Country-Wide June 2021

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DETERMINED West Otago’s Shaun Bradley won two sheep competitions but beating cancer will be the supreme prize. p34

PLUS: Wairarapa Farmer of the Year winners


Landcare’s response

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JUNE 2021

Shepherd of the Year

Salmonellosis is over three 1 times more prevalent than in 2013



June 2021

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June 2021


Winners read Country-Wide Country-Wide has been the goto publication for the past two generations of the Fouhy family on their award-winning Marima property, west of Pahiatua. Subscribing to Country-Wide delivers the latest advice on farm management and the inspiration to strive for better outcomes for the family and the land. Fiona and Shaun Fouhy and Country-Wide publisher Tony Leggett at the field day on the Fouhy’s property to celebrate their victory in the 2021 Property Brokers Tararua Sheep and Beef Farm Business of the Year Competition.

MARCH 2021


Vol 43 No 3



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How Tar aru Rachel Job a farmers Alistair Tim lin and their farm othy grew business p30

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Farm ow ner What it take ship s to succee d

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0800 224 782 • 4


June 2021


Cancer is colour blind


N THE 1980S, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Margaret Thatcher said there is no such thing as society. She is right. When Shaun Bradley was fighting for his life against stage four B cell non-Hodgkin's followed by a secondary brain tumour, it was family, friends and the immediate community who came to his aid. When Shaun thought all hope was lost, it was a woolshed of 350 people who turned up for a shear-a-thon, most he hardly knew, who gave him renewed hope. It is individuals and family who will help when it is needed most, not society, an abstract entity. The West Otago farm manager needed all the support he could get. After a number of misdiagnoses by the Southern District Health Board (SDHB), they eventually found a 15cm tumour around his heart and on top of his lungs. It had spread to his lungs, pancreas and kidneys. At the same time his wife Olivia gave birth to Charlotte while supporting Shaun. He endured months of intensive, toxic chemotherapy. The agony he would have endured and the nearly six months in hospital would have been unbearable. But he had family and friends willing him to fight hard. Olivia was a strong advocate for Shaun during his treatment and became the squeaky wheel. She still hasn’t had an apology from the SDHB. Obviously they are grateful for the support especially from his employers Fiona and Nelson Hancox who stood by Shaun and his family all the way through. They put up their lambs and facilities for the shear-a-thon which along with a stock drive raised $50,000. It was money the Bradley’s desperately

needed as they had used up their savings. Shaun is now in remission and after a year back at work he has won the West Otago ewe hogget and two-tooth competitions. Shaun’s case highlights the dangers of relying on the public health system. Good, competent people work for the DHBs but the system lacks the checks and balances of private care. Waiting lists and times are getting longer. Two years ago, I was told it would be six weeks before I could see a radiation oncologist under the public health system. Last year, it was nine weeks. I went private and within days was seen. Almost two years ago, I was also told I would be dead now if it wasn’t for private care. With private care there is more accountability. Their business depends on ensuring you get the right treatment at the right time. In the public system you are just a number. The sheer weight of numbers is overwhelming the health system and leading to poor outcomes. From experience, it would be better to leave more money in taxpayers pockets with tax cuts and allow Kiwis to afford their own health insurance. Setting up a separate Maori health system will lead to more waste and longer waiting lists. The health system should be like Netflix’s programme Bridgerton, colour blind. Cancer is.

Terry Brosnahan

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

Next issue: July 2021

• An arboretum: A farmer has spent decades planting his farm in trees including 400 magnolias.

• Bull calves: A closer look into heiferto-bull ratios to investigate why farmers sometimes get so many bulls.


June 2021

• Tararua Farmer of the Year: The sooner farmers start thinking about succession, the better.

• Cloudy days ahead: The use of cloud computing for data storage instead of the laptop.




BREED ’EM AND FEED ‘EM Taihape’s Donald Fannin believes he has matched the right beef genetics with his farm’s environment.


A SIMPLE YET STRONG SYSTEM Field day: Richard and Becks Tosswill’s award-winning farm in Gladstone.

BOUNDARIES 8 Mueller Mission 9 Fannin famous in Taihape


FARMING ON THE EDGE Rob Craw and Amelia Hodder have built a productive breeding herd on the southern shores of the Hauraki Gulf.


HOME BLOCK 11 Mark Chamberlain is pleased Fonterra is tidying up its business 12 Micha Johnson can finally take on the small projects 13 Vet Amy Hoogenboom has been enjoying her NZ travels 14 John Scott is hanging on in Scotland for lockdown’s end 15 Roger Barton gets roped into helping columnist Paul Burt



June 2021

BUSINESS 16 A simple yet strong system 24 Landcare seeks an apology over regen ag article Country-Wide is published by NZ Farm Life Media PO Box 218, Feilding 4740

25 Regen ag research author fails to reply 26 Reviewing the farm business 28 Is farmer advocacy working?

General enquiries: Toll free 0800 2AG SUB (0800 224 782)

30 Concern drives drought day

LIVESTOCK 34 Cover story: Shaun Bradley is determined to succeed 42 Onfarm: Farming on the edge 49 Making genetics sexy 50 Onfarm: Breed ’em and feed ‘em 58 Station beefs up on science 62 Future-proofing the sheep industry 66 Wagyu a good terminal option 68 Never too old to learn 75 Dwindling sheep numbers: Threat or opportunity?



LANDCARE SEEKS APOLOGY Landcare Research has responded with concerns to a series of regen ag articles published in Country-Wide.

80 Why trees are important 83 Top farmers have green values

YOUNG COUNTRY 84 From England with love 85 The Wright stuff


88 Leader of the pack 89 Sheepmeat and beef levy referendum underway

FARMING IN FOCUS 90 More photos from this month’s Country-Wide.

OUR COVER Shaun Bradley survived blood cancer and went on to win the West Otago hogget and two-tooth competitions. More p34.

Sub editor Hamish Barwick 06 280 3166 Design and production Lead design: Emily Rees 06 280 3167 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



Publisher Tony Leggett 06 280 3162 | 0274 746 093

Jo Hannam 06 280 3168

76 Pasture for the big dry

86 TB tester: Pushing for what he believed in

Editor Terry Brosnahan 03 471 5272 | 027 249 0200


WAGYU A GOOD TERMINAL OPTION Wagyu cattle are finding a valuable role as terminal breed for the dairy industry.

Partnership Managers Janine Aish | Auckland, Waikato, BOP 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)


Photo: Chris Sullivan.


June 2021




INTO THE UNKNOWN The secret WWI diary of Kiwi Alick Trafford no 25/469 By Ian Trafford. RRP $38

Mueller Mission BY: LYNDA GRAY There are 2200 steps leading to Sealy Tarns, small freshwater lakes lying up and off a main walking track near the Mt Cook village. However, this steep stairway is merely a leg loosener for the onwards and upwards boulder, rock and scree grunt to Mueller Hut. Our family group: my brother, sister and respective partners, and six of the next generation made the climb to the alpine hut on April Fool’s day. While the Millennials and Gen Z’s powered on ahead, the Baby Boomer brigade plodded and picked their way skyward with the help of walking poles and Nurofen. The 5.2km trek gains 1050 metres of elevation and should take three to four hours but we were well pleased with our four hour 40 minute effort. Our reward was sitting on the deck outside the hut with fruitcake and red wine, looking out across the lunar landscape to Mt Cook. Our group shared a large communal bunk room with thin and slippery plastic coated mattresses. Needless to say a restful slumber was never on the cards, especially after a midnight screeching solo performance by one of the Boomers (not me) struck down by a prolonged cramp attack. The descent from Mueller took about half the time of the ascent but was long enough for the lactic acid build-up from the previous day to take hold and bring on jelly leg syndrome. The tramp was certainly not a walk in the park but definitely worth it if you fancy an uphill challenge. • More photos p90




In 1939, The New York Times predicted that the television would fail because the average American family would not have enough time to sit around watching it.

Above: The view of freshwater lakes Sealy Tarns, near Mt Cook village.

This book is like stepping back in time to France, 1916. Made up of diary entries from the years 1916 to 1919, it was written by Alick Trafford from the Trafford farming dynasty of Gisborne. The entries, and an afterword about Alick’s return home, were compiled by his grandson Ian Trafford. Alick requested that his son Harvey burn the diaries after Alick’s death. However, the diaries never reached the fire. Alick writes not only of the boredom, piss-poor decision making by English officers, horrible conditions and death in the trenches, but also of the farming practices he witnesses in France. He openly admires the French peasants who “live on almost nothing” but get on with the harvest and other farm work while WWI rages on. Alick also noted on May 1, 1916 that “all the country boys would rather be duck shooting. The New Zealand season opened today.” He muses on which bright spark decided that horses, one of the most sensitive and highly strung farm animals, should be taken into an environment of mud, bombs and artillery fire. According to, only four war horses made it back to NZ out of the 10,000 equine which were shipped over to German Samoa, Gallipoli, Egypt and the Western Front. If you are a descendant of someone who served in war time, whether it be Gallipoli, El Alamein, Malaysia, Vietnam or Afghanistan, this book gives insights into what soldiers go through when they enter the theatre of war. Alick was a writer of some note so we are fortunate that his son disobeyed orders. – Hamish Barwick.

ON THE BORDER LINE A farmer in Belgium managed to accidentally move the Belgium-French border. According to a report in the New York Times, the farmer was annoyed by a stone marker dating from 1819 and shifted it about 2.2 metres into French territory. People walking near the village of Bousignies-sur-Roc in France spotted the marker in April. The stone markers were laid when the border between France and Belgium was established under the 1820 Treaty of Kortrijk.


June 2021



Gisborne sheep and beef farmer, John Bracken, was sentenced to eight years and six months jail after he was found guilty of tax fraud in the High Court of Gisborne in May. The Court ruled that Bracken was guilty of all 39 counts of dishonesty after an IRD investigation revealed he gleaned $17.1 million through false GST refund claims from 2014 to June 2018. In addition to his sheep and beef operation at Matawai, Bracken was running a merchandising business. Bracken took advantage of GST refunds available to local suppliers who on-sell goods to overseas buyers subject to a zero rate of GST. According to Court documents, about $12 million of assets had been seized - including the Matawai farm valued at about $7 million - with a final determination pending in the Civil Court. During the High Court trial, it was revealed that Bracken had previous fraud convictions — four charges of fraudulently using a document in 2010 and for dishonestly using documents in relation to ACC claims in 1993.

Pure Oil NZ is doing a great job of developing sunflowers as a new crop for growers. At first sight, its positioning of crops alongside State Highway One seems a canny publicity ploy, as do the billboards in the paddocks promoting the end product. However, a CountryWide contributor who travels the route regularly fears it’s one that could backfire. Why? Because cars and campervans stopping for photographs of the flowers became a frequent traffic hazard during February. Had a serious smash occurred due to the distraction the publicity might not have been all positive, he reasons. A fair point and one Pure Oil NZ would do well to ponder over winter.

JOKE Two married mates are out drinking when one turns to the other and says, “you know, I don’t know what else to do. Whenever I go home after we have been out drinking, I turn the headlights off before I get to the driveway. I shut off the engine and coast into the garage. I take my shoes off before I go into the house, I sneak up the stairs, I get undressed in the bathroom. I ease into bed and my wife STILL wakes up and yells at me for staying out so late!” His buddy looks at him and says,‟“well, you’re obviously taking the wrong approach. I screech into the driveway, slam the door, storm up the steps, throw my shoes into the closet, jump into bed and say, ’do you want sex?’ ... and she’s always sound asleep.”

Donald Fannin.

FANNIN FAMOUS IN TAIHAPE Fannin has been a household name around the Taihape area for a long time. The present farming generation’s great grandfather bought and cleared the original 80ha block 5km east north-east of Taihape in the late 1800s. A bullock team towed the original house in on skids which it is still standing on today. The original block has since been added to by both Donald’s grandfather and father. Today, it covers 512ha (500ha effective). Owner Donald Fannin has been at the helm for 25 years and with wife Sandra have three children Sarah, 21, Kate, 19, and Alex, 17. Sarah is a trainee vet, Kate is an early childhood teacher trainee and Alex a shepherd on nearby Maunganui Station. • More on the Fannin family’s farm p50.

WILDING WIN Steaming on the ferry across Cook Strait, the dead pine trees are obvious in the Queen Charlotte Sound. The 10-year effort to poison and fell wilding pines through the bush and bachdominated landscape has been rewarded with the Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust taking the supreme award at the Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards 2021, held in April. The trust was set up in 2003 to stop the rapid spread of wilding pine trees and bring back the native bush and distinctive skylines of the Sounds. Working with landowners, the Marlborough District Council, government agencies and sponsors, the Trust raises funds to hire contractors to track down and poison


June 2021

each tree, one bay at a time. As the pines die off, the native bush returns. The efforts of this volunteer trust have had a huge impact on the appearance and biodiversity of the Sounds. The Farming section had only one entry. However, it was the well-deserved winner Mount Oliver, a dairy farm in a high-rainfall Sounds catchment owned by Murray and Tanya Frost. Another farming enterprise, Pinoli Premium Pine Nuts, won the Business Innovation section. The Forestry section was won by OneFortyOne Kaituna Sawmill. This sawmill has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 46%. An inefficient kiln fuelled by waste oil has been replaced by a biomass fired power station.

Tracking and killing wilding pines.


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June 2021



Tidy your room Mark Chamberlain is pleased Fonterra is tidying up its business after a number of missteps.

J “...if you cannot (or are unwilling to) solve uncomplicated problems in your life, how can you expect to solve complicated ones.”


June 2021

ORDAN PETERSON, A CLINICAL psychiatrist from Canada, has several rules for life. One of them is to tidy your room. He believes that if you cannot (or are unwilling to) solve uncomplicated problems in your life, how can you expect to solve complicated ones. This philosophy has now been adopted into the Chamberlain family as something of a mantra, not just for the kids but also for me. It appears that this advice has also filtered through to the Fonterra board and management. I was pleased to discover this recently when I attended the Fonterra ‘My Connect’ conference, in Auckland. Mrs Chamberlain’s shopping abilities, while I was at the conference, left both myself and our credit card stunned, but it was Fonterra’s ‘show and tell’ that was truly impressive. A day and a half of polished presentations ranging from global managers zooming in from around the world, little snippets from the 350 strong research and development team, all segued together by super slick sports broadcaster Scotty Stevenson as MC. A non-farming highlight was a presentation by Peter Beck, founder of Rocket Lab. A boy from Invercargill with a dream, who now employs 700 people worldwide, and who will be listing shortly on the NASDAQ for somewhere around $4 billion… give or take. A man pushing boundaries and learning from failure to achieve success. He could have been a farmer in another life. Say what you like about Fonterra (and people certainly do), it has not always been rosy at head office. Missteps, poor investments, poor messaging, and wrong decisions are well documented. However, it is easy to criticise from the comfort of your keyboard, as hindsight is always a perfect science. But it must be said that aside from the odd earthquake or adverse weather (both related, if you listen to the Moon Man); New Zealand’s dairy behemoth has always delivered… or more literally, always picked up. Strangely enough the other mobs in the milk game, who have only managed to exist by suckling on the back teat of Fonterra due to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act regulations, have always been able to magically match Fonterra’s milk

Fonterra is following the advice of Jordan Peterson and tidying up its room.

price. The other milk companies never experience the same level of scrutiny that Fonterra does and have only just got significant gains after years of lobbying in Wellington, ironically under a Labour Government – thanks, Nathan Guy. To this humble sharemilker, the board seems to be (at long last) functioning as a unit, with just the right amount of professional distance from management - something that was not always obvious in the past. At the meet and greet drinks and nibbles, Mrs Chamberlain and I had the good fortune to meet the chairman, Peter McBride (formerly of Zespri fame). What ensued, was a 20-minute candid conversation with the most wanted man in the room. Such open conversations with the decision makers extract a sense of loyalty. The takeaways we got from this conversation were that he certainly doesn’t believe in the ‘old boys club’, he has endeavored to remove the ‘them and us’ mentality, and that the board are genuinely intent on listening to shareholders. McBride also signalled that with him at the helm, there will be a change in attitude towards sharemilkers which will see them more welcomed into the Fonterra family, as they are a vital part of the company’s future. Because you see, Fonterra has a problem. It is not a problem for today, or tomorrow, but in the near future. Declining milk year on year (for various reasons), coupled with an ageing shareholder base, all adds up to a capital structure that is not sustainable. Over the two days, tough questions were asked – and none were dodged. No doubt, as they move forward to further discuss capital restructuring, with over 80 director – shareholding meetings throughout the country, this will hopefully be an on-going theme. And that’s where it could get complicated; real fast. Here’s hoping they’ve got their rooms tidy.




Focus on the small stuff After five years onfarm, Micha Johansen can finally tackle the smaller projects that needed doing.

A “My obsession began when I discovered that a great aunt’s ashes had been left at the funeral home since 1994 (she is now on our bookshelf, until I get a chance to spread her with her sisters)”


PRIL 1 MARKED THE BEGINNING of our fifth year onfarm, and I am finally beginning to settle in. All of the large expensive jobs have been completed, so there should be much reduced financial panicking by me, and TJ might even get an increase in his monthly allowance. With the large jobs now done we can start to focus on getting the million smaller, tidy up and development tasks underway. Getting the shed up to standard and getting back into riparian and shelter planting are probably the two key tasks to start off with. Of course by we, I come up with the jobs and TJ gets nagged into doing them. I’m thinking I need to change my technique, as after 14 years TJ seems to have built up some sort of immunity to my method. The biggest job of winter will be the cowshed pit. A permanent puddle exists where the old pit meets an extension. We need to empty this puddle, and then dry it out, so we can put down a fresh, smoother layer of concrete. This has already caused arguments, as I question the smoothness of the concrete in regards to slipperiness versus easy cleanability. Obviously there are thousands of dairy sheds around the county, so clearly it can’t be that hard. Our first two years of riparian plantings are starting to show some dividends, with toi toi and cabbage trees establishing best, along with Kowhai and Totara in other areas. A local Mangatainoka plant centre recently closed down, so I have quite a selection of trees and grasses patiently waiting for the cooler, wetter weather to arrive before being planted out. As of May 13, a riparian plant centre is opening here in Eketahuna and then there is Akura Plant Nursery in Masterton so we are getting to be pretty spoiled for choice in regards to plant availability. Not to forget the contribution of Horizons, the regional council, if one gets their request in, in a timely fashion. We dried our herd off on May 6, which is the latest day by about four weeks that we have dried off since we have been here. This has led to us having

Micha is into graveyards but nothing sinister.

done our highest productivity, which helps out with the balance sheet, and puts us in a comfortable position heading into winter, with bills for winter grazing, and replacement cows, about to be heading our way. Having used Angus bulls across our herd for the last two years, we now need to buy some replacement cows, before heading into the 202122 season. We have seven dairy cross Angus in-calf heifers, who weren’t suitable to sell as beef weaners, so they will be merging into the herd, leaving us a shortfall of about 14. A phone call to the local stock agent with our requirements resulted in a trip over to Feilding to inspect a group of 18 sale cows, of mostly Jersey breeding, which suit our land best, having a lighter hoof print, and a bit more stability on the hills. I didn’t get to see them, as we couldn’t all fit on the farmers side-by-side bike, but TJ says they’re nice small cows, and he’s a good judge, not to mention far more experienced than I. These days, any trip anywhere, means I get to indulge in my latest hobby, cemeteries. My obsession began when I discovered that a great aunt’s ashes had been left at the funeral home since 1994 (she is now on our bookshelf, until I get a chance to spread her with her sisters). So with a full account on, and sites such as FindAGrave, and BillionGraves, I not only hunt down and photograph my own ancestors' headstones, I also fulfil any requests for that cemetery that other people may have. If you have a hankering for history and cemeteries I have created a Facebook page ‘Headstone Hunter NZ’, so by all means check it out.


June 2021



On the road again Rural vet Amy Hoogenboom has been enjoying her travels around New Zealand as well as a return to judging cattle in the ring.

I “I have only managed to get seriously lost once, unfortunately it happened to be the day I had our director of services out visiting clients with me for the day...”


June 2021

T'S BEEN A BUSY FIRST HALF OF THE year with my national client base having seen me travel from Whangarei to Otautau, and just about everywhere in between already this year. I’m writing this column from Golden Bay while listening to the welcome sound of rain on the roof, of which I do hope there might be some falling at home in Canterbury, along with many other parts of the country which looked despondently dry during May. One of the incredible things about this job is the wonderful pockets of rural New Zealand I get to visit which I would have most likely never travelled to otherwise. As well as the amazing people that are found in these places, I have enjoyed getting to meet a wide variety of people, learning about their farming journeys, what they are striving to achieve within their business and how I can help contribute to that from my role with Zoetis Genetics. Molly, my wee Collie cross dog, and number one travelling companion is also enjoying the adventures too. After having always travelled with me while working as a vet, she also demands to join me on most farm visits in the new job too. She’s always a bit of a talking point with farmers when I open up the car boot but at 15 years old she’s fairly easy going, and as long as she gets to go where I’m going, she is happy. I have only managed to get seriously lost once, unfortunately it happened to be the day I had our director of services out visiting clients with me for the day . . . oh dear. It turns out this particular client's farms spanned both sides of the road and their house was not down past the sale barn like I thought at all. After 10 minutes of scenic touring round the farm and battling with Canterbury’s atrocious cell phone reception we got hold of the farmer and navigated our way to the farm house down and across the road where we needed to go. From here on, I have ensured that I have very clear directions as well as an address when going on farm visits. The local Oxford A&P show was held over Easter weekend. This year's baking efforts were a downright disaster, the chocolate cake was baked

A sea of commercial black Angus heifer calves at a saleyard in the Hawke’s Bay.

in a rush the night before and in my hastiness, while I remembered the baking powder, I forgot the baking soda. This left me with a cake that rose but was rather dense and with no time to bake another, we will have to wait another year to see if we can achieve that first place chocolate cake that still evades me. Luckily, I redeemed my show day performance with a win in the photography section and the horse picked up a few ribbons prancing round the ring. In addition, 2021 has seen me return to the cattle show ring, judging at a few Canterbury shows and more recently as the judge for the Handler competition at the Future Beef NZ Hoof & Hook competition. It is wonderful to see this event celebrate its 15th year of educating and encouraging young beef enthusiasts into our industry with record participant numbers. This event is where my interest and passion for beef cattle was sparked from and it created so many opportunities for me, so it was a privilege to be back and involved with the event once. Great credit must go to those volunteers and event sponsors for their efforts in ensuring this event continues to run. In May, I had an early start with just over 200 head of cattle to DNA samples for testing through our new tool for commercial beef breeders. With six weeks of bull sales also on the horizon, this means it is time to wrap this column up and head to bed. If you spot me at a sale this season, don’t be afraid to come up and say hi, I always enjoy meeting those of you who read my columns.



