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Spring 2013

Fencing career skills nailed Fencing skills can create a pathway into other industries and a path around the world. Story: page 34




Irrigation project pivotal

Dairy spin-off for truckies

Avoid chasing tails

Complete soil mapping services for variable fertiliser applications and variable irrigation.

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RURAL PEOPLE: Andy Sales & Steph Moore


Business Rural / Spring 2013

Winters here are getting wetter and wetter and the grass is getting destroyed. With kale, we can use less area to feed the same number of cows.

Steph Moore and Andy Sales, with their son, Cooper. The couple are lower-order sharemilking on two farms, owned by Geoff Hay, near Waimate.

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Andy Sales and Steph Moore are using some tried and tested techniques from their Southland farming days as winters get wetter and wetter on the two dairy farms where they are lower-order sharemilking near Waimate. The couple have been working on Geoff Hay’s 680-cow farm for the last four years; and three years ago they took over another of his farms, 5km down the road, where they lower-order sharemilk 380 cows. They run their sharemilking operation with the assistance of three herd managers, two on the larger farm, Stones, and one on the smaller farm, Pomona. The two farms are supported with an 89-hectare run-off block, where all the cows are wintered, and silage and other crops are harvested. “We put in some kale last season,” Sales says.

“I’ve grown it in Southland plenty of times, as it’s the staple winter diet, but not up here. Winters here are getting wetter and the grass is getting destroyed. With kale, we can use less area to feed the same number of cows.” The couple grew 16ha of kale on the run-off last season, and will double that to 32ha this season. They found that with the heavy rain at the beginning of last season, the cows ate through the kale very quickly. The Stones farm is irrigated with border dyke, while Pomona and the run-off are both irrigated with k-line irrigation. Sales says the k-line and border dyke irrigation is more labour-intensive than the centre-pivot the couple ran on their last sharemilking job in central Southland; they have five full-time staff working with them across the two farms at Waimate. This season they are focusing on animal and pasture condition on both farms, as they believe this is the foundation for improving production.

Mating did not go to plan last season. Steph was diagnosed with breast cancer and the planned intervention at mating time did not go ahead. This made for a slower-than-ideal calving; however, the upside was a drama-free calving. With Steph now healthy and back on board, the couple are now tackling mating time with the use of teaser bulls to try to lower last season’s high empty rate. “I’ve run teaser bulls before, when cows aren’t cycling a teaser bull can get them in the mood,” Andy Sales says. “It’s a good Southland technique, and very convenient for heat detection.” As well as running teaser bulls from three weeks before mating, the Sales plan to use a prostaglandin programme to get the cows cycling. They will stick to a 10-week mating programme as they feel the 4% induction rate, combined with a 10-week programme, allows more proactive selection of cows for inductions.

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Spring 2013

Fencing career skills nailed Fencing skills can create a pathway into other industries and a path around the world. Story: page 34




Irrigation project pivotal

Dairy spin-off for truckies

Avoid chasing tails

Complete soil mapping services for variable fertiliser applications and variable irrigation.

To farm smarter and lift your operations overall performance, ring Bruce Hore on 03 318 0133 or 027 576 0303


Business Rural / Spring 2013


PHOTOS Left: The view from Newhaven. The Newhaven Perendale Stud was founded by David Ruddenklau 40 years ago. Lower left: Jane and Blair Smith; the road to winning the 2012 Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme award was a ‘great personal development journey’. Bottom left: Like all Newhaven stock, these hoggets are not pampered - ‘they just have to get on with it’.

Sheep thrive in drench-free zone Sue Russell It’s 20 years since worm drenches of any sort were used on North Otago-based Newhaven Perendales adult sheep. As a result, says Jame Smith, the stud’s sires have developed worm antibodies that are passed on to their progeny. And the entire flock has developed a high level of worm resilience, and the ability to perform in the most challenging conditions. She attributes this to the foresight and commitment of her father, David Ruddenklau (who pioneered the stud at Five Forks 40 years ago), to allow nature to take its course. “Genuine stud breeding has come a long way over the past few decades, especially on properties such as ours where stud and commercial sheep are run together. “Our sheep don’t get pampered. Basically they’re in this environment and given the scale of the farm they just have to get on with it.” The Newhaven Perendales astud is now part of a family-owned and operated sheep, beef, forestry and dairy support operation spread over 1528 hectares and three farms. Jane Smith, daughter of David Ruddenklau, who pioneered the Perendale sheep stud at Five Forks, just south-west of Oamaru, says the operation, has developed well given a strong, no-nonsense work ethic and a vision carried by the whole family. David Ruddenklau and wife Robyn now live on the Newhaven hill block, and remains well connected with both the sheep stud and the total farming business. Jane and her husband, Blair, live at the original farm home (they have three children

