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100 not out Stewart and Andrew Morton run one of the oldest sheep studs in New Zealand p36

$12.00 incl gst



February 2021

Leasing Reality check needed

Lambing Preparing for a good percentage 1

PREVENT. PROTECT. PERFORM. A range of sheep vaccines made for New Zealand conditions.



February 2021

For nearly 80 years, MSD have been developing sheep vaccines for New Zealand farmers. We have a extensive range of vaccines to help you improve flock performance. Vaccines that help protect against losses from Toxoplasma, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and that are proven to increase lamb numbers1,2,3. And we’ve developed them right here in New Zealand, specifically for our sheep and our conditions.






AVAILABLE ONLY UNDER VETERINARY AUTHORISATION ACVM No’s: A4769, A9535, A7886, A9927. Schering-Plough Animal Health Ltd. Phone: 0800 800 543. NZ-CVX-200900006 © 2020 Intervet International B.V. All Rights Reserved. 1. Wilkins M, O’Connell E. (1992) Vaccination of sheep against Toxoplasma abortion, Surveillance, 19:4,20-23 2. Anderson, P (2001) The implications of Campylobacter Infections in Ewe Flocks. Proc 31st Annual Seminar, Society of Sheep and Beef Cattle Veterinarians., NZVA p31-40 3. Geldard, H, Scaramuzzi, R.J., & Wilkins, J.F. (1984) Immunization against polyandroalbumin leads to increases in lambing and tailing percentages. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 32:1-2, 2-5


February 2021


Meet the new guys on our team Rob Stratton, North Island Sales and client liaison – Ph 027 271 0206

Rob has been involved with farming all his life, with three years experience in the Tinui district of the Wairarapa before heading back to the home farm east of Taihape. He managed, leased, then bought half the home farm in 1992, with 100% borrowed. Small scale and low soil fertility persuaded him to lease the land, and take up a managerial position on a larger property. In 2006 the opportunity came to sell his own land into the bigger block of Pukekaka, which he then managed for 130 investors, with Roger Dickie as supervisor. During that time Rob lifted productivity with Wairere genetics from 6-7,000 lambs per year to 9,200, and the average weaning weight, from 28-29kgs to 34.5kgs at 100 days. Rob and Maree’s family, Anna, Sam and James, are all involved in agriculture.

Success breeds success Andrew Herriott, South Island Sales and client liaison – Ph 027 240 0231

As a young man Andrew worked on farms, including nine years with Pat Garden at Avenal Station, before managing 10,000 stock units at the Keppoch Estate, Moa Flat. Four years later the opportunity arose to purchase 160 hectares in West Otago next to Lynn’s family (Fletcher) farm. The property runs mainly trading stock. Andrew then spent sixteen years drafting for Alliance, before setting up Herriott Livestock trading company in October 2019. Andrew will combine that with farming and the Wairere role. Andrew’s interests of dog trialling, golf and whitebaiting have given him a wide network in the Deep South.

Top ram lamb sires available February / March 2021 Wairere Challenger (FE resilient, testing at .6) Wairere Romney Wairere Multiplier (four breed composite) Wairere Tufguy (Texel/Romney) Wairere Dominator (composite terminal) Wairere Merino

Making your sheepfarming easier and more profitable | 0800 WAIRERE (0800 924 7373) 4


February 2021


Check the credentials


here has been growing interest in regenerative agriculture in New Zealand, which is like a new religion, more about belief than fact. The regenerative agriculture (RA) movement uses proven parts of conventional NZ farming such as rotational grazing and integrated stock management. They mix it in with unproven products and practices. Sellers of pseudoscience products and practices have jumped on the RA bandwagon because there is no scientific scrutiny of their claims. Part of the RA strategy is to undermine NZ’s successful conventional farming systems. Our pastoral farming is lauded as a world leader. Its success has been built on good science involving decades of research and trials. This is why top ag scientists have come together and published a report in booklet form, which is summarised on P20, debunking claims made by the RA. RA has no clear definition and people can be anywhere on the ‘spectrum’ – in other words, can be conventional or organic or whatever. There are some good conventional farmers claiming they are practising regenerative ag, but still using chemical fertilisers and sprays. Other RA farmers shunned fertilisers and sprays. Again, it depends on where you are on the spectrum. RA comes across as a good story and is believed by more than just farmers. It has sucked in several farm consultants, who in turn recommended it to ag minister Damien O’Connor. MPI has now granted $1.8m to a charitable trust to promote RA to farmers even though it has had no critical scientific scrutiny. Before farmers rush into RA they should take a good look at the credentials

of the people promoting it. There are farmers, some with limited farming experience, who have no relevant qualification but who have the gift of the gab. There are soil specialists or consultants who are not scientists and unlikely to even have a PhD. If they do hold one, it won’t be in soil science. The farmers who can afford RA are the ones with little or no debt. They will be farmers who are wellestablished and using conventional practices such as direct drilling and rotational grazing. Perhaps they see a marketing advantage. In a recent webinar the problem of not having developed a clear definition of RA for marketing purposes arose. A marketer said ‘don’t wait for a definition, make it up’. Where’s the integrity in that? One farmer touted as a RA practitioner was supposed to be doing amazing things on a dryland farm yet aerial shots showed irrigator wheel marks. Good farmers take their advice from scientists and won’t use a product unless it is backed by proven science. It’s a great shame conventional farming backed with good science wasn’t labelled regenerative before the RA crowd moved in. After all, if NZ farming wasn’t regenerative and sustainable it would not have lasted so long, and been so successful.

Terry Brosnahan Got any feedback? Contact the editor: or call 03 471 5272 @CountryWideEd

NEXT ISSUE: MARCH 2021 • Soil fertility: Independent scientists Doug Edmeades and Robert McBride give an update on the state of fertility on South Island pastoral farms. • Gene editing: Scientists are frustrated at the difficulty and expense of advancing such technology in this country. • Moving on: Ken Moore has sold his SIL provider business and reflects on the genetic progress sheep farming has made.


February 2021

• Catchment groups: There are now 100 groups across NZ, so how do you join or form one? • Eye in the sky: A former goat culler has gone from shooting to spotting for pest control and spraying crops using drones. • Winter solstice hunt: Hunting in the Canterbury high country on the shortest day.


Country-Wide is published by NZ Farm Life Media PO Box 218, Feilding 4740 General enquiries: Toll free 0800 2AG SUB (0800 224 782)

Making time for off-farm work

MORE p30

EDITOR: Terry Brosnahan | 03 471 5272 | 027 249 0200 PUBLISHER: Tony Leggett | 06 280 3162 | 0274 746 093 SUB EDITOR: Faye Lougher | 06 280 3166 DESIGN AND PRODUCTION: Emily Rees | 06 280 3167 Jo Hannam SOCIAL MEDIA: Charlie Pearson | 06 280 3169 WRITERS: Andrew Swallow 021 745 183 Anne Hardie 03 540 3635 Lynda Gray 03 448 6222 Robert Pattison 027 889 8444 Sandra Taylor 021 151 8685 James Hoban 027 251 1986 Russell Priest 06 328 9852 Jo Cuttance 03 976 5599 Joanna Grigg 027 275 4031 PARTNERSHIP MANAGERS: Janine Aish | Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty 027 890 0015 | Tony Leggett | Lower North Island 027 474 6093 | David Paterson | South Island 027 289 2326 | SUBSCRIPTIONS: | 0800 224 782 Printed by Ovato Print NZ Ltd, Riccarton, Christchurch ISSN 1179-9854 (Print) ISSN 2253-2307 (Online)


Contents BOUNDARIES 8 9

Romney Stud in family ownership since 1920 Spud peel makes low-carbon fert

HOME BLOCK 10 11 12 13 14

Paul Burt stresses the importance of good manners Andrew Steven finds time to read during hay-making We all have a favourite road – Micha Johansen waxes lyrical about hers Wairarapa farmer Mark Guscott plans holidays around the weather UK farmer David Walston ponders the effects of Brexit

BUSINESS 16 19 20 24

Reality check needed with farm lease The tightrope of integrity Scientists call out regenerative agriculture Advisers provide immediate sounding board Andrew Steven recommends some good reads.


MORE p11 Country-Wide

February 2021

BUSINESS 25 Governance brings disciplined approach to business 26 Markets: Time to plant pork 28 South African farmers on the brink of despair


A century of ram breeding

MORE p36

30 36 44 46 51 52 54

Making time for off-farm work A century of ram breeding Preparing for a good lambing percentage Deferred grazing builds quality Surplus feed into lamb weight Ewe condition score important Stock Check: Is monthly drenching the answer?

DEER FARMER 56 59 60 62

Changes in the pipeline Challenges of post-Covid world will be met Venison gross margins Total clearance for online sale

CROP & FORAGE Changes in the pipeline

MORE p56

64 65 68 72

Fertiliser trial a goldmine Fertiliser comparison spurs discussion What to look for in used four-rotor rakes Better soil management a focus for FAR

ENVIRONMENT 76 Shape of our farms 79 Modify landscape only if better stewardship


YOUNG COUNTRY 80 Born in the USA



88 Answering farmers’ needs

90 More photos from this month’s Country-Wide. Charity doesn’t always begin at home.


February 2021

MORE p84




Photo by Brad Hanson.



The steep hill country in northern Manawatu is home to the Morton family, who celebrated a century of ownership of Paki-iti in 2015, followed by a century of Romney ram breeding in 2020.





MORE p80

82 Time to celebrate the role our primary industries play 84 Charity doesn’t always begin at home 87 A touch of Paradise


BOUNDARIES PHOS-FOUR-RS: FERTILISER ASSOCIATION MISSED TRICK? Reading a Fertiliser Association of New Zealand newsletter it seems FANZ missed a trick to help everyone remember the principles of good phosphorus management. Reminding readers of a new Phosphorus Guidance Note it had published in September, FANZ said it explains the need to manage phosphorus losses and build on the “international principles of the four Rs”. Presumably, in the case of phosphorus, that makes them the Phos-Four-Rs? Shame FANZ didn’t think of that. For the record, the four Rs are: Right time, Right place, Right rate, Right form. Follow those and fertiliser P generally contributes less than 10% of total farm losses, but managed very poorly 85% of fertiliser P can be lost, says the guide. See

Romney stud in family ownership since 1920


n 2015 the Morton family celebrated 100 years of ownership of Paki-iti farm in northern Manawatu, and in 2020 a century of breeding Romney rams. Frederick Morton, great-greatgrandfather of present guardians Stewart and Andrew Morton, emigrated to New Zealand from Australia with his family in the late 1890s and settled near Kaikoura. Sons Archie and Will subsequently went into partnership and bought Waiouru Station in the North Island. After being driven out by rabbits and isolation they bought Otiwhiti Station near Hunterville, selling it in 1915. The partnership split, with Archie buying Paki-iti near Rangiwahia and Will buying land at Silverhope near Hunterville. The war intervened and Archie served overseas, returning home in 1917. He established the Paki-iti Romney stud three years later based on 130 ewes from the Parorangi Romney stud of Ernest Short. To remain financially viable Archie took eldest son Pete out of school to help run the farm. The


Great Depression soon followed, and Archie sought off-farm employment at Massey Agricultural College as an animal husbandry lecturer. In 1937 Archie transferred ownership of Paki-iti’s flock to sons Pete and Bill, who farmed in partnership until 1943 when Bill left the partnership, forming ‘Tapuae’ Romney stud at Ohingaiti in 1945. Pete took full ownership of Pakiiti, adding a 200ha adjacent block and expanding the unit to 850ha. The flock at this time was based primarily on Waiorongomai and Cranleigh bloodlines. During the first half of the 20th century the ram breeding industry was characterised by intensive shepherding at lambing time. Stewart recalls the hills being adorned with small huts occupied by shepherds who literally ‘lived’ with the lambing ewes. Occasionally huts would be shifted to more suitable sites and under the floorboards would be a stash of empty grog bottles.

›› A century of ram breeding p36

MEAT AND THREE VEG Young farmer Joseph Watts is one of the 12 who bared almost everything in the Hawke’s Bay Drought 2021 calendar. The idea for the calendar was hatched on the Hawke’s Bay Drought Facebook page created by Poppy Renton (Country-Wide August 2020) as a place for farmers to connect and support each other through the struggles of a long and devastating dry spell. Conversation on the page turned to mental health, leading to the challenge of ‘baring it all’ to raise awareness about wellbeing. Followers did just that, snapping and submitting photos of themselves nearly naked in various farming situations. Some of the almost 100 candid photos were selected for a calendar, the bright idea of local Federated Farmers manager Salli Baldock. “I knew from my work how the drought was affecting people and had a heartfelt feeling that I wanted to do something to help.” She and Sally Charteris took care of the business side of the project, getting sponsorship from a number of local businesses. Salli’s daughter Jessie, a graphic designer, sorted the design side of things. The $5000 raised to date from calendar sales is earmarked for Rural Support Trust Hawke’s Bay, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes during the worst of the drought.


February 2021

Words Have Power SPUD PEEL MAKES LOW-CARBON FERT BY: CHRIS MCCULLOUGH The latest technology is being used to turn waste potato peel from a United Kingdom crisp factory into a valuable fertiliser in a bid to reduce the carbon footprint. Pepsico UK has joined forces with British clean-tech firm CCm Technologies to use their innovative carbon-capture technology on potato peelings left over from making crisps. The material will be transformed into lowcarbon fertiliser and returned to farms where potatoes are grown. Following a promising trial of the fertiliser, which was applied to potato seed beds this year, the company is planning to install CCm’s specialist equipment in 2021 to begin wider production. Once supplied at scale, the fertiliser is expected to reduce its potato-based carbon emissions by 70%. The technology is designed to connect to Pepsico UK’s anaerobic digestor, which uses food waste to generate nearly 75% of the electricity used at the plant and helps ensure it sends zero waste to landfill. The newly installed equipment will use the byproduct waste from the anaerobic digestion process to create the fertiliser. This initiative forms part of PepsiCo’s broader award-winning agriculture programme, which has previously helped UK growers achieve a 50% cut in their water use and carbon emissions. The new initiative could see growers becoming carbon-negative in potato production over the next decade. In addition to the low carbon status of the fertiliser itself, research projects that its long-term use will improve soil health.

WAGE SUBSIDY DATABASE Country-Wide has received access to the latest wage subsidy directory from the Ministry of Social Development. The list includes some 90,000 employers who have received the Wage Subsidy due to loss of revenue during the Covid-19 Lockdown and restrictions at Alert Levels 2, 3 and 4. View at nzfarmlife.


February 2021

The regenerative agriculture movement uses a lexis which can change the meaning, the mood and the motivation of whoever is reading. Compare the names ‘Conventional Pastoral System’ and ‘Regenerative Agriculture’, and the description ‘whole farm system’ compared with ‘holistic’; it is not hard to work out which words trigger curiosity. The derogation implied in the word ‘synthetic’ fertiliser is also interesting considering most fertiliser products are synthesised from naturally occurring resources such as phosphate (P) rock, salt deposits (potassium; K), elemental sulphur (S), nitrogen (N) and carbon dioxide gases.

PHOSPHOHEAVEN OR PHOSPHOGEDDON? A new book offers sustainable phosphorus management solutions to achieve ‘phosphoheaven’ and avoid ‘phosphogeddon’, says publisher Oxford University Press. Phosphorus Past and Future, US$30 (NZ$41.38), by Jim Esler and Phil Haygarth, or as an eBook. explains in 10 chapters the historical use and abuse of the element and efforts to sustain food supply benefits from it with limited rock reserves. “The book provides an insider’s take on this essential resource and why all of us need to wrestle with the wicked problems this element will cause, illuminate, or eliminate in years to come,” says the publisher. Lincoln University’s Professor Leo Condron, who proofread the 294-page volume for the publisher, highly recommends the book “for anyone interested in phosphorus”. “It’s not technical at all,” he told Country-Wide. Esler is Bierman Professor of Ecology at University of Montana, USA, and Haygarth is Professor of Soil and Water Science at Lancaster University, UK. Search ISBN: 9780199916917 at


A man walks into a rooftop bar and takes a seat next to another guy. “What are you drinking?” he asks the guy. “Magic beer,” he says. “Oh, yeah? What’s so magical about it?” Then he shows him: He swigs some beer, dives off the roof, flies around the building, then finally returns to his seat with a triumphant smile. “Amazing!” the man says. “Lemme try some of that!” The man grabs the beer. He downs it, leaps off the roof – and plummets 15 storeys to the ground. The bartender shakes his head. “You know, you’re a real jerk when you’re drunk, Superman.”

TILLY THE CHAMPION LAMB Country-Wide called it early when they wrote a story in October about the striking Otago-based pet lamb Matilda. Shown by St Mary’s School Milton pupil Jemma McKenzie, 9, Tilly (short for Matilda), won Champion Lamb of the Show, at both the South Otago and Tokomairiro A&P shows. Jemma and Tilly also won their age group classes at both shows. Tilly also outdrank all competitors in the drinking competition at the South Otago show, but was pipped at the post in the fancy dress class where Tilly was Harry Potter and Jemma was Hermione. The duo’s next competitive event will be at the Otago A&P Show in January. Talk of retirement has been laid to rest and the winning combination plan to compete again next season. 9


A sailing plate of cold meat and potatoes taught Paul Burt an important lesson in manners.

Manners maketh the man Paul Burt says today we are better off than any previous generation, yet the issues we deal with are just as overwhelming.


learned a valuable lesson on the first day of my second job. I was a boy amongst real men (or so I thought at the time) who could sweat all day without complaint and fight their way out of any situation that got too sensitive for them. They could also drink and by chance or design there was a pub on the route home from the woolshed. Food has always been higher up my priority list than beer, but I had to wait until closing time before I glimpsed any sign of it and it wasn’t what I had imagined. There was a dim light showing in the second level of the house as we drove up well past bedtime. We were hardly out of the car when I heard a balcony door slide open and the boss’s long-cold dinner sailed past his head on its own flying saucer. A few more choice words from the lady of the house helped propel my much anticipated meal on a similar path. I had a fraction more time than the boss had had and was hungry enough to attempt a catch. This saved the plate but not the meat and potatoes, which disappeared into the darkness. There was no gravy. I’ve never taken anyone for granted since. If someone is good enough to do


something for you, show the appropriate consideration. Sadly, good manners don’t carry the importance they once did. Anyone of a certain age knows about hats off inside and no elbows on the table. Not beginning to eat until everyone is seated, and consuming your meal in a quiet, dignified manner, not wolfing it down like a Labrador. These things may seem insignificant but it’s an introduction to a more disciplined, considerate way of behaving. But manners go much further than table etiquette, they are the essential lubricant for good relationships. It’s as simple as treating others as you yourself would like to be treated. I haven’t seen a copy for years but there is a piece of inspirational writing called Desiderata, a sort of 11 commandments for non-believers. It was once quite common to see a framed example anywhere that people might sit and contemplate life. The title comes from the Latin and means something that is desired. The poem was written by American Max Ehrmann in the early 1920s and explores self-worth and other

Manners go much further than table etiquette, they are the essential lubricant for good relationships. It’s as simple as treating others as you yourself would like to be treated. human attributes and aspirations, many of which have taken a back seat but are needed now as much as ever as a guideline to living. “Be yourself” “Take kindly the counsel of the years” “Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune” “There will be always be greater and lesser persons than yourself” “Speak your truth quietly and clearly” Reading these lines, and others, it’s hard to argue with the wisdom, but it now seems from a different age. ‘I’ disease is a global pandemic, and coupled with an unbridled thirst for instant gratification, is a blight on how we live and relate to others. You tend to be given less MATATA advice as you age (seen as a lost cause perhaps) but along with the lesson of the flying plates I was told to own my own problems. If you look to blame others for your particular predicaments you will never solve them. Break them down into manageable bits and start climbing up and over the top. Has anyone else noticed that New Zealanders in the 21st century have more choices, more spare time, more entertainment, less drudgery, and more money than any previous generation, yet the issues that beset us seem as overwhelming as ever. That indicates to me that both the problem and the solution is internal, a place we seldom look. At times every one of us will need help but the best way to ensure that help arrives is always to give more than you take. “Hang on son, that’s wide of the mark. Life is too complicated to be broken down into glib statements and simple solutions.” “Is it?”


February 2021


In between farming and tidying his workshop, Andrew Steven found time to read and says these books are worth picking up.

Looking forward to hay-making Andrew Steven is looking forward to making hay for bale grazing and recommends some good reads.


ast year Timaru got 350mm of rain for the year. We have had 80mm over the Christmas–New Year period, with 34mm on New

Year’s Day. We are now back in the business of growing grass and I am looking forward to the prospect of having some surplus to harvest, because we have no supplement on hand. Balage would be best, but we have our own baler and I don’t want to go spending a fortune, so I am looking forward to making some hay and employing the age-old skills and judgements of getting hay in good condition. I want some bales on hand to winter some cattle using the practice known as bale grazing. That is where you sit the bale out and let animals help themselves without the use of a ring feeder. I did a few bales last year and, as you would expect, there was quite a lot of wastage,


February 2021

but the subsequent pasture growth was phenomenal. I am not sure what is going on, except to say it must be biologically mediated. You don’t see the same result when you roll the bale out. The bales will be placed in the poorer parts of the paddock that only want to grow browntop. Each bale gives a patch of six to seven metres diameter that regrows like crazy. (See photo p91). My main farm achievement for the Christmas season’s loss of motivation was to tidy the old workshop. This is a small shed of about five by seven metres. I have thrown out an estimated tonne of scrap metal. All the old boxes of assorted bolts that have been saved for years got thrown out also. Do you realise they still make bolts and you can buy whatever you need? I thought I would share some books with you that I have enjoyed.

South Sea Vagabonds by J.W. Wray. A young man with no job, money or knowledge, builds a 34-foot yacht and sails it around the Pacific. First published in 1939, a refreshing story of ‘can-do’ attitude. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. A story about a kick-ass woman in the American west. At age 15 she rides her horse 500 miles to begin a new job. Her father gives her a pistol to tuck into her riding boot. Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell by Michael Punke. A biography of a man who helped save the bison and establish Yellowstone National Park. His career spans many of the TIMARU events of the old west. Call Of The Reed Warbler by Charles Massey. Charles Massey is an Australian farmer who went off to do a PhD and wrote a very readable book. The subject area is land management: degradation and regeneration. There are some surprises in this book, so if you are one of those farmers who go apoplectic at the suggestion of regenerative agriculture, don’t be put off, it is a very good read. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. This deals with natural history and concepts, such as ‘honourable harvest’ and reciprocal relationships. It is beautifully written and for a thoughtful moment, rather than an action read. Wishing you all a fantastic New Year.



It may be mostly unsealed road, but in Micha Johansen’s view it couldn’t be more perfect.

My favourite road in the world Micha Johansen waxes lyrical about a road that evokes fond memories of her childhood.


bout halfway between our farm in Eke and my parents’ lifestyle block in Waipuk is my favourite road in the world. Referred to by me as ‘my road’, this mostly unsealed road has my favourite house in the world, ‘granny’s house’. The house where my mother’s parents lived before retiring to Napier. The house where my mother and uncle were raised, and where my uncle lived for 65 years before he retired. The house where there was a tyre swing in the tree, Cape Cod chairs on the verandah, an old lanolin-infused shearing shed, meringues in the cupboard, and it was always summer. Despite attempts to instil some reality into my obsession (it may be a bit wetter, and colder than I remember), nothing can alter my childhood fantasy memories. Like all grand romance stories, my road and I have many detractors. Firstly there is TJ. This man just does not get it,


despite my waxing lyrical about how wonderful my road is. In the past four years of back and forth to my parents’ place, TJ has succumbed to my ‘let’s go down my road’ once. Once! Sure, we had to negotiate a mob of sheep, but other than that the sun was out and it was so beautiful and I was so happy. I remember his relief when we got back on the sealed road, but he’d get used to my road in no time – he races dirt track for heaven’s sake. Despite my love for my road, TJ has zero plans to ever buy, live on, or holiday home there, EVER. And then there is my mother. Always the voice of reason, even though she has fond memories and stories of the road, and house, she also has no plans to buy it for me, should it come back on the market. It’s looking like I need a Lotto win, or some big side hustles. She tells me that the house has been renovated so

it won’t evoke the same memories that we had. But I say phooey! The garage, about the only bit you can see from the road, looks exactly the same to me. These days Mum and Dad only travel on my road from west to east, because if they do meet another vehicle, they’d rather drive into a bank than over one, but I love my road so I’m excited to drive it, albeit very sedately, in either direction. My last trip on my road was just prior to the New Year. On Christmas Day TJ and I dropped seven calves off to Mum and Dad to graze, until they run out of grass. Dad’s first comment was ‘can’t I get a nice line?’ That’d be ‘no, Dad. We sell those ones, you get the rubbishy extras’. He has already renamed Ethan to Eaton, as in ‘he’ll be good eatin’. Of course TJ was rapt to be delivering calves, as it meant towing a trailer, therefore travelling via my road was off the cards. A few days after Christmas I texted Mum to see if she wanted me to bring a pie over for her birthday lunch, which was actually more a ploy for the opportunity to have a tiki tour over my road. Luckily the timing was just right because one of the calves had slipped under a fence and was now in with the neighbours twoyear-old angus steers, and they needed a hand to get him back. My mother is very much about equality. I have witnessed her telling bank managers that her job was ‘farmer’ not ‘farmer’s wife’ and they’d better correct their paperwork pronto, yet the look on her face when I turned up sans TJ to get this calf back was priceless. Apparently we can’t do anything remotely hard without him. Fortunately Mum EKETAHUNA was proven wrong. Before I could come up with an alternative plan Dad cut through the seven-wire fence and I scooted the escaped calf back into the right property. Getting the calf back was the easy bit, the hard bit was reconnecting the fence because Dad has forgotten more fencing skills than most people ever learn, and I’m about as much help as tits on a bull, unless it involves a hammer and staples. However the three of us eventually got it all done, and we walked away pretty proud of ourselves. And what was my reward for this? Driving back home, with a detour along ‘my road’.