Hill of Fearn, Scotland

Hanging on in bonnie Scotland North Scotland-based farmer John Scott is following the advice of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon while planning for the end of lockdown.

W “Speaking to others in different industries it seems that finding employees with the right attitude and work ethic is becoming increasingly difficult…”


A fine day at John Scott’s sheep and beef farm in Hill of Fearn, Scotland. Photo by Anne MacPherson.

ITH COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS now easing and lambing and calving slowing down we might be in with a chance of a little normality returning to our lives over the next few months. To be fair there have been some advantages to movement restrictions. Our fuel bill has dropped significantly with less opportunity to move around and industry meetings held in Edinburgh which would usually mean a eight hour round trip have been restricted to a two minute tidy up whilst connecting to Zoom. It’s been tough though, in the last 14 months we have eaten out three times, haven’t had a night away from the farm at all and have had little or no face to face contact with friends and relatives that we would have normally seen on a weekly basis. It’s had an impact on the way we behave, I would say I have become even less tolerant and believe me this is an area where I didn’t have spare capacity, I’m also more reliant on my mobile phone, which I certainly don’t view as a positive. Anyway as Auntie Nicola (Nicola Sturgeon our First Minister and SNP leader) says we need to hang in there, we are nearly there now, and will get through this! On reflection it’s very like lambing and calving which we have navigated reasonably well for another season, it's not been vintage but we seem to have decent lamb and calf numbers on the deck and will get the full picture once tailing has been completed soon. As with every year we will review what worked and what didn’t, our main discussion points will undoubtedly be staff and ewe numbers which go hand in hand. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find the right type of people to work with sheep and maybe the simple option is to pull numbers back a little. I think there are various factors that influence this, our location in the north of Scotland maybe doesn’t help, we operate at a fairly brisk pace which some find difficult and we do expect fairly high standards which

again can be daunting. Speaking to others in different industries it seems that finding employees with the right attitude and work ethic is becoming increasingly difficult, this is possibly a reflection on today’s society and I certainly don’t think the current pandemic helps. Anyhow it's back to the drawing board and whilst we will cast the net to see who might be out there, top of our list will be finding people who will fit in with our core team and who are willing to embrace our systems and style of farming. While doing this, Fiona and I are questioning if we can do more to become better managers of people, it's something we have certainly become better at over the years but we are by no means there yet. We have both done rural leadership programmes in the past and I did a Nuffield travelling scholarship many years ago but we don’t invest time in regular continuing professional development other than Trevor Cook’s visits which are of course on hold. With this in mind, we will have a look at what’s out there that might be of use to us but please, if anyone has any thoughts get in touch. Downscaling sheep in a big way would of course reduce the need to manage as many people but it would also have a negative impact on output especially with current prices, 2020 born hoggets peaked at £6.80 per kg recently which is a record high for the time of year and the outlook for this season is good. My gut feeling is that we will pull numbers back a little, culling hard whilst refining type and exploring ways in which we can add value. Adding value might be a challenge but there are various things we could do including taking more ewe lambs through to sell as gimmers (two-tooths), breeding more rams for our sale and even retailing our own branded lamb, possibly through a farm-based retail outlet. There is lots to think about and consider but with the sun shining at last and the summer hopefully coming we will get the blank bit of paper out and create a plan.


June 2021



Bed head buyer’s remorse Roger Barton gets shanghaied into helping fellow Country-Wide columnist Paul Burt with an ‘antique’ bed head.


OMETIMES IT’S A BIT OF A CONUNDRUM as to what I should write about. Obviously, there are issues which traverse each side of the farmgate and they suit me quite well. Some subject matter might be about farmers but not really about farming. I have one of those this month. I’ve been having the mental wrangle…should I or shouldn’t I? I will deal with it briefly. All Country-Wide readers will be avid readers of Paul Burt’s columns. To me, he is a standout read when he features. He also is an avid buyer on Trade Me. Having secured an ‘antique’ bed head from a seller remarkably close to me, he enquired as to whether I could pick it up. He would come down at his leisure to uplift it when it was more convenient. Of course, I was happy to do so. To make it easier I suggested that we get it to the bach in Taupo so he didn’t have to travel as far to pick it up. Very carbon efficient, we thought. The offer was a weekend in June with fireside wine, whiskey and Scrabble or a more immediate uplift as we had to help an arborist cut a very difficult tree down. Paul opted for a day wielding a chainsaw well ahead of Scrabble. Given his prowess with the English language I am sure it was so he didn’t belittle me with his high score. So the deal was done. Paul has a better half whose opinion on the bed head didn’t match Paul’s enthusiasm on Trade Me. We won’t go into specifics albeit to say that I had thought about doing a whole column titled “Burty, Barty and the Bed head Bungle.” But I won’t. More importantly, it has finally rained properly, a real Western Ranges rain, like the ones we pray for. It’s all tied up in our capital value and when it doesn’t deliver we squawk like a Taranaki dairy farmer. 43mm over four days felt pretty good. We are currently understocked on our long-term average. I tend to work things out on liveweight per hectare rather than stock numbers. It gives a better fix on feed demand. Cattle as a percentage of stock units has gone higher again. There were no recorded ram hoggets this winter and about half the number of replacement ewe hoggets sourced from our son and


June 2021

“Paul (Burt) opted for a day wielding a chainsaw well ahead of Scrabble. Given his prowess with the English language I am sure it was so he didn’t belittle me with his high score.”

daughter-in-laws operation east of here. At least this year all the ewe hoggets are meeting the ram. The hard calculation to do is the effect of grass grub. This would be the worst infestation we have seen for many years. I’m sure the bigger cattle will have given us some benefit but it’s plainly ugly in some areas. That mass of feed we grew over November/December obviously ensured high survival. It felt good at the time but there is a price to pay and we aren’t sure how big that will be. We have done some under drilling and heavy rolling but there isn’t an easy answer. Amber disease will give an element of control but I haven’t seen any evidence of it with my scratching around. We endure quite reasonable flights of Porina moth too so we will be watching that as well. As I have aged, I have got sceptical about our ability to control nature’s animals with short gestation lengths and more cunning modes of survival. Years ago, when insect growth regulators emerged, it looked like we were on to a winner but more recent results haven’t seen the same benefit. Some people wonder why we have beef cows in our system here given the level of subdivision we have but I have always felt that they have been part of the armoury to lessen the issues around pasture pests. As usual, nothing is simple and there is always compromise with nature. The next bit of excitement is hosting the Greytown Primary school cross country. Last year we failed due to Covid-19. Plus, this year the local college has to organise secondary interschool cross country so that follows two days later. The primary competition usually brings no less than 500 people onto the farm for a great day of picnics and running. It’s a pleasure to share our patch of paradise with the locals.


A winning formula: Richard and Becks Tosswill, winners of the Wairarapa Sheep and Beef Farm Business of the Year.



June 2021


A SIMPLE YET STRONG SYSTEM A highly efficient sheep flock, underpinned by an exceptional weaning weight, is the engine room of Richard and Becks Tosswill’s award-winning Te Awaawa Farm in Gladstone. Rebecca Greaves went to their field day. Photos by Brad Hanson.


he Tosswills aim to farm a simple, repeatable system that is resilient in their hostile climate, which is prone to extremes, particularly the summer dry. With an average weaning weight of 31kg, lambing at 148% over the last five years, and 45% of lambs killed prime off mum at 16.7 kilograms carcaseweight, it’s a system that’s working. Sheep are the priority, though ewe numbers have been reduced in favour of a higher trading component, giving them a buffer when the season goes against them. The average gross farm revenue (GFR) of $1160/ha over the past four years, total farm expenses sit at an average of 64% of GFR, and an economic farm surplus of $414, the business is performing highly for its class. It was enough to impress the judges for the Tosswills who won the 2021 Wairarapa Sheep & Beef Farm Business of the Year competition. Their vision is to work alongside the


June 2021

environment to provide a comfortable, happy lifestyle for their family and provide their three children, Isabella, 12, Sam, 10, and Sophia, 7, with solid building blocks for their futures. Their innovation and forward thinking approach to the environment was recognised with the supreme award for the Greater Wellington region in the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards. The dynamic duo, both aged 42, have their feet firmly planted in the present, with an eye to the future. When they bought the farm 12 years ago Richard admits he knew nothing about breeding. Coming from a banking background, followed by two years leasing the flat family farm in Greytown, his lack of hill country knowledge may have proved a blessing, in that he had no preconceived ideas about how things should be done. His willingness to learn and innovate has been a hallmark of their success. In 2019, as part of the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Innovation Farm Programme,

Richard led a project in increasing legume content on uncultivable hill country. He’s a convert – clover is king. “The beauty of farming is you have to constantly adapt. I will never know everything about farming, that’s what makes it challenging, and interesting,” Richard says. Becks runs her own successful design studio, Farmers Daughter Design, from home. She employs a team of four remote contractors and has clients around the country. In 2020 she won the creative arts section at the Rural Women NZ business awards.

Innovation onfarm Competition judge Geordie McCallum said what separated the Tosswills from the pack was their innovation. “They didn’t come here with a massive hill country pedigree. It’s not about doing the things that are tried and true. They’ve put themselves out there, like the hill country legume trials, to give things a go –


The Tosswills’ mob. The couple run Texel and Wairere ewes.

FARM FACTS • Te Awaawa Farm – owned and operated by Richard and Becks Tosswill • Gladstone, Wairarapa • 646 hectares (622ha eff) • Contour: 55ha flat to rolling, remainder hills • Winter wet, summer dry • Average annual rainfall: 880mm


not because they have the answers.” Their proactive approach to managing the environment and influence in the community impressed the judges. “They put a lot of good will, information and knowledge out into the community and support a lot of causes.” The farm has excellent infrastructure. The previous owners put in an integral central laneway system, which almost every paddock musters down to. “It’s unbelievable, it potentially saves us half a labour unit.” Richard is a fan of subdivision and it’s something they have prioritised. There are 102 main paddocks, with an average size of 6.1ha, allowing them to bring pressure to gain control of pasture at key times. “Pasture that would once have been tufty

brown top has suddenly had a chance to shoot up and express itself.” Plentiful water is another blessing at Te Awaawa, with most of the farm serviced by troughs gravity-fed from limestone springs. Richard jokes he has a trough fetish, with 83 troughs on the farm – 51 added since they bought it.

Sheep number one Sheep performance is a catalyst for growth at Te Awaawa, and genetics have played a pivotal role. They have been willing to change things up when it comes to ram breed, to get the desired result. The B mob is put to a SuffTex terminal ram on March 10. The A mob goes to a Rawahi Romney ram for 2 cycles on March 20, and to a SuffTex for the third cycle.


June 2021

Coop/Tex two-tooths are mated on April 9 to Rawahi Romney rams. The plan is to then stabilise with Paki-Iti Romney/Texel sires. All hoggets are mated on May 1 for 30 days, with dries sold as replacements or killed. Andy Tatham’s Cheviot and Cheviot/ Southdown rams are used for easier lambing. An early move to put a straight Texel over the Romney ewe flock made an instant difference to their lamb crop. “That first cross was the most amazing change with hybrid vigour. The Texel hardiness was a real eye opener and with the Texel influence the milk production in the ewes was amazing. Ha says the bloom in the lambs was unbelievable.


June 2021

They started out with a Paki-Iti Sufftex and have more recently introduced half Beltex, half SuffTex rams from Guy Martin. “They sound pretty exciting with yield and I am keen to see what they can do.” When Richard felt they were struggling with fertility, he introduced a Coopworth Texel. “The ewes have got a bit fine in the last few years and I’m looking to get a bit more bone and structure back in.” The plan is to stabilise with Paki-Iti RomTex rams across the flock. The last two seasons they have also run the Wairere Tufguy Romney Texel flock (187 mixed age ewes, 260 2ths and 253 hoggets), with mating dates the same as their own maternal mobs. The climate is the biggest risk to their

business, and the Tosswills have moved to ensure they are not exposed with too much capital stock if a drought eventuates, reducing breeding ewe numbers from 3500 to 2800. Richard has plans to further cut numbers by 200 ewes. “Trading stock gives us more flexibility, largely in the form of cattle, for a more sustainable operation. Cattle complement the sheep system - I like to think we can tweak sheep performance up and hit higher targets by having more cattle.” In 2011, a doozy of a drought was followed by a big snow storm. Bearings in 250 ewes and listeriosis in the hoggets was a real low point for Richard. “The bearing thing I took quite hard. It highlighted to me that I had no buffer stock and no levers to pull. That was a massive


Stock on the slope at Te Awaawa Farm.

catalyst for change to trading stock to go ahead and knock down the feed.” Having tried vitamins and salt blocks Richard has decided bearings are a given on their country, and his issues were down to overfeeding and mob pressure. “Mobs were too big and it was feast or famine, feast or famine.” To combat this he has reduced mob sizes and uses harnesses on everything. He knows when everything will lamb and sets the feed accordingly. Shutting ewes down after the ram is also critical. Their key to success is a highly efficient ewe and stonking weaning weight. Ewes are about 67kg at mating and the driver is lamb survival. “The key thing is making sure we have feed and ewe condition right. Wastage numbers are scary and I could see the scanning number going up but we weren’t getting the same result at weaning, so we


STOCK • 2400 Texel x breeding ewe flock • 400 Wairere Tufguy ewes and replacements • 120 Angus breeding cows and 30 replacement heifers • All hogget and heifer replacements mated, dries sold • Cattle and hogget trading for flexibility

have to be really careful.” It’s about striking a balance between the number of lambs on the ground and the quality of those lambs, rather than having lots of potty little lambs. Richard says 145% lambing is the sweet spot. “If you wean well you not only have plenty of prime lambs, you have forward store lambs, which has a

massive flow on effect.” Vet Trevor Cook, who helped formulate their animal health plan, says there are key limiting factors on flock production: body condition scoring (BCS) of females is the biggest limiting factor and weight of ewe lambs going into winter (ewe lamb weight on May 1 is a key KPI). Heavy hoggets add value in terms of setting up the flock and lifting productivity as lambing hoggets. Richard echoes this sentiment, saying ewe lambs are non-negotiable. They have 10-15ha of summer crop earmarked solely for ewe lambs. Everything is weighed at weaning and Richard has embraced BCS. He’s looking at the fatties as well as the lighter ewes. The grazing rotation is based on scanning results. Any light ewes go ahead, possibly even mixed in with ewe lambs, twin ewes come next, followed by singles and then cows to clean up.


June 2021

“The beauty of farming is you have to constantly adapt. I will never know everything about farming, that’s what makes it challenging, and interesting.”

Table 1: Time Series Analysis 2019-20 Te Awaawa. Farm class: 2 Semi finishing - summer dry. Description




Effective hectares






Total SU at open


























SU per ha at open % Sheep SU at open

He puts them up the race four to five times a year at key times. “I move out the tail end and also take out the big fatties.” He is continuously making sure the medium is ticking along and putting better feed into the tail end. All two-tooths and four-tooths are given Ovastim to try to mitigate Texel fecundity. Richard says two-tooths can be a weak link in the farming system and Ovastim is used as a way to keep them in line with the mixed age. “Some people might think it’s cheating, but I’m just trying to get as many lambs as possible, it’s as simple as that. There is a cost but we get a 10-15% lift in performance.” Richard is using electronic identification (EID) tagging, something he thought would become mandatory and wanted to pre-empt. “There is value in seeing what animals are doing on live weight gain. Repeat offenders having a single lamb go into the terminal flock. It (EID) is a work in progress, I can see lots of benefits and I find the information fascinating, but I’m not using it as much as I could be.”

Lamb STS Calf STS






Sheep D&M






Cattle D&M











Sheep revenue






Cattle revenue






Gross Farm Revenue






Standardised Total Farm Expenses






Economic Farm Surplus






Wages and Keep






Animal health and breeding












Fertiliser and Lime






Feed, Nitrogen, Grazing and Forage Crops






Repairs and Maintenance






Vehicles and Fuel















Weed and pests






Farm working






Wool produced (kg) per Sheep SU Adjusted Total Revenue, Expenditure and EFS

Cash Expenditure









Rates and Insurance






Debt Servicing






Gross Farm Revenue






Standardised Total Farm Expenses






Standardised Total Farm Expenses (% GFR)






Economic Farm Surplus






Per ha Standardised

Cattle as a tool The cattle policy is extremely flexible in that it comes down to whatever Richard feels is right at the time. The breeding cows have spent plenty of time grazing off the farm – three years in a row at one point - but they are important to the system, so retaining them is essential. “They grow us grass and I find them an invaluable tool. They have a fairly hard life – they’re our grooming tool and set the feed quality.” The 100-120 mixed age Angus breeding cows are run with a Te Whanga bull on December 1. Replacements are mated to a Wai-Group bull for 30 days on November 1. Weaner steers are sold at the weaner fair or carried through, depending on the market. Weaner heifers are taken through. Their five year average calf survival to sale is 87%. Continues


June 2021


Physical Data

Labour units, FTE



Information source: BakerAg, Masterton

Per ha Cash Farm Cash Revenue






Total Farm Cash Expenditure






Cash profit/loss before tax, drawings, depreciation, CAPEX & principal






Return on Capital






Ratio of GFR : Land value







Table 2: Economic Analysis Capital

per ha

per SU


Standardised analysis

per ha

Land and building value: $6,000,000



Return on Capital: 4.7%

Gross Farm Revenue:


Gross Revenue/ Land Value 7.05

Standardised Total Farm Expenses:


Economic Farm Surplus:


Plant and vehicles: $120,000 Total value stock: $1,168,095 CV as Going Concern: $7,288,095

$193 $11,717





June 2021

“This year we needed to get on top of things so we bought a lot of trade cattle to clean up. What’s the policy? I don’t know. Whatever is the right thing at the time, whatever I think there is a margin in at the time.” He points out that although sometimes the margin on the cattle might not appear huge, it is made up in improved sheep performance. “They are providing for the whole system.”

Network enhances business Using a strong collaborative network of like-minded individuals to enhance the business was highlighted by judges as a strength. Richard and Becks have many and varied off-farm interests and community contributions, notably in sport and school groups. Connecting with others off-farm is part of their personal growth strategy. Both are members of the National Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) action network group, Richard recently joined the Barenbrug Seeds advisory board, and has chaired both the local Ponatahi discussion group and Wairarapa Farming for Profit committee. Becks regularly undertakes probono brand and marketing work for local projects. Putting themselves out there has opened many doors. “The clover trial led to the approach from the RMPP group. It’s great having a link to other farmers around the country to bounce ideas off,” Richard explains. Becks says she is proud of both the farm and design businesses, and that their children see what hard work is, but also giving back to the community. Strong governance and accountability is also important, and the couple set up an advisory board six years ago. “We felt we were making a lot of big calls, with no one to answer to. We wanted to be challenged a bit on some of the decisions we were making.” Advisory board member, Sully Alsop, said it was not an admission of weakness and could be viewed more as a ‘sounding board’. “The key outcome is good decision making.” One of the revelations for Richard was when the advisory board asked him – do you want to farm 20,000 stock units? His answer was no.


June 2021

Richard says in 10 years he probably doesn’t want to be hands-on farming, rather he would like to have a manager and be in an overseeing role.

“I’m comfortable with this size. I don’t want to have multiple staff – that just doesn’t float my boat.” He realised that in 10 years he probably doesn’t want to be hands-on farming, rather he would like to have a manager and be in an overseeing role. With that in mind, Richard and Becks have turned their focus to looking outside the immediate farm business, such as residential or commercial opportunities. They started early succession planning, and looked at education for their children. Their strong equity position means they

could look at helping a younger person get a foot in the door. “We have been incredibly lucky to have family support to buy this, not everyone has that. Using our equity position to help another party into a property would excite us.” “With our business, connections, experience and skillset what’s really exciting is how that might replicate in other places, and how it might help grow others,” Becks adds. • Tosswills’ environment programme p83.




Landcare’s concerns were:

Landcare seeks apology over regen ag article Landcare Research has responded with concerns to a series of three articles on regenerative agriculture (RA) published in Country-Wide April. Jo Cuttance reports on their concerns and Country-Wide’s response.


he opportunity to respond to criticisms some New Zealand scientists had about the white paper was turned down by lead author Landcare Research senior researcher Dr Gwen Grelet. The paper is titled, Regenerative Agriculture (RA) in Aotearoa New Zealand – research pathways to build science-based evidence and national narratives In April 2021, Country-Wide printed an article which raised concerns about the validity of some of the scientific claims, methodology used, and the collaboration


and consultation process used in the production of the paper. Landcare Research responded via email to Country-Wide outlining its own concerns about the story and asked for an apology for printing it. The email signed by Landcare Research science and knowledge translation general manager Graham Sevicke-Jones along with land and water national science challenge director Dr Jenny Webster-Brown. It included the following (abridged) concerns. Country-Wide also asked some academics to review Landcare’s concerns.

• The white paper did not encourage or suggest the practices reported by RA practitioners in New Zealand, and the purpose of these, which were outlined in table 4 ‘Practices employed in RA systems’ on pages 19-20. • The article and editorial presented one small piece of background research that informed one table within the white paper (a time-constrained literature scan for a specific topic discussed in the paper) as if it was the full extent of the research. The letter confirmed the white paper was informed by consultation via focus groups, surveys and expert working groups, as well as comprehensive literature reviews, altogether involving over 200 people and 80 co-authors and reviewers over six months. The white paper contained over 180 references, including 97 articles published in peer reviewed academic journals. • The paper was funded according to standard science funding practices, in which research institutions and other organisations and experts are subcontracted and funded for their peoples’ time contribution to projects. This was not the same as a cash offer to contributors. This refuted the article which claimed report authors were “offered $8000 to contribute”.

