and this transformed sheep breeding to where it is now.

In the 1950s and '60s stock were selected on their looks, but Mr Parker decided to take this one step further and measure things like production, how they grow and how many lambs they have.

Mr Bielski said instead of recording it manually, Mr Parker invested in a computer.

"So he bought a computer, which was $17,000 and less memory than our smart phones, and he proceeded to listen to what the scientists were finding and the rest is history really."

Nearly 50 years later the industry has an impressive breeding programme, he said.

"Sheep production has doubled, and in the last nearly 30 years output has doubled while halving our numbers to do that, that's the power of performance recording using computers.

"Very impressive guy."