Despite growing up on a dairy farm on Canada's east coast, Kate Broadbent is now a New Zealand resident committed to improving the odds for New Zealand sheep farmers against natural hazards. Since a teenager Kate’s been passionate about the sheep sector. So in 1987 after finishing university and with her OE calling, Kate moved to New Zealand to gain some experience working on farms.

Having grown up next to neighbours who knew Philip and Anne Woodward from Waikaretu, owners of well-known Nikau Cave and Cafe, she found herself working on the 170-hectare (effective) property while in New Zealand on her OE. Intending to come for six months, she stayed two years travelling the country learning about shepherding, dog training and developing her shearing skills further.

For the next 10 years Kate avoided the Canadian winters by farming in NZ in the summer, then farming and shearing in Canada and UK during their summers. She then enjoyed travelling and farming for the next decade working on big sheep operations in the US. It was during this time Clive Woodward signalled he wanted to retire from Nikau Coopworth so Kate returned to New Zealand.

It has been about eight years since Kate bought into the Nikau Stud and more recently she bought out her partners - Emily (Clive Woodward's niece) and husband Sam Welch to allow them to concentrate on their family and shearing business. She lambs 600 ewes and 150 hoggets, 200 of which are unrecorded and commercial, and go to a suffolk ram. The rest of the ewes are the recorded Nikau stud flock.

Being a one woman band, Kate does all the farm maintenance herself as well as the sampling, testing and recording for the stud.

“While it’s not a huge farm or a huge number of animals, with a dog I am able to do everything myself. It can be challenging at tupping time because of single-sire mating and then tagging at lambing time. When you’re busy doing 10 to 12-hour days and seven days a week at different times of the year, it can be full on. But when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.”

She is constantly challenging the flock in pursuit of Facial Eczema tolerance, natural parasite resistance and higher production. Breeding Coopworths to fit the environment, Kate likes their dual purpose, high fertility, high production, good mothering ability and their ability to produce heavy weaning weights. Facial eczema is a particular focus for Kate.

“With the crazy year we’ve had with the weather, breeding for FE tolerance is in the spotlight again. Sheep here have to be bred to withstand high parasite loads, summer-dry and viral pneumonia."

Kate is President of Coopworth Genetics NZ and is heavily involved in the Facial Eczema Gold Group. With the aim to lift genetic tolerance, they are seeing a difference that is being made after more than 10 years breeding and selecting for it. This is something that Kate continues to invest her energy in. Winning the Sheep Industry Award for Parasite Resistance was a highlight in 2017. She credits Clive Woodwards’ vision for starting selection for low drench inputs over 20 years ago.

Kate sees potential to grow Nikau stud. Her approach is to focus on structure and longevity because that’s what her clients want. With her continual passion for the sheep industry, we won’t see Kate tire from farming any time soon!

Kate we love your energy and drive. You have a huge amount of experience from all of your travels, and it is fantastic that you are consolidating it here in New Zealand. The work that you are doing around facial eczema tolerance is awesome, keep up the great work!