Country-Wide’s response The academics, who Country-Wide has agreed not to name, replied. They counted 70 authors, not 80 as claimed. In regards to the Landcare Research claim the white paper did not encourage or suggest RA practices, the academics referred to sentences in the white paper: Such challenges will likely need to be addressed if NZ is to claim to deliver “regeneratively-produced” food and fibre. (Findings, third paragraph). The assumption was that NZ wanted to make the claim and therefore set the scene for RA. Also the sentence, “NZ should evolve its own RA narrative based as much on soil carbon retention as on its increase and functionality, elimination of sediment losses, and the development of its RA farming systems to foster both ‘total’ and native biodiversity." (findings, fifth



June 2021

RA research author fails to reply BY: JO CUTTANCE


andcare Research senior researcher Dr Gwen Grelet declined to respond to the concerns raised about a white paper on regenerative agriculture (RA), of which she was lead author. In April, Country-Wide published articles about concerns of the validity of some of the scientific claims, methodology used, and the collaboration and consultation process used in the production of the paper, by some of New Zealand’s leading agricultural scientists. The white paper titled, Regenerative Agriculture in Aotearoa NZ – research pathways to build science-based evidence and national narratives, set out 17 priority research topics, and introduced 11 principles for regenerative farming in NZ, was released in February, this year. Dr Doug Edmeades was concerned about


paragraph). To the reader, the white paper established RA as being required, the academics found. In regard to the research involved it was clear there was more involved than just the five hours. However, the so-called consultations/working groups did not invite contribution. The academics felt the response by Landcare to the claim report authors were “offered $8000 to contribute,” admitted the authors were offered dollars for their time. There was no mention of the nature of the contracts in the article. However, the academics did suggest the following questions would help clarify the circumstances. • Were the contracts with the author (to provide them a personal payment), or with the host institution? • If they were with the host institution, does that mean the host institution endorses the view of the authors? Country-Wide would still like to have Dr Grelet’s response to the criticisms of the


June 2021

misconceptions in the paper regarding different fertilisers and effects they had on the soil. Along with professor Derrick Moot, Edmeades felt some of the ideas in the paper had little value to NZ’s agricultural sector. Professors Jacqueline Rowarth and Leo Condron were concerned about how some of the science had been presented in the paper. Agricultural scientist Dr Ants Roberts also questioned where some of the scientific proof was. NZ Institute of Agriculture and Horticultural Science president Jon Hickford wanted clarification of how the white paper’s authors and contributors were funded. Grelet was invited to talk about these concerns, and where she felt RA fitted into NZ’s agricultural sector. Initially, the interview was accepted. Following questions being emailed

through, the interview was declined via Landcare Research’s communication department. However, an interview would be allowed via email with Landcare Research setting several conditions which were not accepted by Country-Wide for reasons of ensuring journalistic integrity. Landcare Research staff then emailed Country-Wide a request to publish a correction they had written and for an apology. This letter was forwarded to some academics for them to review and gain their recommendations. From the time the letter was received, reviewed and returned, there was not enough space in May’s Beef special edition to print it, therefore the deadline asked by Landcare Research for printing the letter was missed. Country-Wide would still like to interview Dr Grelet. Landcare has now lodged a complaint against Country-Wide with the NZ Media Council. interview would be allowed via email with Landcare Research setting several conditions which were not accepted by CountryWide for reasons of ensuring journalistic integrity.

She was asked about the dismissal of science which contradicted claims made about synthetic fertiliser. She was asked if she believed the science is there for RA. Scientists said only about 10% of soil microbes had been described, and the science had not yet been developed to be able to verify or dismiss the claims made about soil biology. Questions about who was paid and what was their contribution for payment were asked. There were also questions about collaboration and consensus. The paper was presented as a unified collaboration of more than 200 people, yet some people who took part said they neither had an opportunity to speak, nor did they agree with what was being said. She was also asked if she wrote the paper in a way which suited the Government’s story in a bid to get more research funding for herself and co-authors.

white paper and where she saw RA fitting into NZ’s agricultural sector. The questions emailed through to Dr Grelet included how the paper came about and why she wrote it, along with what her own personal interest in RA was. Other questions asked about the reasons for the recommendation of using fish hydrolysate and seaweed derivatives to stimulate the soil, and using carbonbased products and substances to chelate fertiliser, despite this not being scientifically supported.

• Readers can access the white paper here:




Reviewing the farm business BY: DR KEN GEENTY


t’s often a good idea to stop and think constructively about the structure and performance of your farming business. Included will be some honest selfanalysis and a re-think of where you are heading and how well you’re doing. This ‘thinking’ time will be well spent and many of the ideas may apply equally to your wider life. Most of you will have a farm business plan of some description either in your head, jotted down maybe in a piecemeal way or formally written in consultation with a rural professional. No matter what form your plan takes, an important requirement is regular reviewing and updating. Sometimes there is benefit in going

through different parts of this process with family members and co-workers or as a farmer group with a professional facilitator. Having done some homework beforehand, the sharing and debating of ideas can be invaluable. If there are business sensitivities among participants a good facilitator will handle these in the best interests of all.

Swot and smart goals Some well known analytical and planning tools include strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis and setting of specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based (SMART) goals outlined below and circles of control and concern illustrated (right). These back to basics tools may identify new inputs or improvements to your existing farming plan. Thought should also be given to the

SWOT for analysis StrengthS Weaknesses Opportunities Threats

sustainability of your farming operation and effective monitoring of progress. Use of SWOT analysis can give an honest self-evaluation in the context of your farming endeavors and identify where remedial or constructive actions should be taken. Strengths. The strengths of you personally and of your wider team and farm system should be fully exploited. For example you as farm owner may be better standing back with an overview of operations whereas one of your senior staff may competently organize day-to-day farm activities. If your farm has varying breeding and finishing areas maybe a review of sheep and cattle numbers could mean built in flexibility according to management capabilities and market trends. Weaknesses. If there are difficulties with particular technologies or the likes of financial management, consulting with specialists may be the answer. Sometimes there is a barrier due to pride in seeking help but it is important to overcome this. An outside point of view can often spark new energy and direction.

SMART goals Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-bound



June 2021


SCENARIO A In control – confident & productive.

SCENARIO B Overwhelmed with concerns possible stress and depression.





Opportunities. As well as new or modified farming options derived to overcome identified weaknesses, thought should be given to possible diversification. For example honey production or non-farming activities related to tourism. An open mind is needed, with recognition of appropriate strengths and capabilities, to transform new ideas into successful realities. Threats. These mainly come from areas beyond your control such as market swings, weather irregularities, political restraint or regulations etc. Rather than worry about possible occurrence your emphasis should be on risk management. In other words being prepared for the worst. Some of the associated strategies may include flexibility in livestock policies to combat market shifts, building of feed reserves in the paddock, hay barn or silage pit in case of drought, and a ‘thick-skinned’ but proactive response to stifling regulatory control. A key part of your farm business plan will be the setting of effective SMART goals which should meet the listed criteria. An example could be to set a goal of improving your lamb tailing percentage from 123% to 138% over the next five years. This

“No matter what form your plan takes, an important requirement is regular reviewing and updating.”

goal meets the criteria of being specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound. Achievement of this and your other goals should be closely monitored with an annual review and new strategies developed to overcome any under-achievement. Sometimes progress with your goals may be expressed in your business plan in the form of key performance indicators. A very important, and indeed critical basis for survival and growth of your farming operation is sustainability. Evaluation of this will be through the three pillars of sustainability: • Economic • Environmental • Social. Economic sustainability naturally relates to your bottom line, ideally showing a healthy profit margin each year. The environmental and social requirements are not so clear cut. In simple terms, the environmental requirement is often stated as a desire to leave the land in better shape than currently for the next generation. This may mean improved biodiversity, perhaps with QEII covenants, and attention to improved greenhouse gas balances across your farm. Social sustainability relates to nurturing of farm communities through development of joint activities relating to leisure, farm discussion groups, sharing of ideas on regulatory or political events and sporting pursuits. Probably the most beneficial aspect of developing a strong and focused farm plan, in whatever form, is the probability it will give you a stronger feeling of control. And this will improve your confidence by expanding your circle of control relative to the circle of concern as shown by scenario A above. Some focused and constructive thinking along the lines suggested here can be worth their weight in gold, particularly if the ideas are effectively embedded in your farm plans. For guidance on preparing a farm business plan, google ‘farm business plan template nz’ where you will find several options to start or improve your existing farm plans.

• Ken Geenty is a primary industries consultant.


June 2021



Levy bodies

Is farmer advocacy working? BY: STEVEN CRANSTON


ith the Beef + Lamb New Zealand levy vote just around the corner and a mountain of policy issues starting to pile up, it would seem the opportune time to have an open discussion on farmer advocacy. There is growing dissatisfaction with the performance of the levy bodies and Federated Farmers. New groups like Fifty Shades of Green and Groundswell NZ are popping up to be that voice where existing advocacy groups are absent. The advocacy model seems messy and disjointed with different groups at times pulling in different directions. This is not helped by the fact no single group has a clear mandate to speak on behalf of all farmers. The levy bodies, DairyNZ and B+LNZ, which have assumed leading roles in advocacy are essentially there by default. Levy votes do not separate out advocacy from other functions such as research and extension, an area where the levy bodies excel. The good work being done on research and extension shields these groups from accountability on their more debatable advocacy efforts. The 2020 DairyNZ levy referendum shows only 4600 farmers, or 39% of the total eligible voters, supported the levy. A percentage that would likely decrease further if there were a specific question on advocacy support. Yet they are probably the dominant industry voice on policy matters. On a pure numbers basis Federated


Farmers have a stronger case to be the voice for farmers, they have 13,000 members who by virtue of paying a subscription have given Federated Farmers a clear mandate to speak on their behalf. But where are the Feds? They don’t appear to be the force they once were and almost seem side-lined from many of the key policy decisions. The problem with having too many voices is that the Government will naturally seek out the organisations which are more aligned with their policy agenda to ‘represent’ farmers. Being a vocal critic of Government policy can be counterproductive if you still want a seat at the table. It is the classic divide and conquer strategy and it is being used effectively by this Government. Is the willingness of the levy bodies to push back against bad policy undermined by their desire to continue receiving Government funding and collaboration on research and extension initiatives? On key issues like emissions they seem largely in step with Government plans and have made little attempt to promote farmer’s

Farmer advocacy survey Want to have your say on farmer advocacy? Follow the link below to access a short survey. There are seven questions which will take less than two minutes. Visit:

strong scientific argument for an alternative approach. They have found themselves on the wrong side of the debate on land assessments for Significant Natural Areas. There are even cases where the levy bodies have walked back positions they had previously agreed with farmers, such as B+LNZ’s U-turn on supporting mandatory audited Farm Environment Plans. Levy bodies are required under the Commodity Levies Act 1990 to adequately reflect the views and interests of those paying the levy, not dictate to farmers what they believe is best for them. Advocacy issues run deeper and wider into the other plethora of organisations said to be representing farmers. The Food and Fiber Leaders Forum is a collective of industry bodies facilitated by Mike Peterson. Mike is also an independent director for Dryland Carbon, an entity set up by the likes of Air New Zealand and Z Energy to acquire farmland for the purpose of Carbon farming. What stance will this group take on the treatment of Methane vs CO2? We don’t know because minutes from meetings and lobbying positions are withheld. The climate policy group He Waka Eke Noa (We are in this together) which is a similar collective of industry bodies equally lacks transparency. Why the secrecy? If a group is representing farmers, is it not reasonable to expect open access to all the positions being taken on our behalf? A single lobby voice for farmers would force the Government to address concerns head on. It could allow advocacy to be robust without compromising funding and cooperation in other areas. What form this voice should take is something that would need careful consideration. Any streamlining of the advocacy model would need to ensure fair representation to the various agricultural sectors who at times have conflicting priorities. Potential reform solutions could include levy bodies falling in behind and supporting a reformed and reinvigorated Feds, or potentially a new lobby arm of the levy bodies could be established to work on behalf of the entire industry. This branch could be voted on separately during the levy referendum which would provide it a clear mandate and direct accountability to farmers. The agriculture sector provides an invaluable contribution to the NZ economy and it needs a fit for purpose lobbying model to ensure that is the case for years to come. • Steven Cranston is a Waikato-based agricultural and environmental consultant.


June 2021

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Colours of Winterhome hills, east coast Marlborough. The only green is saved leaf and stalk on spring-planted brassica on the flats, held through on heavy soils for tupping.

Concern drives drought day The rapid drying out of Marlborough farmland led to local farmers organising a Drought Day recently. Joanna Grigg went along to find out more.


t won’t make it rain but a community get-together with great food, rugby heroes and the Mitre 10 Cup certainly helps. About 90 people attended the Ward Drought Day on April 30. The cumulative pasture growth for Marlborough is barely tracking three tonnes a hectare for the year to date. Usually, it would be 5t/ha grown by May. Ally Avery, local farmer and member of the Top of the South drought committee, said she wanted to make the Ward event happen after speaking to locals. “I kept hearing how bad things were”. “The focus was on the fruit growers in Tasman and I felt we needed to do something for farmers here in Marlborough too.”


Farm consultant Brent Boyce, FarmWise, was instrumental in organising the drought day and also the extension of adverse event government funding through to November 30. Based in Nelson, Boyce took a drive around Marlborough on Easter Sunday, after a friend’s 50th birthday in the Awatere. “I went up all the back roads and the situation was dire.” He wrote a three-page report – not requested by any group or individual but out of what he calls his unease for the farmers in the region and “my deep concern for the welfare of themselves, their livestock and their businesses”. His three-page report was circulated around the farming community, Marlborough District Council and to MPI via the National Feed Working Group.

“We needed to get more government attention and action.” He called for drought co-ordination at a national level, not just regional. He described the rainfall received on March 27 as too little and too late to have any positive effect on pasture covers and feed levels going into winter. Pasture covers were 500-700kg DM and stock were in lighter condition than normal. Some lucerne swards had greened but were sparse, with falling growth rates as temperatures dropped. “I saw no winter drilled crops with leaf cover over the ground.” The region typically takes a large number of dairy cows for winter grazing but it won’t be happening this year, he said. Committee chairman Richard


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“My deep concern for the welfare of themselves, their livestock and their businesses.” Kempthorne, said Boyce’s report definitely contributed to an extension of government funding and a push to host a drought day. The event was organised in 13 days - a collaboration between local farm consultants, the committee, Rural Support Trust, Federated Farmers and Rural Women NZ. Two local farm case studies (The Homestead and Winterhome) were presented to farmers. They outlined the effects of drought and what they are doing to mitigate costs and deal with the oftenstressful feeding or sale decisions. The morning drop-in feed budgeting clinic, run by farm consultants Greg Sheppard and Brent Boyce, was taken up by 10 farmers. “We were also able to get one or two farmers other forms of support they needed, beyond feed advice,” Greg said. “If we helped one person then it’s worth it,” Brent said. “We could talk and listen to farmers, on a one-on-one basis, and deal with quite serious issues.” Professor Derrick Moot, Lincoln University, provided advice on treating plants recovering from drought, to help persistence. Professor Paul Kenyon, Massey University, gave timely advice on priority

The Ward Drought Day team took only 13 days to pull the event together, after farm consultant Brent Boyce toured the area and reported the situation as ‘dire’. Some of the organisers (from left): Warwick Lissaman, farmer, Ally Avery, Top of the South Drought committee, Greg Sheppard, Sheppard Agriculture, Brent Boyce, FarmWise, and Chelsea Reynolds, AgFirst.

feeding in-lamb ewes and setting up grazing rotations. The last comment of the day went to Ian Blair, who generates a monthly Marlborough climate report, and has been an avid gatherer and predictor of climate information. He looked back at years similar to 2021 (1996 and 2008) and they were dry to mid-June. According to Ian, rain would arrive on June 10. On April 28, Mid and South Canterbury, and Otago were included in the 2021 drought adverse event and $90,000 of extra funding allocated.

Saved crop gets ewes flushed

Ellie and Tom Cranswick with Benjamin, 2, and Pippa, 4.


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Tom Cranswick was one of two farmers that shared their strategies for managing drought, at the Ward drought day. The onfarm profiles were commissioned by MPI as a resource for other farmers and to inform the Government of the situation. Tom has been farm manager at the 665 effective hectare coastal sheep and beef farm, Winterhome, for two years. He swears by using saved brassica to flush older ewes in autumn. “We tupped seven hundred ewes on rape leaf and stalk in 2020 and managed to keep scanning at 180%, with only 1.8% dry, so we expanded the area and sowed more rape last spring,” Tom said. His approach has been to try and bring moisture forward into autumn, by sowing spring brassicas into the heavier soils. This

autumn, 17 hectares of rape was used to graze 2000 ewes for 10 days prior and one cycle after joining with the ram (20 days). Tom calls this “the golden 20 days”. Two-tooths were not tupped on rape, for two reasons. They had not been on rape before and they were in better condition than mixed age ewes so require a flushing effect but not a big weight gain lift. They were shifted every day for 10 days prior and 10 days after joining with the ram. Tom targets 63kg at mating and a 175% scanning. Tom is disappointed in the low rainfall but has plans to keep next spring’s income by maintaining a good scanning rate, lambing hoggets and finishing 18-month heifers for the ‘cream on the top’, if possible. He writes down a fresh plan every two months or so. “Getting things on paper really helps me see it clearly. Then I can refocus on the priorities and daily tasks.” He ran a Farmax feed budget in early February, using normal predicted growth and below average growth scenarios. He wrote a plan based on this. He sold the remaining 600 store/prime lambs and committed to feed weaned calves balage for longer than usual. He fenced off cows onto a hard hill – counting them as ‘off-farm’ in his feed budget. As it turned out, growth had been poor into May so he took further action to counter the feed deficit. Sheep nuts will be fed to 430 lighter ewes, with the aim of protecting their condition through to


Views at The Homestead, Ward Beach. Supplied by Greg Sheppard.


lambing. Tom estimates the ewes on nuts will lamb 120% instead of 100% without nuts. This difference is estimated at 516 lambs vs 430 lambs. At $100/lamb this is worth $8600, with a feed cost of $4800 ($480/tonne fed at 350 grams/head/day). He will apply 10 tonnes (t) of nitrogen (N) in July onto 330ha of hill country, and 3.5t N on 35ha rape and 65ha grass pasture. There is also the option of selling more calves or the 18-month dry heifers, or grazing off dry hoggets, selling ewes or fiveyear ewes with lambs at foot. “In January 2020, we realised it was really dry, we sold trade lambs and started feeding grain . . . we said let’s not hang around. We took the hit but protected next year’s income.” He decided to put ewe hoggets to the ram for this reason – something queried at the field day. He is comfortable having a close equilibrium with spring covers and demand in spring. This is to reduce inefficient utilisation of spring growth later. His forecast shows demand may be higher than predicted covers for a time in September. The April hogget body weight target was

47kg (they were 45kg mid-April) and 570 were joined. Tom expects 70% of the lambs to be weaned weighing at least 28kg. They are weaned the same day as the two-tooths. They typically fetch $85 as a store lamb. Tom said that feeding out can be very tedious with the monotony. He and Ellie took a family holiday before starting feeding out. He values discussing plans with Ellie and his friends, and getting off-farm to play tennis at Kekerengu.

Drought cost $260K An MPI-funded profile of a Ward farm has shown a loss of income and extra costs from the 2021 drought combining to be about $260,000. This is mainly in lost winter dairy grazing income ($120,000). Kevin and Tom Loe, The Homestead, Ward Beach, along with stock manager Seymour Lambert, shared their experience of the 2021 drought with farm consultant Greg Sheppard. The family has been on the 1880ha farm since 1905 and acknowledges the strength of having a team approach to dealing with the situation. Speaking at the Ward drought day,


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Sheppard said lower income came from destocking 2300 stock units ($70,000), buying 44 bales of balage ($5750), cattle grazing ($10,000) and a 50% yield reduction in summer rape crop ($29,400). Additional balage made cost $11,000 and a 30% reduction in winter cereal crops cost $11,250. The Loes said they expect lost income and costs from droughts but it has been difficult as stock units were also lowered on the back of a dry 2020. The family are running 5300 su fewer than wintered in 2018 (now just under 7000su). Pasture covers were 1100kg DM/ha early May and, if rainfall returns to normal, will be 1200 in August, Sheppard said. Ewes will be fully fed during August lambing if these covers are achieved but not if growth is below normal. “Additional destocking or supplementary feed will be necessary to prevent underfeeding, animal health issues developing and to optimise livestock performance.” The Loes made numerous changes as the drought bit. The establishment of winter crops was delayed until late April, cows and calves were weaned a month early (start of March), R1 year heifers and bulls are grazing off farm and ewes were fed balage over tupping. Typically, 1200 lambs are traded over summer and autumn (only 780 this year). Rainfall for the year to date was 70.6mm (to April 28) which is about 150mm behind average. It comes after a very dry 2020 – just 420mm for the year. Due to a lack of stock water, about 600ha is not able to be grazed. The Loe’s are waiting for a planned community water scheme before installing reticulation to this area. Sheppard noted that if normal pasture growth through winter does happen, then pasture cover on the coastal farm could be in excess of 1600kg DM/ha by the end of September. “This could be a new and exciting challenge if the right mindset is taken.”

Plead for pasture care Professor Derrick Moot, Lincoln University, pleaded with farmers to think about those “poor pasture plants out there”, recovering from a drought. Speaking at the Ward drought day, he said treat pastures like you would a crop. “Stay off recovering grass and let it restore its root reserves.” “A new leaf grows every 100 thermal


June 2021

Ewes on balage at The Homestead, Ward. Photo supplied by Greg Sheppard.

FEWER FROSTS, MORE MOISTURE LOST NIWA’s predictions for the future climate of Marlborough (commissioned by the Marlborough District Council in 2021) are for hot days to increase, especially at low elevations. This is a figure between one to 15 days more by 2040. The NIWA report said rainfall is expected to change only a small amount plus or minus 5% by 2040. By 2090 larger changes are expected, with seasons differing (summer decreases of up to 20%, winter increases of up to 40%). The potential evapotranspiration deficit looks to be the big change, up 50 to 150mm by 2040. It’s likely there will be fewer frosts, especially inland and at elevation.

units so at 10 degrees a new leaf will grow every 10 days.” “Three leaves will take 30 days.” As a long-term plan for allowing summer dry pastures to recover with autumn rain, he suggests supplementary feeding stock on sacrifice paddocks, or using flat cultivable land for crops to hold higher stocking rates. New analysis of data collected from permanent dryland pastures at Poukawa Research Centre over 20 years, showed six tonnes of the feed grew in spring, two in summer and 1.5 in autumn. “September to November are the key growth months so your farm system should focus here,” he said.