February 2021


‘Who needs weather forecasting apps when everything is so predictable!’

It might be hard work getting the kids to carry a pack – but riding a motorbike behind the lambs is a breeze.

Good times on the farm Wairarapa farmer Mark Guscott looks back at the weather over the past year and hazards a guess as to what Mother Nature has in store for him this year.


t’s 6am on January 2 and old habits die hard. I’ve never been one for a sleep-in anyway, and the 4.3 earthquake near Upper Hutt that woke me up got me thinking about what Mother Nature has in store for the year ahead. I reckon I know the answer to that. It’ll piss down at some point, hopefully February or March, blow like a bastard from the nor-west sooner or later, but probably when we’ve got the docking gear out and it’ll get so dry that my mate Doug can continue to mock me for being a lizard farmer. Who needs weather forecasting apps when everything is so predictable!! The Wairarapa enjoyed a pretty good 2020 I have to say. It got a bit dry last summer but nothing like Hawke’s Bay, a nice mild and dry winter and early spring followed by lots of rain in November. Now we’ve got hay paddocks on the side of hills because I followed the rule of ‘noone regrets an early decision’. No, that’s unfair, I won’t blame Mother Nature, she might be listening and I’d like to stay on her good side. Maybe with all this long grass that will probably get trampled in


February 2021

by my beef cows I can be called a regenerative farmer? The government will love me. I think I’ve written about my 5% crazy theory here before. This year we had planted a paddock of choi sum, which is an Asian brassica that we were growing for seed production. I can safely say that the Wairarapa slugs, springtails and other critters enjoyed it immensely, even with multiple measures to deter

Not sure how useful the new staff member will be.

them. The maize in that same paddock is now nearing the top of the fence and I’ll put that idea down to experience and any margin I make out of the maize will cover the cost of choi sum seed and some drilling. Good times on the farm, trying to be market-focused. We’ve had a slow start to lamb drafting this summer. The November rainfall was 180mm and when history says to expect more like 60mm, the stock didn’t enjoy it much. The lambs are steaming ahead now with a bit of sun on their backs, but it hasn’t been a record season for early lamb tallies on the truck. Conversely, the Friesian bulls did enjoy the extra length to the grass and did well in the rain and we only have about a unit load left which will head off for processing sometime in January. The month of January is often a bit stop-start here with people (me included) coming and going from holidays. We’ll get a bit of farming done like lamb shearing, grass seed harvest, and hopefully we’ll have our lamb numbers down enough to start buying in some more. We’re heading down south to do the Abel Tasman with the kids in a couple of weeks, which I’m really looking forward to. We love getting into the outdoors and Suz and I are trying to pass on our CARTERTON enthusiasm for it to our kids. We have the same battle as everyone else trying to persuade them that carrying a pack with everything in it for a few days is more enjoyable than watching mindless crap on YouTube or TikTok. We have this grand idea of doing all the great walks as a family. I don’t know how realistic it is, but might as well give it a nudge. The kids range from 9 to 14 and they’re physically capable of it, we just need to work on the mental capabilities. Fingers crossed for the weather to play ball while we’re on the walk. We will enjoy a few days on the beach at Golden Bay afterwards and I’ll see if the beer in the South Island has improved since I was last there in the winter. Good health to you all in 2021.


HOME BLOCK | COLUMN per year worse off is just around the corner, that it looks so attractive after all. Part of me might think “it’s what you wanted!”, but is it really? It is one thing for everyone to be unsubsidised, but just us? Formula 1 has also spent many years attempting to put a cost cap on how much the teams can spend – something that they basically all agree in principle is a good idea, but getting the detail right has proved tricky. However, how good an idea would it be for only one team to be capped, and the rest allowed to do as they wish? For sure, that team is going to be at a serious disadvantage. This is the unfortunate position we will find ourselves in, as Team Europe continues on as per usual on our doorstep, and we are hobbled. But hold on, is it all doom and gloom? The fact of the matter is that the Basic Payment Scheme is a subsidy for land How will the UK fare once Brexit is completed? owners, not for farmers. For tenants, the subsidy is just added onto rent, and it will equalise in time. For land owners (even mortgaged ones such as ourselves), the money goes straight into our pockets. Losing it will be painful, but perhaps it is morally the right thing to do? I suspect the hardest hit will be people in the supply trade, particularly Messrs John Deere, Claas, Fendt et al. One thing that is made possible by the removal of BPS, and the removal Brexit will result in the reformation of farming of our EU status, is the reformation of our farming laws and incentives. I do laws and incentives, but David Walston is believe that there is scope for serious sceptical the financial viability of farms can improvement in many farming practices, be maintained. but I am much more sceptical that they can be done while maintaining financial viability of farms. There are many ooking back at the last 12 what they were back then, and evangelical green-minded farmers out months, from a purely input costs are higher too. there who say otherwise, but below agronomic point of view, I Some may say that the answer is the polished surface of Twitter hope the future is different. easy, we just need to farm better. often lies a darker truth. I have Every year since 2014 has But this is not the answer to been there, smelt the soil, and – been worse than the last. Springs seem this problem. We always more importantly – seen the to get drier and drier, and harvest, which need to farm better, CAMBRIDGESHIRE, accounts. Policy makers, be ENGLAND used to consistently finish in September, regardless of the conditions careful! now only lasts into August because our at the time. We are in an agonising If that is one possible upside machinery isn’t big enough to get it in death spiral of structural problems, and to Brexit, then like Jim Ratcliffe, I do not the shed by the end of July. Some people shaving off some fixed and variable costs see many more. As I sit here, a No Deal said that 2020 was my generation’s 1976. will only prolong the misery. What is the Brexit (otherwise known as Australian From a weather point of view this may be answer? I’m not sure. Style Deal to the hard-of-thinking) looks correct, but back then prices were, in real My Dad spent decades saying that an almost certain outcome. Oh God, terms, about four times higher than they we should all stop receiving subsidies, how I wish I believed, but I just can’t. are now. About 8t/ha of wheat being sold and there are strong reasons for that. Maybe, hopefully, I am wrong, but Boris, for £600/t (NZ$1127)? Yes please, sign However, I’m not sure that now the Nigel, Michael, and the rest: Thanks lads, me up! But no, prices are a fraction of reality of being £200,000 (NZ$375,589) you’ve f**ked it.

Reality of losing subsidies hits home

L 14 


February 2021


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February 2021

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Reality check needed with farm lease Farm leases are a balancing act between protecting the farm asset and gaining a good return. Kerry Dwyer gives advice for those thinking of entering into leases.



ver the past 35 years I have dealt with many farm leases, from both sides of the table, to find that the business is about relationships. If both parties can understand what the other wants and needs, and can nurture that relationship, then both parties can get a deal that is beneficial to all. Land owners lease for various reasons, with the underlying theme of continuing asset ownership without being involved in the day-to-day farming business. The balancing act for them is to protect or maintain the farm asset while gaining some level of rental return from it. The tenant’s balancing act is to generate enough farming income to run the business while paying rental and gaining some profit. Leasing has been part of New Zealand farming from the very earliest settlement (initially from the Crown) and continues on that basis in many places, along with leases of freehold land from private owners. In any business deal the three essential criteria are price, quality and service. For the landowner, what is the rental? How does the tenant maintain the asset? And what is the longevity and attitude of the tenant? For the tenant, what is the rental? How good a business income can be generated?


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Leasing a farm requires both the farm owner and the tenant to carefully consider everything involved to ensure it is successful.

And what is the longevity and attitude of the owner? If we look at how a lease rental can be calculated we can get an answer to the second two parts of the equation.

RENTAL PER ASSET LEASED If we take an ‘average’ sheep and beef farm of 300 hectares, with a house, woolshed and associated buildings in reasonable repair and state of subdivision and amenities, we get some interesting figures. The whole farm is running 2000 ewes, hoggets and some cattle, to total about 3000 stock units. The farm is valued at $1000/su to total $3m, with improvements valued at close to $1m. The main improvements are a house, woolshed, stock yards, water supply and fencing. The average house rental in NZ is more than $400/week, and talking with landlords I get the impression that their cost of maintaining that asset is


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about half of that. Maintenance being keeping the building painted, carpeted, curtained, insulated, plumbed and wired to acceptable standards. In a normal house tenancy the responsibility for this lies with the landlord, which is often forgotten in farm leases because it is deemed part of the farming business, but here I will take it as a separate issue. If the house is worth $500K then it needs about $10K per year maintenance paid by either party. The 300ha is well subdivided, with sheep-proof fencing of 25km length. On today’s values that is worth about $20K/ km or $500K to replace by contract. Fences can be depreciated at 10% by IRD ruling, meaning an annual ‘maintenance’ cost of $50K carried by either the owner or the tenant. The farm also has a reticulated water supply for stock and house, worth about $200/ha to replace. Industry figures show it will take about 1.5% of that to maintain, with depreciation of 8-10% on top of that, so a cost to either party of more than $6K per year. There is also a woolshed, sheep yards and cattle yards and other sheds, worth maybe $300K or more. IRD depreciation rates for these are at least 4%, giving an annual ‘maintenance’ cost of $12K. Total that all and we get $78K per year to cover ‘maintenance’ of the improvements on the farm. On a per stock unit basis that is $26/su. In practice there is not an annual cost for these items, either it is spent in

lumps when something is broken, or the assets slowly erode. As a comparison, commercial properties are commonly listed for sale as yielding 5% p.a. which equates to $150K on a $3m property. Commercial property may have some better locality value than the average farm, but the tenants are businesses just as farming is.

RENTAL COST Most pastoral leases are calculated per stock unit, since that covers the tenant’s ability to pay the lease relative to income earning potential. Banks have some criteria that rental in the range of 20-25% of income is sustainable for the tenant. Recent Beef + Lamb statistics show a gross income average of about $140/su for sheep and beef farms. So a rental of $28-35/su fits their lending criteria, totalling $84-105,000 rental/year for this ‘average’ property.

RENTAL INCOME The modern calculation of income and profit uses kilograms of drymatter as a base point. Stock units don’t identify as well the actual consumption and production per animal. The benchmark for many pastoral farms is grazing young dairy stock, which over the past couple of years has returned about 20c/kg DM. If the 300ha farm has 290ha effective and grows 9000kg DM/ha, of which 75% is harvested by grazing stock, then the gross


In summary for this average 300ha sheep and beef farm, we have: • Asset value of $3m • Asset ‘maintenance’ cost of $78K p.a. for the improvements • A commercial property lease of 5% yield on a $3m asset is $150K p.a. • Rental calculated per stock unit at $84-105K p.a. • Rental calculated per kg DM at $78-99K p.a. • Rental as % of profit calculated at $26-35K p.a.

income would be about $400K, similar to the sheep and beef stock unit income. Rental per kg DM could be calculated at 4-5c/kg DM. If the farm or the tenant are exceptional then more grass could be grown and harvested to expand possible rental. For example, if the farm grows 12t DM/ha/ year, with 80% harvested then gross income could be more than $550,000, with a fair rental in the $110-137,000 range. The point of doing this calculation is to query how many landowners or ingoing tenants have a handle on pasture production and therefore income potential?

RENTAL INCOME/HA If we assume prospective tenants do their figures, then rental per hectare will have some relativity to per stock unit or per kg DM figures. It is more common that intensive agriculture and dairying properties are rented on the basis of a per hectare figure.

RENTAL INCOME OR PROFIT As stated, banks have some criteria for sustainable rentals, at 20-25% of gross income. If this farm runs 3000su generating $140/su gross income to give $420,000, then expected farm working expenses for the tenant will be about


$240K (55%). The tenant has to cover insurance ($8K), rates ($6K), interest on stock ($15K), depreciation on vehicles and machinery ($20K), which totals $49,000. That leaves $131,000 for rental and profit. If the rental is $84,000 the tenant makes a profit of $47,000. The fastest way for a tenant to make more profit is to spend less on the farm; that may be fewer repairs and maintenance or less fertiliser etc. Spending less will have a longer-term impact on the asset but not be a problem for a shorter-term tenant. The tenant’s ability to generate profit is also very dependent on product prices. Alternatively, to allow for sufficient profitability of the tenant and so spend more on the asset, rental could be set as a portion of their business profit rather than gross income. If the rental is set as a percentage of profit generated, the 2025% range will yield a rental of $26– 33,000 for the landowner.

TENDERS Many potential farm leases are put up for public offer or tender, which can give the landowner a very good rental income if optimism is common in the market. While it is often stated that the highest or any offer may not be accepted, in reality it is difficult to turn down the exceptionally high bids.

The figures don’t quite match up, so we go back to the initial point that the success of the relationship depends on the wants and needs of both parties being substantially met. Does the landowner want the asset maintained or improved by the tenant? What costs are the landowner willing to cover to achieve that? And what value does the landowner place on rental income versus capital value? Will the tenant make sufficient profit to be able to maintain the asset value of the property? Do they have the skills and time to do that? My involvement in farm leases has been to provide an objective view, to provide some reality check for both parties. I have sat down with farmers who have been struggling to make a profit out of their farms, yet they expect a far superior income from leasing the property. I have sat down with prospective tenants who know the farm needs considerable investment to make it productive, yet they expect to make a good profit from income generated. Both these scenarios lead to poor longterm relationships. I have seen farms that have been leased out and worn out, sell for very good coin to an optimistic buyer, in the right market conditions. In the wrong market conditions I have seen these types of farm sell very cheaply. Have a robust discussion before entering into a farm lease, and it is good business to have a referee in place before you have a dispute rather than when it goes pear-shaped. • Kerry Dwyer is a North Otago farm consultant and farmer.


February 2021



tightrope of integrity BY: ANNA CAMPBELL


n my 20s, I lived in Toowoomba, a city of similar size to Dunedin in southeast Queensland. My father was visiting Brisbane (a couple of hours’ drive away) for his work, so I came down and met him for breakfast in the hotel. Breakfast was part of his accommodation package and the breakfast was fairly typical hotel fare – one which excited me a lot more then than it does now! When we lined up, we were asked if we wanted a continental or a cooked breakfast. Dad chose continental and I chose the more expensive cooked option – I was still in student mode and went hard on the buffet bacon! While we were eating, I said to Dad, ‘you can say on your claims back to work that you had the cooked breakfast and that I had the continental’. He looked at me aghast and said that would be dishonest – he paid for my more expensive cooked breakfast. I doubt Dad thought any further about that conversation, but I have never forgotten it. The difference in price between the two breakfasts was probably $5, a minor amount that would never have been checked, but for him it was a matter of personal integrity.


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Integrity and values are frequently bandied around, yet we don’t have many discussions about what they mean to us as individuals or within organisations. I was recently in a situation where I was subjected to theoretical scenarios where I had to choose a line of action. It made me realise it’s easy to have integrity and values in theory, but more complex in practice. As an example, a business may have to decide whether to operate in a location with significantly different values from theirs. For most exporting companies there will be a time or occasion when they feel uncomfortable in terms of securing a deal. It is more common than you might think, as alongside Denmark, New Zealand is ranked as the least corrupt country in the world (2019 Corruption Perceptions Index). I believe we are mostly good at recognising bribery and corruption, saying no and walking away from a deal. It’s harder to draw a line when our values are brought into question. Countries we trade with in the Middle East have poor records of treatment of women. China, our largest trading partner, has a questionable human rights record. Should we do business in these countries and can we do business with integrity and still remain true to our own values? I visited Saudi Arabia earlier this year and was nervous about whether I should go, and if I did go, how I might react to the treatment and status of women, who have only recently been given the right to drive. When there, cloaked in my black abaya, I found there was more open discussion

than I thought there would be – with men and women. In some ways I was an oddity as a female business leader; in other ways, I was just another Westerner doing business in a country slowly opening up and diversifying income. In business meetings, we were able to discuss the role of women in food and agriculture and I was thankful for that. Perhaps integrity in this sense means creating cultural bridges while remaining authentic and true to our own values – quietly demonstrating a different way is possible and even desirable. Delia Ferreira Rubio, the chair of Transparency International, states: “People’s indifference is the best breeding ground for corruption to grow”. My interpretation of this is that our biggest problems arise when we believe we cannot make a difference, and stop caring. My father showed me that we make decisions on a daily basis that speak to our individual integrity. What international business has shown me is that we must always look at the whole picture, seek to understand differences and in a small way, lead change. As an exporting country, we walk the tightrope that is international trade – in walking that tightrope and remaining balanced as to what we stand for, it is our actions that demonstrate a different way. • Anna Campbell is managing director of AbacusBio, a Dunedin based agritechnology company.



NZ pastures already supported large quantities of soil carbon and soil organisms.

Scientists call out regen ag An emerging interest in regenerative agriculture (RA) is questioning the validity of NZ’s farming systems. The claims have prompted some of NZ’s leading scientists to publish a report in the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science magazine AgScience, to try and sort out the nature and legitimacy of statements made by RA supporters. Jo Cuttance took a look at the report.


he report says New Zealand has world-leading ‘new generation’ pastoral production systems, backed by a dedicated team of scientists, agronomists and breeders. The science behind the systems was not bound by belief or dogma. It evolved, and scientists are obligated to adopt ‘better’ practices whether they be organic, regenerative, conventional, gene editing or genetic engineering.


ORIGINS OF REGENERATIVE AG Retired scientists Dr Warwick Scott and Dr Derek Wilson investigated the origins of RA to see how, or if, the factors that helped foster this system are applicable to NZ. RA originated in the United States in response to soils becoming damaged, in particular on land that was used for exhaustive cropping in unsuitable situations with little or no livestock farming. This flawed practice resulted in the creation of the dustbowl of the 1930s,

when huge quantities of degraded soils were lost by wind blow. RA then spread to Australia where poor soils with low fertility were cropped exhaustively, resulting in degradation. In contrast, NZ soils are not degenerated and claims they need rescuing are misplaced. It was accepted there had been some ill-advised cases of land use and intensification in NZ. Professor Leo Condron said the extent and degree of significant soil degradation in NZ


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or an understanding of the science that underpinned the systems to which it was being applied.

SOIL HEALTH AND ORGANIC MATTER RA focused on the improvement of ‘soil health’, and suggested importing organic matter in the form of compost or biochar as a way to increase soil organic matter and improve soil health. The practicality and impact of doing this at the required scale was unknown. Professor Condron said understanding of the composition and extent of soil biodiversity and how it affected ecosystem function and productivity was still limited. Extensive field trials of various bio-stimulants designed to improve plant growth and sustainability by altering the composition and activity of soil microorganisms, had in most cases shown no significant impact on plant growth and soil biology under field conditions.


NZ soils are not degenerated and claims they need rescuing are misplaced.

was limited to small areas that had been subjected to long-term intensive production of crops such as potatoes, onions, and seasonal vegetables (market gardening). Managed agroecosystems in NZ were mainly permanent stocking or rotational grazed pasture used for milk, meat and fibre production. This land use had been shown to maintain high quantities of soil organic matter. Equally, most arable crops in NZ were grown in rotation with grassland, which effectively maintained soil organic matter and soil health. Many aspects of RA echoed bestmanagement practice. For example, the balanced management of nutrient


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inputs and outputs to minimise adverse environmental impacts, the use of direct drills to minimise tillage and place seeds and fertiliser precisely, the integration of animals in farm systems, rotational grazing and management of existing vegetation to optimise plant establishment and minimise the impacts of pests and diseases. Like with RA, these elements had the objective of looking after the soil and the environment. The distinction from RA was the established practices were based on sound evidence and value propositions resulting from peer-reviewed research. In contrast, RA was without critical scrutiny of its relevance, evaluations of its likely benefits,

If plants are harvested (by machine or animal) and removed, the fact is eventually soil nutrients would be depleted. At some point externally sourced nutrients would need to be applied to sustain the soil’s lifesupporting capacity. RA supporters promote the base-cation saturation ratio (BCSR) approach to soil nutrient testing. This theory involved adjusting the ratio of calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and potassium (K) to feed the soil and let the soil feed the plants. This theory suggested balance was important and balance determined soil quality, plant health, and plant growth. The competing theory held that ratios were irrelevant and plant growth was determined by the minimum quantity of the nutrient present, which determined plant growth. A review of the BCSR ratio in America concluded “continued promotion of the BCSR ratio would result in inefficient use of resources in agriculture and horticulture”. RA supporters disliked synthetic fertiliser, believing it to be both unnecessary and causing harm. Science proved soil contained many more essential nutrients than traditional soil tests taken to assess soil fertility show, however only about 10% of the total nutrients measured are plant ‘available’. In New Zealand scientists


Most arable crops in NZ were grown in rotation with grassland, which effectively maintained soil organic matter and soil health.

have calibrated soil tests for pH, P, K, S and Mg against plant response to indicate the amount of external nutrient input needed. Fertiliser application followed the 4R principles – right rate, right place, right time and right form. Dr Doug Edmeades said over the years, various iterations of the New Zealand Government’s agriculture ministry had developed a soil-testing system suited to our soils and confirmed the ‘overcoming limitations’ approach for plant yield that formed the foundation of the MAF soil advisory service. Dr Ants Roberts said soil biology played an important role in soil function but was bound by a First Law of Thermodynamicslike situation. For example, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can change form. This meant soil biology cannot create mineral nutrients, but can change the form of the nutrients, which affected plant availability. This indicated no matter how numerous, active and diverse species of plants were grown in harmony, this would not create new nutrients.


PASTURE SEED AND MANAGEMENT Associate Professor Kerry Harrington said it was difficult to determine whether RA farming in NZ would increase, maintain, or reduce the NZ weed problem. Though given the multi-species use recommendations it seemed likely weeds would increase. Glyphosate was commonly used to control weeds and RA allowed for some use, but had it mixed with other things such as fish and fulvic acid to reduce the rate. This was against all research recommendations, reduced effectiveness and might lead to a build-up of resistance to glyphosate, he said. Multi-species pasture mixtures and grazing less tightly than in conventional agriculture was similar to herbal ley management in organic agriculture. But unless sowing rates were kept low, only the most aggressive species survived. This meant complexity was reduced and money wasted on failed species. If sowing rates were kept low enough to allow some of the more useful species to establish, weeds would also establish. There were many weeds animals did not eat, especially under

low grazing pressure. In addition, most of the chosen pasture mixtures did not persist for as long as perennial ryegrass and white clover swards. NZ agriculture was already embracing a move towards biodiversity by retiring land on steep slopes and in riparian zones, and by establishing native plants in these sensitive areas.

PASTURE SEED PRODUCTION Regenerative agriculture in New Zealand offered farmers a straightforward approach to getting started. 1. Do not overthink, keep it simple. 2. Find a paddock that you wish to improve. 3. Get a seed mix for the paddock. 4. Plant the seed, watch it grow, and learn. Though empowering for the individual, these rules ignored the rigour of testing and review, learned by science. The huge range of variables in farm systems (for example, topography, soil type, paddock history, between seasons in rainfall, temperature, stock type, previous diet, soil moisture and so on), meant that any effects observed could seldom be isolated


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and attributed to the seed mix. Dr Colin Eady and Courtney Inch said farmers, like many people, make anecdotal comments linking cause and effect of one variable, which could lead to erroneous conclusions. Planting more than 40 species mixtures to increase diversity and improve soil structure raised four issues for the NZ seed industry. The first was sourcing, producing, and supplying complex seed mixtures in an inherently inefficient process that would probably result in a serious cost premium, with increased costs in infrastructure requirement, inventory storage and seed mixing. Importing multiple species would increase the biosecurity risk, and growing such diverse species risked cross-pollination and contaminating premium export brassica vegetable seed. Second, most of the species mixtures proposed were not native, so any diversity increase would not at least on one level be natural in NZ. Third, NZ pastures already supported large quantities of soil carbon and soil organisms. Finally, research by Lincoln University scientists had shown optimal pasture production, feed quality and animal performance results were achieved with a well-grazed, simple but multi-species mix of grass, legume and herb. Eady and Inch wrote farmers had a choice, a complex multi-species mix based on a ‘do not overthink, try it and see approach’, or a recommended mixture for their farming system based on robust data and the cumulative wisdom of more than 100 years of research and breeding, endorsed by independent industry bodies with known environmental, production and societal credentials.

FARM SYSTEMS A farm system was an ecosystem that was managed to deliver food and fibre products to support humans. As with any entity, change in one element could lead to unexpected changes in others, and be felt over both the short and long term. Some impacts were predictable, others unpredictable, some favourable, others not so. RA was described as ‘holistic’, which recognised the interconnectedness of the elements in a farm system. With RA being a recent concept, Dr Warren King said definitive studies of pastoral farms run according to regenerative principles


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were lacking so it was not yet possible to conduct a critical ‘holistic’ farm system assessment. However, there was research available around specific practices promoted by RA, which considered the potential impact on the whole farm system. RA suggested using a long-grass grazing system; evidence from NZ trials showed this would reduce the average forage quality, change the tiller dynamics of the grass species in the sward, and change the pasture species composition. It might reduce total pasture production, reduce animal productivity, increase soil organic matter, biological activity and soil moisture retention. The unpredictable included changing soil nutrient dynamics and how it would impact on animal health. King said there was an urgent need for targeted research, focused both on specific metrics as well as whole-farm outcomes of the practice, before robust conclusions could be drawn.