– Charlotte, six, Henry, four, and George, two. Her sister, Sarah, and husband Brad Stalker manage the Tokarahi block that carries young stock and beef finishing (they have two toddlers, Fred and Syd). “We live in challenging farming country where it is hilly and steep,” says Jane Smith. “It can get very dry and sometimes we can get 80% of our pasture growth happening in just six weeks. The environment we work in every day makes you strong, and focused, and committed to

a vision that, for us, extends well into the future.” Jane Smith says the perendale breed was developed in New Zealand and is ideal for both tough hilly country and downlands areas alike. Perendale lambs in great demand for breeding stock and for efficient lambing finishing. Each spring more than 300,000 lambs are born in New Zealand and Australia with Newhaven genetics. The stud sells its genetics to farmers across New Zealand and Blair Smith says it is extremely heartening to be in a position to now have secondgeneration buyers as clients. “Efficient productivity and survivability are key industry focus areas, for all breeds,” says Jane Smith. “We have had some of the best sheep-research scientists in the world here in New Zealand right on our own back door, at Invermay, in Otago. “We would like to see a higher level of acknowledgement of this from central government, and with our industry making arguably the highest level of efficiency gains in the primary-produce industry over the past 20 years. Imagine what the future could hold.” Perendales are genuine dual-purpose meat and wool sheep, and are rated as extremely efficient converters of feed. Last year she led a project to create new branding for the New Zealand Perendale Society. The society, formed in 1959, now has more than 70 registered studs with more than 25,000 stud ewes. Also last year Newhaven won the national supreme award in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. It was an experience that provided the Smiths with a really great personal development journey. “The passion the organisers have for sustainability in its broadest sense is something quite outstanding,” says Jane. “Community engagement and industry involvement are key spheres within the awards, as well your on-farm ethos.”

The experience taught them not to put too much focus on large development areas, but to make sure energy and time were spent on maintaining what had already been created. Award organisers were interested in the broad, long-term picture and she says the couple’s “to do list” will continue to grow. “It is a wonderful lifestyle for the children to grow up in,” says Jane. “Already I can see their stock sense developing as I watch them move pets, such as the hens, around. “Blair enjoys both the practical and analytical side of the operation – he’s the one who is working from daylight to dusk, and our family time is out on the farm. We feel we have a really strong family team.”

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RURAL PEOPLE: Allan Roulston

Business Rural / Spring 2013

NZ sheep industry ‘on its Sue Russell Third-generation South Otago farmer Allan Roulston breeds and farms sheep and pigs – and he’s not happy about the health of either industry in New Zealand. “To be quite honest, I think the sheep industry has just about been killed,” he says. “Unless those leading the industry get their act together, I think it is going to be devastating for farmers. “There is too much happening outside the farm gate and, to my mind, the freezing companies and the Wool Board are worse than any finance institution when it comes to making unsound decisions.” He is also very concerned about the state of the pork industry and incidences of fresh pork coming into New Zealand from countries with diseases. He is calling for the Minister of Agriculture to “have the guts to stop this importing”. Roulston – who has been running the 400-hectare Chardale Farm, at Hillend, north-west of Balclutha since 1981 when the original family property (it dates back to 1919) was split between him and his brother – is adamant the sheep industry is on its hands and knees, and there is no way a sheep farmer can survive on $100 per lamb. It is time, he says, that the Government took up the gauntlet and enabled restructuring through the introduction of legislation, similar to what happened when Fonterra was formed. “As far as I’m concerned, we need a Fonterrastyle model where the price paid to farmers is known and consistent, based on per-kilo output and paid across the whole industry, regardless of the size of your farming operation. “We don’t operate with any degree of certainty from one year to the next, and it’s hard to make long-term decisions or have any sense of confidence about the future.”