He outlined data showing fantastic reasons to include legumes. A dryland pasture with nitrogen fixing plants with the cocksfoot (unirrigated) grew 15.7 tonnes of pasture over the year compared to 6.3 tonnes for cocksfoot only pasture. “It used the same amount of water but grew a far higher tonnage.” “All plants except legumes are deficient in nitrogen.” He suggested a cheap drought recovery strategy was to drill 10kg of big seeded subterranean clover into the low grass cover blocks. Spinning on, even with a hand spinner, and trampling in with a mob of sheep, can do the trick.




FOCUSED FARMER DETERMINED TO WIN An almost fatal battle with cancer hasn’t stopped West Otago farm manager Shaun Bradley. Story by Terry Brosnahan. Photos by Chris Sullivan.


tago farm manager Shaun Bradley has a smile on his face and it is with good reason. It might be because he recently won several local sheep competitions, but more likely it’s because he won his recent battles with cancer and is enjoying life. The 29-year-old Tapanui farm manager won the 2021 Country-Wide West Otago two-tooth competition and $500. Shaun also won the ewe hogget competition and went on to come second in the regional final to Jeff Farm, South Otago. He is managing Kowai Downs, a 530ha (500ha effective) farm owned by Fiona and Nelson Hancox. He started working for the Hancoxes in August 2018. The family own three farms, Mt Allen, Wohelo and Kowai Downs which are run as separate companies. Mt Allen is managed by Julian Kelly who won the large flock section. The farm managers are competitive and the two wins will give Shaun bragging rights for a while. Shaun’s wins are amazing achievements considering he had fought off cancer and didn’t have long to prepare the flocks. He had only entered the two-tooth competition the first time in 2019 and the competition was


cancelled last year due to Covid-19. Shaun was busy battling blood cancer through 2019 and part of 2020, diagnosed with stage four B cell nonHodgkin's followed by a secondary brain tumour. He and his wife Olivia (28) had only been married just over a year and were expecting their first baby. Olivia ended up becoming a new mum and advocate for Shaun’s access to treatment. It was a tough time for the pair, but they fought hard and had strong support from the Hancoxes, family and the community. Shaun is now in remission and has been back running the farm for a year. Nelson says Shaun is incredibly focused, and it is his mental strength and stubbornness that is a major reason why he is alive today.

Golden touch Shaun didn’t grow up on a farm but he has worked for some good mentors. They include progressive North Canterbury farmers and brothers, Mark and Sam Zino, and now Nelson. He says Nelson has given him a lot of guidance on stock handling, especially selecting replacements and rams. “Nelson taught me once they have lambed, give


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June 2021


The winning two-tooths in the Country-Wide West Otago two-tooth competition.

FARM FACTS • Two-tooth and hogget competitions winner • Managing Kowai Downs, 500ha in West Otago • Running 5000 ewes, 1500 replacements and grazing cattle • One of three farms run as separate companies • Average gross farm revenue for three farms, $1550/ha last year, economic farm surplus $750/ha • Kowai Downs over GFR $2000/ha gross.



them space, open the gates up.” This winter the farm is running 5000 Romney ewes and 1500 replacements. There are also 8 R2 cattle remaining from 90 grazed. One of the two-tooth competition judges commented on how healthy and golden looking Kowai’s sheep were. Shaun says with the correct feeding, fertiliser and minerals applied to the soil and by following animal health procedures any stock can be made to look good within a year. “Lucky it was a nice day for the judging.” He says having stock in good condition and healthy was the whole aim of farming. Lambing hoggets have to be fed exceptionally well, maintain a good condition score and get back to two tooth mating weight as soon as possible. A lot of farmers think it is too hard on them. “Those who don’t lamb tend to push them to the side during winter on little feed.” Shaun says by lambing hoggets they can afford to carry less ewes and put more feed into them.

The sheep are set stocked in each paddock but after lambing they have the run of 4-5 paddocks to get more shelter, a mix of new and old grass. His recipe to growing good replacements is genetics and good feeding. Selection is tough. He is constantly going through them. “When you get them in for drenching you look through them and take a few more out.” Out of the 2300 ewe lambs available on Kowai to select from, only 1500 are selected as replacements to go to the ram. They are chosen by weight, constitution and condition score. Anything too small is not put to the ram. He will cull about four times before mating. If they don’t measure up to the cutoff of a condition score of three, they don’t go to the ram. The hoggets usually weigh between 44-55kg at mating and are mated with Cheviot rams. If the two-tooths don’t measure up they go into the ewe B mob to be mated with the blackface rams. This year 150 went to the B mob. Romney rams go over the A mob.


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Buying top genetics Teaser rams only go out to the hoggets for 34 days and last year the hoggets (to the ram) lambed 103%, a first for Shaun. Nelson buys the top genetics from four North Island studs – Wai-iti, Hildreth, Te Whangai and Wairere. He keeps the two-tooths separate right up until after lambing. That depends on where the best feed is and how hectic it is. “I like to see how they lamb.” The two-tooths are mixed with older ewes at tailing so the lambing percentage is not known but the overall figure for the ewes is 148%. Shaun says ideally it would be good to lamb them completely separate and use the lambs as replacements for faster genetic gain through the flock, however that isn’t possible because there aren’t enough replacements. Weaning is in the middle of December and last year the farm produced 8750 lambs. A lot of the lambs kill out at 16.518kg carcaseweight. The mean kill date is the end of February. Hoggets start lambing at Labour Weekend. This year most of the 1400 hogget lambs were sold store under contract into Canterbury.

Dry hits feed crops The drive into Kowai Downs in early May told the story of what was happening climate-wise. Swede crops were parched. Crops which had struck had grown well, but the weather turned dry and had only received 30-40% of their usual rainfall. Nelson, as managing director of the 3336ha, is in charge of all development such as fencing, drainage and buildings. He and his son Mitchell are in charge of the agronomy and together they do about 90% of the tractor work. About 250ha of brassica and 150ha of young grass is grown. Young crops are inspected regularly by walking well into the paddock and if necessary, they will apply the appropriate control. A paddock of Sovereign Gold kale was grazed off early this year due to Nysius fly attacks which ring-barks the stem and weakens it. Nelson says they had been reducing the rate of insecticide for environmental reasons and had gone a week too late when the plants were about 10mm when it should be more 3-4mm. With it eaten off early, the paddock was


June 2021

Left: Shaun and Olivia Bradley and their two and-a-half year old daughter Charlotte. Below: Competition winning hoggets on the kale. With no feeding out there is little compaction of the soil.


able to be put into permanent pasture, with minimum tillage in the autumn. “Now we are just waiting for the rain.” Shaun says because they don’t normally feed out during the winter there is little compaction on the soil from wheel marks. The farms share gear, tractors, implements and inputs like fertiliser, seed and fencing materials which Nelson buys in bulk. Those costs are apportioned between the three farms on a stock unit basis, 40:40:20. The average gross revenue for the three farms was $1550/ha last year, and the economic farm surplus $750/ha. (Kowai Downs over $2000/ha gross). Nelson expects it will be similar this year.

Thistle killing success

Shaun fiddling with a tractor the mechanic Mitchell Hancox bought and stripped to rebuild and sell.

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Shaun says wiping and killing Californian thistles is a cheap way to gain extra feed. Instead of topping the calis, he uses a wiper towing it around the paddocks with a bigger tank on the truck to refill. There was an unused weed wiper sitting in the shed when he arrived. It took him weeks trialling different rates and speeds to find the most efficient system. He started



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wiping in October last year and managed 250ha but ran out of time so he topped the rest. The difference is stark. Paddocks which have been wiped were clean whereas in the topped paddock, the calis had come back. Shaun found once calis are mature enough wiping is effective throughout the summer. They are wiped when they are high enough so the grass is not hit and there is enough of them to make it worthwhile. A flatbed truck which Shaun modified has a 500L tank of water on the back so he can fill up the 60L tank on the wiper

Handy on the tools Shaun is the type of employee any farmer would love to have. Not only is he innovative, and a good stockman, he’s handy with a hammer or a wrench. After he left school, Shaun worked for a local contractor William Kirk who serviced all his own gear. He learned skills and does a lot of mechanical work though one of the Hancox’s four children, Mitchell is the mechanic and tractor driver for the three farms. Elliot, the middle son, is shepherd general between the farms and Tom, the youngest works on Argyle station, after completing Lincoln University. Shaun drives around in a modified Toyota Surf which he bought for $2000 and turned into a flat deck truck. The back wall and deck were cut out of an old single cab. Shaun’s advice to farmers fixing their own machinery is to invest in a $3000 hoist especially if they are doing a lot of repairs. Far easier and quicker. He is also a useful builder and plumber, and does a lot of building work around the farm. Both Shaun and Olivia are very practical and big on common sense. Olivia, who is an early childhood teacher, helped Shaun out on the farm while he was recovering. When Shaun was younger he learned about feed budgeting and management from completing Dip Ag papers from Lincoln University while working on a dairy farm at Darfield. Shaun worked during the day and studied at night. “Studying while working huge days was incredibly challenging”. He also completed papers through Ag ITO. Shaun says after 10 years farming this is the best position he’s been in. Nelson has given him the scope to try out his own ideas. “He’s given me the chance to do it all.” Continues

Left: Shaun says $3000 for a hoist is a good investment when doing a lot of mechanical work. Below: A paddock of kale grazed off early due to Nysius fly and put into permanent pasture, with minimum tillage in the autumn.



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Cancer strikes In early 2019 Shaun started to feel tired, he was vomiting at night and collapsing. He kept going to the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) doctors in Gore, but it was misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. Unable to find anything in his blood tests, they put it down to sinus infection, a pulled back muscle and pneumonia. He kept passing out and at one point he told a doctor he felt like he was dying. Shaun carried on trying to work but the blackouts continued. He lost about 10kg over three weeks, he was skin and bones. Finally after a conversation with a relatable doctor, he was checked out. They found a 15cm tumour around his heart and top of his lungs which had spread to his lungs, pancreas and kidneys. He had six months of chemotherapy, most of it in hospital. Olivia was a strong advocate for Shaun during his treatment and became the squeaky wheel. She still didn’t get any


his mental strength and stubbornness, that is a major reason why he is alive today. apology from the SDHB. Shaun is obviously a man who doesn't like to sit still so it wasn’t easy lying in a hospital bed. He struggled but kept busy with tasks like planning the rebuild of a Toyota Hilux truck which is in progress now. “I never watched TV as it pissed me off, so I researched stuff.” When he was out of hospital and recovering at home he just couldn’t keep away from the workshop. He had about 10 chairs around a vehicle and would move from chair to chair working on it. “I just sat there doing the things I would usually do standing.” Shaun thought he was cured, but as he was fixing farm gear, he had a terrible pain

in his head and collapsed. The cancer had spread to his brain and a tumour the size of a golf ball had grown within a week. Shaun had to undergo more toxic chemo and a bone marrow transplant. He was told if it didn’t work he would be dead within a week. “It’s been a ride.”

Shorn the sheep The cancer fight drained Olivia and Shaun, mentally and financially. They didn’t have medical insurance and getting on the dole was difficult. Even though they are used to filing complicated forms, dealing with bureaucracy was a nightmare. The Bradleys say Fiona and Nelson Hancox have been great employers and treated them like family. The house was free


June 2021

Top left: Competition judge Kyle Burnett snaps the hoggets. Left: Fixing up the electric fence in the kale paddock. Right: Everyday is good for Shaun especially when daughter Charlotte is in his arms.

and they offered to pay his wages while sick but Shaun refused it. The Bradleys spent most of their savings, but the community fundraised $50,000 for them. Fiona and Nelson put up their lambs to be shorn in the 24-hour Shear-a-thon organised by the Hancoxes and Jared Manihera, a PGG Wrightson wool agent. The money the family would have paid a contractor went to the fundraiser. Four shearers shore for 24 hours with Eru Weeds shearing 1385, Cole Wells, 930; Matt Hunt, 877 and Dave Gower, 564. There were numerous other support shearers and rousies. In total they shore 7280 lambs


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and along with $10,000 from a stock drive, $50,000 was raised. When Shaun walked into the shed and saw about 350 people, most he hardly knew who had turned up to support him, he was completely blown away. “They were willing him to live,” Nelson says. As well as the fundraiser, friends started a Givealittle page which raised $20,000. They have had to put on hold their original plan of leasing land while Shaun managed Kowai Downs, until they recover from the cancer battles. Shaun had only been working six months for the family when he started slowing

“It’s been a ride.” down with the cancer and was off work from April 2019 until April 2020. Nelson says he would have persevered with anyone battling what Shaun had, but “Olivia and Shaun are bloody cool people.” He says not many people can plumb, engineer and be a great stockman. Olivia always has a beaming smile on her face even during bad times, and Charlotte brings a smile to everyone. Despite their torrid time with cancer the couple remain positive and are getting on with life.




June 2021



Farming on the edge A couple have some extraordinary challenges building a productive breeding herd next to the ocean. Mike Bland paid them a visit to find out more.


ob Craw and Amelia Hodder have spent 10 years building a productive breeding herd on a scenic but challenging farm on the southern shores of the Hauraki Gulf. They’ve been on the 337ha (effective) Coromandel Peninsula farm, just south of Coromandel township, since 2011 and manage it for an overseas-based family trust. Under the Ohana Farms brand, they also oversee another sheep and beef unit near Te Kuiti in King Country. From the Coromandel farm’s homestead they can watch fishing vessels and pleasure boats heading out to the Gulf. Amelia says the farm is highly visible from the sea, so they try to be the best advert for farming they can be. She and Rob and their three sons moved to Coromandel after leaving a management position on a large King Country sheep and beef farm. Rob says they were enjoying the King Country job and it was a tough call to move. But the Coromandel farm presented a great opportunity and the coastal location was a big drawcard, especially for Rob, a keen fisherman. “The irony is; I probably did more fishing when I was in the King Country.” Rob and Amelia have both involved themselves in the local community. Rob is a senior member of the Coromandel Volunteer Fire Brigade and president of the Hauraki-Coromandel branch of Federated Farms. Amelia is the branch’s provincial support person. Their twin sons Dylan and Ryan, aged 15, attend Coromandel Area School and oldest son Cody, 18, recently completed a diploma at Telford and is now working as a shepherd in Central Otago. Rob was quite surprised to get the Coromandel job because during the interview process he was frank about the property’s limitations. The farm’s location on the coast exposes it to winds that dry it out quickly in summer. Its shallow topsoil sits on a layer of marine clay, and the pastures are dominated by kikuyu. The farm also has a number of steep bluffs, which can be a hazard for livestock.


June 2021


Amelia Hodder and Rob Craw manage two farms, one on the Coromandel Peninsula and one in the King Country, for an overseas-based trust.

He told the owners it had potential as a breeding unit, but dry summers and a lack of suitable contour meant it would struggle as a finishing block under an all-grass system. “It was simply not sustainable on its own.” The new owners appreciated his honesty. “Up until meeting the owners I’d been a bit wary of foreign ownership. But they were clearly very passionate about the farm and we shared the goal of wanting to produce high quality protein products as sustainably and ethically as possible.” Amelia says about half of the grazeable area is steep, 30% is medium hill and the balance is easy-rolling. She says a drought in their first season on the farm gave a real taste of how difficult coastal farming could be.

Running two farms The first few years were particularly busy as Rob sought to secure and set up a second farm to complement the Coromandel property. “The owners asked us to go out and buy a block with easier contour and better summer growth, and we hunted high and


low to find somewhere that ticked all the boxes,” he says. Bought in 2012, the King Country farm had a good balance of easy-rolling contour and some steeper hills. It totalled about 1000ha, of which about 520ha is effective. The balance is mostly in native bush, “and that’s a feature the owners really liked”. Rob says the buying process took a long time due to OIO requirements. “The owners had to be really committed because there were a lot of hoops to jump through.” But the purchase of the King Country farm gave the operation more scale, flexibility and certainty. Stock can be transferred from one farm to another, depending on grass growth, and the combined operation can carry more stock through to finishing, achieving a higher margin. Rob says the Coromandel farm is the operation’s main breeding block. The King Country farm also carries breeding stock but its chief focus is finishing and grazing support. Rob and Amelia work closely with a stock manager, who handles day to day work on the King Country Farm.

The Coromandel farm runs about 150 Angus cows and heifers and 1200 Romney ewes. Hoggets are mated in the King Country and return to the Coromandel as two-tooths. Steers and non-replacement heifers are also transferred to the King Country block. When Rob and Amelia first started on the Coromandel farm it was carrying about 900 Coopworth ewes and 200 South Devon cows. Rob says a significant investment was made in capital fertiliser, “which was flown on before we even got here”. The cows and a large portion of the ewes were sold almost immediately, Romney mixed-age ewes were bought-in, and the remaining ewes were mated to terminal sires. Amelia says the farm’s original cows were lovely but she and Rob felt Angus cattle and Romney sheep would be better suited to the operation. “We bought two lines of Angus cattle initially and bred the sheep back to a straight Romney. Ever since then our focus has been on lifting the performance of the stock through better breeding.” Rob is a big fan of the keep-it-simple, low-


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Cows are set stocked for much of the year.

cost approach to farm management. In his view, farming lost its way somewhat when farmers were encouraged to intensify too heavily. “Some people will call me old-fashioned, but I like the traditional ways of keeping management simple and not overstocking. If you look after your animals, they will look after you.”

Blue sea, black cattle Rob is particularly proud of the cattle on the coastal farm. He says second-cut heifers are now keenly sought after, which shows how much the herd has improved over the last ten years. Strong heifer performance is a feature of the property. Heifers are mated at a target of 300kg in mid-October, calving as R2’s in July-August. “In recent years, 96-98% of our heifers have got in-calf within two cycles,” says Rob. He puts this down to good feeding and good genetics. “We feed them well so they hit the ground running.” Heifers are calved behind a wire and supplemented with balage.


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Rob says Storth Oaks genetics have made a significant contribution to the performance of the herd. • Managers for Ohana COROMANDEL When buying sires he pays close Farms attention to Estimated Breeding • Coromandel Peninsula and Values (EBVs) and looks for bulls that King Country rank highly for calving ease, birth • Farming about 860ha weight, temperament and growth. effective Heifers are mated for two cycles (six • Breeding and finishing weeks). R3 and mixed-age cows are mated • Finishing home-bred and for three cycles but only those that get trade steers and lambs in calf during the first two cycles stay on • Selling V.I.C Angus heifers the Coromandel. In-calf cows that were conceived during the third cycle go to the King Country, which has a later calving Amelia says they feed out by hand, a date, and are mated to Charolais bulls in sometimes tricky job given the contour. But subsequent matings. this helps the heifers get used to human “Those cows effectively become the contact. replacements for the King Country farm. “Temperament is a real focus for us,” says One of the luxuries of having the second Rob. farm is that we can carry more home-bred “Our cattle have to be quiet and safe for steers and heifers and we don’t have to us to handle. It’s also important because we chase the weaner fairs.” have a lot of visitors to this farm and some Rob says the Angus-Charolais calves are of them have never been near livestock very marketable and can be sold early if the before.” weather gets dry. For the last nine years the herd has been Cows have to be top performers to stay mated to sires from Storth Oaks Angus Stud, on the Coromandel farm. Otorohanga. “This property is our stud for the whole



The 337ha effective Coromandel farm runs 200 breeding cows on contour that ranges from rolling to steep.

operation. If they don’t produce a good calf in good condition, they are down the road.” Amelia says Rob is strict about which cows and heifers he retains. Any cow that shows poor temperament or “even looks at him funny” is culled. The best 50 heifers are retained and the rest are sold. About 26 vetted-in-calf heifers were sold this season. Rob says the sale of these second-cut heifers helps to offset a drop in trading numbers on the King Country farm if the season dries up. He says the strict selection process and the focus on top genetics is starting to pay off. “Our own steers and heifers outperform any trading stock we bring in. It’s been six years since we had to calve a heifer here, and we are consistently seeing 96-98% of our cows rearing a calf.”

Beating the heat Dry summers are the norm rather than the exception on the coastal farm, so stock numbers are almost halved by December 1 to ensure breeding cows and ewes get top priority. Any surplus stock are sold or transferred


to the King Country. Amelia says the Coromandel farm carries about 4200-4500 stock units at the peak but this drops to about 2600su in December. She and Rob have learnt a lot about utilising kikuyu pastures over the last ten years. “You can get pretty good performance out of kikuyu if you fertilise it, manage it carefully and keep it alive. Ryegrass really struggles in the dry, but as long as you don’t overgraze kikuyu, it will respond quickly to a bit of rain.” Rob says the farm was rotationally grazed for the first two years, but this didn’t suit the pastures or the soils. “It just wasn’t working for this class of land, and stock were under too much pressure.” So they switched to a set stocking regime. Apart from the 6-8week mating period the cows are spread around the farm with the ewes. “In the steeper country we are stocking the cows at about half a cow/ha,” says Rob. The herd has responded well to this change. Cows are quieter and more content because there is less grazing pressure and a lower parasite burden.