‘Professor Jon Hickford said there was no ‘one-size fits-all’ approach to NZ farming or a singular bestpractice farming system.’ ECONOMICS AND WELLBEING Dr Jacqueline Rowarth said people achieving efficient food production should be held in high regard. She quoted from the Farmers Guardian, how agribusiness professionals and farmers from overseas have lauded New Zealand farmers. “Working smarter, not harder is the ethos of New Zealand farmers who treat food production as an expert profession, leaning on data to drive results.” Yet despite this, New Zealand farmers are stressed and searching for improvement, she said. The wellbeing promises of RA were attractive to farmers, but wellbeing was subjective. From a small amount of Australian research, it indicated RA graziers had greater wellbeing than ‘conventional’ graziers. The 14 RA graziers studied were not making more money, were under greater financial stress, and were not more financially resilient during drought than the average graziers in the same age group,

but they felt better about their operations because they were being supported by consultants and educators. Rowarth said wellbeing associated with RA reflected support. She said it could be argued that support was what NZ farmers had been given through the Ministry of Agriculture Farm Advisory Service, and those farmers supported in this fashion set the foundation for NZ’s current world-leading position. Professor Jon Hickford said there was no ‘one-size fits-all’ approach to NZ farming or a singular best-practice farming system. There was probably a place for RA in NZ if interpreted at the level of trying to improve some aspects of our conventional systems. But there needed to be clear evidence provided of benefit, be it in food quality, environmental impact or profitability. “Wishing your system to be better is not enough, because it must be demonstrably and reliably better,” he said. The full report, written by leading agricultural scientists, in the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science magazine AgScience, can be found at view/693a575a-5482-4df0-bc4df986d3bce648



Advisers provide immediate sounding board for winners ‘Getting off the farm means we are focused just on the agenda and the meeting, rather than wondering why the dogs are barking or who that is driving by the house’

Simon and Trudy Hales, speaking to farmers who attended the field day on their farm in November.



quarterly, semi-formal meeting with four key influencers is driving better strategic performance for the 2020 Tararua Farm Business of the Year winners Simon and Trudy Hales. But the real strength of the board lies in the opportunity for the Hales to tap into the individual and collective knowledge of its members to make better short-term, tactical decisions. Their advisory board was established just over four years ago when Trudy introduced the concept after she attended an AgriWomen’s Development Trust course on business management. Simon acts as the informal chairman of the board, which comprises him and Trudy, their farm consultant John Cannon, BNZ rural manager Sam Monaghan, and their accountant Neil Ivamy from MCI & Associates. They meet off-farm, usually in their accountant’s office in Dannevirke, and have an agenda that is set for each meeting by the Hales. “Getting off the farm means we are focused just on the agenda and the


meeting, rather than wondering why the dogs are barking or who that is driving by the house,” Simon says. The meetings usually start at 3pm and coincide with a farm visit earlier in the day by Cannon. After some early lack of formal agenda setting, the agenda now rolls from one meeting to the next with additional items added as required. Each meeting typically covers a review of the past three months of farm activity, discussion on any changes from previous plans, and then a look ahead at topics such as financial performance, taxation planning, market trends, and broader opportunities for diversification. Minutes are taken by banker Sam Monaghan, who delivers a detailed summary to each member of the board, including action points that are monitored at the next meeting. Simon says the tactical strengths of the advisory board were reinforced last year when the farm endured a major summer drought and that was followed by the lengthy Covid-19 lockdown. Having people available on the phone and video who have a deep understanding of the farm’s physical qualities,

management capability and financial status, plus a wider appreciation of market opportunities, meant the Hales were able to quickly develop, adopt and adapt plans to deal with both challenges. Cannon says this relies on the capacity of the Hales to collect and deliver information, which is shared with all the board members, often through cloud-based software systems. “These guys (Simon and Trudy) are selling themselves a bit short. Our ability as an advisory board to interact with them comes down to the fact these guys measure, monitor and have that information in front of us so we can interpret it and help them make better decisions,” he says. Every board member has to be prepared for the quarterly advisory meetings where the performance of the business is reviewed before the focus turns to future opportunities and challenges. The Hales say the board is there to advise but they still retain ownership of all the decisions. Having an experienced team of rural professionals in regular contact with their business means they gain the maximum value from the time and skillsets of each member. There is a ‘no-surprises’ policy in place for every member of the board. Simon says this allows open and frank conversations because nobody is holding anything back. But there is also a sense of fun, and time for discussion on a wider range of topics than just the farm business.


February 2021


Governance brings disciplined approach to business BY: JOANNA GRIGG Governance is getting up in the helicopter and looking towards the far horizon. Barry Brook, a specialist in farm governance, outlined his views on good farm business governance at the recent Westpac Bayleys Marlborough Sheep & Beef Farmer of the Year field day. He used his experience with the Avery family at Bonavaree Farm as an example. Brook started his involvement with the Avery family after meeting Doug at the judging of the South Island Farmer of the Year in 2010. Doug was impressed and asked him to become a mentor, then the sole independent director and chairman on the newly created Bonavaree board of four family members. The board meets five times a year and a set person (Wendy Avery) is appointed to take and circulate minutes in a timely fashion. Brook said as chairman he is the referee and guiding hand. “Governance, when done well, brings a disciplined approach to the business and it should result in much better success. “The board needs the ability to make the big decisions and has the accountability; the buck stops there.” The four key tasks of any board, as outlined in The Four Pillars of Governance Best Practice, by the Institute of Directors, said Brooks, is to establish the purpose, set values and culture, hold management to account, and set the tone around risk and compliance. The purpose developed by the Bonavaree board is ‘to lead by developing the farm of the future’. “I can’t emphasise how important it is to get to grips with your purpose.” Brook said this can take several discussion sessions. “This is where you discuss why you are in business, if the location, size and type is right, and set the compass.” The second role is setting the values and culture for operating both the board and the


February 2021

business. It might be encouraging people to share the speaking time, welcoming outside views, and how to deal with tough issues. For staff within the Avery business, Brook said they are expected to perform well, be paid well, and be given an environment that encourages learning. Brook noted that a special feature of the Avery business is welcoming outside visitors, even though it takes time and opens up the business to criticism. “This approach takes guts but it often leads to new partnerships.” The third role, assessing performance, is quite separate from doing the daily farm management. The board assesses the quality of the operator (often known as the CEO) in different ways, such as animal performance, animal welfare, time spent by staff, and meeting financial and feed budgets.


Establish the purpose

Set values and culture

Hold management to account


Set the tone around risk and compliance

“The board needs the ability to make the big decisions and has the accountability; the buck stops there.” Business targets are set, for example 41kg lambs from ewe weaning weight and 175kg of meat and fibre per hectare. “What gets measured gets managed.” Bonavaree uses the Farm Insite Dashboard to report across several areas in one visual sheet. The one-page graphic includes budget variations, meat and fibre figures sold, net and gross profit trends, feed covers and growth, sheep performance, and year-todate comparisons for stock on hand. The fourth role is to set the tone for risk and compliance. Brook said this includes managing solvency and debt, water and environmental issues, and health and safety. Some of the risks identified that require planning are investing all knowledge in one person (i.e. Fraser), earthquakes, climate pressure, and changes in consumer trends. Feedback from the competition judge on the governance within the Bonavaree business was “it is as good as I have ever seen”.

With a helicopter view from above a good governance board sets strategy for management.



Time to plant pork Shanghai-based Kiwi Hunter McGregor checks out the impact plant-based ‘meats’ are having on the Chinese market.


ver the past few years there has been plenty of talk and media hype around plant-based meats. Until now, this has mostly been driven from United States ‘beef’-focused products. You would most likely have heard of Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat but there are many others, and the focus is not just beef but all proteins (meat, dairy and seafood). Before African swine fever (ASF) China would consume just over 50% of the pork consumed worldwide. Since ASF this has most likely changed but it’s difficult to get clear statistics. If you want to have the biggest impact on the protein market here in China with plant-based meats, then the focus needs to be on pork.


Many local and international companies are doing just this and the market for plant-based meats (like everything else here) is now competitive. A new product seems to hit the market each week here in Shanghai. Until the middle of the year, I did not know anything about these products. As someone in the protein market, I decided to look behind the hype. I started talking to many top chefs in Shanghai about plant-based products, and tried a couple of products at home. When I was offered an opportunity to be involved with a plant-based event, I jumped at the chance. I am claiming this event as a world first (New Zealand meat/venison and plant-based meat event outside of NZ) unless someone can tell me otherwise!

Looking past all the hype I see: It is just mince but it is not like mince. All plant-based meats are in a minced form, but I am sure this will change over time as they develop new products. Being just a minced product makes it limited in its usage within the kitchen. But none of the products seem to behave like minced meat, so it is difficult to use only one plant-based meat across all mincedbased recipes. For example, one chef told me that one product fries and becomes crispy very well, but that same product does not work very well in dumplings. Another product is the other way around and works well in dumplings but cannot be fried because it just falls apart. You can understand why the focus on developing a grilling burger makes sense for the


February 2021

American companies, but I have not heard how their mince is because I don’t think it’s available in Shanghai yet.

NEED TO TEACH CHINESE CHEFS HOW TO COOK IT When it comes to educating chefs in China about new protein/product, it is a really difficult job. I should know as I have spent the past five years doing just this with NZ venison. I wish the entire plant-based industry luck with this challenge because it is not easy. It is very time-consuming and chefs’ time (to train them) is becoming more and more limited. Without the ability to correctly cook and present the product, it’s going to make building sales really challenging. Pre-cooked or packaged will overcome a lot of this. But there will be major challenges around price points.

Teaching Chinese chefs how to use plant-based protein is not an easy task.

PRICE POINT NEEDS TO BE CHEAPER Just about every chef I talked to about plant-based meats all said the same thing around pricing. When the pricing is cheaper than the ‘real’ meat then it will be better. This is the major challenge all plant-based meats are facing, because it is not seen as a premium product but more of a cheap mass-market item. The other challenge is as demand grows so will the demand for the plant ingredients. But it looks likely the farmer/ suppliers’ margins are going to be squeezed right from the get-go. One thing for sure is that the plant-based meats (and other proteins) are only going to grow and there is plenty of investment dollars going into the sector. There is also consumer demand for healthier and environmentally friendly foods, and at the moment plant-based meats seem to fit well into this trend. One other thing I don’t fully understand is that everyone who is selling and promoting these products is saying they are ‘healthy’. I get the feeling that consumers think that it’s made from plants so it must be healthy. Plants are healthy, right? But I have no idea if they are really that healthy. Yes, the base ingredients are from plants but all of these products are highly processed, and the details of how they are actually made are not very clear. The processing is where these companies build intellectual property (IP) and their


February 2021

point of difference. The only other highly processed product that I can think of as healthy, is infant formula. The processing part is very clear in this case because it’s drying it into a powder. Are there any other processed foods out there that are healthy? There might be, but I’m not that familiar with them. Looking behind the hype there are plenty of challenges for the plant-based industry, but nothing that cannot be overcome. These products will continue to improve as they develop better processing. From a low base they will continue to take market share of plates in China and around the world. How big the plant-based products industry grows depends upon the end consumer.

One thing is for sure the entire plantbased industry is working very hard to promote itself. There is plenty of talk from consumers about more interest in where their food comes from. This is a challenge and an opportunity for everyone selling food. I am excited about the future of the NZ red meat industry, because we tick many boxes that the consumer is looking for. It is important that we don’t just sit back and think this is enough. We need to be out in the markets around the world discussing the benefits of NZ protein products directly with individual consumers. • Hunter McGregor is a Chinese-speaking Kiwi based in Shanghai selling NZ meat into China.



South African farmers on the brink

South African farmer Anthony Khourie is trying to stop the butchering and stealing of his dairy cattle on Bosparadys Farm, near Pretoria.



ive men are butchering our calves in the middle of the field.” That was the cry over the radio as South African farmer Anthony Khourie and his security team rushed to the scene. When the men arrived the cattle thieves had been spooked and had fled, but the scene of devastation left behind was gruesome for anyone to witness. Early in the morning the attackers had rounded up five young Friesian bull calves, killed them, and butchered the carcases, setting the meat joints on the grass in the field to take home. However, Anthony and his security guards saw them and gave chase, forcing the criminals to flee and leave the meat behind. That was two weeks ago but now Anthony and his family farm are being intimidated by the thieves who keep coming back at night time. “It’s nothing short of being barbaric,” said Anthony, whose family has run Bosparadys Farm, situated near


Magaliesburg outside Pretoria, for more than 20 years. “Two weeks ago they slaughtered five of my young male calves in the field and since then the thieves have returned on different occasions to sabotage us. “Our security and I rushed to the scene at 3am and found the spot. When we got there the five men had already butchered three of the animals and the other two were dead.” Dairying is the dominant enterprise on the farm, accounting for 80% of the total

Calves to the slaughter. Animals are being butchered in the fields.

farm income, but the Khourie’s also farm sheep, pigs, hens, goats and game. “Last night they came to the farm again and opened gates that we had tied with wire, letting cattle onto my maize crop and destroying the young plants. It is finished, the crops are ruined.” Anthony said. “They do anything they can like, cutting wire just to aggravate us,” he added. “It’s becoming a very big problem now. I am appealing for help from everyone to highlight what we as South African farmers are facing each day.” For the past two years there have been almost 100 farm murders in South Africa and countless farm attacks, putting the farming community on edge. The cattle thefts are also a huge issue especially now for Anthony, who must also look out for the safety of his family. The Khourie family employs 250 staff who work in all the sectors on the farm. Ten security staff are on duty at night time, which is a huge expense for Anthony. He suspects the recent cattle slaughters may have something to do with an ex-employee who was caught stealing diesel. He also believes one of his 10 night security guards is also involved. “We are awaiting the results of lie detector tests carried out on the staff,” he said. “Security is one of our biggest costs here in South Africa, you can hardly believe the costs. “Ten night staff are on a fixed rate of 8000 Rands (NZ$738.07) a month each and we still get problems. “That cost is essential, otherwise you can’t farm in South Africa.” While the team awaits the results of the lie detector test, he and his guards are expecting more attacks soon. “So far we haven’t arrested anyone and await the results,” said Anthony. “We suspect one of the guards is involved plus the ex-worker caught stealing diesel. They are also awaiting the details from the worker’s cellphone to see who called who at what time in a bid to further catch the thieves. “Meanwhile we have to be very vigilant and keep our eyes and ears open for further attacks.”


February 2021


MAY 2021


Contact: David Paterson p: 027 289 2326 e: Country-Wide

February 2021



Spring-born-bulls are carried through two winters and finished at 320kg CW.

Making time for off-farm work Breed, personnel and management changes have helped a King Country couple weather droughts and given them more time for industry and community involvement, as Mike Bland reports.


ith off-farm commitments taking up an increasing amount of their time, Martin and Wendy Coup decided to change how they run their King Country operation. In 2018 Martin was elected farmerdirector for Beef + Lamb NZ’s Northern North Island region. Wendy is a facilitator and coach for the Agri-Women’s Development Trust. Both jobs can see them away from their 800ha hill country farm in Paraheka Valley, south of Aria, on a regular basis. Until three years ago they had run the farm in a family partnership with the help of casual labour, but when that came to an end they decided to employ


a stock manager to handle day-to-day management. Martin says taking on a full-time team member was a big decision, but he and Wendy both enjoy their off-farm commitments and didn’t want to sell the farm or see stock performance slide backwards. In 2017 they employed Alex Petrucci and his wife Bronwyn, a move that has given the Coups peace of mind that the farm is being well run while they work on their other projects. Martin says Alex is a progressive and conscientious stock manager. The Coups also employ Rick Pulman on a casual basis for fencing and repair jobs, and yard work when required. Another major change has been the

introduction of Farmax under the guidance of Waikato–based consultant Steven Howarth of AgFirst. Farmax is now used as the basis for most farm management decisions, effectively becoming another team member, Martin says. “It’s been good for us but it’s not for everyone. You’ve got to be disciplined about using it if you want to get the most out of it. There is no point in leaving it in the drawer.” Of the 800ha farm, about 684ha is used for pastoral farming. The balance is what Martin calls a biodiversity area, made up mostly of native bush and riparian planting. The farm has 80ha of very fertile flats, with the balance medium to steep hill. Contour rises from about 36 metres above


February 2021

Monthly pasture growth Two dry seasons – 2018/19 and 2019/20 – took a big bite out of seasonal pasture growth. 40

Pasture growth (kg DM/ha)

sea level to 335m asl. Some of the steeper hill country is frequently shrouded in fog that, Martin says, can make it hard to muster the back paddock. “But it does keep the hills warmer and we get reasonable grass growth over winter.” Annual rainfall used to be about 1800mm but this has decreased in recent years, with drought conditions prevailing over the past two. As a result, stock numbers are down on what they were three years ago when the farm wintered 620kg LW/ha. This year it carried about 580kg LW/ha including 2400 ewes, 800 ewe hoggets, 140 HerefordFriesian cows, 25 heifers and 390 R1, R2 and 30-month bulls (mostly Friesian).

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0

Jul 19

Aug 19

Sep 19 17/18

Oct 19

Nov 19 18/19

Dec 19

Jan 20

Feb 20 19/20

Mar 20

Apr 20

May 20

Jun 20


LAMB LOSS LEADS TO BREED CHANGE The Coups originally farmed Romney ewes but switched to composites in the late 1990s “to get more feet on the ground”. But in 2010 they got hit by spring storms that killed 1400 lambs and reduced their final lambing tally from a previous average of 138% (survival to sale) to 90%. “I think there would be many farmers in this region with stories similar to ours,” Martin says. The situation felt hopeless and out of control. “There was nothing we could do but get on and make the best of what we had got.” After the storms the Coups decided to change breed to increase scanning percentages and improve lamb survival. So they switched to Coopworths, using facial eczema-tolerant rams from Redley Park, Pukeatua. “We also wanted to feed our ewes better,” Martin says. “The goal is to get an efficient ewe that averages 62-65kg post-lambing and produces two lambs that can be sold at 32kg.” The flock is now almost entirely Coopworth and Alex says some very strong genetics are coming through. Stock performance had been on the rise until the past two seasons. In 2017, mixed-age ewes scanned at 194% and docked 165%, but then the droughts hit. Scanning fell to 175% in 2019, and lambing dropped to 148%. In 2020, after another very dry year, ewes scanned at 170% and docked 144%. Ewe hoggets have been mated in the past, but the Coups and Alex decided not to mate young ewes over the past two seasons


February 2021

Martin Coup says the past two years have been a real test for the King Country farm.


Stock manager Alex Petrucci says the ability to sell stock early or delay stock purchases gives the system crucial flexibility.

because they didn’t reach mating weights owing to the tight feed supply. Given the right conditions, Alex says hoggets over 40kg will be mated in 2021. He is determined to get capital ewes to heavier weights and hopes to lift ewe weights from an average of 59kg postlambing to 65kg to improve milking ability. The ewes were drenched for Barber’s Pole in late February 2020 to help them achieve better utilisation of tupping feed. Ewes are run in two mobs. About 1600 go into a maternal mob and 1000 are mated to terminal sires. The target is to sell terminal lambs before Christmas at 17.5kg carcaseweight (CW). Surplus maternal lambs are gone by late April at 17kg CW. About 80% of lambs are finished in a

normal season, the rest are sold store. Maternal ewes lamb from September 10 and the terminals from August 25, but Alex says terminal mating may be shifted forward 10-14 days in 2021 to better match the feed curve. There is no cropping on the farm and no supplement is made. It’s an all-grass system that depends heavily on the weather. The past two years have been a real test for the farm.

FARMING AS IF IN HAWKE’S BAY Martin says the increasing incidence of droughts means they have had to adjust their farming system to ensure they are carrying only key stock classes through the summer months. “The consistency of rainfall in summer

Key stats for Martin and Wendy Coup, Aria 2017/18




Liveweight wintered kg/ha





Net product (kg meat and wool/ha)





Sheep revenue ($/sheep ha)





Beef revenue ($/beef ha)





Total farm expenditure ($/ha)





EBITR ($/ha)






is becoming inconsistent. That’s our risk period now. We have to farm like we are in Hawke’s Bay.” Alex says the ability to sell stock early or delay stock purchases gives the system crucial flexibility. Farmax plays a key role in deciding this. For example, last year the decision was made to retain 400 winter lambs instead of buying in six-month bulls. The lambs, which would typically be sold by late April, were kept until August 5. Martin says the lambs made 40c/kg drymatter (DM) consumed, compared with bulls, which would have made 25c/kg DM. Alex says winter lambs also provided good cashflow at a time when income is traditionally low. Another key decision was the use of nitrogen to boost pasture covers. Following the 2018/19 drought, May 1 pasture covers had dropped from 2000kg DM/ ha to 1400kg DM/ha, so 60kg of N/ha was applied to two-thirds of the farm, including the lambing country and bull systems. By August 31, average pasture covers had increased to 1570kg DM/ha. Martin says the N application effectively lifted pasture cover by 200kg DM/ha across the whole farm. “We were lucky to get a warm winter and good growth. That allowed us to start


February 2021

Top: Typically the bull system would span 180ha, comprising 500 cells, but this was reduced to 120ha in 2020/2021. Above left: Employing a stock manager has given Martin and Wendy Coup, pictured here in 2011, more time to focus on their off-farm work. Above right: Lamb survivability has improved since a breed change eight years ago.

pumping more feed into the bulls, which were 40kg behind the same time the previous year. It was also a real lifesaver when it came to feeding the ewes in spring.” After a kind spring, Martin, Wendy and Alex then had to decide whether to buy in cattle or shut up a portion of the farm and graze it later. They opted for deferred grazing, the first time it has been used on the farm. About 35ha of bull country was closed in late October. It will be break fed in late February/early March with the bulls on two- to three-day shifts. Martin hopes the use of deferred grazing will lift pasture quality across the whole farm while also improving the composition of pastures in deferred areas.


February 2021

BULL SYSTEM TIGHTENED The Coups and their stock manager have also made changes to the size of their bull system to compensate for lower pasture growth over the past two years. Typically the bull system would span 180ha, comprising 500 cells, but this was reduced to 120ha in 2020/2021. Martin says the changes reflect low pasture growth in January/February 2020 when daily growth halved to 10kg DM/ha. In 2020 the farm wintered about 390 bulls. About 150 autumn-born Friesians are bought in July at 100kg LW and finished at 18 months at an average of 300kg CW. Another 120 calves are purchased at 140kg LW in July, depending on feed. These bulls will usually be carried for two winters and finished at around 320kg CW.

FARM FACTS • Martin and Wendy Coup • Aria, King Country ARIA • 800ha total, 684ha eff • Wintering 580kg/ha (2020) • Running sheep, cows and bulls. “Ideally we’d like to finish all bulls before Christmas at 300-320kg but we didn’t achieve that last year due to the drought, so about 40% were held over until later in the season,” says Martin. Bulls are split into mobs of 25-30, according to age. Cell sizes vary but the 443 cells used this season averaged 0.27ha.


Protect your ewes. Improve your lambing performance*.



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ORDER TOXOVAX AND CAMPYVAX4 FROM YOUR VET TODAY. AVAILABLE ONLY UNDER VETERINARY AUTHORISATION. ACVM No's: A4769, A9535. Schering-Plough Animal Health Ltd. Phone: 0800 800 543. NZ-CVX-200900003 34  Intervet International B.V. All Rights Reserved. 1. Dempster et al (2011), NZ Veterinary Journal , 59:4 155-159. 2. Wilkins et al (1992) Surveillance, 19:4, 20-23. 3. Sahin et al (2017) The Annual Review of Animal Biosciences. 5: 9.1-9.22 © 2020


February 2021

Above: A breeding herd of about 140 Hereford-Friesian cows is used to maintain pasture quality. Top right: Martin Coup on the farm back in 2013. Above right: The farm has been carefully mapped out according to soil type and contour to minimise the risk of erosion and sediment run-off.

Setting up cells for winter is a big job. Alex puts the fencing standards in and Martin and Wendy string up the wires. Alex says they aim for a 90-day round but this can be extended to 110 days if needed. “We like to have a few spare cells up our sleeve in case the weather turns really bad.” Spring-born calves typically grow at about 300g LW/day over the May to October period and the autumn-born calves average around 800g LW/day. “We open up as soon as we can see grass in front of them,” says Alex. “Growth rates will jump to 1.5-2kg/day when we are really riding the grass curve.” Breeding cows, along with the two-year bulls, are used as a clean-up mob if pasture quality starts to decline. The farm runs about 140 HerefordFriesian cows. Bought-in heifers are mated to Angus bulls and the mixed-age cows go to Simmentals. Martin says the farm’s sheep-to-cattle ratio usually sits at about 50:50. “Our cattle numbers are probably higher than most farms in the district but that’s because we have good contour for cattle and we try to farm to the farm’s strengths.”


February 2021

TREES FOR WATER QUALITY Preventing sediment run-off has been a priority in recent years. Martin and Wendy have fenced off all the major waterways that cross the farm, planting some with natives such as flax and manuka. Waterways on the steeper contour have been planted with willows, which have also been space-planted in the hills for erosion control, shade and forage. The farm has been carefully mapped out according to soil type and contour to minimise the risk of erosion and sediment run-off. Stocking rates are low on the steeper country. Martin says when they started planting they had to decide whether they were going to plant trees for beauty or for sediment control. They figured the latter was more important. But, he says, the plantings and bird life that come with the trees give real pleasure. And stock come running when the willow branches are chopped. The Coups are in the process of fencing off 4ha of native bush that will begin to regenerate. Martin says they would have liked to have fenced off

more bush in their earlier years on the farm but weren’t in a financial position to do so. They are now reaping the benefits of development work carried out over the years, and this has freed up time and money for environmental projects. “Our costs are under control, we’ve got water in every paddock and we are replacing older fences as we go along.” As a director of Beef + Lamb NZ and a farmer, Martin takes a very strong interest in the debate on environmental regulations. He understands why farmers are concerned. Many have already made a significant effort to improve environmental management. “I think most sheep and beef farmers worry about what we have to do. But when you look back and reflect on what’s been done so far, it’s surprising how far we’ve come,” he says. “We’ve got some of the best pastoral farmers in the world. We just have to tell our stories better.”

