We’ve just had a really cold patch of weather here in NZ and wondered how the merinos were coping, so we asked one of our growers at Mt Nicholas high country station near Queenstown. This was the response we got from Kate Cocks along with some amazing images…

Thanks for your email regarding how the merinos are doing through this cold patch of weather, generally at this time of year we do have the sheep on the lower altitude areas of the station due to the likelihood of snow, however this snow was a lot lower and deeper than the usual. My father Robert who’s been on the station 35 years described it as about a one in 15 years snow which gives you an idea of how much there was.

Mostly the sheep have done well. At this time of year they have close to a full fleece of wool on, which keeps them warm, the main issue is them being able to find food in the snow. For those that aren’t in very deep snow, up to about 30cm, they will dig down with their hooves to find food and they will also seek out native shrubs and scrub to use for shelter, eating what’s underneath and not covered in snow.

Some of the ones in deeper snow are more of a challenge, we had sheep in up to a metre of snow which is basically head height on a sheep, so not so good. We did a combination of flying hay to them via helicopter until we could get them out, walking in and tramping tracks down for them to follow us to lower altitude.

For about 250 of the worst stuck ones we had to get a bit inventive and swung a cage under a Squirrel Helicopter. We flew them out in lots of 12-15, to do this we had 4 people loading them into the cages at the top and 2 of us unloading at the bottom, there were some pretty dazed and confused sheep emerging from the cage at the bottom, but all looked pretty happy to no longer be buried in snow!

I’ve included a couple of photos for you of flying them out.

Unloading the cage - relieved sheepLanding with a load of sheep