“Set stocking helps us to build stock condition. It also helps us to protect the soils because we don’t get the erosion or pugging damage we got under rotational grazing.” After calving, heifers are split into two mobs of 20-25. Rob says the smaller mob size helps heifers to settle down and hold condition. During mating the mixed-age cows are run in three separate herds and rotated around the better contoured paddocks with reliable water. Bulls will often hang out in the shade and wait for the cows to approach a trough before doing their job. Rob and Amelia buy one to two bulls a year and keep them for up to four years. “This class of country can be hard on bulls, so we need to keep them young.” Rob says breeding bulls are so quiet they can be scratched and fed by hand. “Some people say that Angus bulls are wild, but we’ve never had a problem here.” The breeding herd is also relatively young, with few cows over five years of age. Rob says this is a deliberate strategy to keep performance up. Older cows are sold or transferred to the King Country farm. “We only want to keep the very best


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“Some people will call me old-fashioned, but I like the traditional ways of keeping management simple and not overstocking.” replacements here, so we look closely at them every time they are in the yards.” Heifers are calved in July-August and the older cows a month later. “The key is to get calves on the ground as early as possible, then we can get them weaned and off the property before it starts to dry up. We have to make sure our breeding stock can perform the following season, so we are always planning one year ahead.” Heifer calves are weaned at a target weight of 200kg and the steers at 240kg minimum. Angus steers are finished on the King Country farm at a minimum of 300kg carcase weight (CW) at 24-30months, and the Angus and Angus-Charolais heifers are typically finished at 240-260kg CW. No Angus heifers have been finished over the last two years because they have been sold for breeding. Rob says mixed-age cows on the Coromandel farm average about 550kg liveweight (LW). “We don’t want a big, lanky cow on this country because they knock the hills. And we don’t want a little brick either. So something around 550kg is an efficient pasture converter and a good match for the contour.” Last season about 60 Angus cows were mated to Charolais bulls on the King Country farm. Their progeny were finished in a cell grazing system along with steers transferred from Coromandel as weaners. Rob says forward steers are shifted every 2-4 days in the finishing unit. Weaner steers spend their first winter on the flats. During summer they are set-stocked among the sheep in the steeper hill country, returning to the cell grazing system at an average of 400kg. “They are coming off Class 6 hill-country, so they wouldn’t reach those weights if we didn’t have the genetics.” In summer, pastures on the steeper contour on the King Country farm are managed to build up a seed bank and provide quality feed for the following autumn. Amelia says cows are a key pasture management tool on the farm. They



June 2021

Left: Homemade flytraps capture millions of flies in summer and reduce the flystrike risk. Below: Ohana is Hawaiian for ‘family’.



are used to clean up rank pastures and improve pasture quality for lambs and other finishing stock.

Careful culling lifts sheep performance The ewe flock on the Coromandel farm is subjected to the same rigorous culling regime as the cows. “We are looking to find the best of the best from a relatively small gene pool,” says Rob. He and Amelia run a two-flock system. Older and poorer performing ewes are transferred to a terminal mob and mated to Poll Dorset-Texel and Suffolk-Texel rams for early lamb finishing. No hoggets are mated on the Coromandel farm. Instead, ewe replacements go down to the King Country farm. About 60% will be mated, returning as two-tooths. Ewes on the Coromandel farm lamb at 135-145%, averaging 140% (survival to docking). They are mated at 60-65kg and lamb from late July. Amelia says the early lambing

means lambs can be weaned and shifted to the King Country when grass growth is at its peak. Non-replacement lambs are finished at a target of 17kg CW-plus. “We can send a unit load away from here in November and use the same truck to take prime cattle direct from the King Country farm to the processing plant,” says Rob. Like the cows, ewes are set stocked around the farm for the bulk of the year. Rob believes animal health is better as a result. He and Amelia are reducing the use of chemicals, looking for safer and more environmentally-friendly alternatives. For example, Green Thistle Beetles are used to control Californian thistles on hard to reach areas of the King Country farm. And they no longer dip for fly in the Coromandel. To reduce the risk of flystrike they use home-made fly traps built from 200litre drums. About 15 drums are spread around the farm, situated in low-lying gullies where flies tend to congregate out of the wind. Baited with a fish-gut slurry, these

traps catch millions of flies in the peak of summer. Rob says the incidence of flystrike on the farm is now very rare. Ewes are shorn six-monthly, clipping about 2.5kg/ewe/shearing. “We are growing more wool because the ewes are fed well.” Despite miserably low prices, Rob and Amelia still have faith that wool will make a comeback. “It’s just such an amazing natural product.” They also see a strong future for quality grass-fed red meat that is produced in a sustainable and ethical manner. “We get a range of visitors coming here from around the world and some of them arrive with a fairly negative view of farming,” says Rob. “But when we show them how we produce grass-fed lamb and beef and how we take care of the animals and the environment, they go back to the Northern Hemisphere with a great story to tell about how it was raised and how good it tastes.”

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June 2021



Making genetics sexy

Commercial farmers checking the SIL ‘figures’ of sale rams at Wairere Rams.



nce a year, farmers make the most critical decision to maximise genetic progress in their flock. The rams they use will contribute about 80% of our flock’s genetic gain. Farmers often forget that wherever their ram breeder goes, they will go too. It is such a key message to make farmers realise how important genetics are in their farm business. Being out there engaging with commercial and stud breeders for the last couple of years has led me to believe we do need to make genetics ‘sexy’ again. It starts with providing farmers with the right tools to feel comfortable talking about genetics, confident to ask the right questions to their ram breeders, to their stock agents, to their partners, and to become the main drivers of progress and change. New Zealand has Sheep Improvement Limited, the world-renowned sheep performance recording database and genetic evaluation system. If a ram breeder’s flock is in SIL, they are performance recording and utilising SIL genetic evaluation to help select genetically superior animals. Onfarm measurements (commonly referred to as actuals or raw data), are not always a good indicator of genetic merit for a trait as there is a lot of environmental ‘noise’ preventing us from seeing what will actually be passed on to the progeny. SIL genetic evaluation tools are used to estimate the genetic merit of an animal by correcting for known environmental effects such as date of birth (born early or born late), birth rank (single, twin or triplet), born from a hogget or a mixed age ewe, or being fed crops as opposed to grass.


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SIL uses pedigree information to look how well relatives (parents, grand-parents, half or full siblings and progeny when available) have performed. It also considers performance in other traits and takes into account the extent to which each trait is inherited, often mentioned as heritability. All of this increases the accuracy of prediction, aka ‘trust’, of the estimated genetic merit. In the end, SIL processes all information available and the result is a “best-bet” of the animal genetic merit for each trait. It is what we call an estimated breeding value, often called ‘figures’. They are a great tool to help find which rams are carrying the best genes to pass on to the flock. When ‘figures’ are combined for related traits such as growth, reproduction and disease resistance, a goal trait group is created and SIL produces selection indexes of economic merit to simplify the selection

of genetically superior animals. Overall selection indexes rank rams genetically for specific production systems or markets using a single selection goal – profit per ewe mated. Good figures don’t necessarily make a good ram, but a good ram has to have good figures. SIL is a tool to aid selection. The rule of thumb is ‘looks’ are what make you happy and ‘figures’ are what make you money. It is important to always look for a well-balanced animal. Empowering commercial farmers to question or feel they can trust their ram breeders should always be top priority. We just need to get over the jargon and invest time to make more informed decisions. After all, poor ram buying choices will still be haunting us 10 years down the track and they are costly too. • Supplied by Zoetis Genetics.




BREED ‘EM AND FEED ‘EM Taihape’s Donald Fannin believes he has matched the right beef genetics with the environment he is farming in. Story by Russell Priest. Photos by Brad Hanson.



hile Taihape’s Donald Fannin prides himself in his stockmanship he would be the first to admit without the ability of both his sheep and cattle to perform under pressure he would not be able to achieve the outstanding results he does. “Livestock performance has a lot to do with matching the right genetics with the environment you’re farming in and I believe I’ve just about got that right,” Donald said. Joe Fouhy’s Waigroup bulls have been used in the Fannin’s Angus herd for the past 30 years. While they’re not the biggest Angus around they’ve got a lot of guts and their ability to get in calf and deliver a live calf is second to none, according to Donald. Unfortunately for him, the Fouhy bulls have been sold at auction for the last two years and because he is extremely particular about the bulls he buys he has more often than not had to compete with stud breeders to get the bulls he wants. “I went to Fouhy’s second sale and the two bulls I liked both went for over $20,000 so I’ve decided to breed a herd of white-head cows and maintain it by criss crossing with Angus and Hereford bulls.” After leaving school, Donald worked on a lot of stations running Hereford Angus cross females and was always impressed with their performance. He maintains that for the same money he can buy a better quality Hereford bull than an Angus. Frequent dry summers in recent years and reliance on dams for stock water have forced the Fannins to rethink their cattle policy. This resulted in the cow herd being halved from 200 to 100 last year and trading stock in the form of 60 Hereford Friesian cross weaners at 100kg/head being bought for $450 as bulls late last year and subsequently castrated. These will act as a safety


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June 2021


Above: Donald Fannin prides himself in his stockmanship. Top right: A Hereford bull used for maintaining the crossbreed. Above right: The Fannins breed their own Romney rams to suit the environment

FARM FACTS • Hiwimania Trust. • Owned by the Fannin family. • Situated 5km east north-east of TAIHAPE Taihape. • Beef and sheep breeding and finishing. • Halved breeding cow numbers in response to droughts. • Replaced with trading cattle as a safety valve. • Top genetics and stockmanship main production drivers. • Breeds own Romney rams to suit the environment.


valve although Donald believes he can comfortably winter them on crops (60 R1s and 60 R2s) and kill them at 30 months. The change of policy meant any cows older than five years were sold so he now has a young herd but doesn’t dismiss increasing cow numbers at some stage. He may also cast his cows for age in future because he believes there is a strong market for this class of stock. The dry summers left little if any roughage on the hills for the cows to winter on which meant having to carry them through much of that period on crops. This proved to be both labour-intensive and expensive. The exceptionally growthy spring and early summer during 2020/21 has resulted in a large amount of roughage on the hills giving the cows plenty of work to do over this winter.

“I haven’t had roughage on the hills like this for many years and could have done with the extra 100 cows to control the spring flush.” Once they’ve cleaned up the hills Donald says they’ll be used to mop up any crop residues left by the younger cattle. Another recent change has been to delay the start of calving until mid-October for the heifers and November 3 for cows. When weaners were being sold calving used to be in August on saved feed. However, the wet conditions meant the cows churned up the paddocks and sometimes feed ran out. A September calving was tried but this also proved to be too early. Later calving means feed no longer has to be saved allowing ewes more scope and numbers to increase. Weaner steers are now wintered and either sold in the spring as yearlings or finished. Last year they were


June 2021

Frequent dry summers in recent years and reliance on dams for stock water have forced the Fannins to rethink their cattle policy.

sold in November as yearlings for $1150 weighing 330kg. All 15-month heifers regardless of weight are mated for two cycles starting on January 5 after being wintered on regrowth Sovereign kale for two months supplemented with lucerne balage. Last year the average mating weight was 395kg (range 290-469kg) with this year’s weights 352kg (range 296-406kg) being lighter due to the drought and their younger age (they were the first of the progeny from the later calving policy).

Breeding the best bulls BVD once spread through the herd with the source suspected of being grazing steers brought in over the summer to maintain pasture quality. All heifers are now vaccinated. Donald is concerned that it may again reappear via the dairy beef cross calves


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being brought in under the new cattle policy. A specialist heifer bull with good direct calving ease figures is used to mate the 15-month heifers. Out of 67 heifers mated five were dry this year. The smallest in-calf heifers are sold. Heifer calving problems are almost nonexistent in the Fannin herd and Donald puts this down to the heifers being well grown. “Too many farmers have trouble getting heifers to rebreed if they’ve had trouble calving.” In spite of having few calving problems the heifers are kept under close surveillance while they are set stocked for calving. Donald retains the best five of his Angus bull calves and uses them as yearlings to supplement his older bulls in each of the mating mobs. For example; with a mob of

50 mixed age (MA) cows he might run one MA bull and one yearling, the idea being that the youngsters keep the older bulls sexually motivated. Bull-out date for the mixed age cows is January 20. Bulls are run with the cows for two cycles. After weaning in May the cows are mobbed up and start their job of cleaning up pastures ready for the spring. Any dry, wet dry or assisted heifers and cows are culled along with their female progeny. Bull selection for Donald involves studying catalogues of bull sales he’s likely to attend and sorting out those animals with the required genetic credentials. These include high maternal indexes with above average EBVs and a particular focus on direct and maternal calving ease. Once at the sales he focuses on those animals he’s pre-selected from


the catalogues looking at soundness, conformation and type. He prefers wellmuscled animals with a moderate frame avoiding those that are excessively tall and long.

Sheep performance The Fannins sheep enterprise is based on the same genetic principles (performance under pressure) as their cattle. The performance of the sheep flock in recent years based on Forbes Cameron genetics is impressive. After a severe drought in 2019/20 the MA ewes docked 156% (2019 - 161%) and the ewe hoggets which all go to the ram regardless of weight docked 71% (2019 - 61%). The small SIL recorded Romney stud’s MA ewes docked 162% for 2020 (ewe hoggets – 89%) and 163% for 2019 (ewe hoggets – 74%). A feature of the Fannin’s ewe flock is its low embryonic loss (under 20%) and dry rate at about 2% with the rams being out for two cycles. “We try to flush our ewes but because of the droughts in recent years we haven’t been able to but it seems to make very little

difference to conception rates anyway.” Lighter ewes at ewe culling are given preferential treatment over the summer to improve their condition score for mating. All stud and commercial ewes go through a Hecton dagger and are checked for defects involving the udder, mouth, wool, face cover and feet. Any ewes failing are either culled or go into the B flock as do any that are excessively daggy. All dry and wet dry ewes are culled. No ewes are cast-for-age being kept in the flock until their teeth and/or condition indicate they will not last another year. “The old ewes are our best ewes because they have stood the test of time so by keeping them as long as possible we’re breeding longevity into the flock.” He says the Cameron genetic-based lambs seem to finish easily without too much feed and they’re very hardy. Most lambs (males are all cryptorchids) are finished on either Sovereign kale or stands of plantain and clover although weeds are a problem in the latter so stands only last about four years. Growth rates of up to 350g/day have been recorded on

the latter while this figure is 400g/day on the kale. Donald says being able to finish all their lambs helps to justify the expense of growing crops. He tries to get as many lambs away from their mothers as quickly as possible. He mates his 848 B-flock ewes early (midMarch) to Andy Guy’s Suftex rams and gives each a drench capsule to rid them of any worms which may affect milk production. Last year these ewes docked 158% with 70% of the lambs being killed off mum at weaning (before Xmas) in two drafts averaging 17.9kg and 17kg. These together with a weaning draft of single Romney male lambs saw 600 lambs killed before Xmas at 17.9kg and a further 500 killed after Xmas at 17.2kg. Lambs are killed throughout the summer with most of them gone by mid-April. These are processed on the same day of transport at Silver Fern Farms’ plants at either Waitotara or Takapau. Ram-out date for the 1264 MA Romney ewes is now April 1 (it used to be April 20). Getting more milk lambs away earlier is the


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June 2021

Above: Donald Fannin in Sovereign kale crop regrowth. Top right: Early concrete dam. Above right: Donald checking the crop.

reason Donald has brought the mating date forward. This has largely been made possible by delaying the calving date giving the sheep a greater opportunity to express their genetics. Hogget mating begins on May 12 using the same Suftex rams used to mate the B-flock ewes at a ratio of one ram to 28 hoggets. “I like to use plenty of rams for hogget mating however in spite of scanning 110% we have disappointing docking percentages.” Neospora and lepto have both been identified as causing a disturbing number of abortions in the hoggets. In some years, dry hoggets are sold depending upon the requirement for flock replacements. Lambing hoggets occupy a sheltered basin at the back of the farm where they remain undisturbed. Single bearing ewes lamb on the steeper, more exposed paddocks with twin bearing ewes occupying more sheltered ones. Ewes scanned with triplets are lambed separately however the jury is out on this practice. “We tried lambing then shedding them


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A feature of the Fannin’s ewe flock is its low embryonic loss (under 20%) and dry rate at about 2% with the rams being out for two cycles. on to saved stands of plantain/clover however there appeared to be a lot of mismothering.” Rams are out with ewes and hoggets for two cycles only with late-lambing ewes being identified by the scanner and lambed separately. Hoggets are weaned between Xmas and New Year and MA Romneys on January 10. All ewes and remaining lambs are shorn at the end of January and the ewes again in mid-June. The Fannins run a small SIL recorded Romney flock (prefix Hiwi) of about 200 ewes from which they breed their own rams and also sell about 50 2th rams to clients each year. The stud was established over 100

years ago and in recent years the main focus has been on improving its facial eczema tolerance. When selecting rams for both stud and commercial use Donald likes them to have a well-balanced maternal worth index with a high breeding value for early growth. He places a lot of emphasis on structural soundness, conformation and breed type and believes not enough emphasis is being placed on these criteria nowadays and too much on genetic information. Suftex rams are selected on soundness, constitution and the terminal worth index. Donald is not a fan of rotational grazing, mainly because the farm pugs badly. The only intensive period during which this practice is carried out is over mating when mobs are shifted regularly although during the recent droughts Donald has preferred to leave the mobs set stocked. All animals are generally set stock over the winter with young cattle and cows going onto crops for the latter part of winter and early spring.






June 2021

The rolling hill country of Donald’s farm.

Cropping and finishing The Fannins rely heavily on crops both for lamb finishing, lifting the weight of tail-end ewe lambs for mating and wintering cattle. For 20 years 30ha of Sovereign kale has been sown in the spring. This area is likely to be reduced now that calving is later. Crops are sown with fertiliser tailor-made for each paddock by Mainland Minerals North Island franchisee Hamish Cameron. Finishing lambs defoliate the light stemmed kale to a low level beating the white butterfly caterpillar to the leaves before the crop is shut up and fertilised with 100kg urea as winter feed for cattle. The regrowth produces about 8000kg/ha which is break fed and supplemented with lucerne balage. Wrapped bales are strategically placed across the kale paddock before winter and self-fed in circular feeders to R1 heifers and steers from mid-July to September. “There appears to be far less wastage on lower yielding crops like Sovereign when fed to cattle than those higher yielding ones.” Taking the cattle off pastures avoids pugging damage and allows the grass to come away in readiness for ewe/hogget lambing. Cleancrop kale has been planted this year to deal with weeds like fathen that normally require post-emergent spraying. Some years green feed oats and Hunter forage brassica are also sown.


June 2021

A 9ha lucerne stand yielding about 200, 10-bale-equivalent round bales (two cuts) treated with Prillcote inoculant to improve its quality is used to supplement mainly cattle during the winter. “Cattle love it so much they climb over one another to get to it. I think they could be finished on it.” Hill cropping has been used in the recent past to grow lamb-finishing and winter feed however this practice has been discontinued because Donald believes it is not sustainable. Sitting at an altitude of between 650730m asl and covered in pockets of native bush and macrocarpa stands the farm is exposed to the weather from all directions. The predominant wind is a westerly and brings most of the rain while northerlies are quite common but dry. Falls of snow (710cm) are not uncommon and can remain for several days with the heaviest fall of 1m at the house laying around for two weeks. The farm lies on a watershed which may explain why there is little natural water so dams capturing runoff are the main source of stock water. About 15% of the farm can be tractor cultivated while the rest is medium-tosteep hills. Soils are predominantly of sedimentary origin (siltstone, mudstone and compacted sand stone) with the latter two

preventing water from moving through the soil profile creating drainage problems and significant stock management problems during the winter. Typically, the sedimentary soils are deficient in sulphur while the phosphate levels on the hill soils range from 12-15. PHs are mostly in the mid-to-late 5 range. Lime flour mixes applied by helicopter or plane in fine particle form involving trace elements, minerals, sulphur and phosphate are used to address the farm’s fertiliser requirements. Ag lime and solid fertilisers are also used strategically when required. Established pastures get lime at 1T/ha every third year plus 80kg/ha of a blend of lime flour, DAP, elemental sulphur, urea and potassium chloride. Young grass paddocks get 200kg/ha Cropmaster 20. Brassica crops get 350-400kg/ha of a blend of DAP 13S and potassium chloride.

Correction: An article in the May issue of Country-Wide incorrectly stated that Broadlands Station in Te Apiti bred Perendale rams. This was incorrect, the station runs 6000 Perendale ewes. CountryWide regrets the error.



DNA technology

Station beefs up on science A river running through Mt Algidus Station is just one of the challenges faced by station managers Peter and Christine Angland. Story and photos by Annabelle Latz.



t is unruly and has no manners at all. Life at Mt Algidus Station is heavily governed by the Wilberforce River, so going home chariot style is everyday living for station managers Peter and Christine Angland. They took the helm of the 22130ha beef and sheep high country property in 2012, accepting the immediate fact that they cross the Wilberforce River only when it chooses for them to do so. Mt Algidus Station sits at the foot of the Main Divide in Canterbury, where the Mathias, Rakaia and Wilberforce Rivers meet. As the crow flies, from their house Peter and Christine are actually closer to the West Coast’s Hokitika than Christchurch. The couple had made the move north from Waipori Station in Otago, which they’d been managing for 14 years.

Previously they’d been managing Half Way Bay Station on the shores of Lake Wakatipu for six years, and Peter was working on nearby Mt Nicholas Station for six years before that. ‘Everything comes down to the weather here – there is a lot of peering at weather maps to decide when various things are going to happen - getting contractors, stock, supplies and visitors in and out all depends on being able to cross the river,” said Christine, while setting up for a day of TB testing in four different yards across the flats. They have three children who are cutting their own futures in various industries; Lachie, 27, works in cropping on arable land near Rakaia, Campbell, 26, has just joined the navy as a pilot and Annabel, 25, works in viticulture at Peregrine Wines. Peter and Christine had visited the area


June 2021

Above: Christine and Peter Angland, with full-time farm worker Mark Pilcher. Left: Collecting DNA data helps Peter and Christine collect key information for their breeding programme.

another winter to help with tidying up poorer quality pasture in the summer.” Predominately the Anglands breed straight Angus cattle, with some Charolais and Hereford bulls in the mix to add some hybrid vigour going over the less desirable cows.

