Perched on the shores of New Zealand’s Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the island nation’s Southern Alps, Mount Nicholas sheep station creates a stunning backdrop for the merino wool industry. About 31,000 merino sheep graze 100,000 acres of rugged high-country terrain, making Mount Nicholas one of the biggest stations—or ranches—in New Zealand and one of the merino-wool industry’s largest suppliers. It’s also one of its most sustainable.
Entirely powered by hydroelectricity, the station is largely self-sufficient, thanks to an enormous garden, orchards, fresh game and a milk cow. Equally important, this focus on sustainability and environmental best practice trickles down to create happy sheep. And happy sheep produce high-quality wool.
“When a sheep is stressed, it creates a weak spot in the fiber that’s prone to breaking,” says Kate Butson, whose parents, Robert and Linda, bought the land in 1976. She manages Mount Nicholas with her husband, Jack. “Weak fibers can lead to pilling or holes in a garment spun from that wool, which obviously affects quality.”