›› American-bred and city-raised p80 35

Paki-iti farm buildings in Rangiwahia district in northern Manawatu.



February 2021


A century of ram breeding The Morton family may have achieved two milestones in recent years, but they have no intention of resting on their laurels. Russell Priest discovers what the family has planned for the future. Photos by Brad Hanson.

Stud sires at Paki-iti.


ucked away on steep hill country in the northern Manawatu on the road between Rangiwahia and Ohingaiti is Paki-iti farm, home to one of New Zealand’s oldest surviving Romney ram breeding businesses. In 2015 the Morton family celebrated 100 years of ownership of Paki-iti and in 2020 a century of breeding Romney rams. Established in 1920 by Archie Morton, the great-grandfather of present guardians Stewart (47) and Andrew (45) Morton, the business now services 160 clients a year nationwide and now not only breeds


February 2021

Romney rams but also Romtex, Suftex and Suffolks. “Nowadays we don’t consider ourselves just Romney breeders but breeders of what the market requires,” Stewart said. What the market requires presents the ram breeding industry with huge and ongoing challenges not only with regard to improved performance, constitution and soundness, but also the price of crossbred wool and tolerance to diseases like facial eczema. “We have a huge responsibility as ram breeders because we provide 80% of the genetic improvement to the commercial farmer,” Stewart said.

The Mortons take their responsibility seriously, with their entire business aimed at replicating as closely as possible a commercial operation. This goes a long way to ensuring the genes they generate in their environment are more likely to fit seamlessly into the flocks of their clients. Paki-iti Farms Ltd is a predominantly ram-breeding business, owning an 850ha (800ha effective) hill country block (Pakiiti) in the northern Manawatu plus three easy contoured farms totalling 460ha in the Kimbolton area. Paki-iti (637m at its highest point) is subdivided into about 80 paddocks, 20 of which are used for single-sire mating.


water scheme based on our natural water courses,” Andrew said. Paki-iti is home to 1500 SIL-recorded Romney and Romtex ewes and their progeny, 1700 commercial Romney ewes of which 1000 are mated to terminal sires, 180 MA cows, and 50 R2 in-calf heifers (mainly Angus). The 460ha of easy country runs the terminal ewe flocks, the sale rams after they have been wintered on Paki-iti, and is used to grow out the weaner heifers, calve the R2 heifers, finish trading cattle, and graze dairy heifers. “The recorded terminal ram lambs wean at more than 40kg and by April average 55kg. If allowed to continue to grow at this sort of rate they would be too big by sale time so we send them up to Paki-iti for a couple of months to harden them up and to sort out the ones with poor constitution,” Stewart said. The weaner heifers are sent down to the flats on July 1 and wintered behind a hot wire to get them up to weight to mate as yearlings. They return to Paki-iti to be mated to bulls with low birth weight EBVs and return to the flats for calving behind a hot wire. “We don’t have any significant calving issues with our heifers, but in saying this we are conscious not to overfeed them,” Stewart says.


Top: Terminal stud sires. Above: Yearling heifers.

SOIL FERTILITY IMPORTANT One farm asset the Mortons are aiming to develop further however is soil fertility. At present the Olsen P levels range between 9-16 with the pHs in the mid-5s. An annual dressing of 250kg sulphur super is applied in the autumn, with a third of the farm getting 800kg/ha of lime every year. “Our biggest soil issue is the pH but it’s pretty expensive applying lime to hill country,” Stewart said. The predominantly steep contoured farm has soils that consist mainly of papa and sandstone, and lost 9.1% of its grazable


land in the 2004 weather bomb that hit most of the lower North Island. The scars have taken years to heal but an annual poplar pole planting programme is helping ensure such damage will be reduced in the event of a similar storm. Stock water is supplied mostly via dams, although there are a couple of streams that flow through the farm. Three-quarters of the dams dried up during last summer’s drought, allowing diggers access to clean them out. “We are doing some research at the moment into setting up a reticulated

Sheep mating is a busy time of the year for the staff at Paki-iti, taking about six weeks to complete. It starts by taking weights and measurements from the various breeds, analysing the data and viewing the progeny of the rams used for mating the previous year. The ram team is then selected and individual matings determined based on mating the best to the best and corrective mating, which is a long but interesting process. “Corrective mating results in the progeny being like peas in a pod.” The Mortons are strong believers in the concept of handling and observing their animals as much as is practical rather than simply plucking their numbers out of a computer. The selective mating process results in about 40 mating mobs with a maximum of one ram to 140 ewes (averages one to 80-90). Mating begins on April 1. The maternal hoggets (minimum cutoff weight of 40kg) are mated to Romney rams in mobs with one ram to 50 hoggets.


February 2021

Mating starts on May 1. No progeny are retained for breeding out of hoggets. Normally they scan 100% with 70%-80% normally in lamb. Unlike the maternal hoggets, 50% of the progeny of the terminal hoggets are retained for breeding. Mating begins in mid-April with a minimum cut-off mating weight of 50kg. Ram selling in November is another busy time of the year for Paki-iti staff, requiring two people full time for three and a half weeks. Single sire mating using a mating period of 34 days is a major impediment to generating a bank of feed for the winter.

‘We are now selling and leasing more than 500 terminal rams and ram hoggets annually, which tells me we must have a reasonable product that is working.’ “After mating we mob the ewes up and go into a rotation, however by August we’ve got to bail out because we can no longer push feed ahead.” Traditionally the Mortons have tried to farm commercially using nitrogen only to increase lambing covers, but now they’re looking to drop their stocking rate, lamb 10 days earlier, and maybe use nitrogen to build winter covers. An earlier mating will enable them to enter their winter rotation sooner, and combined with an autumn nitrogen application, should generate enough of a bank of feed to take the ewes through to lambing without having to abandon the winter rotation prematurely. “This strategy will also allow us to wean at 85 days (early December) instead of 75 and increase our average weaning weight to 34kg,” Stewart said.

LAMB PARENTAGE IDENTIFIED One of the long-standing traditions on Paki-iti has been to identify a lamb’s parentage at docking. This tradition continues today and is a time-consuming exercise that normally takes seven weeks and involves the entire Paki-iti team. The alternative would be to use DNA technology, which requires taking a tissue sample from each lamb and getting this


February 2021

Stewart (left) and Andrew Morton.

analysed to determine its pedigree. However, the cost of this would have to be passed on to their clients, which they were not prepared to do at this stage. “We DNA test all our sires though, so they are 100% correct. “We think our system is a good compromise but we owe it to our clients to get it as correct as possible because they are paying good money for their rams.” The present team at Paki-iti Farms includes Ross Geary, Angus Gibb, and recent arrival Erica Ernshaw. Paki-iti is well served with satellite yards that are used for docking and parent identification. Mobs of about 20 ewes and their lambs at a time are quietly mustered

FARM FACTS • Paki-iti – 850ha steep hill block (northern Manawatu). • Three easy contoured blocks totalling 460ha (Kimbolton area). RANGIWAHIA • Ram breeding/ cattle breeding and finishing, dairy grazing. • 2800 SIL-recorded Romney, Romtex, Suffolk and Suftex ewes. • 930 rams sold/leased annually.


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Above: Most of the docking team minus Angus Gibbs (left to right): Ian, Andrew, Fiona, Ashleigh, Stewart, Charlie, Archie, Heidi, (all Mortons), Erica Ernshaw and Ross Geary.

into holding yards and allowed to mother up. Once this occurs each individual family unit is moved one by one into smaller pens where the ewes are identified, lambs tagged and docked, and the pedigree information recorded.

CHILDREN’S INVOLVEMENT ENCOURAGED One of William’s many legacies was to set up a business called SAV Enterprises (SAV being short for Stewart, Andrew, Victoria) when Stewart was 10 years old to encourage his three children to experience breeding sheep. SAVE bought 10 Pakiiti ewes for $10 each. The children were involved in the whole gamut of events associated with breeding rams, from selecting mating combinations to selling the progeny and the wool.


February 2021


During the 1990s the recorded ewe numbers increased significantly as the stud took advantage of the publicity generated by the two record-priced rams (see box) and the trend towards more recording. In 1995 in response to increasing interest in the use of terminal sires Paki-iti established a Suffolk stud. The old stud card-recording system was replaced by a computer-based system to cater for the extra ewe numbers. Pakiiti also underwent a large development programme aimed at dramatically increasing the number of paddocks, primarily to accommodate the increasing number of single-sire mating mobs. In 1999 at the ages of 26 and 24 respectively, Stewart and Andrew assumed managerial control of Paki-iti and soon


February 2021

began changing the type of sheep being bred to a more efficient, hardier type. In 2008 a Suftex stud was established to offer a more meaty terminal option to the Suffolk, and in 2011 a Romtex breeding programme was started to offer a higher growth and more meaty maternal option to the Romney. The brothers added a terminal ram leasing option to their business in 2010. Ram hoggets are able to be leased for one mating season only and are then killed, avoiding the possibility of introducing brucellosis into the Paki-iti flock. “We are now selling and leasing more than 500 terminal rams and ram hoggets annually, which tells me we must have a reasonable product that is working,” Stewart said. Continues


William (Stewart and Andrew’s father) took the helm at Paki-iti in 1972, and not being one for drinking on his own in a small hut out on the hills, decided to revolutionise the farm’s lambing practices. In 1975 the Paki-iti ewes were not shepherded during lambing, resulting in an immediate drop in lambing percentage of 20% (110% – 90%). Turanganui Romney stud, arguably the first to introduce easy care lambing in the country in the early 1950s, became the source of Paki-iti’s stud sires until the mid-1980s. Annual ram sales increased to more than 1000, serving an estimated 0.05% of the national flock. With processors now starting to pay a premium for heavier, leaner lambs; taller, longer rams became fashionable. Paki-iti’s response was to move its ram buying focus to the South Island, paying $35,000 for a Fernvale ram bred by North Otago’s Harry Brensell. William affectionately named him Adonis (in Greek mythology Adonis is the God of beauty and desire) and in his first year he lived up to his name by mating 237 ewes. It was an extremely successful publicity stunt said Stewart, because the investment was recouped in a short time through additional ram sales. “It worked,” Stewart says. He says the progeny were goodlooking sheep – alert, upstanding, taller and longer and clean on the points. That’s how rams at the time were being selected.” William was killed in a motor accident in Australia in 1988 so did not see the fruits of his investment. Stewart and Andrew were 15 and 13 at the time and too young to assume managerial responsibility of the business, so their grandfather Pete was brought out of retirement to retake the reins. In 1993 the Adonis exercise was repeated when another South Island sire, Edenbank 105/91 bred by Southland’s Willie Mitchell, was bought for a world record price for a Romney ram of $45,000.


Paki-iti is home to 1700 commercial Romney ewes of which 1000 are mated to terminal sires.

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In 2020 the Paki-iti recorded ewe numbers were 1500 Romney and Romtex and 1300 Suffolk and Suftex. Today constitution is the foremost of Paki-iti’s breeding objectives, closely followed by structural soundness and performance. The Mortons’ aim is to breed sheep, including the terminals, that can handle the hill country environment. “We believe poor structure is one of the biggest issues in the sheep industry, with feet being the single biggest problem,” Stewart said. “We consider performance to be very important but not at the expense of constitution and soundness.” Performance traits focused on in their Romney flock are growth, meat, fertility, and survivability, although as Stewart pointed out that while survivability is important, its heritability is so low the ability to make genetic progress is extremely slow. Stewart said breeding for thicker skins has some merit and is a more rewarding option in terms of survivability. No selection pressure is put on wool weight.





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February 2021

Top left: Dams are a major source of stock water. Top right: Ian Morton in drafting race. Above: Ewes are mustered in small groups into docking yards.

Paki-iti has been selecting for facial eczema tolerance in a Romney sub-flock for nine years and is at present testing at 0.4. Strong relationships have been formed with others breeding for the trait.

FOCUS ON STRUCTURE AND FERTILITY The Mortons’ have achieved considerable success with their most recently developed breed the Romtex because their breeding programme has focused strongly on the two main weaknesses of the Texel breed: structure and fertility. “It’s important when breeding Romtex to have a stabilised flock because you’ve got greater control of the variability that


February 2021

results from crossbreeding,” Stewart says. Besides focusing on improving growth and meat in their Suftex and Suffolk flocks the Mortons are also trying to make the former breed darker to make it a more effective marker breed, and the latter more hardy to improve its survivability. In order to access outside genetics the Mortons are members of several breeding groups. Stewart is impressed with the willingness of members to share knowledge and genetics for the betterment of not only themselves but also their clients and ultimately the NZ sheep industry. Because of this Stewart believes the industry is well ahead of other livestock industries.

Being a member of the 10-strong Romney NZ North Island breeders group for 15 years has enabled Paki-iti to swap genetics, create stronger genetic linkages, and undergo progeny trials using the expertise of Lincoln University’s associate professor Jon Hickford and the processing facilities of Alliance’s works at Dannevirke. Swapping rams with other breeders within the group and analysing the progeny information through SIL provides valuable genetic information to both the individual breeder and the group. Each year the top ram from the group is entered into the Central Progeny Test with the top 25 rams being published.



achievable goals. Ensure these are SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Revisional inputs from rural professionals and farming mates are always invaluable, particularly as the season progresses and new challenges unfold.

DON’T WORK EWES TOO HARD Lambing performance will be penalised if ewes are ‘screwed down’ or worked hard to maintain summer pasture quality to the extent they lose weight. Other options for pasture control such as use of cattle or other dry stock are preferable so ewes can be preferentially fed to achieve and maintain body condition score (BCS) of 2.5 to 3.

Steady maintenance is the most feed-efficient as each kg lost will take 17 megajoules of metabolisable energy (MJ ME) or about 1.7 kg of pasture drymatter to regain.

With an average BCS of 3 or better an ovulation rate of 1.9 can be expected, leading to a lamb tailing rate of about 160% if lamb survival is up to scratch.

Preparing for a good lambing percentage BY: KEN GEENTY


fter weaning is often considered the time to sit back and watch the new season's lambs grow as you celebrate good or lament mediocre results. But don’t underestimate that between now and next mating. Ewe and ram preparation is essential to ensure at least as good, if not a better, lambing


percentage in spring. Improving the lamb weaning percentage (lambs weaned/ewes mated x 100) by 5-10% each year is a worthy goal. The key steps are planning and implementation. Detailed or strategic plans should already be set in readiness for tactical day-to-day implementation. It’s likely many farmers underestimate the power of well-thought-through plans, which should include optimistic but

Ovulation rate at mating is the main determinant so target liveweight gains should be 5 to 6kg for each condition score increase required. If ewes are light at lamb weaning the absolute priority is to achieve target BCS of 3 or better leading into mating. The pathway can vary but gradual building or maintenance at a good weight can yield similar lambing results. Steady maintenance is the most feed-efficient as each kg lost will take 17 megajoules of metabolisable energy (MJ ME) or about 1.7kg of pasture drymatter to regain. This is equivalent to just under two days of maintenance feeding. With an average BCS of 3 or better an ovulation rate of 1.9 can be expected, leading to a lamb tailing rate of about 160% if lamb survival is up to scratch. The amount of pasture required to maintain ewe BCS over the lamb weaning to mating period is shown in Table 1. Extra feed for liveweight gain, assuming average pasture quality of 10 MJ ME per kg of drymatter, is: • 50g/day gain: add about 30% to maintenance requirement • 100g/day gain: add about 60% to


February 2021

maintenance requirement • 150g/day gain: add about 100% to maintenance requirement A good strategy, particularly if pasture is limited, is to draft off ewes with BCS of 2 or less and preferentially feed them so the ewe flock average is about the BCS 3 target at mating. Weighing of ewes at lamb weaning time is a good benchmark from which to assess feeding requirements over the period to next mating. Whereas more frequent BCS checks can be used for tactical decisions to achieve the above targets. This avoids more timeconsuming yarding and weighing and can be done in the corner of a paddock or when ewes are yarded for some other job. About 10% of the ewes in each mob should be checked to gauge average overall BCS. It is extremely important for a good conception rate that ewes are ‘on the rise’ during the weeks leading up to ram joining rather than losing weight.

RAM PREPARATION Preparation of your ram breeding team is crucial for good lambing results. Expecting them to perform when underdone is like throwing a half-fit rugby player into the All Blacks. A summary checklist for a top ram breeding team is: • With veterinary help, check all rams for testicular abnormalities before ram buying time. • Commence good feeding and exercise 8 to 10 weeks before mating. • Buy rams from brucellosis accredited ram breeders. • Ensure your ram breeder has similar breeding objectives as you and good genetic trends. • Use lower ewe:ram ratios with younger ewes and/or rams. • Consider use of infertile vasectomised rams to get ewes cycling and compress lambing. • Spend time with your ram breeding team and ensure top nutrition. As much interaction with your ram team as possible during the couple of months leading up to ram joining will pay dividends. Include constant checks for physical or health defects. Ensure good nutrition so your rams are in similar or better body condition than your ewes. Remember they will be working hard and may need that spare gas tank of body fat reserves to call on, particularly at high


February 2021

For each 100 ewes mated, some 30 to 40 of the 190 potential lambs in the example are lost by lamb tailing.

Table 1: Maintenance feed requirements of grazing adult ewes (kg DM per day).

Source: Making Every Mating Count, 2013 - B+LNZ.

Ewe liveweight

Pasture quality Poor (25+% dead material) 8 MJ ME/kg DM

Average Good (green-leafy) (legume 10 MJ ME/kg DM dominant) 12 MJ ME/kg DM

















ram:ewe ratios approaching 1:100. A vet check early on is very worthwhile. Included will be such things as testicle size and integrity, scrotal temperature, scrotal mange etc. In studs a semen quality test may be added along with serving capacity. Use of vasectomised rams is an option to induce ewe cycling and to compress the lambing period. When harnessed, the onset of breeding activity can be monitored, and later with entire rams the spread of lambing indicated. Vasectomised rams can be introduced in low numbers a month before mating is due to start. If done well at least 65% of your ewes should mate in the first 17-day breeding cycle, meaning the bulk of your lambing will be during two cycles or just over a month. It’s important to remember that both ewe and ram preparation are equally important for a good lambing percentage.

• Ken Geenty is a primary industries consultant.

LAMB WASTAGE Lamb wastage is larger than most farmers most realise. Farm surveys measuring ovulation rates of ewes in good condition at mating time have shown up to 12% embryonic loss by pregnancy. That’s scanning 2-3 months into pregnancy. Another 18-25% of potential lambs are lost around lambing. This means for each 100 ewes mated some 30-40 of the 190 potential lambs in the example above are lost by lamb tailing. Little can be done to avoid the embryonic losses but minimising BCS losses during mid-late pregnancy and careful lambing management can reduce deaths between scanning and tailing.



North Waikato’s Jon and Fiona Sherlock hosted a deferred grazing trial on their 575ha effective hill country farm.

Deferred grazing builds quality Shutting up some paddocks for four months could be an effective management tool for hill country farms in drier regions but timing is crucial, as Mike Bland explains.


rial work on Jon and Fiona Sherlock’s North Waikato farm has shown encouraging results, despite two drought years in a row. Farmax modelling shows a deferred grazing programme may add as much as $36,000 to the bottom line. The Sherlocks are now considering deferring up to 15% of their farm annually. Otorohaea, a 575-hectare (effective) hill country farm at Waingaro, is among three farms involved with the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) project designed to quantify the benefits of deferred grazing on hill country sheep and beef farms. AgResearch scientist Dr Katherine Tozer says the trial, which began in July 2017,


aims to build on research conducted in New Zealand in the 1990s and in Australia over the past decade. “From a practical point of view, deferred grazing is a useful tool to control pasture quality over the whole farm. If we take 10 to 15% of the farm out of grazing for up to three months we know we will take a hit in terms of production from these areas in the short term. But the payback could be a significant increase in ryegrass populations and drymatter production after deferring.” Tozer says trial results show that pasture quality declines during the deferred period but improves again after deferring. While deferred pastures could not be grazed in summer, pasture drymatter production

on treated areas was higher from autumn onwards. “Overall, there is no net change in pasture production in the deferred paddocks. The regrowth the year after deferring compensates for the loss of production during the deferred period.” Sherlock admits he was initially sceptical about the benefits of deferred grazing on Otorohaea, which is in a traditionally summer-dry region. Otorohaea has about 50ha of rolling ash contour and the rest is medium to steep hill, most of it Class 6/7. Sherlock says the results of ‘unplanned’ deferred grazing on his farm fuelled this scepticism. “Sometimes pastures get away on you,


February 2021

Top: About 6ha of Otorohaea was shut up in the 2018-19 season, another bad year for drought. Above left: At the end of the deferred period, deferred pastures were grazed down to allow light through to seedlings and new ryegrass tillers. Above right: New ryegrass seedlings and tillers in a deferred paddock on Otorohaea.

so you shut them up late and then use them for autumn grazing for cattle. But these pastures are always slow to grow back in winter and the benefits in terms of drymatter production and pasture quality are negligible.” Sherlock says the trial gave him the opportunity to measure the benefits of a planned deferred grazing programme. Funded by SFF, Beef + Lamb NZ, Ballance Agri-Nutrients and BoP Regional Council, the trial involves comparing the effects of conventional rotational grazing with two deferred grazing regimes – an earlyopening treatment that is locked up for about six weeks allowing sufficient time for the ryegrass to flower, and a late-opening treatment that is locked up until seed set or


February 2021

seed fall. This takes about three months. About 6ha of Otorohaea was shut up in the 2018-19 season. A 1ha block was split into 12 smaller trial plots, with additional paddock-scale trials conducted on both rolling-medium contour and steep hill on a north-facing sidling. Paddocks were closed in October, with the early-opening treatments grazed in mid-December and the late-opening areas grazed from February 20. Sherlock thought the trial might fail because dry conditions meant there was very little feed in the deferred area. “But a few months later you could definitely see the difference between the deferred and non-deferred paddocks.” In the first year after grazing, deferred

paddocks grew significantly more pasture drymatter (DM) than untreated areas. Prior to their first grazing, deferred treatments had more than 4000kg DM/ha of pasture, compared with about 2500kg DM/ha on non-deferred areas. This advantage gradually reduced, and by June 2020 there was minimal difference in pasture production between deferred and nondeferred areas. At the end of the deferred period, deferred pastures were grazed down to 1300-1400kg DM/ha to allow light through to seedlings and new ryegrass tillers on the existing plants. Sherlock says deferred paddocks were grazed with R2 heifers because sheep would have struggled with the longer feed. Mixed-


BETTER PASTURE BOOSTS BOTTOM LINE Farmax modelling by AgFirst consultant Steven Howarth shows the major driver of a positive return from deferred grazing is the impact on non-deferred areas. He says deferred grazing on Otorohaea enabled grazing pressure to be increased over the rest of the farm, reducing peak spring pasture cover by about 175kg/ ha, with an associated increase in pasture quality. This leads to improvements in per head stock performance, lifting profitability by up to $36,000 (see Table 1). His analysis uses historical herbage and livestock performance data from Otorohaea and data collected during the trial. Modelling is based on a ‘typical’ year. It assumes the decision to defer is made in October, with the size of the area dependent on pasture growth at the time. If feed levels are low, deferred grazing may not be an option. “Conversely, if the surplus is large the area deferred may need to increase.” Scenario one in the analysis represents a typical year with no deferred grazing. The second scenario applies a deferred grazing regime and assumes a 10-25% increase in pasture growth on deferred areas over the following year and an increase in pasture quality over the rest of the farm of 0.2 megajoules (MJ) of metabolisable energy (ME), averaged over 12 months. Howarth says the results show that an increase in pasture growth following deferred grazing is required to offset the pasture losses over the deferral period. He says the decision to defer is made without knowing what conditions will be like in summer. “The flow-on benefits of having a deferred area in a drought may be greater than in an average year because it provides more feed in a time of deficit. Drought recovery is also important, and it was observed that for Otorohaea the deferred area grew 25% more grass compared with other areas.” Deferred grazing may also suppress Californian thistles and reduce exposure to facial eczema spores. Howarth says deferred grazing should be regarded as “an option in the toolbox for farmers”, especially if they have a large spring surplus to control.


age ewes were used for the clean-up. He says the timing of grazing is crucial. “You’ve got to graze in Feb/March to give it time to recover for winter. The idea is to treat it like a new grass by grazing lightly at first, then easing it back into the rotation.” Tozer says in a summer-dry situation, deferred grazing provides the ryegrass population with an opportunity to rebuild. “Deferring shuts up a big wedge of feed that sits there over summer and creates this big seedbank for the future. In a dry year pasture growth will slow right down but the regrowth in autumn is phenomenal.” Ryegrass tiller counts taken in June, when the drought had ended, showed the deferred trial plots had a tiller population of 6800 tillers/square metre, compared with 4500 tillers/square metre in non-deferred plots. Tozer says it’s crucial to take the pressure off ryegrass to enable the flower to set seed. Paddocks should be cleaned up in time for autumn rain. Sherlock likes the idea of shutting up to 15% of Otorohaea annually and rotating deferred grazing around the farm to rejuvenate pastures. He plans to run his own informal trial on some larger paddocks, totalling about 20-30ha. “For us, deferred grazing will be season-dependent. If feed’s tight, we won’t shut up,” he says. “But we’ve got nothing to lose if conditions are good, and we will shut up paddocks in October and increase stocking rate in other paddocks to maintain pasture quality.” Sherlock says he will review the feed

situation in November/December and “if we are not under the pump feed-wise” he will keep deferred paddocks closed up. He says the potential also exists to integrate a deferred grazing programme with the aerial sowing of legumes into pasture. Tozer says one of the biggest advantages of a deferred grazing programme is that it helps maintain pasture quality on non-deferred areas. The other farmers involved in the trial are Allen Coster and Rick Burke from the Bay of Plenty. Sherlock, Coster and Burke are all members of Beef + Lamb NZ’s farmer council. Coster says deferred grazing is a costeffective way of maintaining pasture quality, (Country-Wide Crop and Forage, September 2019). He says the deferred treatment areas on his Kaimai farm grew more drymatter through winter and looked visually better. Measurements taken in October 2018 showed the late-opening treatments had a tiller density of 4700/square metre, compared with 2700 tillers/square metre on the conventionally grazed treatment. In spring 2018 the grazed treatment produced 3400kg DM/ha, with the deferred treatment growing 4260kg DM/ha. However, by summer 2018/19 drymatter production was similar on both treatments.