DNA technology several times before moving to Mt Algidus, previously picking rams at nearby Snowden Station. The area with its massive landscape and history struck a chord, so when the opportunity to manage it arose, they went for it. “The potential this place has is huge.” Full time assistant manager Mark Pilcher is a key part of the team with his huge range of skills. He comes from a varied farming background including outback Australia and dairy farming, but has embraced the high country way of life. Beef production has been a major focus, all keeping their eye solidly on their goal of breeding efficient cows. They currently calve 1300 cows including 2 year-old calvers, and winter 2680 cattle in total, after selling mainly annual draft and finished 18-month-old cattle with some stores recently with the change in TB status. “Our tail end 18 month old cattle stay


June 2021

Peter said DNA technology will be a huge benefit for them achieving their breeding goals for the future improvement of the herd. All their heifers are home bred, and as the DNA records build it will be great help for making informed breeding decisions. “We can now use the estimated breeding values (EBVs) for the heifers to match to the bulls to improve their indicated weaknesses. In the next five to six years we will have a DNA profile on most of our cows, including both hybrid and purebred stock. That is pretty exciting,” said Peter. For the Anglands, breeding an efficient cow means calves that are not too big at birth, cows that are fertile, moderate sized with positive fats. Good 600kg Day Weights and intramuscular fat are now also being brought into the mix to improve carcase quality and size without hopefully increasing cow size too much. They have started breeding their own

bulls using semen straws from Te Mania Angus stud, and really like what they are seeing with the offspring. “Breeding and DNA testing our own heifers costs no more than buying a team of 12 or so bulls which we were needing to do each year and gives us access to better bulls than we could otherwise afford . DNA data can be a very useful tool and compliment progeny testing. It is just another tool to use when making breeding decisions.” Sheep are another component at Mt Algidus. When the Anglands arrived 12 years ago most of the sheep had just been sold with only 260 MA ewes and 600 ewe hoggets remaining. This had been done due to a TB outbreak and not being able to sell store cattle as had been the practice so something had to give for feed reasons. The property has just completed its fourth clear whole herd test. Sheep numbers have been built up again to help with pasture management and weed control, and ewe numbers are slowly rising with ewe lambs retained as replacements and the balance of lambs mostly finished. The Anglands’ farm 3800 sheep, mainly Perendale ewes, mating the hoggets to Dorper crosses. “This has led to easy lambing in the hoggets and the lambs grow and yield well,” said Christine. Continues



Anything showing any sign of feet problems is managed with trimming and footbathing then mated to a Texel Suffolk cross ram for the rest of their time on the Station. Mt Algidus on average receives 1180mm of rain per year, with the Main Divide just behind them receiving as much as six metres. “One December, there was one metre of rain in five days at Browning Pass on the Divide,” said Peter. The high country farming scene has certainly seen some shifts over the years, with proposed changes in Government legislation and local body plans. “It’s a matter of finding a happy medium, finding a way to work together and making science-based decisions.” He and Christine have worked out their own refined grazing and pasture renewal programme. Generally it was swedes, followed by kale, then sowing back to pasture on the more productive country. Now, with the proposed slope and resowing “rules” in regards to winter cropping, some winter crops are being grown out in


the stonier flatter areas of the farm which means more crop needs to be grown as the yields are not as good on this soil type. Rape and turnips are being autumn sown in these areas as this class of land is summer dry. Fencing off waterways with gravity fed stock water systems from mountain streams has been part of the great synergy they work hard on.

“Farm management is not a rehearsal, you have to give it your best shot” There are also five QEII Reserves at Mt Algidus, which help maintain the special vegetation pockets, with two more in the pipeline. Ron Halford is another pivotal name within the essential working cogs at Mt Algidus Station. The Otaki-based farm adviser has been helping pave the way of

high country farming success here for a decade. He already knew the area well, as had been farm advisor on nearby Lake Coleridge Station and Acheron Bank Station, for Bruce Miles. Ron visits the Station every two to three months, spending a couple of days with Peter and Christine as they collectively talk about the issues of the day, discuss the next quarter, review the financials, and make any required adjustments, to make those bottom line profits. When he first joined the ranks at Mt Algidus, there was a big focus on increasing cattle numbers and reducing sheep numbers, and over time increasing sheep numbers again. The big goals have remained the same, including managing water, increasing cattle numbers by building up a sufficient breeding herd, and looking after the environment in the form of retiring land when required, and fencing off significant waterways and land areas of significant conservation value. Ron said it is absolutely important to


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Above: Driving towards Mt Algidus Station. Below Some of the first progeny from the Te Mania stud bull semen Pete and Christine are using.

have the right staff on the ground, and this Station is proof of this. “Their enthusiasm and drive has allowed us to achieve what we wanted to, it’s a great team at Mt Algidus.”

Government complexity It comes as no surprise that the increased level of Government legislation and rules imposed adds layers of increased complexity to their meetings. “Having to crop greater areas comes at a cost, and yields can come down. But you can’t do much about Government legislation and at the end of the day, the law is the law. You have to farm within that, even if most farmers work hard to leave the land in a better place than they found it anyway.” Ron said Mt Algidus is “right up there” with its beef production programme. “The in- calf rate is very good, as is the calving percentage. It’s about good on-farm management and having cows in peak condition at the right time.” Finishing carcase weights are not quite where they want them to be yet, but this is a continual development and they are certainly heading in the right direction. Variation in pasture quality is part of the


June 2021

reason, and they are all working hard to improve soil fertility and pasture species as more land is brought in as part of the farm development side of things. “We would like to add another 10 to 15 kilograms to carcase weights, which is part breeding, part genetics. When you’re

finishing 500 to 600 beasts a year, that is quite significant.” Ron very much looks forward to his regular visits. “It’s a unique place, and a really good place to visit. I find it relaxing, working with great people is a privilege really.” Ron flies to Christchurch, drives through Inland Scenic Route 72, straight to the riverbed and gets a lift across the Wilberforce River by Peter or Christine behind their tractor. “I have been helicoptered in too, that river certainly rules what can and can’t be done.” They are confident their focus on fine tuning the current management system, improving pasture production and quality and measuring the economics of the net product going out the gate, is the best way forward. “We are always learning, and always open to suggestions and ideas.” Peter and Christine and Mark manage the place like it is their own, and after spending a day in the yards with them, the proof is evident. “Farm management is not a rehearsal, you have to give it your best shot,” said Peter.




All ewe lambs born in the trial are retained and while they are not mated, they are run with a teaser to determine which animals are cycling.

Alongside the progeny trial, Orari Gorge carries 24,000 stock units, 50% of which are sheep, 25% deer and 25% cattle. Speaking at a recent B+LNZ Genetics progeny trial field day, Robert says another significant driver in the need for low input sheep is the shortage of farm staff. “It’s becoming harder and harder to find staff to do the tailing, the dagging and the dipping.” Ironically for a low input sheep trial, there is a huge amount of work involved with all monitoring and measuring which includes artificially inseminating ewes, measuring methane production as well as the standard performance and production recording associated with any progeny trial. Peacock says he has been passionate about low input sheep farming for years and is concerned the industry as a whole doesn’t know what’s ahead of it – “or does it have its head in the sand?” He says the steering committee for the low input progeny trial, which Peacock is part of, is wanting to encourage other stud breeders to select for traits such as worm resistance and dags to help the whole industry progress. “But it is up to commercial farmers to be asking their stud breeder for these traits.”

Lambs under pressure

Future-proofing the sheep industry Improvements to sheep genetics could lead to a decrease in chemical treatments Sandra Taylor reports.


magine a world where sheep farmers were unable to use drenches, tail their lambs or dip their sheep. This world is fast becoming a reality, as consumers increasingly seek ethically-raised lamb that is produced with high animal welfare and environmental standards and minimal chemical inputs. To help farmers meet this market, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Genetics is running a low input sheep progeny trial to identify environmentally efficient sheep


that require minimal intervention and are robust against common diseases such as internal parasite and facial eczema (FE). This trial, which includes genetics from 16 future-focused sheep breeders, is being run on Orari Gorge Station, a 4500ha hill country farm in South Canterbury. It is the ideal testing ground for genetics. The station is 75% tussock country, 15% lower hill with only 10% flats. Average annual rainfall is 1200mm. Owner Robert Peacock says it is wet more than it is dry, so worms are a constant challenge.

The low input progeny trial involves 17 rams representing 10 breeds, which predominantly through artificial insemination (AI), are mating 1000 ewes. The first cohort of lambs was born in 2019 and the third mating has just finished. Ewes lamb unshepherded on the hill and at docking lamb tails are measured and male lambs are left untailed. “The way the world is moving we may not be able to tail and everything changes when you leave the tails on,” Peacock says. “You have issues with dags and flystrike.” At weaning, weights are taken and the lambs are given a dag score, but not crutched. All lambs are drenched and dipped. A control group of lambs is selected and while these are run with the rest of the lamb crop, unlike the others, they are drenched at regular intervals. Without drench, the hill country lambs were growing at 140gm/day between December and May and even when pushed hard, Robert says they were still gaining 100/gm a day. A clover crop was used to lift condition


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Left: Dags are highly heritable and easily selected for. Robert says the dags in this trial were horrendous. Right: Robert Peacock is running the trial on his farm, Orari Gorge Station, which is proving to be the ideal testing ground for low input genetics.

and this had positive results. “It was a dramatic learning curve. “We knew clover was going to be good, but it exceeded all expectations.” In the ewe lambs, Peacock found growth rates dropped off after shearing. “You’ve really got to be at the top of your game with low input sheep, you’ve got to get the management right when you’re cutting corners with drench.”

Testing time for ewe lambs

“The genetics work, but it is a slow game, you just can’t put your drench gun away overnight.”

Over autumn and winter, the ewe lambs are shorn and fleece traits recorded. They are run through portable accumulation chambers (PACs) to measure their methane production, another heritable trait. In July and August 2021, a representative sample will be sent to Invermay where each animal is tested for residual feed intake – looking at which animal makes the most efficient and effective use of feed resources. All ewe lambs are retained and while they had reached 40kg by May, they are not mated, although a teaser ram is run with them to identify which lambs are cycling.


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Last year, 70% of the ewe lambs cycled. In March of this year, the two-tooths weighed 67kg and Peacock says they were amongst the best two-tooths he has seen. This is despite none being culled – as would be standard practice. Robert says genetically, there is a big difference between studs and this reflects the length of the time each stud has been focusing on traits such as worm resistance and dags. “The genetics work, but it is a slow game, you just can’t put your drench gun away overnight.” He says the results have shown that no one ram is good at every trait and no one breed is good at every trait. “The more traits you select for, the slower you will go.” Dags, for example, are heritable and breeders can move quite quickly to breed those out, but there may be a penalty with slower wool growth. However, getting rid of dags will potentially stop flystrike and the need to dip lambs. Peacock believes the industry would need five to 10 years notice if it were to

DAGS – AN INDUSTRY DEAL BREAKER Dags, according to Peacock, will be one trait that will break the industry as it moves toward low input sheep – yet they are very heritable (transmissible from parent to offspring) so can be selected for. On the Sheep Improvement Limited database, there are only 34 breeders selecting for dags. “It is the easiest, cheapest trait you can measure and commercial farmers need to start asking for it.” In this trial, the dags, says Peacock, were “horrendous.” “We were getting 4kg of dags off a single animal.” He says at weaning, there was no difference between the males and female lambs, but in March, the difference was huge. The average dag score for the females was 1.5 (one a scale of one to five with five being the worst) and 2.5 in the males “and we were easier on boys.”


stop tailing. “It will take a while, but it’s certainly do-able.” While consumers are increasingly demanding lamb produced without chemicals, Peacock believes widespread drench resistance – including triple drench resistance – will force the industry into farming without the use of drenches long before regulations will.

Doing the science

Coopworth breeder Kate Broadbent (who has rams in the trial) with AgResearch scientists Tricia Johnson, Suzanne Rowe and Kathryn McRae.

Speaking at the field day were three AgResearch scientists Kathryn McRae, Suzanne Rowe and Tricia Johnson, all involved in some aspect of the low input progeny trial. McRae talked about using genetic improvement to provide a better product for consumers produced with less impact on the environment. “We want animals that combine production potential with resilience to external stressors, allowing for production in a wide variety of environments.” The traits McRae focused on in her

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By Farmers. For Farmers™


June 2021

presentation were internal parasites, pneumonia and facial eczema (FE). She says individual sheep differ in their ability to develop resistance to parasites and WormFE is a breeding value or measure of resistance to parasites. This is poorly genetically correlated with dagginess. While faecal egg counts (FEC) are still the best proxy for parasite burdens and a tool to measure an animal’s resistance to parasites, DNA will be used in the future to look at parasite species at the same time as FECs. Scientists will also be looking at the impact of parasites on behaviour and the interaction between the faecal microbiome and internal parasites.

Portable Accumulation Chambers (PAC) measure an individual sheep’s methane production which has been identified as a heritable trait. There is an average of a 11% difference in the methane production of high and low methane producing sheep.

Pneumonia is costly Pneumonia is found in 30-40% of all lambs at slaughter. It is costing the industry millions of dollars every year in lost performance. McRae says it is possible to breed animals that are less susceptible to pneumonia and it appears there is possibly a positive genetic correlation between FECs and pneumonia but that has yet to be validated. Interestingly, animals with lung lesions grow faster from birth to weaning but slower from weaning to slaughter than animals without lesions. The heritability of a pneumonia lesion score is 0.07-0.16 which shows that genetic gains can be made. The next step is to develop an ultrasound test as a technology to detect respiratory disease in live animals. This production limiting disease is expected to move further south with climate change. RamGuard is the commercial testing programme for tolerance to facial eczema (FE). Tolerance to FE is heritable (0.45) and there appears to be a positive genetic correlation between FE and FEC. Rowe outlined the work that has gone into identifying and breeding low methane producing sheep. There is an average of a 11% difference in the methane production of high and low methane producing sheep and while the team at AgResearch have measured for everything, they found no correlation between any trait except wool growth. Low methane sheep produce slightly more wool. PAC are used to measure an individual animal’s methane production and are being used in stud flocks around the country. “There is a lot of variation within flocks which is exciting as it means we can select low methane animals.”


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Feed use efficiency heritability high A feed intake facility was set-up at Invermay, Otago in 2015 to measure actual animal intakes and growth rates. Johnson says over 1000 animals have been measured and a 22% difference has been found in the extreme animals in terms of how much they eat for a given live weight and growth rate. The heritability of feed use efficiency is estimated at 0.42 which is high. “Feed is a limiting factor on every single farm operation. “If we can identify animals and genetics which require less feed for their production outcomes then that would be very valuable.” For the low input sheep progeny test, between 160 and 200 nine-month lambs are put through this 42-day test. They are scanned at the beginning and end for fat measurements and weighed twice a week.

The feed intake of individual animals is measured. Last year the lambs grew an average 343gm/day in the facility (fed lucerne pellets ad-lib), with a range of 148gm/day to 535gm/day. Some lambs didn’t put on any fat, others put on a lot. There was a 0.5kg of feed difference between the most and least efficient animal. “There was a big difference between sires in terms of weight gain and fat with some sire lines eating significantly more feed every day and some significantly less.” Feeding behaviour was also very heritable with highly variable intake rates. Some were eating 600gm/1000 seconds and others eating 200gm in the same time frame. The number of feeding events also varied between 10 and 80 times /day. “This was very repeatable for individual animals.”




ANZCO’s Ashburton plant in the south. I am told this toll processing arrangement with ANZCO works very well for both parties, despite the chain being slowed by the Wagyu processing requirements. The company started in 2003 as a venison marketer, and in 2011 moved into Wagyu marketing, perceiving a need for very good quality beef. They try to avoid the restaurant trade, dealing directly with retail outlets for 95% of the product, and this has stood them in good stead during the Covid-19 pandemic. About 15% of output goes to New Zealand retailers. The company has a $50 million turnover, about 70% of that is Wagyu. Ownership is 50% farmer suppliers, and 50% the three founding directors.

Slaughter high

Wagyu cattle are finding a valuable role as terminal breed for the dairy industry.

A good terminal option BY: TOM WARD


recent visit to a farm finishing Wagyu beef highlighted this interesting cattle option. Wagyu has the virtue of being a terminal breed which meshes very well with the Kiwi-cross cow from the dairy industry. The yellow fat from the Jersey breed has been used to convince customers that the animal really is grass fed. And the Wagyu semen does produce a very good beef animal even as a first cross. Comparing it with purebred Angus steers and heifers, bred for multiple characteristics, the marbling is way ahead


in the Wagyu. Best Wagyu suppliers to First Light average a 5.7 marbling score compared to a best of 2 from traditional hill country Angus. The Wagyu animals are slow to mature however, with two-and-a-half years being the age the best marbled beasts are slaughtered. They do not respond to feed deficits, in fact irrigation appears to be desirable. And you would never use Wagyu to breed replacements for your hill country beef herd; they are way too soft. First Light is a marketing company; it does not own farms, or meat processing works. All Wagyu livestock from the company’s programmes are processed at either Greenlea in the North Island, or

About 18,000 Wagyu cattle have been slaughtered each year for the last two years, and after a period of growth, this number is expected to remain stable. There are sufficient breeders and rearers in the system, however suitable finishers are in short supply. The programme appears better suited to irrigated farms however farm management capacity is as important as the property. The stock cannot afford to be pinched, and the First Light company does not want to employ a team of stock agents to manage the farmers. Wagyu semen is used as a terminal sire only and semen is sourced from a Wagyu stud at Brownrigg Agriculture in Hawke’s Bay. Dairy farmers are pleased to receive $200 for a four-day-old steered bull calf, instead of $30 for the same animal as a bobby. The aim is for a 650 to 700kg liveweight (LW) steer killing out at 56-57% . That’s an average growth rate of 0.6 to 0.7kg LW/day, i.e. close to a 400kg carcase. The pricing has remained stable over the last period since Covid-19. The programme, somewhat akin to a dairy grazing contract, is for 12 months, and designed to pay every party fairly. The calf rearer receives $600 for a three month old 100kg LW spring-born calf. A $60/head premium is paid for an autumn-born calf. Eighteen month cattle are sold for $3.10/kg LW for steers and $3.30/kg LW for heifers. All animals are DNA tested. The finishers are paid for marbling, carcaseweight and company profit (pool payment). Based on the company’s average marbling score of 4.0, they receive a basic


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Table 1: Gross Margin for Wagyu Jul 21-Jun 22 - $7.09/kg carcaseweight





Store sales Stock Revenue

Work sales





Less purchases






Animal health









Store sales Work sales





Less purchases






June 2021

c/kg DM

428,484 93,000

335,484 Animal health



Interest on Capital Total Variable Expenses


$ Total



Gross Margin

$6.30/kg carcaseweight (CW) (plus between 5 and 45c/kg CW for slaughter from May to September). In addition, the company pool payment has been between 30cents and 70cents/kg CW. So the final payment for an average marbling score animal slaughtered in the summer can be $6.80/kg CW, but if the marble score is 5.5 or better (basic price $6.95/kg CW), the final payment, if animals are supplied in winter, could be $8/kg CW. An average marbling score of 5.7 is very good and very few attain higher than that. The two Farmax gross margins below display the effect of different pricing per kg carcaseweight on return per kg drymatter. In partnership with Brownriggs and MPI, in late 2020 First Light completed a PGP study investigating the marketing potential for first cross Wagyu beef. Purebred Wagyu beef, a Japanese icon, is well known. The study was to work out how to convince customers to pay a premium for first cross Wagyu beef. There was already the start of a great story with NZ’s very good animal welfare standards, and the use of Wagyu

1.8 26.2


Total revenue Stock

19,753 282,300


Change in Capital Value





Total Variable Expenses




Gross Margin




Interest on Capital

Table 2: Gross Margin for Wagyu Jul 21-Jun 22 - $7.69/kg carcaseweight



Total revenue Stock

c/kg DM


Change in Capital Value


$ Total

semen reducing the slaughter of bobby calves. The $23 million project received $11 million from MPI, and the remaining balance from First Light and Brownriggs. The negatives for this enterprise are firstly, the need to control pasture growth and therefore have irrigation, and secondly, the long time the animals need to be retained before they develop superior marbling. This reduces the efficiency significantly. Senior Angus breeders who I have talked to, suggest the best Angus steers in Australia can attain a similar marbling score as the Wagyu by 26 months of age, slightly earlier than the Wagyu. Most, but not all of those would have been feed-lotted and fed grain. In the NZ retail space, marbled Wagyu beef is certainly receiving a premium. For example, very good quality, but not marbled, Angus spare ribs retail for $18/ kg, this is the same as any amount of beef spare ribs of varying quality in any local supermarket. Wagyu spare ribs however, retail online for $27/kg.



2582 2582 17,171 19,753




Marbled Wagyu beef commands a good premium.




NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN Not content to do the same thing, veteran beef farmers Stephen and Jane Hayes are still refining their farming systems after 44 years. Glenys Christian paid them a visit. Photos by Rob Owens.


ome Northland farmers thought Stephen and Jane Hayes were too old when they were selected as hosts of a Beef + Lamb New Zealand monitor farm back in 2010. But a decade on the couple, who farm 583 hectares just south of Kaeo, are still refining their farming systems, putting to good use what they describe as a very positive experience. And they’re more than happy to pass on their knowledge to those just starting out in the industry. Stephen has been on the farm of which about 400ha is effective, all his life, seeing some big changes in that time. “There are 100 sheep now, down from 3000 which used to produce 100 bales of wool a year,” he said. The farm was deliberately planted in gorse back in the 1800s to produce good quality seed, with gorse and blackberry harvested and chaffed for work horses. But after Stephen and Jane married in 1977 his regular annual work schedule became six months of fencing followed by six months of gorse spraying. “Then we got a loan to get contractors in to do the spraying.” While they had run beef cows previously, it was Jane who first got involved in rearing a few bull calves.


“My father was a farmer near Kaitaia so I knew all about rearing calves,” she said. Initially she did a deal with a neighbouring dairy farmer for colostrum, taking 20 to 30 calves suckled on nurse cows through to yearlings. That slowly built up to 100 to 140 a year as they were sending more cattle off finished and less store. A few of their calves are now reared on milk powder fed via calfeteria. After trying hay they now make sure every calf has meal available in their pens, with all of them being yard weaned. Jane’s a fan of molasses blocks which she said the calves really like. “And it keeps them quieter.” They now have about 30 Friesian nurse cows rearing up to 100 Hereford Friesian cross bull calves which they buy in at four days old. Last spring they all came from one local farmer but the Hayes will top up from the saleyards if they’re short. They aim to get them to 120kg at weaning with a good start and their Friesian genetics paying off later on. They’ve also bought in 100kg weaners for the past two years to make their lives easier, although the quality might sometimes not meet the high standards they set. They weigh youngstock regularly, wanting them to reach 600kg by 20 months before their second winter. With most autumn-born


June 2021


June 2021


The rolling hills of Stephen and Jane’s property, south of Kaeo in the Far North.

FARM FACTS: • Stephen and Jane Hayes • Situated on SH10, just south of Kaeo in the Far North • 583ha (400ha effective) on both sides of the highway • 40ha of flats where hay and silage can be made and cattle grazed intensively, the rest hilly • 100 Friesian bull calves reared on 30 nurse cows, some weaners bought in • Carrying 320 rising one-yearolds with 44 autumn-born • Subdivision KAEO has improved pastures so more stock can be finished than sold store as previously • 100 Texel-Beltex cross ewes run in rough gullies.


calves reaching 400kg at a year old, a good proportion of them can leave the farm by October or November at 600kg. Last year one of their bulls sold before Christmas for $1700. “That makes a big difference,” Jane said. “They’re not the easiest. They have their moments.” They did try running dairy grazers for four years but found they were too demanding. “Give me a bunch of bulls any day.” For their breeding herd they try to buy in good quality short gestation bulls which will produce low birthweight calves with two or three a year usually coming on to the farm. “We used to use Charolais bulls but their progeny had to be well fed all the way through,” Stephen said.