Best of mates: Allan Roulston with his prize charolais excellent illustration of temperament, says Allan

Roulston maintains too much money has been put into needless actions, such as the $65 million “Mr Peterson hoodwinked government and meat companies”, to lift the bottom 10% of farmers. “I ask, ‘Who gave the meat companies permission to spend our money on such a venture?’” He contends that if farmers were paid a decent, consistent price, they would lift their own game. He also has a lot to say about passing on unnecessary costs to farmers, citing NAIT (National Animal Identification & Tracing)as a good example. “Tags were $1; now they are $6, and provide

you with no more information. All we have is an extra number to write on a form. Then there’s the additional cost of $5 per animal selling on farm or in the saleyards.” And he questions the basis on which cooperatives can pay different groups of farmers up to $7 per kilogram for lamb, while the majority of

farmers are surviving on $4.30 per kilogram. “I wonder who is subsidising who. I thought cooperatives were supposed to be equal. It just seems to me that farmers have lost control of their own companies with chief executive officers and boards becoming untouchable.” While Roulston has nothing against dairy

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RURAL PEOPLE: Allan Roulston

Business Rural / Spring 2013


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Pigs have a poke: A sow and her litter enjoy life. However, Allan Roulston is not happy about the New Zealand pork industry’s vulnerability to disease. farming, he is concerned at the number of farmers moving away from meat production to dairying. “Water is going to be a very big issue in a few years and it’s important some balance is retained between meat and dairying for sustainability reasons. I think we have too many dairy farmers.” He has done the sums when it comes to the wool clip as well, and questions why, when it takes 1kg or so of wool to make a square metre of carpet, farmers are receiving something in the order of $2.80 per kilo for the raw product. If he could wave a magic wand, he says the greatest change he would want to effect for sheep and pork farmers would be to drastically reduce the number of middle men in the supply chain. Their presence, he claims, hugely distorts the

value of the raw product farmers produce from the cost of the end product. “With every increase Fonterra makes, sheep farming is made more unprofitable, and I wonder how long it will be before banks, if they have not already done it, start walking away from sheep farmers. On a personal level, however, he finds much that is positive and satisfying as he looks back on the commitment and hard work he’s put in to develop his farm with a park-like feel.. And, despite negativity of sheep-industry economics, he continues to enjoy his perendales. “They have very good wool and I’ve had good success with them. We’ve achieved 150% lambing, which is great.”

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RURAL PEOPLE: Penvose Farms

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Family part of Maniototo history By Neil Grant If any New Zealand landscape could be regarded as ‘iconic’ it would have to be the Maniototo. Expansive plains; rounded, folding, tussocky hills leading to rocky uplands; and, overarching all, a brilliant azure sky. It has moved artists and photographers, and inspired poets and authors. It breathes history. Part of that history is the Duncan family, who have farmed at Wedderburn since 1894. Two brothers bought the block, then it later split But now, great grandson Stuart Duncan and his father, Graeme, have overseen the blocks being brought back together. This is a reference to history, but has more to do with the future. “You don’t drive down the road looking backwards, do you?” Stuart Duncan says. “You’ve got to create a business model where you can make an income off the farm. That’s how the rich people in the United Kingdom do it. If you want a family business to run for another 100 years, you’ve got to have systems in place to allow that to happen.” Well, there are systems in place here, all right. The 2000-hectare Penvose Farms now runs 6500 ewes – 4000 halfbreds and 2500 romneys. There are 130 stud angus cattle plus replacements and commercial cattle, and 450 red hinds plus weaners and stags. They winter 2500 to 3000 halfbred hoggets, with their 23-micron wool going to Smartwool. After shearing, 1500 of them are killed on a Merino New Zealand contract, and they keep the rest for themselves. Two recent land purchases have been a deer farm, and a dairy farm at Patearoa, where the Duncans and other local investors saw an