NUTRIENT AND WATER RETENTION There was less bare ground in the deferred treatment areas, and a glasshouse trial showed a big increase in the root mass of simulated deferred grazing treatments. Deferred treatments

Table 1: Summary of Farmax analysis of base (no deferred grazing) compared with deferred grazing scenario 1. No Deferred Grazing

2. Deferred Grazing

Annual feed harvested

6,441kg DM/ha

6,491kg DM/ha

Mixed age ewes wintered



Mixed age ewes weaning %



Average lamb weaning weight



R2 heifers wintered



Gross margin ($/ha) deferred grazing area



Gross margin ($/ha) rest of farm



Gross margin total farm ($)

$817/ha or $466,000

$881/ha or $502,000


February 2021

Left: By autumn, ground cover and ryegrass tiller density was higher in the deferred pasture than in non-deferred pasture. Below: Breeding cows were dropped for a heifer policy that offers more flexibility in dry summers.

had more than double the root mass of the conventionally grazed treatments, with a significantly higher proportion of roots at a depth of 0.65-1.0 metre in the glasshouse study. Tozer says the implications for nutrient and sediment run-off, moisture retention and water quality could be quite significant. “Deferred grazing might be an effective environmental mitigation tool, but we need robust science to investigate this.” Coster grazed the treatment blocks with dairy heifers and they achieved similar weight gains as they would on the conventionally grazed pasture. But he says breeding cows or cull dairy cows would be more appropriate classes of stock for grazing deferred areas because weight gain is less of a priority.


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Tozer says farmers wanting to use deferred grazing as a tool should take a long-term approach. “You’ve got to have enough feed in the system to be able to drop paddocks out, and you need the right class of stock to graze deferred pastures.” Timing is crucial. To be effective, pastures should be locked up before they flower and set seed and not opened for grazing until after seed has dropped. “That will enable you to capture the benefits of new plants produced by the ryegrass seedbank while allowing the existing plants to grow more tillers. The danger of shutting up for too short a period is that you will lose some of the benefits for the herbage and the soil. It’s important to consider what is happening below ground as well as above it.”

And locking up a paddock full of weeds in the hope of suppressing weed growth is pointless. “If you lock weeds up, you’ll only end up with more weeds.” Tozer says the value of deferred grazing will vary from farm to farm and season to season. In situations where summer rainfall is adequate, such as on Coster’s farm, deferred grazing will help ryegrass grow more vigorously and produce more tillers. “In a really dry year the extra feed produced by deferred grazing could be critical and the seedbank will be an important source of new ryegrass plants. In a wetter year, the growth of existing plants will boost the ryegrass tiller (stem) population.” The trial finished in August 2020.




February 2021


Daniel and Tarsh Newport are enjoying having surplus feed like chicory/clover (above) and will use it to add weight to prime lambs. “We are so lucky this season, we have feed coming out our ears!”

Surplus feed into lamb weight BY: JOANNA GRIGG


his summer has seen pasture covers over the Newport’s farm well ahead of the past two skint years. And they are loving it. Daniel and Tarsh Newport’s 364ha farm at Korere, south of Nelson, had early January covers of 2500kg of dry matter per hectare (kg DM/ha). Usually, it would be closer to 1200 to 1800 kg DM/ha. The surplus feed has been turned into lamb weight – on both store and prime lambs. “The store lamb price is so poor anyway so it makes financial sense,” said Tarsh. “But we are watching the schedule.” The first draft of lambs in early January resulted in only lambs more than 40kg sold.


February 2021

“We didn’t do an early pre-wean draft as we had the luxury to feed everything more for longer.” Beating the schedule can be tricky. “The debate on the drafting day was should we go lighter but our next draft should have significant numbers, and is not too far away,” said Tarsh. Despite drought conditions last autumn, flushing ewes on Goliath rape meant scanning was maintained at 188% (lambing 155%). This meant there was a similar number of lambs on hand. The Newports graze a block next door as the feed allows, which helps relieve pressure at times. As well as adding lamb weight, the Newports also took the chance to spell hill blocks to allow the existing but scattered annual clover to seed. “The punt to lock up 30 hectares of hill

country back in September, to let the sub clover flower and seed, has turned out to be perfect timing,” said Tarsh. “We didn’t need the blocks anyway.” The underground seed burs are now safely buried and cattle have been let onto the blocks to clean up the roughage. “Last season we had to set-stock the whole hill in spring as it was so tight, and the clover wasn’t allowed to set seed.”

‘Last season we had to set-stock the whole hill in spring as it was so tight, and the clover wasn’t allowed to set seed.’ The 35 hectares of lucerne is rocketing after rain. It was dry in early spring but then 421ml of rain fell over late spring. It was used for lambing in September then shut up mid-October and 300 rounds of balage taken. The spring-sown chicory/red clover/grass permanent sward was ready early and the non-permanent chicory mix is feeding replacement ewe hoggets. The aim is to keep good condition on the 1800 Romney and 80 stud Dorset Down ewes. More mixed age ewes will be retained, to build numbers. “We will be able to maintain good condition score on ewes, even if it dries off – no concern this year,” said Daniel. “The feed ahead should set us up nicely for winter.”



Ewe condition score important BY: TREVOR COOK


he lamb crop recently weaned is an outcome of several factors that started last summer. There are some key points of influence that can make that outcome less exposed to chance. Less exposed to what the weather does. That lambing outcome begins with how many lambs get conceived. While we do not get paid for a pregnancy scanning result, it does set the potential for how many lambs can be weaned. The single most common cause of a lower than the potential pregnancy scanning is at mating time there are too many ewes below body condition score three. Interestingly for all of our key breeding systems, dairy, sheep, beef cows and deer, too many dams being too light

at mating is the most common failing. It sounds easy to manage this, but it requires an intervention plan to be certain there are minimal ewes too light at mating. Just feeding the flock better does not do it. I advise that it requires two events between weaning and six weeks before mating that the flock is condition scored and those below three are given feeding priority. The scanning percentage is largely driven by how many ewes are too light. So it is not about flock averages. It is about identifying all ewes below three and feeding them to get their body condition up. I put six weeks before mating as the last date to be able to rescue light ewes because late summer pastures are often not that flash and those light ewes require priority time on those pastures to gain condition. Of course if they go onto specialist feeds that time can be a lot shorter.

There are many guidelines on the Beef + Lamb NZ website about condition scoring ewes. The single site one I use to enable fast condition scoring is demonstrated there. Visually condition scoring ewes will leave up to 50% behind of those that will benefit from being given preferential feed. The return on the feed required to bring a condition score two ewe up to mate in condition score three is about 45 cents/ kg DM. It is the most profitable use of feed. Compare that with summer lambs or weaner bulls which are at best 20 cents. Manually condition scoring is an imprecise process but it is better than visually doing it. Weighing can be a substitute for condition scoring but is hampered by variations in frame size influencing the weight. Age classes can have different frame sizes due to the summer they were

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February 2021

a ewe lamb. A drought summer often sets a ceiling on the frame size of a ewe lamb. If there has been the introduction of rams from different sources, differing frame sizes can result. The wool cover contributes to the weight. Of course gut fill can have a big impact on the weight recorded.

BODY WEIGHT ALSO IMPORTANT For two-tooth ewes the importance of condition score still applies. But actual body weight is also influential. A fat but light two-tooth will not scan as well because of it being heavier but having less fat. I like to see rising two-tooth ewes weighed twice from hogget weaning to six weeks before mating and light ones taken out. The target for them is to have a minimum mating weight that is 90% of mature ewe weight. So for a flock that has an average mature weight of 70kg, the two-tooth ewes need to mate at 63kg or more. A common reason for a big difference between the two and mixed age scanning is because too many two-tooth ewes are too light at mating. That scanning difference should be less than 10%. In dry summers it is very important to start prioritising feed early. Most ewes will go into the summer with condition on board. They do not have to be fed well to maintain that. But to gain condition does require being fed better. Often in a dry summer that means getting first choice of not much. Getting ewes that are condition score three or more better brings much less gain than that feed being allocated to light ewes. Condition score drafting to ensure that the lights get fed rather than the heavier ones getting heavier can be necessary to create the feed needed. Condition score of ewes at mating is so important that it requires a plan to minimise the number that are behind. Leaving it to what the summer delivers is just leaving it to chance.

FEEDING LEVELS The other management bit that underpins the pregnancy scanning is feeding levels coming into mating. At the very least ewes need to maintain condition coming into mating and for the first part of mating. At almost all costs, preventing ewes losing any condition around mating needs to be avoided. Feed planning to have the pasture available, or embarking on providing supplements, are used by many to avoid


February 2021

Above: The single most common cause of a lower than the potential pregnancy scanning is at mating time there are too many ewes below body condition score of three. Right: Trevor Cook, body condition scoring.

It is about identifying all ewes below three and feeding them to get their body condition up. ewes being underfed at that crucial time. But even when the summer dry has not been so limiting, pasture quality can be low. This can result in ewes being underfed unless they are given choice. I like to set up a 20-day window starting 10 days before mating and extending at least for 10 days into mating in which ewes are shifted frequently. Even on poor quality pasture, given choice they can select the best, which reduces the chances of being underfed. Along with having that pasture grazing choice they might avoid consuming some of the fungal nasties that reside in our hill country pastures. Other management actions can be important. Creating mating mobs well before mating, mixing age classes, having a sound and sufficient ram team, and not being selenium-deficient are in that list. Looking beyond the next lambing, recognise the importance of having heavy ewe lambs before the winter and its big influence on subsequent pregnancy

scannings in the young ewe classes. Being heavier means more will reach puberty. That target is 60% of mature ewe weight. A very common cause of two-tooth ewes not scanning well, other than too many being less than 90% of mature weight at mating, too many are too light going into their first winter. These two factors are interrelated, but a two-tooth that had got to the 90% but was light as a ewe hogget will scan less than if she had been heavy the previous autumn. The return on the feed to get ewe lambs heavier and reaching puberty is 40% more profitable than that feed finishing a summer lamb. The key points of influence to maximise lamb survival will be in the next installment.



Is monthly drenching the answer?

No matter how well animals are drenched, they will need drenching again in a few weeks.



he most boring and repetitive job that I do is mow my lawns. No matter how well I do them I know that I will have to do them again in a few weeks. This summer rain makes it more like three weeks. If I do not mow them they become a hay paddock because 50 years ago they became a lawn when a fence was put around a very large house section in a paddock. A hay crop outside the house windows is domestically not acceptable. The regenerative brigade would be proud of my lawn due to its biodiversity arising from its farm paddock origins and its non-selective grazing by my lawn mower. To not have this regular mowing demand I need to do something quite different. Put in synthetic lawn or establish kikuyu would have that effect. Or more drastically, replace the lawn with concrete or asphalt, or create a large shrub garden. While performing this task this summer I reflected that at a similar frequency on most sheep and beef farms throughout the


After having nearly 60 years of access to effective anthelmintics it is of little surprise that farmers have not come up with a different way to manage parasites in these vulnerable livestock. country lambs, bull calves and dairy heifer calves were being drenched. It is a boring and repetitive job and similarly to my lawn mowing, no matter how well they are drenched, they will need to be drenched again in a few weeks. It is embedded in our farming systems as a necessary animal health task. It will be done monthly at least until the winter, but lots of bull calves and dairy heifer calves are drenched that frequently for 12 months. The consequences of not doing this are likely to be much more severe than those if I did not mow my lawn. Lowered weight gain, dags, and even death are probable outcomes.

After having nearly 60 years of access to effective anthelmintics it is of little surprise that farmers have not come up with a different way to manage parasites in these vulnerable livestock. It is a testament to how effective these products have been since 1964. However there are several reasons why confining internal parasite control to just monthly drenching is plain silly. I admit to frequently advising such as a necessary intervention to prevent significant production costs in the absence of doing something different. Firstly it is silly because to have to treat that frequently means that the stock are being exposed to a consistent and substantial worm challenge. We have science-backed studies that show the liveweight cost to young animals being exposed to such a challenge. Despite frequent drenching, for those same animals to continue to consume a few thousand worm larvae per day will still lower their liveweight gain. That weight gain loss can be up to 45% without there being any sign of a worm burden. Secondly, there is a significant cost to this approach to managing worms. Product, time and yarding are all costs. For lambs 30 to 40 cents per drench dose, for calves nearer $1-plus. Add to that the time cost which is very often not accounted for in such analyses. But separate to this I believe that there is a significant production cost to yarding. The incidence of enzootic pneumonia for example, could be influenced by the amount of yarding for lambs. If we could better quantify that cost we might be more circumspect about how much we do. The third reason why this singular approach to managing worms is silly is that after 60 years the worms have been given the opportunity to develop resistance to these once effective products. Drench failure is now so widespread that this embedded repetitive practice is no longer as effective as it once was. Just as for me to not have to mow my large lawn so often I need to do something quite different with it, to get away from this current worm management practice


February 2021



incl GST

There are grazing techniques out there that depower parasitic worms’ life cycles.

requires a different approach. Given that we know a lot about the parasitic worms that we are dealing with, in particular their life cycles, that there are grazing techniques out there that depower those cycles and we know how effective forage programmes are in disrupting the cycles, why on the majority of farms is four-weekly drenching still the norm? Particularly when there are good reasons why it is a silly management practice. I get tired of the word sustainable, but in this case the current practice is not sustainable in any way. I no longer get any satisfaction from giving advice on sustainable worm management. After 40 years of trying to do that I now have to accept that I failed. Not just me, but the industry has failed to encourage enough behaviour change for us to not end up with so much drench resistance. But beside this, as described above, there are two other compelling reasons why the current practice of four-weekly drenching is silly. I have heard from many old farmers how prior to getting thiabendazole drench lamb losses were huge and twotooth weights were poor. But I have also heard from some old farmers how they planned grazing areas for lambs using beef cattle and how effective that was to reduce these losses. The new drenches were so effective that those enlightened grazing systems got swept aside. I do get satisfaction from helping set up management systems that reduce the need to drench. Lamb and calf weight gains are higher and overall costs are less. This is about looking at whole farm systems, exploiting the strengths of our multi-species and age class stock mixes and the varied landforms. It is not about being organic or regenerative, but borrowing some of their concepts could help. We need to be a lot smarter.


February 2021

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The hydro-power, irrigation and stock water system development has been both stressful and exciting for Juliet and Richard Gray.

Changes in the pipeline An ambitious hydro power, irrigation and stock water project aims to increase efficiency on Hakataramea Station, allowing the Grays to finish weaners sooner and to heavier weights. Lynda Gray reports.


he Grays are in the midst of constructing a multimillion dollar onfarm hydro power, irrigation and stock water system that will pump production at two levels. As well as generating electricity for three homes and the shearers’ quarters, the gravity-fed system will supply water for an expanded and upgraded irrigation development and replace the open water race system with more than 300 troughs.


RotoRainer and k-lines water 130ha, but the new development comprising six storage dams and seven Valley pivots will cover 270ha. Power will be generated from early 2021 and the new irrigation fully operational by the end of the year. It’s taken three years to get to the dam and irrigation construction phase, and it’s been both a stressful and exciting time. At the heart of the ambitious project is the Gray’s goal of increasing farm efficiency, which in terms of the deer

part of the business will mean finishing weaners sooner and to heavier weights. “We have a short growing season, and we hope that the pivots will start pasture growth earlier. For us the new irrigation is not about intensifying; it’s about having consistent and reliable water to grow out stock earlier and to heavier weights,” Richard says. The 3000 Red breeding hinds graze the rolling and undeveloped country in the northwest corner of Hakataramea Station. About 1500 are mated to wapiti sires and the progeny are pre-rut weaned. The Red progeny is post-rut weaned in May. All weaners are wintered on fodder beet, rape and grass and about half are finished for the chilled spring market. The rest are finished before their second winter less the 500 retained for the breeding herd. The Grays are undecided and openminded about what pasture mixes will be grown under the pivots. At present about one-third of the grazing area is in lucerne and lucerne mixes, which do a good job in feeding stock to prime weights.

'We have a short growing season, and we hope that the pivots will start pasture growth earlier.' Hakataramea Station was one of several South Island farms owned by New Zealand Deer Farms, a South Island corporate agribusiness led by Dunedin entrepreneur Howard Paterson. NZDF was sold off following Paterson’s premature death in 2003. When the Grays bought and moved from Southland to Hakataramea Station in 2008 their intention was to get rid of the deer as neither Barry nor his son Richard Gray had experience of working with them. However, Richard found he liked working with them and built the herd size, which works in well with the sheep and cattle.

COMMUNITY GOOD Juliet Gray epitomises the busy woman who gets things done. Aside from the usual multi-tasking inherent with three primary-aged children she is chairwoman of both the deer industry’s Central Otago Environmental


February 2021

AT A GLANCE: • Hakataramea Station • The Gray families: Barry and Heather; Richard and Juliet and Ben (11), Sophie (9), Phoebe (5). • 4000ha of flat to rolling partly irrigated country in Hakataramea Valley. • 30,000 stock units comprising 40% deer, 40% sheep and 20% cattle. • Sheep, deer and beef cow breeding with most progeny finished to prime weight. Above: Hybrid weaners. About half (130ha) of the new irrigated area will be used for weaner finishing. Left: Heather and Barry Gray with Richard and Juliet, winners of the 2020 Regional Plate to Pasture Award.

Advance Party and the Hakataramea Sustainability Collective (HSC). The Grays joined the Advance Party when it was established in 2017. “There aren’t many deer farmers in the immediate region and our climate fits in with Central Otago so we jumped at the chance to join the group, especially with the focus on the environment,” Juliet says. The group has spent a lot of time understanding how tools such as Overseer can be used to measure and monitor on-farm emissions. All members are now adept at using and understanding Overseer and have developed a farm environment plan. On-farm visits to member farms


February 2021

have included input from environmental advisors such as Janet Gregory of the Ministry of Primary Industries, and environmental scientist Alison Dewes. “Alison has explained the science behind nitrogen loss, whereas Janet’s been great with lots of practical suggestions on how we can prevent and mitigate run-off.” The group’s next step is to find out more about practical management and tools that will help reduce a farm’s overall environmental footprint, including onfarm greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, soil losses, and nitrogen leaching. “We’re wanting to find about feed mixes, management and technology that will

help reduce our footprint… there’s a lot to get our heads around.” The GHG regulations, under which farmers from 2025 will receive a rebate or pay a levy according to their farm’s calculated emissions, has been overlooked by many because of the focus on the Essential Freshwater policy, Juliet says. “Industry organisations have been good at keeping up with the changes but I wonder if farmers really comprehend what it will mean for them.” The Hakataramea Sustainability Collective is another group Juliet leads. Continues

›› 57

The group, with membership across the catchment, was formed in 2017. The group has an ambitious project plan that includes the goals of maintaining water quality, protecting the ecology of the region, managing weeds and pests, and supporting sustainable farming practices. Milestones achieved are the development of a family picnic area using prize money received from winning a radio competition, establishment of a Landcare Trust catchment group, and some well supported farmer field days and community events. There is a lot more the group wants to get under way and this will start to happen with part-time employment of an administrator funded by a Ministry for Primary Industries Community Hub grant. “We are very excited about this funding and hugely thankful to Janet Gregory and MPI.”

WINNERS Juliet and Heather Gray won the Food Challenge Award at the 2020 Silver Fern Farms Plate to Pasture Awards. They were the best of six regional finalists in the overall Pasture to Plate Awards, which celebrate suppliers of lamb, beef, venison, and bull beef who consistently supply quality stock and produce food with the consumer front of mind. The pair’s winning creation was a three-part tapas dish of sticky lamb trumpets, a venison mince Vietnamese salad bowl, and beef fillet on ciabatta. (See pic p91).

Breeding stags.

Which one’s right for you? Start with a shopping list! Good growth, moderate hind size

High merit for velvet antler MWT

Larger eye muscle area and better eating quality

Early fawning daughters VW2


High value per hind mated as terminal sire

Good venison breeding hinds R-EK



Internal parasite tolerance

High-growth, fast-inishing weaners W12

Progeny have heavy weaning weights CARLA


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February 2021


Discussions have encouraged members to tackle major farm projects and changes including irrigation development and construction of new deer sheds.

Challenges of postCovid world will be met BY: LYNDA GRAY


t’s been a tough season, but the innovative thinking and action inherent in most deer farmers will lift the industry out of the postCovid doldrum. That’s the view of Lorna Humm, who after a decade of immersion across the industry is well placed to comment. “I’m confident that the challenges many farmers are facing will be overcome. There’s a great sense of pride and supportiveness across the industry which I believe will get us through.” Lorna is a Canterbury deer farmer along with husband Duncan, a part-time practicing vet, facilitator of both the MidCanterbury Advance Party and workshops for rural professionals, a director of Provelco, and committee member of the Canterbury West Coast Deer Farmers Association. The support that Lorna talks about is evident in the Advance Party she facilitates. The open and frank discussions have encouraged members to tackle major farm projects and changes including irrigation development, construction of new deer sheds, and the switch to new forage crops


February 2021

Lorna Humm.

such as red clover and more lucerne. “There’s been a general lift in performance on member farms and I think that’s been partly group-driven. There’s a huge level of trust within the group and a great range of expertise that members have been able to tap into. They’ve been incredibly supportive of each other, which is important given the current state of the industry.” Another facilitation role involves deer industry-funded workshops for rural professionals. The goal of the two-day workshops is to inform rural professionals such as bankers and stock and station agents so they have the confidence and knowledge to work with deer farmers.

Lorna was deer health project manager for Deer Industry New Zealand. As part of the three-year contract position, she developed a deer health review, a farmspecific health plan of action for farmers drawn up in conjunction with a vet. The documented health plan, adapted and taken on board by other red meat sectors, is now required as part of the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme. When the project manager role finished in mid-2019 Lorna and pre-school daughter Isla took a seven-month sabbatical and recharge with her parents in Dumfries, southwest Scotland, as well as touring Iceland and New England in the United States. “It was time-out and a hiatus, although I worked in a vet practice and did some deer consultancy.” There is a resurgence of interest in Scotland’s deer farming industry, due to a government-driven venison growth strategy and associated grants to encourage development. There are about 100 registered deer farms producing an estimated 100 tonnes of venison annually. The goal is to grow output to 850 tonnes by 2030. In 2019 Lorna established AgVelocity, a project management, facilitation and animal health consultancy for the agrifood sector. One of AgVelocity’s contract projects is the development of a combined animal health and welfare-environmental farm plan. Lorna’s role is to help farmers develop the overall plan as well as the animal health and welfare components. She helps farmers link in with specialist businesses and people to achieve the overall plan, as well as helping with the animal health and welfare components. “My role is primarily as a facilitator and coach, helping them to develop a plan which they then take ownership of.” The juggling of several deer roles will continue, but she’s not complaining. This year she is facilitating a Massey University deer health and planning module, working on a project for the National Velvetting Standards Body, continuing with the rural professionals’ seminars and director role with Provelco, as well as working three days a week for Vet Ent, Ashburton. “I guess I’ve come full circle, getting back to life as a working vet, but I love working with deer and the people. It’s an industry I’m really proud to be part of.”



Venison prices have suffered in the past year, getting hit with a triple whammy that the industry will take time to recover from.

Venison gross margins BY: TOM WARD


ast autumn the Covid pandemic and lockdown hit the venison business harder than any other primary industry sector, triple-tackled by the drop in restaurant demand, widespread drought throughout most of New Zealand, and the slowdown in killing capacity at New Zealand processing plants. In the South Island, the first weaners (off mum) sold in March at $5/kg LW, down a bit on 2019 but pretty good. With Covid and feed shortages, mixed sex sales were down to $4/kg LW by the end of March and have since fallen further. By late May, post-rut weaned animals were down to $3-$3.50/kg LW, and some reports were at $2.50. The three major weaner sales – High Peak and Mt Arrowsmith in the South Island, and Taihape in the North Island – were cancelled. These sales account for only a few thousand deer between them, but set a benchmark. Finishers elected to take fewer weaners,


and breeders sent a lot of pregnant hinds to the works to make room for retained weaners. One Taihape farmer, well known for good quality animals, deer fenced an additional 30ha to make room for retained weaners and bought 120 bales of grass and 10t maize. He sold all his weaners in the winter for $4/kg LW (tops 70kg LW, $6/kg LW last year) with the females $0.50-$1.00/ kg LW less. In general weaners were $3.50$4.50/kg LW.

