Sherenden, Hawke’s Bay, NZ

Nutrition is a key factor in giving gamebirds the best start to life, and developing specialised feed for their pheasants and ducks in conjunction with Sharpes has been a game changer for NZ Gamebirds.

NZ Gamebirds owners, Jeff Niblett and Bridgette Karetai, are based on a 50 acre block at Sherenden, Hawke’s Bay. They rear ring neck pheasants and mallard ducks, primarily for releasing, though they have dabbled in meat for restaurants in the past too.

“It’s mainly for places that want to run shoots, or for people to have around the farms because they like the look of them,” Jeff explains.

They rear about 75,000 pheasants and 4000 ducks annually and feed the Sharpes Pheasant Breeder, Starter and Grower pellets, as well as the duck equivalents.

The relationship with Sharpes began back in 2003, when the Nibletts were based in Dannevirke, and they developed the feed in conjunction with Alastair Orsborn and a nutritionist.

“At that time there was nothing specially made for pheasants, and people were using turkey pellets. I have worked in the UK as a gamebird vet, once we started breeding we approached Sharpes and that’s how we got going. The industry was starting to grow and now we’re the main North Island breeder.”

The connection with Sharpes continues when the young birds are sold at about seven weeks old. “When we supply birds to people for the first 7-12 weeks they need pellets too, then they can transition them on to other grain. So most birds we supply go on to Sharpes feed as well.”

With his background as a vet, Jeff has particular insight into just how important nutrition is.

“Most problems arise from poor nutrition. We’re really fortunate to be able to use blood and bone meal so our birds grow extremely well, and you can see it in the feather colour, growing to their optimum. A large amount of that is based on diet.

“All animals, all farming really, relies on good nutrition. It’s the key component and everything goes from there. If you don’t have good nutrition you’re never going to have good stock.”

Sharpes, especially Alastair, were particularly good at listening to what the Nibletts needed, and working alongside them to formulate the ideal feed.

“As a small company, that was a big thing to help us in developing our business. They took on board how important protein was for their growth and went out of their way to make that happen for us. We appreciate their willingness to look after us, as a small customer.”