Left: The Duncans (from left): Stuart, Mitchell, Ellie, Todd, Lorraine, Alison and Graeme. Below: The archetypal Maniototo sheep scene. : opportunity to diversify. The dairy farm is an interesting development as Stuart Duncan has some doubts about the long-term sustainability of the current dairying model in New Zealand. “I was talking to someone the other day who reckoned a lot of dairy farmers work for 10 years, burn themselves out completely and move on. Then the reality is that the only people who can afford to buy the farm are the corporates.” But the dairy farm fits well into the Duncans’ mix. They can sell their own hay to it. They graze the heifers and sell their surplus cattle to it. If they don’t have any surplus, the farm gets what it needs elsewhere. With milk prices as they are, it is a good investment. Penvose is the largest accommodation business on the Central Otago Rail Trail, with 40 beds, and creating more to cater for demand. Seventy per cent of guests are doing the trail; the rest come from work ‘do’s, photography classes, hunt clubs etc. “It generates amazing income from a small

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area of land,” says Stuart Duncan. “It provides wages, and business for builders, plumbers and plasterers.” Underpinning all of this activity is irrigation. The deer farm came with a right to water from the Hawkdun scheme. But the main farm is irrigated from a 12ha dam the Duncans built in 1978. Water was distributed by k-lines until recently when they put in centre-pivots. “We can still use the k-lines, but the pivots are much more efficient,” he says. “There was too much work pulling the k-lines around and we have saved a lot of water and a lot of time. You can turn them on with your cellphone. If the technical guys say you can grow a crop, we grow it. We’ve got the sunshine hours, and now the water.” All this leads to success, not only economic now that wool prices have improved, but in awards. The Duncans were among the Otago regional

finalists this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards, and won the PGG Wrightson Land and Life and WaterForce Integrated Water Management awards The judges praised the Duncans’ systems, using expressions such as “a progressive family, farming operation...particularly impressed with the diversity of the business and your ability to manage this effortlessly....leaders in adopting efficient wateruse technology...long-term stewardship”. “We were pretty happy with the praise,” says Stuart Duncan. “When we put in the irrigation, we didn’t have water technicians. Now it’s a helluva lot simpler. You turn the button on and it does its thing for you. We’ll probably put in another couple of pivots.” He sums it all up: “These days everyone works on a per-hectare return. No-one’s thinking about the next 50 or 100 years. We do our own thing. We’ve got the water, it’s just a matter of putting it on.”

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RURAL PEOPLE: Ross & Rochelle Hewson

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Dairying, rising costs threaten arable farmers Karen Phelps Like many cropping farmers Ross Hewson has been struggling to cope with rising costs. The Mid Canterbury farmer’s response has been to increase investment in larger equipment to improve timeliness, reduce labour costs and push up yields. He says more emphasis must go into micromanagement of his systems, for example finetuning optimum closing dates for each variety of ryegrass but allowing lambs to maximise their grazing window without compromising yield. “We have certainly found that focusing on the micro-management of crops can provide some significant gains. “We have a motto here that if you can’t do something on time, do it before. In arable crop farming, timing is everything; in vegetable farming, it is always the difference between success or failure.” “The Insatiable demand worldwide for the crops

we grow to be produced for less, has severely impacted on our margins and it has been difficult to recover them. “Irrigation development costs have soared along with compliance, particularly water, and, of course, we have nutrient management looming around the corner. “Yield remains our only option to really lift our fortunes, but the goalposts are very high now as farms are run so efficiently gains are hard to make, and with higher yields comes more costs.” With many good arable farmers converting to dairy because of rising costs, it should follow that supply and demand might positively affect the industry. For Hewson, it’s a case of wait and see. “If we can’t address the issue we’ll have to join the stampede to dairy as well.” However, even though arable and vegetable farming is at an all-time low, he says he maintains a passion for this type of farming, which has made him reluctant to seriously consider shifting to dairy. Hewson was raised on a mixed crop and

The Hewson property at Pendarves is an intensive arable and vegetable cropping operation. Investment in new machinery has involved capital outlay, but has reduced labour costs. sheep/beef operation in South Canterbury, and was in a family partnership with his brother before moving to Pendarves, just north of Ashburton, where he and his wife, Rochelle, own and farm 1600 hectares of flat, free-draining land. It’s a real family-run operation with son Joel, 25, employed as well. The property is fully irrigated by large centrepivot and lateral-move irrigators allowing the Hewsons to run a very intensive arable and vegetable cropping operation. A sustainable rotation sees around 25% of the property land in onions and potatoes each year. The balance is wheat, ryegrass, hybrid carrot seed, hybrid beetroot and hybrid rape seed. Ross Hewson says new varieties have played a big role in increasing yields: “We are constantly evaluating options, trialling small areas then changing if results prove worthwhile.” The Hewsons tend to plant most of their crops in autumn to reduce the spring workload. It also means root systems become more deeply established, enhancing opportunities for nutrition and moisture later in the year when moisture is at a premium. Investment in new equipment has meant capital outlay, but has reduced labour costs. Three truckand-trailer units cart most of the produce (the potatoes are contracted out). The Hewsons also own 50% of Pengrove Potatoes Ltd, which stores