'While survival is critical, the need for strategic thinking long term is important too.' Feed issues also pushed supplements to $100/bale for balage and $400/t for PKE. One finisher bought winter lambs rather than weaner deer, another reduced weaner deer purchases by a third and bought beef. One (King Country) agent said generally large weaners sold, with smaller ones retained. Drought would have affected

many finishers’ ability to buy as usual anyway. Some saw this as an opportunity to cull hinds heavier and to buy superior genetics. By June 2020 the effect of the Covid lockdown had totally disrupted the venison farming industry. Processors were unable to give any guidance to finishers going forward. Chilled orders for summer venison programmes had been cancelled and any negotiations for later delivery postponed. The situation improved slowly and guidance was given by July, although at much lower levels. For example, Silver Fern Farms (SFF) gave a guaranteed $5/kg CW with top-ups at risk. Latest indications were for $6.50 to $8.00/kg CW but volumes for chilled programmes were still uncertain. At 4 Jan 2021 SFF AP stag(45-85kg CW) was $5.50 on the advertised schedule. Mountain River thought sales for the 2020-2021 season were likely to be 4060% of normal. Foodservice, still the best return, being 95% down in USA, and 50% down in Germany. The situation in China was improving. Throughput in plants was reduced due to social distancing measures. Airfreight capacity was also down. Deer Industry News, Jan 2021 reported 1368 tonnes of venison exported to China in 2020, worth $17M, a 94% increase in volume and a 33% increase in value. That publication reported that a collection of published schedules to the end of October 2020 averaged $6.39/kg CW, 33% down on 2019. The variety of offerings between companies makes comparisons difficult. One farmer sold his fattened yearling stags at $6/kg CW on contract: another reports receiving $7.30/kg CW but only for animals supplied in October 2020. This is in line with processors’ warnings to slaughter deer early in expectation of a short chilled season; 28,000 deer were processed in September, up 15,000 from the year before. Spring 2020 has been challenging for most, with low winter feed levels mitigated somewhat by a dry winter but compounded by a slow spring only recently relieved by extensive rain. It appears a number of traders may have done all right, as the October schedule reached reasonable levels and weaner prices in late winter/early spring reached low levels.


February 2021

Currently, lockdowns and restaurant closures are reoccurring in Europe and USA and there are freight issues, with only 25% air capacity available. Breeders will be hardest hit, with sale prices last autumn down $150 to $200 per head for sizeable weaners, and small weaners not really saleable at all. These will have been retained and killed later this summer. While survival is critical, the need for strategic thinking long term is important too. Exporters have emphasised the venison business fundamentals are good, with a lot of effort going into marketing in an attempt to educate customers on how to cook venison. It is interesting to hear that Peel Forest Estate’s 2020 venison stag sale at $9000/head average was an increase on 2019. With regards to the autumn 2021 weaner price, there is currently more uncertainty as Covid cases in Europe, UK and USA increase and lockdowns are once again in place in those areas. Freight problems persist, however there does not appear to be a build-up of venison inventory in the market supply pipeline, and processing capacity in New Zealand is back to normal. Online sales have increased. Apart from the schedule and market access, drivers of the weaner price are feed availability, competition from alternative livestock enterprises, and supply of weaner animals. To the right are two forecast FARMAX gross margins, one for a breeding hind selling weaners and the other for a trader buying weaner stags and hinds, finishing from 11 months at 55kg CW.

The respective gross margins are: cents/kg DM Breeding weaners 6 Trading weaners to finish 25 Summarised below are the gross margins for alternative enterprises: cents GM/kg Trading steers: Yearling to 26-month Trading bulls: 100kg weaner to 18-month Wintering dairy cows Summer lamb trading Winter lamb trading


February 2021

DM 27 22 27 30 25

Gross margin for breeding deer Jul 20 - Jun 21 Number

Stock Revenue




$ Total

Store sales






Works sales











Less purchases Total




Total Revenue Animal Health

98,702 943


Total Expenses



Change in Capital Value


c/kg DM


7,705 7,705

Interest on capital


Total variable expenses





Gross margin

Gross margin for finishing deer Jul 20 - Jun 21 Number




$ Total

Store sales

Stock Revenue


Works sales






Less purchases










Total Revenue Animal Health

333,161 1,169

Total Expenses



Change in Capital Value


c/kg DM



13,238 13,238

Interest on capital


Total variable expenses





Gross margin

At this distance we are still guessing and while no one would suggest an increase in the schedule is likely, there are some reasons to be positive. Most of New Zealand has seen good rain and this should mean winter crops will be reasonable at least. The processing and exporting people appear to be in a good space. Most breeders do so because they like deer and their farms suit deer breeding, so the supply

should still be there for 2021. Many will have large, diverse operations and will look to survive the downturn. The increasingly onerous environmental regulations around fencing may encourage some to exit breeding deer. Finishers may well be attracted to other enterprises, however, while disappointing, the returns to deer finishing for venison still appear bankable if somewhat uncertain.



Total clearance for online sale BY: LYNDA GRAY PHOTOS: RACHEL GILLESPIE The prices at the Rupert Red Deer sale were back on the previous year but Kiri Rupert was happy with the end result. “It wasn’t the best sale, and we didn’t have high expectations due to Covid, but we had a total clearance, and everything hit our reserve prices so we’re happy with that.” It was the fourth onfarm sale for Kiri, husband Josh, and Kiri’s parents Martin and Rikie, who run a velvetfocused operation near Geraldine. They livestreamed the auction on BIDr for the first time. “I think it helped bump up the price and, in the future, I’d be keen to sell 100% online. It opened up the sale to others throughout the country and we’ve been able to watch in on other sales.” The Ruperts’ top price for the 15 velvet sires was $21,000, and the price average $6733. Almost 70 yearling Red hinds and 39 two-year-old stags were also sold on the day. PGG Wrightson comparable sales price averages up until mid-January were generally back: about $7400 compared with $10,100 in 2019/20.

Left: Some of the offering at the Rupert Red Deer sale. Below: Josh Brook and Kiri Rupert. Bottom: Pre-sale velvet inspection by some of the buyers at the Rupert family's fourth deer sale.

›› More photos p90



February 2021




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Signs of a price recovery 1

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February 2021



Fertiliser trial a goldmine A Canterbury fertiliser trial that started in 1952 has provided researchers with a test bed for a wide range of studies. Tony Leggett reports.


long-term fertiliser trial at the former AgResearch Winchmore property in Canterbury is providing a goldmine of results and ongoing research opportunities. The trial was started on the irrigated property in 1952 and has become a test bed for many researchers over a wide range of studies, including investigation into soil carbon status, nutrient cycling, organic matter loss, cadmium and fluorine residue research. Software such as Overseer and Farmax was also developed and validated using data generated from the trial.

Following the sale of the property in 2019, AgResearch and the trial’s long-term funder, the Fertiliser Research Association, negotiated a 33-year lease for the trial site with the new owners. Treatments applied since the start are 0, 188, 250 and 375kg/ha of single superphosphate. Since 1980, a reactive rock phosphate (RPR) and elemental sulphur treatment has been applied annually at a phosphorus (P) rate equal to the 250kg/ha of superphosphate treatment. Fertiliser is applied in late winter or early spring each year and data is collected on pasture production using movable cages

that are cut between six and eight times, as well as soil pH and pasture composition. Until recently, the site was irrigated using a border-dyke system, but this was replaced in 2018 with spray irrigation delivered via a centre pivot irrigator. The trial is based on 0.09ha plots, replicated four times and grazed by separate mobs of sheep that rotate between the four replicates of each treatment during the September to May growing season. The superphosphate treatments are all applied using a seed drill with the down tubes removed. It is calibrated to put on


Annual production (t DM ha-1)

Figure 1. Annual pasture production over 10 years for the longterm irrigated fertiliser trial at Winchmore (t DM ha-1). No P 188kg SSP/ha 250kg SSP/ha 175kg RPR/ha 375kg SSP/ha





2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020


Indicate relative yields for No P and SSP treatments for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons respectively.


Relative yield (%)

Figure 2. Relative yields for 2018-2019 and 20192020 DM production plotted with the long term (1981-2018) pasture response curve (solid line).

90 80 70 60

Indicate RPR relative yields for the 2 years.

50 40 30 0






Olsen P (Îźg ml-1) 64 


February 2021


less than required for each treatment to avoid over-fertilising, and the balance is spread by hand. The RPR product and sulphur, sieved through a 2mm screen first, is spread entirely by hand. The latest results from the 20192020 growing season from September to May were published last December and showed a marked drop in total pasture grown for the fertilised plots, which overall averaged only 10.0t/ha of drymatter, 20% less than the long-term average. The no-P treatment produced 5.1t/ha, just under the long-term average of 5.4t/ha. See Figure 1 for the results for the past decade. Olsen P levels on the fertilised plots have steadily increased over the past 30 years. Not surprisingly, the Olsen P levels are highest in the plots that receive 375kg/ha of superphosphate. The report also contains an analysis of the relationship between Olsen P level and pasture production (see Figure 2) which shows no increase in yield of drymatter after reaching an Olsen P level of about 20. For the 2019-20 season, the RPR applied in the trial was a product called Direct Application RPR, referred to as DAPR, supplied by Ravensdown and applied at a rate of 22.9kg/ha P (to match the 250kg/ha superphosphate treatment). The DAPR is believed to be a blend of RPR from the massive Sechura deposit and Boucraa non-RPR phosphate rock from the occupied Western Sahara territory. The Boucraa is added to the Sechura RPR to drop the average cadmium levels to within accepted limits. The use of this blend concerns RPR advocate, Kiwi Fertiliser owner Ron McLean, who says he would prefer to provide a ‘true’ RPR like the one his company sells. It is imported to NZ by Asura Limited from a privately owned mine adjacent to the much larger Sechura Desert deposit. “It is extracted from an ancient marine deposit by hydraulic excavator and screened. It is a true RPR with a P content that ranges between 10.5% to 11.5%, a citric solubility of 44-46% and cadmium level lower than the 28ppm voluntary standard set for NZ,” he says.


February 2021

The privately-owned Sechura mine site in Peru is higher in soluble phosphate than the other Sechura desert deposit.

Fertiliser comparison spurs discussion


mix of Sechura reactive rock phosphate (RPR) and elemental sulphur has outperformed all other fertiliser treatments for drymatter (DM) grown in a short-term comparison in the King Country. The results have created discussion within the fertiliser sector, particularly because of the widely held view that all RPRs are slower in the first three years than superphosphate at releasing phosphate (P) to fuel pasture growth. The test was set up by independent soil and fertiliser consultant Robin Boom on his property at Taumarunui and ran for a year from July 2019. Boom says he was approached in early 2019 by Australian company, Fert Direct, which wanted to market a sulphurinfused triple superphosphate product called Triple Plus in New Zealand. Fert Direct trades here as Inphos and operates from two North Island locations. “They [Fert Direct] were prepared to fund a small trial on my own property at Taumarunui, comparing Triple Plus

against other commercially available phosphate products. With a number of newer fertiliser products coming onto the market in the past three to four years, I thought it was a great opportunity to trial some of these.” His trial compared Triple Plus with standard superphosphate, Triple SuperSulphur, Replenish and DCP 18 (both higher analysis dicalcium phosphates), and three RPR products – a granulated Egyptian RPR, Algerian RPR and the Sechura RPR imported to NZ by Asura from a privately owned mine adjacent to the much larger Sechura deposit. Soil testing before the comparison showed the site had low Olsen P levels and considerable variability between the trial plots, a point Boom readily concedes when he was approached for an interpretation of the results. Other fertiliser sector experts have also described the results as indicative only of the performance of each product on this particular site. Each treatment had four replicates, and Continues



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February 2021

product was applied at the equivalent of 45kg P/ha and 30kg S/ha to each one. The Triple Plus, superphosphate, Replenish and Sechura RPR treatments all grew just under 10 tonne/ha of drymatter over the 12 months. The DCP18 was about 500kg/ha DM behind these, and the Triple Super/Sulphur and Algerian RPR were both about 1000kg/ha DM behind. The granular Egyptian RPR was a further 1000kg DM behind these two, at just under 8t/ha, and the control was 7350kg/ha DM. “The upshot was that the site was very P responsive, and most products performed as expected. But there were some surprises,” Boom says. He suggests a probable reason for the superior performance of the Asura-sourced Sechura RPR is its small particle size, which means it dissolves more readily than some other sources of RPR. It has a 44-46% citric solubility which puts it at the high end of RPR products available in NZ. Boom says he has been an advocate of RPRs to many of his 400 farmer clients across Waikato, Bay of Plenty and the King Country.

‘The upshot was that the site was very P responsive, and most products performed as expected. But there were some surprises.’ The performance of the Sechura RPRSulphur mix was no surprise to the owners of importing company Asura, father and son team Ron and Matthew Webby, or Kiwi Fertiliser owner Ron McLean, one of a small number of companies that sells this particular Sechura RPR product in NZ. Both McLean and Ron Webby say the results back up earlier trials, including the six-year national series trials completed in the 1980s by AgResearch that showed superior pasture production performance from RPR over superphosphate on many soil types, particularly wetter, lower pH soils, over the term of the trial. The scientist who set up the national series, Bert Quin, left AgResearch soon after and set up Quinphos to import and sell RPR fertiliser. His business was later bought out by Ballance, who renamed it Summit Quinphos, then Altum, and later merged its operations into the larger Ballance business. Quin has returned to importing


February 2021

The Sechura RPR imported by Asura performed best in the comparison.

Algerian RPR product and retailing it to farmers under the business name, Quinfert. McLean says even though Sechura RPR is not far ahead of superphosphate in Boom’s ‘trial’, the fact that it is ahead is significant. “What this trial shows is that the right RPR and sulphur will grow more grass than superphosphate," he says. Working out the cost per kg of DM grown is complicated by the difference in the composition of each product, trucking and flying costs. McLean claims the Asura-sourced Sechura RPR has a higher percentage of P than superphosphate, and RPRs typically contain about 28-30% calcium, so there is a bonus liming effect to consider too. “If you're putting on 100 tonne of superphosphate, you'll only need about 80 tonne of Sechura RPR. That means less trucking cost and less flying cost to get the same amount of P on to the farm and that has to be considered when you’re working out the cost per unit of P applied for each option,” he says. “Our Sechura RPR is also absolutely natural. It's certified organic,” McLean adds. Kiwi Fertiliser offers recommendations based on soil analysis at the Perry Laboratory at Missouri in the United States, which are then interpreted by respected soil scientist Dr Neil Kinsey. McLean says not every farm requires more P and he and his colleagues have taken soil tests on new clients’ properties that reveal P levels up to three times those recommended by Kinsey. “We find that once we’ve addressed the balance of sulphur, calcium, magnesium,

How the products performed

(kg/ha DM)





Triple Super/S90


Triple Plus






Sechura RPR/S90


Algerian RPR/S90


Granular Egyptian RPR/S90


the phosphate and the trace elements in the soil, farmers typically get a 15% increase in pasture production in year one alone. “And if the farm's managed in the right way over three to five years, it can be as much as 35% increase in production. “We’ve got sound science behind us, even though it hasn't been developed in New Zealand. It’s from the US. “Our approach is that we custom-blend to fill in the nutrients that are missing in the soil. We sell what the soil needs. We don’t push what the company needs,” McLean says. Quin says the site would never have been chosen for any sort of fertiliser comparison because of its variability. He says the performance of the Algerian RPR, which is slightly coarser than the Sechura product, was not surprising. “Normal practice for a farm with low pH and high anion storage capacity (a measure of P retention in soils) would be to apply a blend of soluble P and RPR together for the first two to three years, then RPR.”



Viewed from above, it’s easy to see how wide an area a four-rotor rake covers. Photo by George Evans.

What to look for in used four-rotor rakes The rapid evolution of four-rotor rakes means that earlier models are available secondhand at bargain prices. British machinery writer Nick Fone has made a checklist for assessing their condition.


ith forage harvester appetites seemingly in an ever-increasing upward spiral, keeping them well fed can be something of a challenge, particularly in lighter cuts of grass. To deal with the issue various manufacturers have, over the years, stretched the wingspan of their centredischarge swathers by adding an extra brace of rotors. It’s rare now to see serious silage operators with anything less than a four-rotor rake, and some have even taken it one step further, with Krone’s monstrous


six-rotor Swadro 2000 capable of taking up to 19m of grass in one swipe. While four-rotor rakes might now be available in all colours of the rainbow, it was Claas’s Liner 3000 that first began to sell in big numbers. Launched in 1999, it could cover a 9.9m working width and quickly proved the concept worked as a means of boosting forager capacity. Ten years on, the Liner 4000 followed – a bigger, more complex machine with larger cam tracks, a praying mantis-like folding mechanism, and the ability to gather up to 15m of grass in one sweep. Then in 2011 the 3000 was replaced by the 3500. The

same working width, it had beefier, splined tine arms rather than the ‘lemon tube’ used previously and the ability to lift individual rotors to deal with angled headlands and obstacles. It wasn’t long before that was superseded by the 3600. A redesigned frame for the front rotors meant there was no longer any need to remove the uppermost tine arms to keep transport heights sensible. It was also ISObus compatible so purchasers didn’t necessarily have to shell out for a control box, although the lead to connect the tractor to the rake wasn’t cheap. Bear this in mind if you’re looking


February 2021

WHAT TO PAY? Examples of four-rotor Claas Liners at dealers dotted around the country: • 2002 Claas Liner 3000, 9.9-12m working width, good condition for age, £6500 (NZ$12,141). • 2011 Claas Liner 3500, 9.9-12.5m working width, hydraulic rotor height control, 380/55-16 tyres, average condition – £16,950 (NZ$31,660).

tug tractor will be clocking fewer miles. However, they’re not for everyone – narrow lanes and small field sizes inevitably mean they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution. To get an idea of what you need to look out for in a secondhand swather we sought expert advice from the team at Claas Western in Frome, Somerset – one of the biggest outlets for four-rotor Liners.


Top: Some Liners have optional tine storage racks on the rotor head for the four uppermost tine arms, removed to reduce transport height. Above: Cam tracks: If the rotors rotate further than they’re designed to at that given point in their cam cycle or there is clunking, it indicates the cam track may have significant wear or have sustained damage.

at a used machine originally sold without a box – if you haven’t already got an ISObus controller there will be a considerable extra sum to shell out to get one. Because these four-star Liners have been on the market for more than 20 years – as well as Claas’s keenness to push them as a means of upping chopper output – it is white and lime-green machines you see most of. That’s reflected in the secondhand stock in dealer yards. A new four-rotor Liner is likely to set you back anywhere between £50,000 and £65,000 (NZ$100,000 and $130,000) but there isn’t necessarily a huge demand for them secondhand because they are typically viewed as a ‘contractor’s


February 2021

machine’. That means if you’ve got a big enough tractor and the field sizes that’ll accommodate it, you’re in a buyer’s market and there are bargains to be found. In addition to the obvious advantages in output their wider working widths bring, four-rotor rakes can help foragers, balers, and forage wagons maintain decent chop quality thanks to their ability to present a decent-shaped swath even in light crops. Care and attention needs to be paid to how it’s done, though, as there’s nothing that’ll annoy an already inherently grumpy chopper driver more than a ropey old row of grass. (See ‘A Knotty Issue’ box.) Of course, their extra width also means there’s less traffic across the fields and the

First, and possibly most obviously, look out for bent tine arms. These are purposemade to fold on impact at the point ahead of where they slot into the section that is carried by the cam track. It’s a feature Claas says is designed to protect the delicate internal workings of the rotor hub. Replacements come in about the $180 mark. Grab hold of each tine arm to assess it for wear between the splined shaft and the outer sleeve. Expect a bit of play but anything more than 50-70mm at the shaft end needs further investigation. Excessive slop means the arm drops with each revolution, resulting in the tines digging deeper than they should and causing soil contamination. There is a re-sleeving kit that involves fitting short outer-arm sections, sleeves for the inners, and new spring clips. At about $11,000 for a full rake’s worth (48 arms) it’s not a cheap option but is less expensive and time-consuming than stripping the complete rotor head down and replacing each entire arm. The over-centre spring clips that secure the arms in their splined slot can wear at the point their folded shoulders pass through their mounting points. If not spotted they’ll break off and shed the arm in question into the swath with the inevitable result that the forager finds them or they end up in a bale. Replacement spring clips come in at about $40.


Busted or buckled spring clips can also come about as a result of frost damage. If rakes are stored outside folded up, water can run down inside the tube, and when it freezes it can pop the tine arms out of their splined slot, damaging the clips. Replacements for broken and missing tines cost about $20.

CAM TRACKS With the rake unfolded, turn each rotor and at the same time twist each tine arm. If they rotate further than they’re designed to at that given point in their cam cycle or there is any clunking, it indicates the cam track may have significant wear or has sustained damage at some point. Generally they’re pretty bomb-proof and rarely give trouble but it’s worth pulling out the Allen-headed stud in the top of each rotor head to check the oil level and condition. It’s not uncommon to see a bit of weeping around the point where the tine arm shaft joins the cam track (left). It’s a relatively simple fix involving changing a lip seal, but it does mean pulling apart the rotor head. It’s not uncommon to find the reservoir filled with semi-fluid grease as a short-term means of limiting lubricant losses.

ROTOR CARRIAGES AND RUNNING GEAR Fabricated from a mix of folded flat bar and box-section, the rotor carriages have a simple coil spring arrangement at the

Above: It’s not uncommon to see baler twine employed as a makeshift spring retainer. Right: Most Liners go out with the basic blisterpad panel with buttons and LEDs.


beam pivot that pulls the front up at an angle when the carriage is lifted. This means when lowered back into work, the rear wheels make contact with the ground first in a ‘jet effect’, avoiding damage to the tines and excessive digging in. The threaded bar that locates and tensions the coil spring can shear off so it’s not uncommon to see baler twine employed as a makeshift spring retainer. Inevitably the carriages’ swivelling castor wheels suffer wear. Obviously, check the bearings for play but also the pivot bushes – an easy fix that’ll soak up a fair bit of slop. The carriage frame itself is put under a fair amount of duress at times and can crack in places, particularly the box-section crossmembers. Look out for welding here – not always done in the most sympathetic manner.

Main beams and axles check for any cracks or repairs.

MAIN BEAM AND AXLES By the nature of their job, four-rotor rakes will have encountered a fairly hefty workload, and stress fractures are not uncommon on Liners. The main beam that forms the backbone of the machine carries the entire weight of the rake and this is all transferred to the transport wheels when the rotors are lifted out of work. The plate around the bushes that house the two pivot pins linking the chassis to the axle had a tendency to crack on older models. Later versions had an offset circular plate welded on at this point to take the strain – check for any cracks or repairs. Likewise check the area around the point

where the axle joins the vertical boxsection uprights. Although gusseted, these can often crack. At the headstock, check the vertical beam the first pto carrier bearing is mounted on as overzealous operators turning too tight can catch these, with the result that repairs are often evident at the point where this upright joins the main beam.

ELECTRONICS To get a true picture of how well the whole machine works it’s essential to couple it up to a tractor. Be aware most Liners can be set up to run their essential functions via a closed centre load-sensing hydraulic system to avoid using one spool valve set to constant pumping. However, if the tractor isn’t set up for this it is possible to switch from one mode of operation to the other by lifting the cover on the main beam that houses that main valve chest and twisting the labelled knurled knob. There are various different control box options. Most Liners go out with the basic blister-pad panel with buttons and LEDs to toggle through all the main functions (icons making this fairly self-explanatory – transport/work mode, front rotor width, etc) and a pair of plus/minus buttons to tweak accordingly. There is also the option of Claas’s blackand-white ‘Communicator’ display – about $2000 extra when new. As an alternative, all post-2014 machines have the ability to


February 2021

The extra width means less traffic across the fields and the tug tractor clocks fewer miles. Photo by George Evans.

run through an ISObus controller. Rotor position is monitored by potentiometers on the fold points. These tell the control box when they have reached their predetermined height for headland turns. If they’re required to lift higher to clear big-crop swaths it’s possible to do this by working the control panel buttons in a set sequence outlined in the manual. With oil flowing to the valve chest, check that everything folds, lifts, and extends out as it should. While the electronics can play up, more often than not it’s dry telescopic beam wear pads and pivot pins that’ll be the sticking point.

ROTOR HEIGHT CONTROL Rotor position is monitored by potentiometers on the fold points.


February 2021

Hydraulic height control (HH) provides operators with the opportunity to tweak rotor height from the comfort of their armchair. If the rake in question is fitted with this option, check the sensors give the control box an accurate reading. If it’s got manual height adjustment, check the winder handles run smoothly. Often under-use means they’ll get sticky or seize up.

A KNOTTY ISSUE Anyone who’s spent much time behind the wheel of a forager will know the agony of following a single-rotor rake bundling one swath into another to try to build a decent row. The usual result is a heavily-knotted rope of grass that brings the chopper to its knees. In some ways the four-rotor rake has the potential to create the same headaches if the material gathered by the leading tine arms is then swept into the swath again by the rear rotors. Two manufacturers have come up with solutions to counter this issue. Kuhn uses hydraulic rotor drive to enable operators to tweak tine speeds to avoid the bundling effect. It also helps simplify the driveline – no need for a complex series of shafts to get power out to the rotors. Pottinger takes a similar approach but uses conventional PTO drive to the rear cam tracks to provide a fixed RPM, and hydro motors over the front rotors to provide variable speeds.



Better soil management a focus for FAR Soil management and nutrient use were high on the agenda at FAR’s Crops 2020 event in December. Andrew Swallow reports.


atch crops following wintergrazed forages can be a win-win for farm profit and the environment, delegates to FAR’s Crops 2020 event at Chertsey, Canterbury, heard. Annual output from paddocks is increased, and risk of nutrient losses and soil damage reduced as catch crops mop up residual nitrogen, anchor soil and protect it from raindrop impact, in turn reducing risk of surface run-off and associated sediment and nutrient loss. Lincoln Agritech’s Peter Carey presented 2018 and 2019 data from three Canterbury sites where the theory had been put into practice using oats, triticale or Italian ryegrass sown as soon as possible after kale or fodder beet crops. By mid to late November, July-sown plots of oats were yielding 10tDM/ha or more, in some cases without any additional fertiliser.


“At these levels green chop silage is very profitable,” Carey told the field day crowd. Valuing standing feed at 25c/kg DM margin over seed and fertiliser ranged from $800 to $2500/ha. A key requirement is that the catch crop will germinate in cold soil, hence the use of oats, triticale or Italian ryegrass in the trials. Carey said oats appear to have an edge, but triticale was worth considering too.