Switch made to Hereford The switch was made to Hereford bulls as a terminal sire and calving has been moved back from August 1 to September 1 to better match feed supply. “It was one of those eureka moments,” Stephen said.

“We should have done it sooner.” They don’t sell any calves at the local autumn calf fairs any more but have become wary of getting committed to carrying them through the winter when wet conditions can be a problem. A decade ago they would carry 100 weaners through winter but now they carry up to 350. Stock numbers are 320 rising one-year-olds with 44 autumn-born which are over 350kg going into winter. They sell their steers in spring but after thinking they were a bit light last year boosted their liveweight by about 20kg each with some recording an impressive 2.9 to 3kg daily weight gain through “feeding them like dairy cows”. They credit their time as a monitor farm hosts for getting them to study more closely every aspect of what they were doing. “We learned to farm differently and look deeper,” Jane said. “You could pick out the bits that worked for you.” They lifted production by subdividing their flats as well as a plateau area higher up on the farm. This increased grazing pressure and allowed them to up the number of


June 2021

cattle they both carried and finished rather than selling them as store. “It was subdivision, subdivision, subdivision and we’d already done heaps,” she said. Paddock size now varies from about 1ha on the hills at the top of the farm down to smaller blocks on their flat land. “Some had only been split up with polywire but we replaced that with the Kiwitech system,” Stephen said. “Only one wire will keep the cattle in but the sheep can get underneath. So we put in some two-wire fences which the calves will stay behind.” They trialled two fencing systems on their flats, both developed in Northland. The first, by Kawakawa farmers Geoff and Dinah Cookson, created 1ha sections with permanent wires, and if necessary, smaller areas with temporary fencing. Stock are moved every one to two days which the Hayes found less daily work compared with the second system, developed by Arapohue farmer, John Blackwell. Here small mobs are held on less than 0.5ha and stock are shifted by temporarily lowering the fences. The next stage was to improve the stock’s water supply. One 35ha paddock they’d already chopped in half was split into a number of smaller areas with a new water system installed over the last 10 years due to dry conditions from November. Now they have a totally reticulated water system there which involved installing 25 kilometres of pipes and 150 new troughs. Plans for the coming winter are for a solar-powered pump on the higher hilly country where a creek feeding into a dam dried up. This will ensure two sources of water supply for stock grazing there at all times. “You can do without grass but not without water,” Stephen said. Rainfall can vary from a low of 1.2 metres a year to an all time high of 3m. The past summer has been a good example of just how variable rainfall can be with 28mm falling in November, nothing in December or January then 160mm in February. Diversity is one of the strengths of their farm they believe, with different microclimates meaning it can be warm and sheltered in the valleys while it’s raining on the higher country. “In an average year we have a flood and a drought,” he said. “You’re watching the weather the whole time. It can flood on our 20ha of flats even if it doesn’t rain here.” There were some suggestions made at


June 2021

monitor farm open days that were rejected such as the idea of Stephen taking out fencing he’d spent long, hard hours putting in once electric fencing was in place. His response was to ask what would happen when there was a power outage which isn’t an uncommon event in the area. And Jane wasn’t impressed at all when it was suggested that she would do better by not selling stock progressively through the year. “I like the cashflow.” However over the last three dry seasons they’ve destocked as they’ve been able to. Their 50-day rotation over winter generally works well through until when the normal August or September feed pinch arrives.

Health and wealth “We’ve kept on rotational grazing but anything that puts a foot wrong we’ve got rid of because we’ve had to prioritise.” When it comes to animal health they were unfortunate enough to be one of the first places theileria reached in Northland, although they’re uncertain how it arrived. Drenching for liver fluke and using copper bullets in late autumn makes a big difference. Friesian bull calves are regularly drenched every four to six weeks with all youngstock treated for coccidiosis as early as possible. Their first and second calver cows are treated for rotavirus after they ran into problems with the disease. “Who wants to lose an animal?” Jane said. “We want them to thrive.” This probably contributes to them having higher animal health costs than many

Top: Stephen and Jane Hayes farm 583 hectares just south of Kaeo (photo: Glenys Christian). Above: A trough for thirsty bulls.

farmers, at about $21/ha. For the 2018/19 year their gross farm income (GFI) was $1,147/ha, or $150 a stock unit (SU). Gross farm revenue was $460,000 and farm working expenses (FWE) $788/ha or $103/su which is 68.7 percent of GFI. Effective farm surplus (EFS) was $359/ ha or almost $47/su. About 5km of riparian fencing has been carried out over the past three years as most of their river frontages had been fenced off some time ago. Planting hasn’t been needed as the abundance of native bush on the





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June 2021

The Hayes did try running dairy grazers for four years but found they were too demanding.

farm means rapid reseeding of species such as totara, punga and ti tree. Wet areas on the 330ha of land across the main highway from the Bay of Islands to the Far North have been fenced off as well. There’s a large swamp area where poplars have been planted then added to over the years. Now plans are to plant more ti trees so bee hives can be placed nearby. Because of the traffic, stock movements across the road are kept to a minimum. The Hayes count themselves lucky to have installed a big set of the yards on the block over the road complete with a crush and scales. “That makes life easy,” Stephen said. It was built four years ago by contractors with them agreeing that it was worth every cent of the $57,000 it cost. Their Texel-Beltex cross ewes do well on the rougher gullies on the farm which have also been fenced off with the help of a Far North District Council subsidy. The sheep only come out at mating in April and then at lambing, beginning on September 1, where 120-150% are regularly recorded. “That’s when the kikuyu starts to grow,” he said. “We tried lambing earlier but there just


June 2021

wasn’t enough grass.” They did experiment with Romneys on the farm but they didn’t suit their farming system, prompting a move back to Perendales, then Texels, then the Beltex cross. Fat lambs are sold due to the lack of facilities to manage older animals, with that decision also made easier by recent dry weather. The Hayes make 200 big bales of silage on their farm as well as 52 big bales of hay after good grass growth last spring, which is fed as required. They’ve regrassed 40ha of pasture in the last few years on their finishing block after Jane’s sister and her partner grew maize there for their dairy herd. Kikuyu is managed with topping, mulching or through grazing pressure, with the increase in heifer numbers being credited with keeping pasture quality high. The heifers get the bulk of the new grass but there’s still the option to offload them through the year if required. The breeding herd tidies up behind them with bulls then is used as a flexible pasture management tool. “The girls work but we still get 98% in-calf rates with rising two-year-olds and

rising three-year-olds with calves on them,” Stephen said. “We sprinkle Tama ryegrass in front of them and they’ll hoof and tooth it in.” Then a small amount of nitrogen will go on to boost grass growth with a spreader towed behind their farm bike. Their maintenance fertiliser is 120 tonne of serpentine super with muriate of potash, sulphur, selenium and cobalt mixed in. Around 150t of lime goes on annually with soil tests carried out by Nutrilink most years. Herbage tests will also be carried out by the company with its reps visiting the farm two or three times a year. The soil pH is 5.9 and Olsen P an average of 20. A lot of reactive phosphate rock (RPR) has been used over the last 12 to 15 years with 40t of an RPR mix being flown on to their back block and 80t groundspread along with the lime. Their part-time worker is Aaron Wood, who used to work on a neighbouring farm, who they say is great at tractor work and for “technical things”. In the future they’re thinking of not rearing so many calves but instead buying in more yearlings after carefully checking their quality, Jane said.“I’m trying to retire from rearing calves.



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June 2021


Stock check

‘At some point though with a decline in supply the issue of critical mass comes into play.’

The Wiltshire breed does not need shearing which could be an advantage in the future writes Trevor Cook.

Threat or an opportunity? BY: TREVOR COOK


he recent sheep census suggested that the sheep numbers in New Zealand are down to a record low for the past 80 years. Is this a threat or opportunity? If based on a simple supply/demand model where the demand exceeds the supply it should drive an increase in price. At some point though with a decline in supply the issue of critical mass comes into play. Excess processing capacity is already a problem. That excess getting bigger will be a cost to the whole industry. Despite that background, the quest by sheep farmers to strive to be better does not fade. A recent farmer gathering brought together farmers focused on that objective by having sheep that do not need to be shorn. Taking that cost out of their business was the primary driver for this move. I was very surprised by how far down the track so many were, and how many were just starting the process this autumn so that all ewe lamb replacements next spring will be first crosses. Those far enough down the track could unequivocally report savings


June 2021

with no mention of regret. A response to this though is that the supply/demand equation above for wool might drive a much higher wool price as more flocks do not need to be shorn. Realistically that means wool prices need to be at least $8/kg to cover the full cost of sheep having wool. Cavalier, be warned. The sheep breed that is centre stage to change is the Wiltshire. This breed has a mottled past, initially by having Dorset blended in to get rid of the horns. But their progress has not been helped by them being the darling of lifestyle blocks and organic farmers, many of whom were lifestylers. The consequence of this home for them has been minimal culling and selection. Not needing to be shorn was the sole reason for them being there. Poor conformation and lameness were just part of having them. However, the ‘proper’ farmers who have chosen that pathway have better sheep than those scruffy shedding sheep on small blocks that seemed to have unusually high visibility. That is not to say that a lot of basic culling/selection is yet to be done. What I have found exciting from my new exposure to these sheep is that there

are other productive traits associated with them. Very high lamb survival, significant longevity gains and innate resistance or resilience to worms. Fecundity is probably their weakness, but remember that once applied to Romneys. Their terminal sire background supports them producing meat but an area that will respond quickly to selection. If ewes can be safely kept for another two years, the replacement rate can be reduced by nearly 20%. This lifts the profitability by 11%. In the face of the massive threat that I will refer to later, the huge decrease in the need to drench these wool shedding lambs will be an invaluable tool for managing this threat. Performance selection is well underway, selection for facial eczema tolerance is well progressed and the introduction of other genetics that also have no wool is enhancing this change. As for any introduction of new genetics, care must be taken that standards are not dropped. When the exotic sheep were released into the market in the late 1980’s the attributes that they brought were so sought after that basic standards were dropped. It took a long time to get rid of those faults. Just as the Wiltshires have a mixed quality background it is vital that vigorous culling is part of this change. Earlier in the year, I extrapolated the experience of mowing my lawns into the monthly practice of drenching lambs or calves. That story sparked a lot of comment and the bit that I tried not to focus on, that is drench failure, has continued to grow to the point where all farms have to be considered to harbour very resistant worms unless that farm has evidence of otherwise. Even on farms that were implementing practices that should have not led to a resistance outcome are succumbing. That could mean that either those recommendations were wrong, or were not being fully implemented. I suspect that when the level of resistance is simmering it does not take much to tip it into a more serious level. To buy lambs is now a very risky act and quarantine treatments need to be very robust. Those owners of flocks that have very low levels of drench resistance have a highly valuable status. They should have a very valuable product to sell.



Pasture for the big dry Lucerne has proven its worth as pasture on a station in the Mackenzie Basin where rainfall is limited. Lynda Gray reports. Photos by Rachel Gillespie.


lucerne-based pasture system makes the most of the available water and limited rainfall at Simons Hill. “Lucerne drives our animal performance and that’s what our feed system is based on. We find that lucerne with fescue or cocksfoot in particular survive and provide shoulder season growth we couldn’t get with lucerne alone,” Glenn Fastier says. Development of the lucerne-dominant pasture platform took almost two decades of trial and error. The initial motivation was to find companion grass and legume species that would survive and thrive longer than a year in the extreme climate. They came up with cocksfoot and fescue as the best grass options but struggled to find a compatible legume species. They were warned off lucerne, the advice being that it didn’t compete well with other pasture

mix species and considered red and white clovers, subterranean clover, and various iterations. But none were successful, leading them back to lucerne. What they settled for is a Savvy cocksfoot, and Titan 5 lucerne mix; and a Hummer fescue and Titan 5 mix both of which are grown alongside the existing pure lucerne swards. “In our climate it works. We get good lucerne persistence and grass survival, seven to 12 years of decent legume content and most importantly good animal production.” On the dryland a 5kg/ha lucerne and 2kg/ ha cocksfoot; and 5kg/ha lucerne and 12kg/ ha fescue mix is grown. On the irrigated country a mix of 6kg/ha lucerne and 8kg/ha fescue is used. All pastures are direct-drilled into ground chemically fallowed after three years of ryecorn. Grazing management is skewed to

maintain the lucerne and is altered according to the season. There is no set rotation length with stock put on and off so that the lucerne has plenty of time to recover. Glenn also likes to maintain a higher than normal sward height, grazing ewes and lambs on three to eight hectare blocks, usually break-fenced, for two to four day rotations. They’re moved on once most of the legume is eaten and the cows and calves follow to chew down the cocksfoot and fescue. The lucerne is left to flower every second year, seasonal conditions permitting.

Role of the breeding cow grows The role of the breeding cows has grown in line with subdivision, irrigation and pasture development. “Their job description has expanded, and they spend a lot of time grooming pastures

Glenn Fastier on the House Hill block.



June 2021

for the Merino side of our operation,” Glenn says. The Fastiers started with Angus-Hereford cows 14 years ago following comments from the Merino benchmarking group they belong to, that 50 beef cows could easily be grazed with no detrimental effect on the feed supply for sheep. They bought a nucleus of 50 breeding cows and have gradually increased the number to 270. This year the cows and 90 heifers were mated to Angus bulls. It’s likely that the number of cows will increase, and the ewe numbers held to provide greater flexibility during extreme seasons. “It would give us more options. We could sell the steers at weaning, winter all the heifers and mate them. They could then be either sold in-calf or retained as once bred heifers. The ryecorn is also an important part of the feeding system; it keeps growing so long as the temperature is 1deg or above and grows reliably in the shoulder seasons which can be extended further with ProGibb mixed with liquid nitrogen. About 50ha is established each year and a 150ha area, mostly on the dry land, supplements ewe hoggets in spring and autumn. Spraying out 50ha of the cereal crop in late spring to fallow in the lead up to lucerne establishment takes courage.


June 2021

The role of the breeding cows at Simons Hill has grown in line with subdivision, irrigation, and pasture development. There are 270 cows and heifers and it’s likely the number will increase.

The lucerne mixes came on stream with irrigation development and subdivision which started about 15 years ago. Back then Simons Hill, about 20 minutes south of Tekapo, was essentially a dryland system with a limited and very inefficient border-dyke system. Dryland lucerne was grown for cut and carry silage but its role expanded with installation of the first pivot irrigator in 2005. The watering of 150ha for the reliable production of silage, freed up the lucerne for grazing by ewes with twins and led to a significant improvement in weaning weights. Another two pivots were added in 2018 doubling the watered platform to 300ha. Irrigation covers 10% of Simons Hill and grows 30% of utilised drymatter production. Carrying capacity on the watered area has increased to 20su/ha, whereas on the dryland it ranges between 2 to 16, averaging out at about 7su/ha. The oversown hill area averages about 2su/ha.

Prime lamb and hogget system “We spray out feed before the end of September which is when we want every blade of grass, so we have to be brave about it. We sit on our hands and wait until early December when we know that the warmer soil temperature and moisture from the fallow will lead to good establishment and reduced pest problems.”

The development, feeding changes as well as breeding changes has changed Simons Hill from a store lamb to mostly prime lamb and hogget system. A new and promising breeding development is the introduction of terminal Beltex genetics. The diversification was spurred in part by Sarah’s father John Tavendale, a Canterbury farm consultant


PASTURE MANAGEMENT FOR EXTREME CLIMATES • Chemical spray fallowing to preserve moisture • Ryecorn for early and late season growth, with addition of ProGibb to further extend growth period • Lucerne, cocksfoot and fescue mixes • Longer than normal lucerne grazing rotations • Cattle for grooming pastures. Top: Angus-Hereford calves. Above: Ryecorn a fortnight after direct drilling. About 50ha is established each year and a 150ha area fed to hoggets in spring and autumn.

who along with Blair Gallagher imported the double-muscled rams in 2018. The Fastiers mated 100 Merino ewes to a Beltex in 2019 and this year mated another 600 of their older ewes. Visually they’re impressive and meaty, and almost grizzly bear size by weaning. However, Glenn wants more carcase and yield data to prove whether or not they’ll outperform the Sufftexdor terminal rams used. Unfortunately there’ll be no conclusive evidence this season because the progeny were sold as stores at weaning because of the dry season. On the maternal side the Fastiers are honing on selecting rams with higher fat and muscle. They’re also monitoring ewe weights and condition scoring seven times a year, as part of StockCare, a benchmarking productivity improvement recording group they joined in 2015. The overriding sheep


“Lucerne drives our animal performance and that’s what our feed system is based on.” production mandate has been to improve lambing performance by reducing lamb wastage. “We found that even with pasture development our lambing was stuck at 105%.” Their ewes were getting heavier but not more productive because there was a lot of lamb wastage.” The combination of genetics and monitoring has over the past five years consistently lifted lambing performance from 105 to 121%.

“The Utopian goal would be to have ewes at condition score 3 every day of the year, for me that would be the ultimate efficiency. “We’re a long way off that but with the monitoring we’re starting to fill the holes and get closer.” Development has reduced but not totally eliminated the risk of farming in a boom and bust climate. The 500mm rainfall average, temperature extremes ranging from 40deg to minus 20deg, and frequent nor-westers quickly zap or sap crops and pasture. Winter can linger for 120 days and often there’s a second zero growth spell in summer that in a particularly bad year can last for 120 days. This season is a case in point; 45 tonnes of sheep nuts was fed to twinning ewes pre-weaning because of minimal pasture growth due to a cold


June 2021

Above: Recently weaned ewe lambs on lucerne mixes direct drilled into oversown country. Top right: The oversown briar hill country in the background was the starting point for this direct drilled lucerne cocksfoot mix. Above right: Glenn and daughter Heidi.

spring, no rain and incessant wind. “We achieved more than 120% lambing, which is a long held goal we finally achieved. It was pleasing but we didn’t have long to celebrate because the lucerne stopped growing.” But rather than dwell on what can’t be controlled, Glenn tries to keep focused on the bigger picture of driving efficiency. “We’ve got heaps of room for

improvement, especially by aligning better our feed supply and demand… the problem is that we’re not paid enough for store Merino lambs so we winter them, shear them and don’t kill them until late the following spring when often we’re in a feed pressure situation.” The best way to balance feed supply with demand in the short term is to increase the number of terminal lambs and get most of

them to prime weight before winter. It’s the logical answer but the conundrum is that achieving that will mean reducing the number of potential replacements, therefore reducing the selection pool of replacement ewes. “The solution to that comes back to genetics and increasing our lambing percentage so that we have more to choose from.”

MORE FROM LESS Simons Hill is relatively small-scale in comparison to the surrounding extensive fine wool farms in the Mackenzie Basin. “We’re chasing production out of our Merinos and don’t have the scale typical in this climate.” Instead, the Fastiers have adapted some management practices used in more intensive systems to push production. Chemical fallowing and ProGibb are examples not commonly


June 2021

used, another is the strip mowing and wilting of pasture along with a lot of break fencing. It was the solution to the disappointing 70 grams of daily growth that lambs were achieving when the Fastiers first started grazing them under irrigation. The small, weaned lambs were struggling to eat enough drymatter to pack on weight, but rather than supplement with hay and straw Glenn

borrowed the mowed grassed idea used by dairy farmers. He says the combination of wilted feed, drench capsules and follow-up cattle grazing to clean up pastures has pumped average daily growth over the past five years to 150g/day over 12 weeks from weaning on an irrigation rotation. Joining StockCare has also helped improve performance and efficiency of the sheep flock.



Why trees are important BY: KERRY DWYER


t this time of year tree planting is being planned, for shelter belts on farms as well as woodlots. Driving north from Oamaru around the Canterbury Plains, I have been impressed with the amount of trees cleared from farms in the past few years. Some of that has been woodlots but the bulk has been shelter belts planted over many years. This has often been driven by the instalment of spray irrigation systems to replace border-dyking and to extend irrigated area. I say impressed because this has involved huge man and machinery input, working steadily away at clearing the landscape, beaverish in scale. I don’t profess to be a tree hugger but we have planted a lot of trees on our farm over the past 30 years, for the following reasons: 1. Wind shelter – trees slow evaporation for a distance of up to 20 times the tree height on the leeward side of the trees. Lower evaporation promotes pasture growth, to the extent that I have measured more than double pasture yields in the shelter zone as against beyond the shelter zone of windbreaks. Irrigation is more effective in shelter than when the nor’west is rolling down the plains. 2. Stock shelter – there are five basic requirements that should be provided to livestock, one being the provision of shelter matching the requirements of the animals we tend. While cattle have a lower critical temperature of


around minus 15deg that relates to cattle with a winter coat and a full stomach to generate heat, so providing some windbreak allows for happy cows that put energy into production rather than staying warm. Cattle prefer to sit in shelter from the wind when possible, and calf rearing is far easier in the shelter of a tree stand than in open paddocks. Shelter belts save many new born lambs if they are well sited and provide sufficient coverage. 3. Stock shade – cattle have an upper critical temperature of about 25deg, so if the temperature goes over that they

will seek shade to cool themselves. On a hot day sheep and cattle will sit in the shade whenever possible. 4. Landscape and aesthetic value – just like animals, people like to sit in the shade, to be out of the wind, and to see trees in their landscape. 5. Birds and bees – planting a variety of species give greater biodiversity on any farm, which helps us all. It is a pleasure to see tui and kereru outside their normal forest environment. And bees benefit us and them in pollination.