We have a motto here that if you can’t do something on time, do it before. In arable crop farming, timing is everything; in vegetable farming, it is always the difference between success and failure. 22,000 tonnes of potatoes in an offsite facility. Seven full-time staff, two engineer/mechanics and three truck drivers are employed, with another eight staff brought in at peak periods. Farm operations manager Andrew Scott began with the Hewsons when they moved to Pendarves. Between 8000 and 10,000 lambs are finished each year on contract to a local processing company.

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RURAL PEOPLE: Ross & Andrea Naylor

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Irrigation project pivotal to Karen Phelps

Ross Naylor (right) and son George, with faithful dog Gus, on their 1012-hectare Spennymoor farm in Central Otago.

Flood and border-dyke will not be options...If we did nothing, the value of the property would decrease and we’d have to consider selling.

The desire to preserve their family farm for future generations has prompted Central Otago farmers Ross and Andrea Naylor to make significant investment in their irrigation system. The imminent tightening of water regulations by the Otago Regional Council and Fish and Game New Zealand have prompted the Naylors to act. “Flood irrigation and border-dyke irrigation will not be options in the future,” says Ross Naylor. “It’s putting enormous financial pressure on farmers. If we did nothing, the value of the property would decrease and we’d have to consider selling. “We completed a feasibility study and this water-irrigation project will help tick some of the regulation boxes, as well as use water more efficiently on the property.” Naylor says water is the key to successful farming in Central Otago. He has three private water rights – historic rights that hail from the goldmining days and now very valuable. He also has two quotas from the Omakau Irrigation Company. His present project, which has begun, will see the farm move from flood irrigation to a gravityfed system. At present Naylor irrigates around 570 of the valley-floor property’s 1012 hectares. He says the new system will not only increase the area under irrigation, but will allow him to apply the water more efficiently. Stage one of the project – which is in the hands of Roger Wilson Contracting (earthworks), PGG Wrightson (pivot and construction), BTW South (consents and survey) and Mt Aurum Engineering (consultant) – involves the construction of two dams, which will feed water from a small holding pond to a centre-pivot by gravity. The larger dam will supplement this when needed, such as in times of drought. Stage one will irrigate 115ha of the property and stage two will add another 52ha with the addition of another centre-pivot. A third centre-pivot is planned, and will increase coverage by another 35ha. The new system will allow the Naylors to do dairy grazing on the farm. They believe this will give them greater security than solely dry-stock farming, and will help them pay their loan down faster. They currently grow around 500ha of lucerne on the farm; around 42ha of the newly irrigated

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RURAL PEOPLE: Ross & Andrea Naylor

Business Rural / Spring 2013


future 115ha will be put into lucerne and 73ha into kale for dairy support. While the water irrigation project will obviously broaden the farm’s ecnomic base, Naylor is clear that the motivation is not about financial gain. Indeed, there will be none in his lifetime, he points out: “It’s simply about securing the future of the property’s water rights for future generations,” he says, The expanded irrigation system will allow the Naylors to increase the number of stock units carried on Spennymoor from 10,000 to 12,500. They run 3200 quarter-bred ewes and winter 2700 hoggets, 1600 of which go to the works as winter hoggets and the remainder in the spring/summer period. They keep around 1100 replacement hoggets for breeding. The quarterbred flock is a strong merino breed, with wool averaging 22.5 microns. They also run 50 hereford breeding cows, and keep the calves to fatten, Around 200 dairy heifers have been grazed on the property for the last 12 months. Ross Naylor is the fifth generation of his family to farm in the Matakanui area after his family settled there in 1875 and started farming in 1878. The family bought the original sections of Spennymoor, the property Naylor grew up on and now farms, in 1910. The Naylor block, which had been part of Matakanui Station, was named after the birthplace of Ross Naylor’s great-greatgrandmother in Durham, England. In his spare time he writes. He has written books on the history of education in the Manuherikia Valley and the Matakanui Rugby Club, and is helping complete a book about the tenure of Matakanui Station, from its beginnings in 1857, when John Turnbull Thompson surveyed the area, until 2014. He employs his son, George, 25, who has a Diploma of Agriculture and Farm Management from Lincoln University. He is looking ahead to George becoming the sixth generation of Naylors to farm the land, and to carry on the family legacy and history in the area. Andrea Naylor assists with paperwork and helps on the farm more hands on when needed. Daughter Ingrid, who is a registered nurse, is also helping on the property at present, after spending time on her OE in Europe. Ross Naylor is looking to employ another young staff member and says the diversity of the farm operations provides a good learning opportunity.