CATCH CROP KEY POINTS • Establish ASAP after grazing winter forage. • Direct-drill if possible. • Harvest early November. • Oats or triticale highest yields. • Italian ryegrass offers grazing option. • Helps to dry soil, capture nitrogen, and repair structure.

Italian ryegrass mopped up less nitrogen and had lower yields, but could be a good option if looking to graze and/or regrass rather than harvest and sow another crop after the catch crop. Where paddocks were to go back into a winter feed any reduction in yield of that following winter feed due to delayed sowing was more than made up for in the extra feed harvested from the catch crop, he said. “There’s an economic advantage as well as environmental … what you’re really doing is making your system more efficient.” While the cereal catch crops took up nitrogen from 60 to 70cm down the soil profile, there wouldn’t always be enough nitrogen left after the main feed crop for the catch crop to flourish, so in some situations catch crops would benefit from fertiliser nitrogen in October. Generally, the lighter the main feed crop, the more likely it was the following catch crop would need fertiliser, he said. “If it’s a heavy winter crop there might be enough nitrogen to get the crop right through.” Assessing catch crop colour and condition in mid-late October was the most practical way to determine need, he later told County-Wide, and in Southland trials where 40kgN/ha had been applied oat yield increased 1.5tDM/ha, with the host farmer reporting better quality silage resulting too. Carey told the Crops 2020 audience that where possible, catch crops should be direct-drilled to avoid working soil. That’s despite the min-till plots generally yielding more than the direct-drilled in the Canterbury trials. The problem with the min-till approach was that cultivation could cause a flush of nitrogen mineralisation which, in the event of heavy rain before the catch crop established, would be lost to groundwater, he said. “So unless it’s very pugged, keep tillage to a minimum by direct-drilling.” In the three winters (2018-2020) the trials were run in Canterbury it had never been a problem to get the catch crops sown at any of the sites, and with climate change such kind winters were more common, he added. “Forty years ago soil temperatures were about a degree colder on average over winter.” In Southland, with heavier soils and


February 2021

Lincoln AgriTech’s Peter Carey and Canterbury grower Ian Mackenzie debate the merits of catch crops at FAR’s Crops 2020 event.

higher rainfall, catch crop establishment had proven more difficult but a spaderdrill combination was proving a possible solution. With it, catch crop plots of oats following kale on heavy silt loam at Lumsden had been sown mid-June, whereas conventional minimum tillage cultivation and sowing wasn’t possible until mid-August. By mid November the spader-drilled plots yielded 7.4t/ha compared with 4.1t/ha for the min-till. Once growing, a catch crop helps dry sodden soil and starts the process of repairing damaged structure. The removal of water further reduces leaching risk, drier soil being able to take more rain before reaching field capacity and drainage starting. Those without irrigation in drier parts of the country would need to heed the soil drying effect of a catch crop because it could affect establishment and possibly yield of the following crop, Carey acknowledged. As for sowing of the catch crop, Carey said do it as soon as possible after the main feed crop is grazed, backfencing and sowing part paddocks if need be.

MONITOR AND RECORD SOIL QUALITY If you don’t already, start monitoring and recording your farm’s soil quality, and where necessary, taking steps to improve it, FAR’s Abie Horrocks and Dirk Wallace told visitors to Crops 2020. Doing so was important for both returns and compliance, they said, Wallace illustrating the profit point with photos of two maize paddocks in Hawke’s Bay: one on compacted soil that returned $2000/ ha, the other on well-structured soil that returned $4000/ha. Meanwhile, for compliance, all farm environment plans should have a module


February 2021

on soil management and those were increasingly likely to be audited in future. “So there are two good reasons to get out there and dig up some soil,” he said. While there were many complicated ways to assess soil physical quality, it didn’t have to be that way and Wallace urged growers to use the three-step, one-page mini visual soil assessment* that Horrocks had developed for FAR. “It’s real simple.” Do it, record the results, and if the results aren’t satisfactory, take measures to improve quality, in turn recording those, he advised. As a rule, reducing tillage would improve water-holding capacity and aggregate and structural stability, as would retaining and/ or incorporating crop residues. “Any organic matter return is better than nothing,” he said, urging growers to think of soil OM “like a bank account”. But the fastest way to increase soil organic matter was by live root decay, which was what happened under permanent pasture, boosting aggregate stability, he added. Some species could also provide other soil structure benefits, such as turnips, which put down roots that penetrate soil pans. Straw residues were a mixed blessing, locking up nitrogen short-term but greatly improving water infiltration rates and, once broken down, boosting organic matter. If tillage had to be used, record the purpose, for example, to break a pan, or because the crop could not be established without it, he said, citing potatoes as an example. Whatever measures were taken, improvements in soil physical quality would generally take considerable time, he said. “Be patient, and be consistent. Keep measuring and monitoring.” Horrocks said crop rotations should be planned to include phases that build soil organic matter and at least maintain it one rotation to the next, or preferably increase it. And like soil quality measuring and monitoring, that should be part of a farm environment plan. Completing and maintaining such documents would help front foot regulatory and compliance requirements, she said. “If you haven’t already done a farm environment plan it is something you will have to do in the very near future.”

FOCUS ON SOIL LOSS HOT SPOTS Where does water pond or sediment wash off on your farm? “You’ve probably seen it so focus your efforts there and put it in your farm environment plan,” FAR’s Abie Horrocks urged delegates at Crops 2020 in a session headed ‘Getting soils to stay put’. Cropping could be very hard on soil structure which, besides affecting productivity, created environmental risks that are increasingly under scrutiny from regulators, she warned. Recognising problem areas and recording measures to address them in a farm environment plan would allow growers and their representatives to front foot issues, she said. While some measures might be adopted on whole paddocks or farms, such as minimum tillage and building organic matter across the rotation to improve soil structure, others, such as set-backs from paddock boundaries, could be targeted to high risk or ‘critical source’ areas for sediment loss. Horrocks says a Sustainable Farming Fund project under way in Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay, Good Management Practices for Setback Strips on Cropping Farms, should provide data that will allow growers to better target such measures and, hopefully, move away from the current set-width regulatory model.

FAR’s Abie Horrocks demonstrated how water infiltration was affected by soil structure.

* FAR’s DIY Mini Visual Soil Assessment guide is at



The campaign by the agriculture industry to fence off drains and ditches to stock has substantially reduced P loss.

Dicalcic Phosphate – Why aren’t more farmers using it?


icalcic phosphate has been around a long time, it is otherwise known as lime reverted super or DCP. Most commonly (and traditionally) to manufacture dicalcic phosphate, limestone is mixed with superphosphate to de-acidify and change its chemical structure from monocalcium phosphate to dicalcium phosphate. This chemical process turns the phosphate from a water-soluble form to a citric-soluble form. Citric-soluble phosphate is plant available but controlled in its release to the soil environment. This change in chemical status, and the fact that DCP is pH neutral, are unique features in comparison to other phosphate products like DAP, Triple Super and Superphosphate. Traditionally DCP has been made by blending 50% superphosphate with 50% limestone, this results in a phosphate content of 4.5%. This low phosphate content has resulted in a higher transport and application cost. Together, these costs have been the fertiliser co-operative’s biggest bone of contention for its use and probably fair enough. Over the years, Fertco have designed systems to overcome this issue while retaining the unique features of dicalcic phosphate and pH neutrality. Fertco produce high-analysis DCP products containing


either 8% or 12% phosphate therefore dramatically reducing costs of transport and spreading. The benefit of altering the chemistry of the fertiliser phosphate applied to farms is the efficiency of that phosphate. Efficiency is brought about by less phosphate loss to the environment and less phosphate fixed in the soil, benefiting both the environment and farm finances. In the following article we dig deeper into losses of farm phosphate and where dicalcic phosphate offers benefit. Phosphorus has always been the most expensive of the major nutrients to apply as a fertiliser. As such, knowing your requirements from sound testing regimes and responsible educated advice is the best starting point. Only applying the required amount of phosphate may sound simple enough advice but Fertco commonly find soils with excessive phosphate levels. In that situation, Fertco advises farmers to apply lower rates of well-made dicalcic like Fertco’s Dical 12. In some cases, loss of phosphorus from farming systems either as particulate phosphorus in overland flow (runoff) or via leaching in “leaky” soils are contributors to eutrophication of waterways. One of the fertiliser co-ops has recently added to the range of slowrelease forms of phosphates fertilisers available. It is a step in the right direction, but at only 7.8% P you need to apply 50% more of this product than you would using Fertco’s Dical 12. That’s costly when freight and spreading costs are included in the total cost of fertiliser. The co-op believes its product will reduce phosphate run-off which is great, but the following article explains run-off is only one loss factor and dicalcic phosphate is proven to achieve much more. Read on. Direct loss of phosphate from animal excretion is a major loss. This loss factor is largely being taken care of from the diligent actions of our farmers.


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The campaign by the agriculture industry in recent years to fence off drains and ditches to stock has substantially reduced this mode of phosphorus loss. There are three other main ways in which phosphate can be lost from the farming system. We will briefly consider each along with suggested solutions below. Phosphate loss represents an economic loss to the farmer and is a substantial contributor to environmental pollution in the form of algal and weed growth in waterways and lakes. Where possible we make reference to New Zealand based trial work and we are happy to provide further information on request.

The three loss factors: FIRST, PHOSPHATE RUN OFF:


The presence of soluble iron and aluminium in ash soils also play a role in removal of plant available phosphorus by creating new compounds which plants cannot take up. The addition of acidic fertilisers exacerbates this natural form of loss. The worst ‘fixation’ offenders in NZ by far are the volcanic ash soils of the North Island and Southland, which contain a very highly phosphate-fixing amorphous aluminium silicate clay called allophane. These soils require typically half as much again to double the amount of phosphorus to maintain a given level of production as non-allophanic soils. Simple but undeniable proof that 30-50% of the phosphorus applied to these soils is being effectively ‘lost’ in terms of availability to the plant. A solution to this is to apply a pH-neutral phosphate source to avoid not activating the iron and aluminium in soils, thus causing less fixation. Acidic fertilisers such as superphosphate with a pH around 1-2.5 (immediately adjacent to the fertiliser granule) increase the solubility of iron and aluminium and increase the rate of phosphate “fixation”. Dicalcic fertilisers have a higher pH and do not exacerbate this situation.

Given the efficiency advantages of dicalcic, it is usually possible to apply 25-30% less actual phosphorus to achieve similar production results with more soluble forms and therefore use less of the world’s finite phosphorus reserves.

Phosphate run-off is the main environmental bad guy. The “Waipawa phosphate run-off trial” showed us that dissolved reactive phosphate was the most prevalent and damaging form of phosphate loss from farming systems and this was most likely to occur post-application of watersoluble phosphate fertiliser. The Waipawa trial compared phosphate runoff loss between superphosphate and RPR (slow release phosphate). The trial reported: “in the post-topdressing period both dissolved reactive phosphate (212% higher) and total phosphate (94% higher) losses were greater from superphosphate-treated catchments than from the RPR-treated catchments”. Unlike many serious ecological problems, the solution to this is simple and cost effective. Changing the form of phosphate used with no penalty to cost or production, farmers have the option to choose a controlled release form of phosphate such as dicalcic phosphate.


Fixation of phosphate has a financial ramification for farmers. Fixation losses of phosphate in the soil relate to the accumulation of phosphate in the soil that is too tightly bound to soil clays and/or organic matter to be available for uptake by plant roots; or has been stable (resistant to microbial breakdown) soil organic matter.


The leaching of phosphate from fertiliser and recycled phosphate through most NZ soils is not proven prevalent, but phosphate can be washed straight through the soil into the groundwater. On extremely weathered podzols of the West Coast and parts of Northland, 30% of the applied phosphate can leach through the soil beyond the root zone. As with the loss from run off, phosphate leaching and the gradual release phosphate from dicalcic phosphate offers obvious benefit.

For your phosphate solutions and advice phone 0800 FERTCO (0800 337 826) or visit

Cost Comparison



P.12% S6%

P.9% S.11%

225kg/ha = 27kg P, as Dicalcium phosphate 25% less P due to loss efficiencies

400kg/ha = 36kg P, as mono/calcium phosphate

Product cost: $119.25/ha ($530 tonne * 1)

Product cost: $122.40/ha ($306 tonne * 1)

Cartage cost: $6.15/ha ($30 tonne * 2)

Cartage cost: $12/ha ($30 tonne * 2)

Spreading cost: $13/ha (estimated cost, based on application rate, aerial spread)

Spreading cost: $20/ha (estimated cost, based on application rate, aerial spread)

Total: $138.35/ha

Total: $154.40/ha


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* 1 cost per tonne ex Mt Maunganui * 2 Cartage costs will vary based on distance from store. In this example no value is calculated for sulphur content. If sulphur is a factor it should be considered in cost comparisons. 75


Shape of our farms What shaped farm landscapes in the past and what is driving it now? Joanna Grigg takes a glimpse into the past to better understand the future.


ver wondered why there are fence lines on the farm that don’t really match the contour or aspect? Separate title areas with no water sources? Old shepherd huts every 20 kilometres or so? How about those mysterious small 19-acre paddocks, when every other block is much larger? The way land was divided, grazed, cleared and built on was not just driven by the needs of the stock, the runholder or the logical lie of the land. Rules and regulations, designed to control the amount of land a landowner or lessee could take up, has shaped the country. These had unintended effects on landscape and infrastructure, as people found loopholes and ways to work the system. This theme carries on to the present day. Freshwater regulations look to make the next five years the era of the hilltop tank, the hotwire, the electric fence standard, the new track cut to the tank, and the overgrown creek bed. The landscape will change. In the effort to improve stewardship of waterways it may have, in turn, a perverse and unintended negative outcome on the stewardship and aesthetics of the land. Weed sites, fire risk corridors and a layer of infrastructure over the land that is at its worst ugly and, at its best, intrusive. Depending on how much fencing is required, the new infrastructure is potentially unmaintainable with farmer resources and liable to fall into disrepair. The time to plan and think through unexpected consequences is now. Farms were shaped by the rules and regulations of the era they were created. Most importantly they are shaped by how landowners and lessees reacted to them. In the 1850s in Canterbury, settlers seeking a licence to depasture (graze) found clever ways to gain access to large


Cattle with collars around a lake.

Spray tank on the old ute sitting at the yards, ready to fight fires going up the ungrazed waterway edges.

Solar units on a stake in every block.

Spare wood batons and electric fence batteries for recycling are stockpiled in the yard.

Some permanent fencing along waterways, but most likely the bottom wire has a bit of debris wrapped around it, causing a few sags.

The rolling landscape with some trees along a visible stony creek now has a fence dissecting it and a hidden waterway behind foliage.


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The future? Country-Wide looks at what a rolling sheep/ beef farm landscape might look like in 2025 if stock exclusion rules for beef cattle under Freshwater Legislation remain in place.

Existing forested land along the waterway has a cleared zone through it to allow fence through.

Rank pasture quality from lack of cattle cause unintended fires in neighbours woodlot from burnt grass.

New tracks up to the new tanks on the hill tops. Aerials on the top for remote monitoring.

A new low-budget bridge. Orange warning sign and not a thing of beauty. Piles of jumbled electric fence wire and batons after a flood or wind storm, waiting for clean-up in the creek.

The crop is five metres back from stream edges with a rank grass buffer zone.

Lego farm look – troughs in every block.

A plastic theme across the paddock – can designers find a more natural colour electric fence standard that is not white, red or orange?

Electric bungee gate well back from creek crossings (you don’t want wet feet closing it). These entrances stick out into the paddock beyond the exclusion zone.


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The open feel of farmland has been replaced with a more dissected and patchwork feel.

Clearer water in the creeks for more of the year (no muddy pools from trampled banks or sediment from loose soils from intensive grazing on crop, which happened at times).


Will we farewell the open unfenced landscape in 2023?

areas. For each shepherd’s hut built, the grazier holding the licence to depasture was allocated a pre-emptive right over 50 acres. Build another hut up the road and you were given another right over 50 acres. Huts sprang up. Each homestead built came with an allocation of 250 acres. Not all land had to, or could be, bought outright, and grazing leases made your money go further. Putting up 38 chain lengths of a wire fence (760 metres) gave the grazier rights to graze 50 acres. The fences may not be in a logical spot or even subdivide a parcel of land – it was all about getting more grazing land allocated. Redundant fences are now part of the landscape. A patchwork of grazing leases and squatter-blocks emerged under the Provincial Councils, set up in 1853. Graziers would run up a fence along the waterway, excluding a piece of land from the water, making it useless for purchasing


Freshwater regulations look to make the next five years the era of the hilltop tank, the hotwire, the electric fence standard, the new track cut to the tank, and the overgrown creek bed.

and grazing by others. Once they made sure no others could graze the locked-up neighbouring block, they would open the fence and graze the land itself, acting as squatters. This meant they didn’t have to buy the licence to depasture and still got the grazing. Grid-ironing was a known strategy to gain control of a large area of land, without paying for a grazing licence for all of it. Examples were seen in the 1850s

to 1870s in Canterbury. Rules were set that land blocks purchased had to be 20 acres or more. The investor would come in and buy a series of 20-acre blocks, leaving 19-hectare areas in between each block. No-one could buy the 19-acre or smaller blocks without going to auction, so generally they were left unoccupied. Also known as ‘spotting’, the best bits with creeks and flats would be purchased, leaving gaps in between. Squatters on the land were usually granted first right to buy areas, but not compelled to. Pastoral land was leased at low rates, with the leaseholder having the right to purchase small areas for cultivation or building a home. This allowed leaseholders to buy fractions of their runs in order to control the rest of the land. It wasn’t until 1870 that land titles were formally registered with the aid of a map (the Torrens system).


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Beware the unintended consequence of rules. Land lease and ownership rules of the 1853 Provincial Councils saw landscapes modified with some unpractical fence lines and illogically sited shepherds’ huts.

Provincial administrations were abolished in 1876. The Land Act 1877 updated provincial land legislation and created 10 districts, each with a Land Board (Jim McAloon, Land ownership, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 2008).

New rules from the government incentivised smaller farms, with a farm homestead or cottage. A scheme of deferred payments was used to get these small family farms established. By 1892 more than a million acres (404,000 hectares) had been taken

up under these schemes by 7687 settlers. Landowners with more than 260 hectares already could not apply. Leases for blocks of up to 5000 acres (2023 hectares) could be repaid over 15 years. The remnants of many derelict rural buildings can be seen across rural New Zealand, especially in areas like Otago, where small holdings were simply not sustainable. The Liberal Government years saw a swing to middle-sized farms, with applicants for land having to prove they had capital to improve the land. Between 1891 and 1912 a total of 520,000 hectares of land was purchased by the government for subdivision. This land policy had its greatest impact in Canterbury (125,000ha), Auckland (104,000ha), Otago (83,000ha) and Hawke’s Bay (78,000ha). The number of medium-sized farms (130-400ha) increased considerably. Today’s landowners react to legislation with a similar commercial response. Responses will be innovative, and just like in the 1850s, are likely to have some unintended consequences as far as policymakers are concerned.

Modify landscape only if better stewardship BY: JOANNA GRIGG Landscape architect Leicester Murray works at the coalface of farm landscapes. The placement of trees, buildings, irrigation infrastructure, cycleways, fences and tracks in rural landscapes are some of the examples of his work with farming clients. As a former hill country farmer in Kekerengu, he believes any rules about fencing waterways must be considered in terms of what is best for land stewardship as a whole. “It may improve water quality but what effect will it have on the ability of farmers to manage the entire farm? “Managing pastures correctly is something which is actually good stewardship in itself and I firmly believe that sheep and beef and deer farming has a very soft touch on the land already.” Creating an ungrazed waterway without having weed control options is going to create sites to harbour weeds and reinfest


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adjacent land. Murray gives the example of a low slope dairy farm that has all the waterway edges becoming infested with ragwort. Introducing sheep to control ragwort is an option, but is likely to affect milk production through pasture competition. Maintaining fences within a treed area needs to be addressed, he said, especially if it is just a single hot wire. The placement of fences within poplar pole areas is something to be wary of as these trees can be brittle, dropping limbs that damage fences. Divaricated climbing species such as muehlenbeckia can be a major issue growing up over fence lines in Marlborough. Other regions have species like rough horsetail, blackberry or broom to contend with. These weeds will need to be removed before fences are erected and weed control needs to be ongoing for maintenance. Spraying against waterways is an activity requiring consent in most cases. Murray said landscape architects can

Leicester Murray.

help with the interpretation of the rules and planning of the infrastructure on the landscape. Farmers need to think about having good, quick access to service water tanks and troughs for any new stock water scheme, he said. “How many farmers think about using landscape architects to help with preparing for placement of fences, tracks and infrastructure, to make it both practical and better to look at?” He queries whether one farmer can really look after 1000 hectares of land with waterway exclusion fencing and reticulated water systems over it. “It is a big ask.”


Alex Petrucci is stock manager on an 800ha (684ha effective) hill country farm, near Aria. Alex’s employer Martin Coup says he has brought a fresh perspective to the business.


USA American-bred and city-raised, he came all the way to the King Country to find his dream job. Mike Bland reports.



efore arriving in New Zealand eight years ago Alex Petrucci, a 30-year-old economics graduate who grew up on the outskirts of Chicago, knew only a little bit about New Zealand and its agriculture. His father worked for the American Farmland Trust, which employed Kiwi consultants for advice on pasture management. But Alex’s practical skills were limited when he took on his first job milking cows in Reporoa, Waikato. A year later he met future wife Bronwyn, who was shepherding on Highlands Station, near Rotorua. After spending a day with Bronwyn on the sheep and beef farm, Alex had a sudden revelation. “Well, this is it, I thought. I know what I want to do now.” Later, Bronwyn gave him a couple of pups to start a dog team. After leaving a herd manager’s job in Feilding he moved to Southland to work as stock manager on a finishing farm. To get some high country experience he shifted to Hakataramea Valley, North Otago, and worked under experienced stock manager Ian Grant, who gave him valuable guidance on how to build his dog handling skills. “Ian is the best dog man I’ve ever met, and I made a friend for life.” Three years ago he and Bronwyn applied for a position on Martin and Wendy Coup’s 800ha hill country farm, south of Aria. There were plenty of stock manager jobs going at the time, so Alex says they could afford to be picky. He and Bronwyn were looking for a fair-minded employer who would give them scope to improve their skills without driving them and their dogs into the ground through overwork. The Coups were looking for their first stock manager after years of running the farm in a family partnership. Their off-farm commitments


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Rain, hail or shine, Chicago-raised Alex Petrucci enjoys the lifestyle that comes with farming in the King Country hills.

‘WE WERE LOOKING FOR A TEAM MEMBER, NOT A STAFF MEMBER. PASSION FOR FARMING WAS MORE IMPORTANT TO US THAN THE SKILL OF THE APPLICANT, AND WE HAD TO BE SURE THEY WERE THE RIGHT FIT FOR US AND THE FARM.’ – Martin is a director of Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Wendy is a coach and facilitator for the Agri-Women’s Development Trust – meant they were spending an increasing amount of time away from the farm. Martin says they both enjoy the off-farm work but they also still enjoy practical farming. They weren’t interested in selling the farm so they made the decision to employ someone to handle day-to-day management. “We were used to hiring contractors and casual labour, but this was the first time we’d ever employed a full-time manager.” The Coup’s experience with various industry organisations had taught them a lot about managing relationships. That proved useful when it came to deciding the type of person they wanted to fill the job. “We were looking for a team member, not a staff member. Passion for farming was more important to us than the skill of the applicant, and we had to be sure they were the right fit for us and the farm,” says Martin.


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The Coups got about 20 applicants for the job but only a handful made the shortlist. They interviewed Alex and Bronwyn on New Year’s Day in a marathon session that spanned nine hours. “I think we were interviewing them as much as they were interviewing us,” Alex says. FRESH PERSPECTIVE He and Bronwyn were offered the job and haven’t looked back since. “We were very lucky to find Martin and Wendy.” Bronwyn worked on the farm until the birth of their daughter Meila in 2020. Now Alex does most of the day-to-day stock management with assistance from Martin and Wendy, when they are available. The Coups also employ Rick Pulman to help out with fencing, repairs and yard work. Martin says Alex has brought a fresh perspective to the business. He is enthusiastic and keen to take stock production up another notch.

“One of Alex’s key focuses has been getting our capital ewes up in weight so that they are milking strongly after lambing.” Even though the farm has strong sheep performance, Martin says ewes have traditionally been fairly light after lambing. The goal now is to increase the average weight of the Coopworth ewes from 59kg to 62-65kg post-lambing. To help achieve this, Alex has started drenching for Barber’s Pole. He believes this treatment, administered in late February, will help ewes make better use of tupping feed. His first year on the farm was a very good farming year, but Martin warned him that this wasn’t always the norm. Sure enough, the next two seasons were drought years, and this has provided an extra challenge for the young stock manager. The Coups take an analytical approach to farming and Alex enjoys the monitoring and benchmarking aspects of the business. Martin and Wendy started using Farmax in 2016 and Alex has been quick to accept it as a key farming tool. “If we want to buy stock or sell stock early, we just plug the figures into Farmax and that will tell us the consequences of that decision,” he says. Farmax also serves as a mediator for those decisions where the farm owner and stock manager might not be in complete agreement. “If I want to make a change then about 10% of my argument is based on my gut feeling and the other 90% comes down to what Farmax says.” The Coups are well aware that there are plenty of opportunities out there for good stock managers, so they are looking for ways to keep Alex and Bronwyn on the farm and maintain their interest. A recent initiative is the introduction of an agreement that will see Alex and Bronwyn take ownership of some of the bought-in bulls. When those bulls are sold, the stock manager will receive a portion of the profits. “It’s a great way to give Alex more skin in the game,” says Martin. Alex gets time off to attend agricultural training courses and continues to hone his dog handling and stock management skills. While he accepts he and Bronwyn may never be able to afford their own sheep and beef farm, they really enjoy the lifestyle the job and region brings. “I love my hunting, and there is a very strong network of young farmers in the King Country, so our social life is good too.” 81


Time to celebrate the role our primary industries play



et’s sing the praises of the skills and value of our primary industries, as we do for our New Zealand sports teams. This is the vision of farm environment consultant Rebecca Hyde, who operates under her own brand TFD Consulting Ltd, which is short for ‘The Farmer’s Daughter.’ Based in Oxford, North Canterbury, she launched her business in 2020. Much of her work week involves talking with farmers about the ever-evolving raft of regulations, a somewhat new and often complex business tier within our traditional ‘Number 8 Wire’ agricultural sector. Over the past few years health and safety, employment and water regulations, to name a few, have become permanent features on a farmer’s business plan, directed from central government. “A lot of farmers don’t understand all of


it. It’s all come at once,” says Rebecca, the former nutrient management advisor at Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Ravensdown. Rebecca is not shy to remind farmers that these changes are here to stay. “The regulations will never stop, and collaboration to grapple these changes, while remembering the ‘people’ element of farming, is a must.” Rebecca says while there is regulation involved with her business, there is also a large element of best practice. While some farmers need more critical conversations than others, Rebecca says some don’t get why things have changed, or don’t want things to change. “My advice is, either make the changes and I can help you, or the next person might not be so nice.” Born and raised on a sheep and beef farm in Scargill, North Canterbury, farming has always run strong through Rebecca’s veins, and she has never imagined working in any other sector.

