The pride and joy
Ida Valley, Central Otago, New Zealand
9500 merinos on 2800 hectares
The young man probably arrived for the extensive gold mining in 1888. Robert McNally was raised on a sheep farm in Northern Ireland, before he took his hat and left for New Zealand and Ida Valley, known especially for its golden history. “When the gold ran out I guess, he found this spot in the middle of nowhere, but filled with wild rabbits, where he bought a place to live for 2000 pounds”, says Jock McNally, the great-great-grandchild of Robert, now the 5th generation to run The Gorge, a wonderful wind-protected place surrounded by five mountain ranges. Mr. Robert kept about 350 sheep as well, but since the gray European rabbit where absolutely everywhere back then, there was more business in hunting and selling 25.000 wild rabbits for fur and meat per year. Later, the next generations were able to just keep merinos instead, since the grass-eating rabbits were gone. Now, The Gorge is a huge farm, with over 9000 excellent merinos, a bunch of cows, 16 dogs - and fresh chicken eggs in the garden every morning.
As Jock grew up on The Gorge, he has dived into merino wool his entire life, including his three years in Australia when he was around 18 and worked on other farms. Jock is the oldest of four siblings, and he himself now has four kids with his wife Kaylee. There is Logan (17), Ben (15), Mitchell (11) and Claudia (7), who all have their hands on experiences with the white fluffy animals they love so much, but who are also very actively involved in sports whenever they have time off school. “I didn´t want them having to work too much too early on the farm, I wanted my kids to enjoy and experience the farm when they were still young”, says Jock, who himself likes to play curling in his free time.
The four kids are into land-hockey, rugby, rowing and kayaking, and the whole family likes to go fishing. The area has few trees, but visibility up to 100 kilometer away. Both creeks and rivers are running through the property, as well as wild gooseberry, apple trees and quail. The winters are clear and fresh, but can be as cold as minus 20 degrees, while the hot summers can hit the 40-mark. So there is a “white way” and a “green way” to experience life for the McNally-family, who make sure all of their merinos get properly fed, also though the 80 to 100 days of winter, with less fresh grass around. “Every day, winter through, we take out a tractor loaded with hey and food and we´ll feed them all”, Jock says, before adding that his merinos also live quite low, warm and with protective rocks everywhere. “The livestock is my pride and joy, so while they live freely outside, they are very well taken care of”, he says.