Stage one of the irrigation project on the Naylor farm at Matakanui involves the construction of two dams, which will feed water to a centre-pivot. The earthworks is being done by Roger Wilson Contracting.

The motivation is not about financial gain... It’s simply about securing the future of the property’s water rights for future generations.

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RURAL PEOPLE: Ron & Sue Small

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Modern merino ‘plainer, more Neil Grant

Ron and Sue Small’s Blairich Station, in the Awatere Valley, has three stud flocks: fine wools; medium wools; a polled flock.

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Proud to be associated with Blairich Station

Any number of images are considered by New Zealanders to represent who we are: the hei tiki, Southern Man, Peter Snell winning at the Olympics, Dame Whina Cooper on that hikoi. One that we don’t have entirely on our own, but which, especially when in a South Island high country setting, is the merino sheep Romneys may be vastly more numerous, perendales as hardy; but there is something about the merino’s stocky aloofness, its sense of purpose, and that it is unsurpassed for its ability to thrive in the high altitudes, like certain Kiwi mountaineers, that makes it stand out as an exemplar. Merinos were the first sheep in this country. They are found throughout the world, but only New Zealand merinos produce fibre suitable for Icebreaker clothing. Italian manufacturers prize New Zealand merino for their top-quality suit material. And we are rediscovering that merino meat, as marketed by Silere, for instance, has a special quality thanks to the diet of native alpine herbs the sheep have fed on. About 700 farmers grow merinos, almost all in the South Island. This market has 40 or so breeders to supply it. Each stud concentrates on particular traits, and develops these, such as superfine fibre, dual-purpose animals, hardiness or fertility. Many New Zealand studs import animals or semen, especially from Australian studs, to broaden the genetic base. Ron and Sue Small’s Blairich Station is a merino farm and stud in the Awatere Valley, in Marlborough. Its 3170 hectares carry 12,000 stock units on land rising from 250 to 1600 metres. Genetics play a major role in the business, says the studmaster, Ron Small. Early on, they made the decision as to the type of merino best suited to the property, and what they personally enjoy. “The merino is a very adaptable animal, so most types can suit most environments if bred correctly; but to succeed in any venture, one must enjoy what one is doing, therefore the type is a personal decision. The important thing once these decisions are made is to stick with it, as breeding is a longterm venture and breeding true to type is paramount in any stud operation.” He acknowledges, though, that breeds should evolve to meet market requirements. Where 15 years ago, the merino was a heavy-skinned beast with total emphasis on wool production, today it is much plainer and more “dual purpose”. “This change has taken place at Blairich without losing wool quality or wool cut, by carefully selecting sires that are trait leaders for bodyweight and wool cut, and visually for wool quality.” Blairich has three stud flocks: fine wools; medium wools; and polled. Sires from have been imported from Australian studs over recent years to speed up the genetic gains in each flock. “These sires are all true to their type and have some inter-related breeding, ensuring their breeding predictability,” Small says. “The commercial merino flock are fine-wools and only rams from the fine stud are used. Medium and poll rams are bred for clients who want those particular types.” Once the genetic potential in place, optimal feeding is the only way that this potential can


Proud to support BLAIRICH Ron & Sue Small

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RURAL PEOPLE: Bruce Holmes

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Diversity key on ‘reasonably complex’ arable operation Neil Grant