“One thing I will always be is a farmer’s daughter. And I really feel privileged to sit down at a farmer’s table and help them now.” Within her advisory roles, Rebecca has appreciated how in tune she has always been with farmers. “You just get that mum and dad are trying to get the shearing done, need to get to kids’ sport, will be drafting sheep in the dust, picking up calves in the rain… You just get stuff, and farmers appreciate this.” What appealed to Rebecca about starting her own business was embracing the challenges, and having that natural instinct of what is happening on the land. In 2017 Rebecca was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, which she utilised to investigate globally how collaboration works well between groups in the agricultural sector, and how well New Zealand was doing comparatively. Her travels took her to 13 different countries including Brazil, India, America,


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Canada, Denmark and China. “One of the things that came across really clearly was that most groups saw the bigger picture of working together.” Rebecca believes New Zealand at the time was not as strong on collaboration, as there was still plenty of segregation between farming industries: dairy, arable, non-irrigation, irrigation, sheep and beef, etc. But this has changed, and collaborative groups such as the Primary Sector Council and the development of the Red Meat Sector story with Taste Pure Nature are great initiatives that encourage conversation, ideas, and solutions for the primary sector as a whole. Rebecca cannot emphasise enough the importance of continued collaboration and communication, and the complexity of farming that must be acknowledged. She talks about the three layers of farming: The ground layer is the physical farm, the middle layer is the farm management system, and the third layer is the people layer. “And that is what makes a farm unique, the combination of all of them. And farmers must work out where that sweet spot is.” Time and time again, Rebecca has sat in front of industry ‘experts’ with her fellow farming community. “Farmers are expected to show up and contribute, but they’re not considered experts. I think that is something that’s really been missed – that people element.


Rebecca Hyde.

‘One thing I will always be is a farmer’s daughter. And I really feel privileged to sit down at a farmer’s table and help them now.” Farmers have the data and the systems – they are the people living that land and system. Farmers know their capabilities, their limitations.” Rebecca admits there is no argument

that the pressures on the environment are increasing, which is human-driven. Modern day regulations have put restrictions on farmers being able to make changes on their own farm, at their own discretion. Nowadays a farm environment plan, a nutrient budget, and in some instances, a land use consent, are required. Rebecca certainly isn’t anti regulations, which she sees as tools for raising the floor, but agrees with farmers they can be confusing. “Farmers know the practical, and they might not need the practical changes (such as fencing off waterways), but they might just need to know the new regulations.” Should collaboration and the ‘people’ side of farming continue to flourish, the future of the New Zealand agricultural sector is a bright one. “Agriculture is a big business in New Zealand, and it creates business minds.” Rebecca believes good farmers are open to different types of experts; for example dry land farmers farming for moisture and using soil moisture monitors. She says Covid-19 has really changed how people are looking at their own health, and sees farmers as being a big part of this as food producers. “I would like to see a future where New Zealanders are proud of what farmers do. Where someone in central Auckland is singing the praises of their New Zealandgrown food, because they are proud of what we can produce, like we are proud of our sports people.”

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Nicola Dennis delves into some of New Zealand’s leading animal charities and is interested to discover how they are run and what they spend their money on. hen I asked my fans what I should write about next, both of them said I needed to prove to the public how much farmers love their animals and the environment. And while this is true, farmers are like nuns to the church of soil and stock; I’m not sure how I can add to that particular conversation. What I can do, however, is take a closer look at why farmers feel their integrity is constantly in question. I thought I would educate myself on what is fanning the flames of the urban-rural divide. It’s bigger than a single issue, but for this article I am going to focus on the people who keep sending the pitchforks in our direction. Let’s make it our business to find out about the business of villianising farmers.

HOW TO CHECK UP ON A NZ CHARITY Most of the information in this article comes from the New Zealand Charities register, which you can search at whim ( CharitiesRegister/Search). If you type in ‘animals’ it will yield 64 results, which is bolstered by every branch of the SPCA and a few deregistered charities. Alternatively, any registered charity should be proudly displaying its charity registration number on its website so you can pop this into the charities register. As a caveat to that, I was unpleasantly surprised to discover how many groups asking for donations are not actually registered charities. Once you have located your target inside the charities register, then you can dig around in seven different tabs off to the side, such as its group members, annual returns, purpose and structure. Let us take a look under the hood of two vegan charities. If you came for blood then feel free to skip over the cute and harmless ‘Vegan Society of Aotearoa’ and dive straight into the frightening financial machine that is ‘Save Animals from Exploitation Incorporated’.


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VEGAN SOCIETY OF AOTEAROA (REGISTRATION NUMBER CC45333) I snooped on their website and through their charity documents and, meh, who am I to deny the vegans of Aotearoa a society and a quarterly magazine. These guys are only featuring here as a helpful contrast with the next charity. It’s all about the food for the Vegan Society, which lists its beneficiaries as “people who want to live a vegan lifestyle”. A $50 annual membership buys you a quarterly magazine that is almost exclusively vegan recipes, vegan lifestyle articles, and advertisements from vegan food manufacturers. I have perused a copy of this magazine and I am sad to report that they are not talking about us farmers much at all. It’s almost as if their choice to adopt a tremendously restrictive diet has been made entirely for reasons other than hate. I found one slightly condescending article on how NZ is falling behind other countries in the adoption of plant protein production, which I thought glossed over the fact that NZ lacks the flat land and climate required for broad-acre soybean production. There was also an advert from ‘CareSaver’, a KiwiSaver plan that boasts that it does not invest in farming, fossil fuels, animal testing or environmental exploitation. Having worked in an animal laboratory previously, I would have to say that is fair. Our lab mice were very well cared for, but the financial return on investment couldn’t have been anything other than dismal. For the most part, the Vegan Society seems to be about celebrating vegans, and their perceived healthiness, rather than hating farmers. They get a bit snarkier on their Facebook page, but isn’t that the point of Facebook? In their charity documents, the Vegan Society lists its purpose as ‘The advancement, promotion, development and resourcing of education among New Zealanders on issues relating to veganism’. If you are not familiar with veganism, they also list a definition in their charity rules which is ‘the practice of living on grains, pulses, nuts, fruits, vegetables and other products of the vegetable kingdom, without the use of eggs, milk, milk products, and the entire exclusion of the flesh of all animals’. This includes honey, in case you are wondering. I learned from


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I’m no forensic accountant, but I would say that SAFE has shied away from serving a community of like-minded people through membership and the exchange of goods/services and has instead embraced a model of outraging the public in exchange for donations. their vegan magazine that their main objections to honey bee keeping was the feeding of sugar over winter and the selective breeding of hives. Anyway, in its last financial year the Vegan Society brought in just over $87,000, mostly from subscriptions and the selling of goods and services. I assume the latter is the selling of advertisement space as they don’t seem to have an online shop. Only a quarter of their income ($22,000) was from donations and their workforce is exclusively volunteers. Both of these factors explain some of the ambivalence towards farmers. Volunteers don’t have time to dream up hate campaigns. And, you don’t need to keep the public outrage at feverpitch if you are running a subscriptionbased model rather than mugging people for donations. The Vegan Society’s total income has been showing steady growth since 2010 and their total expenditure is usually below their income so they have a tidy $54,200 squirreled away that earned them $212 in interest/dividends in the last financial year.

SAVE ANIMALS FROM EXPLOITATION INCORPORATED (CC40428) Let us click on ‘Save Animals from Exploitation Incorporated’ or ‘SAFE’ as you may better know them. In their own words, their mission is to ‘educate, inform and empower people to make crueltyfree, plant-based and vegan choices’. That doesn’t read too differently from the Vegan Society above, which was achieving this aim for less than $100K and with 22 volunteers. But, SAFE is pulling in millions of dollars. In their 2018 annual report, SAFE detailed $6.1 million of income, of which $6.05 million was from donations. Their latest annual report is not quite as impressive at ‘only’ $2 million in donations and the $200k in interest from investments. You might wonder what SAFE makes in membership fees; well, in the latest return it was $355. I am not missing any zeros on that sum. The entire

membership revenue from SAFE, which used to run at $14-22K, 10 years ago, is now worth about the same as a top of the range wheelbarrow. Revenue from trading goods and services, which has been as high as $900K in the past, has dwindled down to $1650 – a mere fraction of the $36K that the Vegan Society was pulling in. I’m no forensic accountant, but I would say that SAFE has shied away from serving a community of like-minded people through membership and the exchange of goods/services and has instead embraced a model of outraging the public in exchange for donations.

BUT, WHAT DOES SAFE DO WITH ITS MONEY? If you look on their website they object to a raft of animal activities taking place in New Zealand including, but not limited to, the control of animals labelled as pests, horse racing, duck shooting, greyhound racing, zoos/wildlife parks, rodeos, puppy breeding, the use of wool and fur, animals used in experiments, and all forms of farming, be it intensive indoor farming or free-range. There is drone footage of what I assume is the Five-Star Beef feedlot in Ashburton (you would struggle to find many other feedlots to film in New Zealand) with a blurb that says “Most Kiwis imagine the cattle raised for beef grazing on lush, green pastures, but sadly this isn’t the reality in New Zealand. Tucked away out of sight cattle are kept in barren, grassless pens known as feedlots.” And that, as far as SAFE is concerned, is all anybody ever needs to know about the NZ beef industry. You might imagine that SAFE is burning money fighting for this endless array of causes. Sure they are getting their money for nothing, but $2 million is mere coins if you are intent on wiping out multiple industries. There are currently 20 staff at SAFE working about 621 hours a week and this racked up $1,191,288 in salary and wages in the last financial year. In case you were


about to reach for the calculator, that’s an average hourly rate of $37/hour. SAFE spent $36K on advertising and marketing, $50K on contractors/consultants, $20K on IT support and $37.5K on legal fees/court costs, $94K on rent/utilities, $10K donation to Farmwatch, $19.7K donation to the NZ anti-vivisection society etc, etc. This brings them up to $1.89 million for the year. Colour me intrigued, but I note that SAFE never spends more than $2 million, which is the threshold for full financial reporting required by Charities Services. Instead, SAFE tucks $200-400K annual surpluses into the charity’s bank accounts and term deposits and has so far amassed $5.9 million in net assets. Maybe this is not unusual; I note that the SPCA is sitting on $78 million of equity. But, the SPCA has 42 animal shelters to run. It is less obvious what SAFE plans to do with its money. At the end of SAFE’s annual report, the chairperson, who is a well-known aerospace entrepreneur, signs off as ‘Rocket’. That is in no way pertinent, but I do think it is cute.


Every secondary school in New Zealand has received free copies of the ‘popular’ Animals & Us education series produced by SAFE.


So what does SAFE do when it’s not squirrelling money like Scrooge McDuck? Well, 54% of its expenditure goes towards campaigns (which a cynic would see as revenue generating), 21% goes to supporter engagement and 21% goes to education programmes. SAFE is proud of the textbooks it generates. Since 2007 every secondary school in New Zealand has received free copies of the ‘popular’ Animals & Us education series produced by SAFE. There are five separate Animals & Us textbooks sitting at a high school near you, featuring a special thanks to Farmwatch, who supplied many of the photographs. Farmwatch is the crew who covertly film farming operations and publicise any disturbing footage they manage to capture. Each SAFE textbook contains a ‘selection of lessons and resources ready for classroom and individual study’. There is one titled Animal Rights, Human Values, Social Action which is apparently suitable for years 9-13 in social studies, history and English. There is Battery Hen Farming in New Zealand, which is for teaching English. Move over Janet Frame. Step aside Shakespeare. The chooks will take it from here. There is Animals in Factory Farms, which covers social studies, science, biology and English. Animals in Science is for science and biology. I could not get access to this

particular textbook, but entries such as ‘Rats have no gallbladder: The validity and ethics of animal experimentation’ in the table of contents was enough to wreck any illusion of impartiality. And let’s not forget Animals on Show: a critical analysis of the animal entertainment industry, which is for English, social studies and biology classes. There is also the SAFE Animal Squad, which offers all primary school teachers free classroom subscriptions to its Animal Bites newsletter, which works towards ‘helping kids to think critically about our use of animals’. I shudder at the thought.

WAIT, WHAT ABOUT PETA AND THE OTHERS? You would be forgiven for thinking otherwise, but ‘People for the ethical treatment of animals’ (or PETA) apparently has zero presence in New Zealand. If you search for PETA New Zealand you will be directed to a company that markets dispensing equipment for water troughs. PETA Dispensers of Hamilton would probably do well to add a ‘Donate’ button on their website. The vegan PETA seems like it is in NZ, given the amount of NZ topics they are prepared to wade into. They even urged our Minister of Finance to consider a meat and dairy tax in the 2020-21 budget. But PETA and a few other extreme movements are all offshore organisations. PETA is as not-for-profitable as our homegrown SAFE, with an annual haul of US$50 million in donations and $1.7million in investment returns … and just $108K in merchandise sales. It is easier to scream for donations from the sidelines, but the folk at PETA aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty either. PETA volunteers deliver pet food and equipment to poor neighbourhoods, run mobile veterinary clinics, and they euthanise a lot of animals. The majority of animals (66%) that go through PETA’s animal shelters are euthanised. Upon viewing the SAFE volunteer handbook, I see no mention of any animal assistance. Where SAFE sticks strictly to ‘campaigning’ in NZ, PETA is prepared to venture into porn. In 2011, PETA planned to launch a pornography website to further the vegan movement. A hard-nosed journalist would have visited this site to see if it were still in operation a decade later, but I surmised that I had already damaged my google search reputation enough at this point. Animal exploitation awareness porn definitely felt like my cue to leave.


February 2021


‘You’ve got to get this place.’

Top right: The property boasts walks through stunning mature native beech forest. Above right: Bushveldt – our accommodation for three nights.

A touch of Paradise BY: PETER SNOWDEN


break away from the farm is unlikely to involve an international holiday for some time to come. Domestic tourism has been brought into focus, which is not such a bad thing! Spending time in some of the seldom visited parts of home offers great reward. Paradise is an historic 128ha property just over an hour’s spectacular drive from Queenstown. Set in close proximity to Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks at the head of Lake Wakatipu, it has a long history of hosting tourists and adventure seekers, first being used as a guest house in the 1880s. It was our destination for three days late in August. Annie Gallaway, operations manager for Paradise Trust, “loves the legacy of David Miller”. Miller gifted the property to the trust following his death in 1998 with a vision of making it available and accessible. The trust carries out this vision, protecting the historic site and natural beauty of the place so everyone can have access to this special part of the world. “You’ve got to get this place,” says Annie. She uses a child’s comment from a visitors’


February 2021

book to sum up Paradise. “When I first got here, I thought it was all old and riggidy but after four days Cayden and I didn’t want to leave”. It is not a motor camp, purpose-built eco lodge, farm stay or tourist lodge – it is simply Paradise – a range of buildings set in a powerfully compelling part of New Zealand. It is doubtful if it has an equivalent in the country. Its appeal is to families, groups or individuals who want to enjoy rest, recreation or contemplation in a stunning environment. It is the sort of environment that international visitors

rave about, with forests, lakes, mountains and rivers close by. Accommodation options include wellappointed serviced cottages through to rustic (not staged rustic) cabins heated by open fires or wood-burning ranges with few modern conveniences. We stayed in Bushveldt – a cabin dating back to the mid 20th century set in a beech forest clearing with views of nearby Mt Earnslaw/ Pikirakatahi. Three Whitetail deer were grazing on the clearing as we drew the curtains on the first morning of our stay. The location offers plenty to fill your day. We biked to the start of the Dart River track, encountering only four vehicles on the 24km return journey. The Dart Valley stretches back into Mount Aspiring National Park and is well known to trampers. Paradise Trust boundaries Diamond Lake, which is open all year and is one of the many fishing options in the vicinity. I was the only one fishing on the lakeshore, and despite the windy conditions landed a couple of modest-sized brown trout, not bad for a novice. A scheelite mine operated on the property during both world wars and the Korean War. The mineral is a valuable ore used in the production of tungsten. The site is worth a visit as much for the history and relics as for the superb views up the Dart Valley. Bush walks among the stands of mature red beech on the property are a feature. You could equally base yourself at the property and explore the longer walks of the Routeburn Valley or Earnslaw Burn. The most memorable part of our visit had to be seeing six to eight native long-tailed bats/ Pekapeka flying at dusk high in the trees close to the office. The evenings were spent cooking on the woodburner, then relaxing with a good book or glass in hand. One evening we were wowed by a powerful electric storm that we were told was not uncommon. Paradise is well known to southerners with the visitor’s book detailing many entries from Otago and Southland folks. It is not Rarotonga, Hong Kong or Melbourne, where you might have vacationed this year but here you can, as Annie puts it – “appreciate the rawness”.



Zoom into regular farmer forum


hen rural commentator and farmer wellbeing advocate Craig Wiggins felt the need during the Covid-19 lockdown to connect farmers, he turned to online meeting software Zoom and created his own rural support network. Every Thursday at 7.30pm since April 2020, Wiggins has hosted Whatever With Wiggy, for any farmer to log in and discuss a host of topics from intensive winter grazing and freshwater legislation, to mental and physical health. Many of the sessions feature guest speakers, including politicians Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor, National MP Barbara Kuriger, and Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick, plus many others. Federated Farmers regional leaders plus national spokespeople have joined the forum to gain insights and analysis for policy development on topics from sharefarming contracts to freshwater legislation. Farmer health and wellbeing, an interest for Wiggy, has been a recurring topic. More than 1000 people are now engaged in the

Facebook group, which also serves as a sounding board for future topics and ideas for discussion each Thursday. Wiggy says he started Whatever With Wiggy to support farmers through the lockdown but he is proud of its growth and the support network it provides to everyone who joins in. “It’s grown to the stage where I needed some help to run the social media and to try and source some financial support,” says Wiggy. That is when Hopkins Farming chief operating officer Heidi Sixtus got involved to help build further support for Wiggy in this rural network. Heidi will be running some of the meetings in the future as Whatever With Wiggy spreads its wings into some more topics and chats to more people. Aside from farming, Wiggy is a rural sports commentator, has been a host of the Young Farmer of the Year competition, master of ceremonies at many rural events, a rural advocate, and a columnist for many years. “Whatever With Wiggy is just the next

Farmer wellbeing advocate Craig Wiggins.

part of that farmer support journey and I hope that people can join in for the support and connectivity it offers,” he says. Find out more by joining him via @whateverwithwiggy on Facebook. • Supplied.

Resilient Kiwi spirit kept agriculture strong


iwi ingenuity and a drive to ‘make it work’ have been pivotal in New Zealand’s agriculture sector getting through the Covid-19 pandemic with relatively little impact, according to a new study by AgResearch and its partners. Farmers and others working in the agriculture and food systems in New Zealand and Australia were surveyed or interviewed about the impacts of Covid-19 in the period through to June 2020, which included national lockdowns. While acknowledging overall negative effects, additional stress and pressures from the pandemic and response, only 47% of New Zealand survey respondents viewed the effect on their farms or businesses as negative over that period. A further 37% said the effect was neutral.


Much of New Zealand’s primary sector was able to continue working through the Covid-19 lockdowns and, unlike some other nations, its performance held up well. Export revenue from primary products for the period exceeded revenue from the previous year. Those interviewed in the NZ sector also identified some positives coming out of the pandemic experience such as better ways of working (including going paperless or doing online meetings), opportunities for new markets for their products, and increased community appreciation of their sector. “The term resilience is a buzzword that’s probably a bit overused. But it’s clear from our analysis that the inbuilt ability to cope with adversity through various means, find new ways of doing things and get on with

the job, were important in how farmers and their supporting industries performed so well,” says AgResearch senior scientist Dr Val Snow. One New Zealand farmer talked about the necessity to homeschool the kids “meant they were involved in farming life and saw the decision-making process and us discussing real-life events”. Another experienced “indirectly, a change in attitude among the public around how they value the security of food production and therefore the role of farmers in providing that food”. The full details in the open access published article can be viewed at: https:// S0308521X20308866?via%3Dihub • Supplied.


February 2021

Farm life is unpredictable


rant McMaster, general manager at Closeburn Station, has been a farmer for more than 40 years. He knows only too well how uncertain farm life can be: “the seasons dictate what you do, there’s so much against you”. No two days are ever the same. Where Grant goes, his dogs are sure to follow. “It doesn’t matter what the conditions are, they have to be with you and they have to be fit. To have them fit you have to feed them right.” This is why Black Hawk Working Dog food was specifically formulated for New Zealand working dogs – to help farmers give their working dogs the very best nutrition. The endurance formula behind Black Hawk Working Dog is high in quality protein (32%), with lamb and beef as the main ingredients, and quality fats (22%), designed to promote strong, lean muscles and ensure a sustainable release of energy throughout the dog’s working day.

Since Grant has been feeding Black Hawk Working Dog to his dogs, he’s noticed a very real difference. “You can see them improving in their muscling, their coats are shinier and they have more energy.” Masterpet chief executive Dr Sean Duggan says “We believe every ingredient matters to the work rate and returns from a working dog. Working dogs have very different requirements compared with pet dogs; they’re a lot more active, for a lot longer during the day. “Through Black Hawk, we are building The Real Food Movement for dogs and challenging all owners to feed real ingredients.” Black Hawk Working Dog food is available in rural veterinary clinics around the country. Grant McMaster.

• Supplied.

What drench by what route?


rench resistance in cattle in showed that the highest concentration of New Zealand has been shown Ivermectin was achieved in this parasite to be very common. and the surrounding tissues after it was Nearly all cattle farms are given as an injection. Therefore, the best regarded as having some form of drench way to deal with a mixed population resistance. As a result, a great deal of of parasites in cattle, and achieve the research has been done in this area over highest concentration of drench in the the past few years. different locations where the In 2012 it was determined parasites are located, appears to be that the best way to kill a combination of both oral and Cooperia, a parasite located in injectable routes given at the same the small intestinal contents, time. when using Moxidectin (a Trial work has been done where macrocyclic lactone) is to oral levamisole and an injectable use an oral drench. The same doramectin (Dectomax injection) has also been found for other have been given to yearling cattle Clive Bingham. drench actives (e.g. Levamisole), at the same time on a property vet Clive Bingham says. where there were both resistant Ostertagia AgResearch has just released their latest and Cooperia present. The combination work in this area looking at the most proved to be very effective and allowed important production limiting parasite the drenching interval to be pushed out to of cattle, Ostertagia. Ostertagia differs seven or eight weeks rather than needing from Cooperia in that it often resides in to drench every four weeks, reducing the the lining of the stomach (abomasum) work and time requirements associated rather than the gut contents. Their work with monthly yarding.


February 2021

Along with choosing what drenches to give and by what route, it is important to ensure you manage the parasites on pasture. This is the most effective way of slowing down drench resistance and reducing the parasite challenge. Things you can consider doing are: 1. Integrate older cattle onto your young cattle grazing areas. 2. Graze yearling cattle on different areas during the winter from those in the summer and autumn. 3. Integrate sheep or deer onto your cattle areas. 4. Leave some cattle undrenched at each yarding (e.g. drench based on weight gain targets). With drench resistance so widespread in cattle and sheep it is important that we use the drench products that we have wisely and in conjunction with good management practices that will help slow the development of drench resistance. • Supplied by Zoetis.









1. Paki-Iti farm entrance. 2. A working dog takes a well-earned break in the sun. 3. Heather Gray plates up an award-winning dish for the Food Challenge Award at the 2020 Silver Fern Farms Plate to Pasture Awards. 4. Butchered dairy cattle on Anthony Khourie’s Bosparadys Farm, near Pretoria, South Africa. 5. Andrew Morton with recent arrival to the Paki-iti team, Erica Ernshaw. 6. Aerial view of the Paki-iti docking station. 90 


February 2021








7. An inquisitive deer checks out the visitors at the Rupert Red Deer sale. 8. Paki-iti shepherd Angus Gibb waits patiently for ewes to settle. 9. Andrew Steven’s farm worker Renee Wood shows the phenomenal pasture growth from last year’s bale grazing. 10. Big boys’ playground: the construction site of two of the dams on Hakataramea Station. 11. The limestone Hakataramea Station woolshed, built in 1868, is a registered Historic Place. 12. Juliet Gray has a list of achievements many would envy. 13. Kiri Rupert and Josh Brook’s children, June (almost 3) and Liam (5). Country-Wide

February 2021



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