June 2021

6. Privacy – as I drive along SH1 I think that farms might be the only workplace open to public viewing in this country. It may be nice for the public to see some animals and crops, but that is not all they see as they speed by at 100km/ hour, so their attitudes to agriculture are formed by what they observe. Agriculture might have a better image if the public could not view everything inside our boundaries. 7. Biosecurity – having a double fence and a shelter belt around farm boundaries is sensible biosecurity, if it keeps stock from moving between properties. We initially did this to keep sheep lice coming from a neighbour, and then to keep bulls from getting with our heifers. In the time of having M bovis the double fenced shelter belts were a real asset in dealing with the disease both within our farm and with neighbours. I recall visiting a farm in North Canterbury, of about 2000ha, that had double fenced the

Cattle have an upper critical temperature of about 25deg, so if the temperature goes over that they will seek shade to cool themselves. entire boundary to stop footrot from neighbour’s sheep. That farmer may have been an extremist but he certainly had animal welfare and economic benefit in mind to invest to that level. 8. Riparian protection – fencing off waterways has been to the fore in recent years, but it has always been good management to protect water as well as stock. Keeping water sources clean is good for farmer’s own stock as well as the rest of the country. Fencing off dams and siphoning water into troughs can provide clean water all year, and is better than providing poor quality water as dams empty in a hot summer. Pulling bogged cattle out of dams is not good for man or beast.

9. Timber and firewood – much of the tree felling I referred to above has given timber for milling or firewood to the farmers involved. While the quality of the timber is variable it has still covered costs or more of the clearing process. The initial investment was made many years ago so it might be good karma to provide the same investment for future generations. 10. Carbon credits – legislation infers that 10,000 trees grown in a rectangular block sequester carbon while 10,000 trees grown in a single row do not, but at some stage the measuring systems and legislation must agree that a tree is able to lock in carbon equally well in both situations. 11. Asset value – a very astute farmer told me about 40 years ago that planting trees increased land value, whether they be shelter belts or woodlots. He observed that prospective buyers would pay more for farms with trees, because those farms gave a better first impression and appearance of being loved than the bare ones. I have seen this to be true, even if the buyers then cut all the trees down and do not replace them. Over the past 30 years we have planted at least one row or group of trees every year on our farm. The cost has been spread over the years and the benefit compounds in all the above areas. Planting trees is probably the easy part because by far the major costs are in fencing, seedlings and getting them to survive. We have done all the steps ourselves including growing trees from seed or cuttings. And we have planted a variety of trees and shrubs which gets more exciting as primary shelter grows and allows diversification into fruit and flowering species to thrive in their shelter. There are many affordable ways to the process but every journey starts with one step. • Kerry Dwyer is a North Otago farmer and farm consultant.


June 2021




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Top farmers have green values BY: REBECCA GREAVES


ladstone farmers Richard and Becks Tosswill aim to enhance the environment of their hill county sheep and beef farm Te Awaawa sustainably, without compromising production and profitability. Their innovative and forward thinking approach to the environment was recognised with the supreme award for the Greater Wellington region in the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, and it continues to be a focus for the couple. Wairarapa Sheep & Beef Farm Business of the Year judges, which the Tosswills won for 2021, were also impressed with their proactive stance on the environment, highlighting it as key to their success. Judge Geordie McCallum said the couple was not sitting around waiting to be told what to do. “They’re already doing the things they believe and hope will make the business viable for the next 100 years. They’re trying to manage their nutrient emissions, and planting and erosion are also being addressed.” Since buying the farm 12 years ago the couple has retired and planted 12.5 hectares in multiple species, fenced off critical source areas and built a large sediment trap. They have planted over 2500 poplars and willows, and 800 natives and have also covenanted 2ha into the QEII National Trust. There is 20ha of forestry on the farm, and they are working with forest management company Forest 360 to


June 2021

The rolling hills and stockyard of Te Awaawa Farm.

understand their carbon footprint. Tracmap and variable rate fertiliser spreading is utilised and they have begun water testing and soil monitoring to assess its health. As well, there are beehives on three sites on the farm, they have released aphids as biological control for thistles, and dung beetles were released on two sites on the farm last year. Becks says a sustainable environmental policy is part of their business strategy, and they have always placed strong emphasis on the environment. “From the very beginning we wanted to look after what we have and hand it over to the next generation in a better space. We developed a plan and chipped away.” There have been more than 30,000 trees planted on the farm in the last 12 years, some utilised as fodder for stock in dry summers. Trees also provide shade for stock, and mitigate erosion by reducing slips and scarring. “We’re very aware it’s consumer driven. The story we are telling, it’s not just about our business, but how we care for the

land - looking after the land, proving we do it and the messages we put out into the community. It’s part of the fabric of our farm business story,” Becks explains. The Tosswills have an open farm policy, regularly hosting groups of visitors. Recently, Ministry for Primary Industries staff from the Wellington office came for a look. Richard feels it is important that those who influence the policies that affect farmers get a taste of life on a farm. The family has played host to more than 60 willing workers on organic farms (Woofers) over the years and Becks says they all take the farm story back to their home countries. One couple has even started their own farming and education programme in Germany. “We had a French chef visit us here and take what they’d seen back to their restaurant in France. He has a dream to serve Te Awa Awa lamb in his restaurant, which is really humbling.” He says it is about building relationships to get that story across. • See full story p16.


Tararua Shepherd of the Year, 27-year-old Kit Holmes.

FROM ENGLAND WITH LOVE Tararua Shepherd of the Year Kit Holmes exchanged life in England for a fresh start in New Zealand. Tony Leggett reports.



n English immigrant has taken out this year’s Tararua Shepherd of the Year title in a closely held final event. Twenty-seven-year-old Kit Holmes arrived in New Zealand from England nine years ago on her gap year and fell in love with the country. She had travelled extensively with her family as a child and was not planning to stay in NZ for long. But after taking in some of this country’s tourist spots, she landed a short-term role helping on a coastal Wairarapa cattle and sheep station and was soon hooked on a life on the land. “New Zealand wasn’t a country I planned to stay in for long when I left England all those years ago. But it was English speaking and, although it sounds a bit clichéd to say it, I had seen the Lord of the Rings films and just had to see the place for myself,” Holmes said. She credits the patience and support she received from her first boss for starting her on the path to her farming career. “I just loved the horse work and mustering cattle, working with dogs. It was

such a different lifestyle to what I’d left in the UK.” Kit works as a shepherd on a sheep, beef and deer farm owned by Mike Thomas, near Dannevirke. She has also set up her own dog training business, taking on mostly farm dog pups to get them started, and is engaged to be married in February next year. Chairing the Dannevirke Young Farmers Club caps a very busy life. Kit was one of three women out of the four shepherds who contested the final stages of the title. “I’m so pleased to see young women being given the chance to show what they can do.” “There aren’t as many opportunities available for women to work on farms, but when we get the experience, we can show our strengths. We’re easier on gear and we get more out of our dogs than a lot of male shepherds.” All four finalists were put through their paces at the practical and interview phase held at Pukemiro Station, east of Dannevirke, in early April. Each module was allocated a set time for completion, so there was time pressure as well as points allocated based on each component of the activity. The sheep module involved yarding, weighing and drenching a mob of ewe lambs with a new drench product. For the cattle module, the shepherds had to draft out killable heifers from a mob, weigh them and assess their likely yield, then drench those returning to the paddock. They were given 30 minutes for the fencing module which involved digging a post and running out a two-wire electric fence. The other finalists were Eilish O’Neill and Josie Malgrew, two recent graduates from Otiwhiti Station’s cadet training school at Hunterville, and Connor McIntyre, who graduated from Pukemiro’s cadet scheme last year. The total prize pool is more than $5000 of cash and products, including oilskin vests and fuel vouchers. Each finalist in the 2021 event also received a six-month subscription to Country-Wide. • More photos p90


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Olly Wright has been named the 2021 Wairarapa Shepherd of the Year.

THE WRIGHT STUFF Shepherd Olly Wright has been named the 2021 Wairarapa Shepherd of the Year. Rebecca Greaves spoke with him to find out more about his career and aspirations.


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lly Wright has always been deadset on a career in agriculture, and he’s working his way through the shepherding ranks, with an ultimate goal of farm ownership. The senior shepherd at Wairere Stud near Alfredton, Olly, 21, was named the 2021 Wairarapa Shepherd of the Year. Growing up on his parent’s beef and dairy farm in Mount Somers, Mid-Canterbury, Olly was out on the farm as often as possible. “Mum and dad bought the farm...” I definitely look up to them, they achieved it (farm ownership) through hard work and probably thinking outside the box.” Olly says they were contract milking and put all their money into livestock to build up their assets, and eventually bought land. While at school he completed his Level 3 Agriculture Certificate before going on to complete the National Certificate Level 4 in sheep and beef at Taratahi in 2017. Olly did his onfarm placement at Tautane Station, near Herbertville, and played rugby for nearby Puketoi Rugby Club in Pongaroa. It was through playing rugby he got his first job offer, working for Ray and Judy Stewart in Pongaroa until the farm was sold.

He moved to Seven Hills Angus at Pahiatua before being offered the job at Wairere, an opportunity he thought too good to pass up. “It’s an awesome place. I still play rugby for Puketoi. What I love is having my own dogs and being on the hills working them. It’s cool when you work with stock for the whole year and see the end product. It’s great seeing the rams from birth and taking them all the way through to selling.” Olly’s day to day duties at Wairere revolve around stock work, predominantly stock shifts, as well as reporting to the manager and 2IC on feed covers and stock, and some general work over winter. His ultimate goal would be to achieve farm ownership, preferably a hill country sheep and beef farm, though he knows it won’t be easy. “If it could somehow tie in with the family farm that would be cool too. I want to look at getting a long-term investment going, maybe a house, to start building equity. “In the meantime I hope to keep working my way up the ranks and building experience.” Olly concedes that the recent shift towards wholesale planting of farms in pine trees could make it harder to achieve his goal, but he still feels positive about staying in the industry, and thinking of different ways to achieve his dream. He was encouraged to enter the competition by his girlfriend Kate Robinson, who also works at Wairere and had entered previously. “She drove me to do it. But also, it was a good way to build my confidence, put my name out there and learn from it too. I learned a lot of people skills with the interviews, talking one-on-one and answering questions.” Olly was both shocked and excited to hear his name called out as the winner. He encourages other young shepherds to have a go, saying it was well worth the effort, and not to be afraid to put yourself out there. He thanked the Taratahi staff and tutors. “They were a big part in pushing us along and teaching us what we needed to know to get into a shepherding job. I really enjoyed the hands-on work and placements – that’s what farming is really, hands-on.” Along with the Shepherd of the Year prize, the award for 2021 Emerging Red Meat Leader went to another Wairere employee, Sam O’Fee, who is the stud’s farm manager.



TB testing

Rob Corboy has just completed his career of 47 years testing TB, and being involved with much of the work that surrounds managing it.

Pushing for what he believed in BY: ANNABELLE LATZ


armers used to lose entire herds to TB in New Zealand. This is one recollection Rob Corboy has of his 47 year career in the TB game. He has recently hung up his syringe, and has plenty of stories to tell. From his extensive work with vector surveying to giving tips on how to catch ferrets, life has always been interesting. Originally from Nelson, Rob cut his teeth with the Department of Agriculture on the Brucellosis scheme in 1974. Later that year he trained as a TB technician, qualifying in early 1975. He was transferred to Westport, where TB was what Rob described as “rife.” “Farmers were losing whole herds.”


There were 120 infected farms in the Buller and Inangahua districts at the time. From then and into the 1980s, TB technicians used to test herds three to four times a year, and in the early 1980’s freezing works would not accept TB reactors. “So we’d slaughter them ourselves. We did a lot of slaughtering, and we got pretty good at it.” The TB testing scheme used to be Government owned. Once it was discovered that possums carried TB, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) employed the New Zealand forestry service to kill all possums throughout the country. “We had five three-man teams in Westport, and five three-man teams in Reefton.”

Their job involved laying poison bait, night shooting and trapping. “And it worked. By the early 1980s there were less than 10 infected herds in the Buller and Inangahua.” It was in 1967 when a sick possum was found on a badly infected farm in Mokihinui on the South Island’s West Coast. Before that no one had really known how TB had spread to the cattle. The Government pulled the funding when numbers got low, thinking they’d “won the battle.” The numbers subsequently went through the roof again, at which time the Biosecurity Act of 1993 was set up, removing funding responsibility from the Government. Described as a ‘turning point’ by Rob,


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the Act changed TB control to an industry scheme, and TB was seen as a pest rather than a disease. When the Act was first set up, the control agency for TB control, the Animal Health Board, was very understaffed, so numbers rose again, in fact higher than they’d ever been, with 1800 infected herds nationally by end of the 1990’s. Thanks to the ambitious goals of the Animal Health Board, today less than 20 herds across New Zealand are infected. Despite his near 50 year career, Rob has only worked for one company which has gone under different names. After the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries became MAF Quality Management it was then split into two State Owned Enterprises – Agriquality and Asure, which merged 14 years ago to become what is now known as AsureQuality. Rob once read in an old report written by the Department of Agriculture, that TB has been known in New Zealand since 1898, in Banks Peninsula when dairy farming was big over there. The antigen for TB testing was first used in the late 1950s, and all town supply dairy farms were initially tested.

“…TB has been known in New Zealand since 1898.” “Just prior to the use of the antigen, the stock inspector would run the stock through the yards. If a cow coughed, it was deemed to have TB and was slaughtered.” Rob’s job has seen significant changes. Paper to electronic systems being one, modifications to the test, TB testing deer as well as cattle to name a few. The short thermal retest finished in 1974 just as he started. “This was archaic. There was four millilitres of the TB antigen injected into the cow, (now it’s one tenth of a millilitre). They’d measure temperatures every two hours for a 10 hour period to see if the animal had TB.” In the late 1970s, the Comparative Cervical test was used as a retest. Two sites on the neck were clipped, one with a tenth of a millilitre of bovine TB antigen, one with a tenth of a millilitre of avian TB antigen. “You can’t see avian TB, so we’d be able to


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Rob Corboy still has some of his testing gear from as far back as the 1960’s.

see which if the bovine strain was present. ” TB is a family of mycobacterium, including the bovine, human and avian strains. Rob moved to Rangiora, North Canterbury in March 1990 after 15 years in Westport, along with his feral animal expertise. Possum surveying was a big part of his job, and in 1992 a TB infected ferret was found in the Mackenzie country, just after the 1992 snows. “We then started talking about vector control, not possum control. In fact, up to 25% of the ferrets initially had TB, compared to 1:1000 possums.”

Instrumental in ferret control Rob was instrumental in setting up ferret control. “I had to push for what I believed in.” He was training farmers how to catch ferrets, they would ring him up and ask them to be tested. In response Rob set up two freezers in North Canterbury where farmers would drop them off for autopsy. “To catch a ferret you need to find a meat source, rabbit colonies works best. I’d tell the farmer not to put the trap off the track, because ferrets are lazy.” Rob created a feral animal TB database, which later proved to be very valuable for applying for funding for TB control. “It’s something I’m really pleased I did.” There were 50 farmer-run pest control groups in North Canterbury, Local Initiated Programmes with materials funded by the Animal Health Board. Agriquality staff including Rob were independent facilitators

of all these groups. What followed was extensive ferret and possum control work and a large number vector surveys throughout Canterbury. The idea was to “get in front of the TB, rather than chase it.” That was part of the success story, and those North Canterbury pockets of TB infected pests never crossed to the south side of the Waimakariri River. Rob said Vector surveys, combining using TB testing, vector control and animal movement control, accountability for vector control through monitoring, and the use of 1080 (which Rob admits is very controversial) all contribute to the low number of TB cases in NZ now. He moved into management roles in early 2000s, at one point, managing all the field staff in the top half of South Island including Canterbury. A biosecurity manager and trainer as well as a TB trainer, auditor, animal welfare inspector, Rob’s career has been varied. “I can even take blood from alpacas, which isn’t easy.” Working with wildlife has been a major part of his career, and one he is passionate about. “A lot of things we know now, is because of that (wildlife) research.” The role of female TB technicians has increased a lot, and he has no doubt he is handing the reins over to safe hands when Oxford based TB technician Mel Brooker takes over his role as TB technician trainer and assessor. • Next issue: Mel Brooker.



With that in mind, the couple approached their local wool buying agent to point them in the right direction, with the hope they could get their wool felted and the product made in New Zealand. “We eventually found out that the machinery required for the style of felting we needed wasn’t available in NZ, especially for the quantity we had in mind.”

Business stroke of luck

Sam and Sophie Hurley with their Honest Wolf products.

Leader of the pack BY: GRACE PETTIT


he bags and lifestyle pieces created by Hunterville farmers Sophie and Sam Hurley have come a long way since the plan was hatched on their honeymoon nearly three years ago. “It was at the time when single use plastic bags were being phased out in New Zealand and people were looking for alternatives,” Sophie says. The qualities of wool made sense to them, things like the durability of a coarse wool and the natural thermoregulation (maintaining its core internal temperature) of the fibre. That meant that a bag made from wool could sustain the weight of a shopper’s groceries, as well as making sure the ice


cream wasn’t melted when they got home. With that, the Casual Shopper 100% wool shopping bag product was born. The bag retails for $149 on the Honest Wolf website. Their leap of faith started in June 2020. Sophie says at first their accountants were sceptical, they wanted them to wait a year or two before becoming GST registered and getting too official. But after they launched, they sold out of their first shipment. “Things have progressed quite quickly.” With no prior experience in running a retail business, let alone product design and development, the couple set out on an undefined path working out how to make their dreams a reality. The progressively poor coarse wool prices, only fanned their flames of passion for farming as well as a fibre they deeply believe in.

Unflappable in the face of these challenges the couple were rewarded with a stroke of luck, they were put in touch with a representative in New Delhi who has been able to materialise their vision. “We haven’t even met him in person yet, we had intended to fly over in 2019, but I fell pregnant and with the risk of Zika virus, we decided to postpone the trip,” recounts Sophie. All of their work with India has been done remotely. “We’re just really fortunate our guy over there has somehow managed to perfectly interpret everything we wanted to create, until a time we’re able to make it over there,” she says. The family farming business, Papanui Estate runs a Romney cross Kelso ewe flock, with the average micron of the fleeces ranging from 30 to 35μm. Papanui Estate is 5000ha and runs 25,000 ewes. In the central North Island climate, a second shear is essential for animal welfare. Traditionally, the shorter fibre length of a second shear fleece is a barrier for the productive use of the fibre, but it is however ideal for felting. One second shear fleece from a mature ewe can produce enough felt for two Honest Wolf bags. “Currently we’re only using a small portion of our total wool clip,” explains Sam. “We’d love to use all of our wool, but we just have to wait and see what happens.” The wool is shorn and then trucked greasy to Napier, where it is scoured and then sent via boat to India. When the wool returns to New Zealand it has been dyed, felted and assembled into the bags. “Initially our goal was to have a completely New Zealand produced and made product,” says Sophie, “but that just hasn’t been possible yet.” The couple would still like to make that happen if they can get to a stage where the volumes will support that investment. “At the moment we get stung a little bit with import taxes and have had increased shipping costs due to Covid-19,


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so it just makes sense both financially and environmentally to have it all done here.” The decision to seek outside expertise to ensure attention to detail has been a part of their recipe for success. The Honest Wolf branding and name was developed with a helping hand from a specialist company. “We wanted a name that communicated being a leader of the pack, or being outstanding in the field, while using honest materials,” says Sophie. It was about two years after Sophie initially contacted the branding business before she got back to them. “They told me not to feel bad because a lot of new businesses don’t even make it that far.” Since the genesis of Honest Wolf, the Hurley’s product range has grown, and the refinement of their products continues. After initially setting out to create a value-added product, as well as a malleable, home-based career option for Sophie they have learned and achieved so much all while starting a family and continuing farm work. Despite their remote location and the list of barriers that come with living rurally, they feel that country life has not been a hurdle to their business. • See more at

Top: Some of the Honest Wolf products including a laptop bag, wallet and purses. Left: The Honest Wolf tote bag which retails for $379.

Sheepmeat and beef levy referendum under way


eef + Lamb New Zealand is urging red meat producers to have their say on the continuation of their levy-funded organisation by voting in the 2021 sheepmeat and beef levy referendum. B+LNZ Chairman Andrew Morrison says the last time farmers had the opportunity to vote on the future of B+LNZ was in 2015 and a lot has changed since then. “Given the current operating environment, the need for an organisation to champion the needs of red meat producers has never been greater. “There’s a lot coming at the sector – including a raft of new environmental legislation and questions about agriculture’s environmental impact, rapidly changing consumer demands, increased protectionism in our export markets, skilled labour shortages, and Covid-19 related market disruption.”


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He says B+LNZ has been working collaboratively with other industry groups to fight for sensible policies that work for farmers, particularly on water, biodiversity, climate change and carbon farming. According to Morrison, the Taste Pure Nature origin brand and the ‘Making Meat Better’ website are proving helpful in positioning B+LNZ’s naturally produced red meat to meet increasing consumer demand for sustainably produced products. Globally, we continue to fight for market access. “We’re also investing in research to improve the genetics available to our farmers, lower our environmental footprint and tackle diseases. And we’re partnering with others to help farmers attract, develop and retain people with the right skills and experience.” He says a yes vote will ensure B+LNZ can continue working on farmers’ behalf.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison is encouraging sheep and beef producers to have their say about the future direction of the organisation.



Top left: Mt Algidus Station manager Peter Angland. Top right: Heidi Fastier with new farm pup Dolly. Centre left: Tararua Shepherd of the Year finalists, from left, Eilish O’Neill, Connor McIntyre, Kit Holmes and Josie Malgrew. Centre right: Winner of the Tararua Shepherd of the Year title, Kit Holmes. Above left: Maddie Dykes, Lynda Gray and Cam Dykes on the climb to Mueller Hut (above right), near Mt Cook village.



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Top left: Give me two minutes with those ewes. Top right: Charlotte Bradley sorts one of the staff under dad’s watchful eye. Centre left: Competition judges Kyle Burnett, AJ Aitken and John Woodrow with Mourne Park Farms farmer Nelson Young (second from right). Centre right: Shaun Bradley’s winning hoggets in the West Otago competition. Above: A hilltop view of Shaun Bradley’s farm in Tapanui, West Otago.


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*Only while stocks last. Promotion runs from 1st May to 30th September 2021.

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PROUDLY AVAILABLE FROM YOUR LOCAL PARTICIPATING VETERINARY CLINIC Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health New Zealand Limited. Level 3, 2 Osterley Way, Manukau, Auckland, New Zealand. BIONIC® is a registered trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica GmbH, used under license. Registered pursuant to the ACVM Act 1997, No. A011825. See product label for full claim details and directions for use. © Copyright 2021 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health New Zealand Limited. All rights reserved. NZ-OVI-0021-2021. Country-Wide

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