A helicopter is used for fire control on high country at Blairich Station in the Awatere Valley. be expressed, says Small. “Better, that after the expense of pasture improvement, well-bred sheep are fed so as to maximise their productive, and so, financial, return. Poorly-bred sheep, no matter how well fed, will never match those carefully selected and bred.” Blairich has 900 stud ewes and 5600 commercial breeding ewes. “Before maiden ewes are incorporated into either flock, they are individually classed, firstly for their confirmation and faults, then for their wool quality and cut. This is fundamental to maintaining and improving incrementally year by year. True genetic gain comes in small increments.” The farm-management system has hoggets wintering on local vineyards from harvest. Small says this allows preferential feeding to maiden ewes on the flats through to when they are set-stocked

for lambing on the better hill blocks. Mixed-aged ewes winter on the higher country till scanning in July, when twinners are separated. Ewes are given a full crutch at the same time in preparation for shearing in mid August. They are set-stocked on saved hill blocks just prior to lambing in late September. Blairich has built its reputation on stylish, nourished, soft handling wools of good length and strength. Particular attention is given to structural soundness and fertility, with stud ewes consistently scanning 150%. It has produced many broad-ribbon champions and has won the Ivomec National Pairs award four years in succession. Blairich’s flock rams are sold privately through January and February. Stud rams are available at any time, and are available for export.


Arable farming in New Zealand does not get the media coverage of dairying, sheep and beef, but it plays a vital role in the economy and contributes considerably to our international income. New Zealand is the primary producer of carrot and clover seed in the world. Arable crops grown in New Zealand feed millions of sheep and cows as supplementary feed. Federated Farmers calculates there are about 2500 arable farmers in the country quietly earning revenue of $5 billion. About a quarter of the land in arable farming is on the Canterbury Plains. Bruce Holmes has a farm just outside of Methven. He bought the 160-hectare family farm from the other family members in 1994. Then, it ran about 1000 ewes and had 60ha of crops. In 2003, he added 110ha. “We had to gear it up a bit because we had borrowed money. Sheep never cut the mustard with me and we had to pay our bills, so we went to an arable system, which had always been an interest of mine.” With the addition in the late 1980s of 160 leased hectares about five kilometres away, the farm now concentrates on growing cereals and herbage seeds, and bull beef. Holmes says it is a reasonably complex 365-day a year farming operation. He reckons that if you have got debt, you have got to have your eggs in more than one basket to minimise the effects of a downturn or other adversities. “We grow ryegrass, wheat, barley, peas, white clover, radish, forage brassica and borage for seed. The borage goes to the pharmaceutical industry for its oil. Daikon radish goes to Japan for

their sprouting market, and more recently to new markets in Europe and America. There they use radish as a cover crop after their harvests. It grows over autumn, then after a week of frosts, rots away in the winter and aids moisture retention.” The farm produces up to 2000 kilograms of ryegrass seed per hectare, giving a total crop of 120 tonnes, and 1000 tonnes of cereal, including feed wheat, milling wheat and barley, much of which goes to the dairy, pork and poultry industry. Holmes owns all the required arable equipment running the business with himself, a full-time worker who has been on the farm for 14 years, and one part-timer such as a student or agriventure worker when required. Irrigation water comes from the BarrhillChertsey scheme, which takes water from the Rakaia River at the Highbank Power Station, pumps it back up into the Rangitata Diversion Race, and pipes it as pressurised water to the boundary. “The last two years have been quite wet, so we haven’t made a huge amount of use of it, but potentially it could have a real effect on our farming system,” says Holmes. The beef side sees a small number of feedlot cattle grown for Five Star Beef, but the main thrust is bull-beef cattle. There are about 500 mainly friesian bulls of varying ages. “It’s a graduated system – buying calves in and working on a turnover where we kill about 350 a year. Some are carry-over two-year-olds taken through a second winter because they weren’t up to weight. They are killed in October to December at 27 months. We do a number of autumn-born calves from town supply farms that get killed in DecemberJanuary through to March as 20-month olds. Just prior to winter, we kill some 18-month bulls that have been through only one winter.”

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RURAL PEOPLE: Matthew Haugh/Steve & Nina Ireland

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Matt enjoys ‘a handle on the whole lot’ Kelly Deeks At 24 Matthew Haugh is a 90% shareholder in 750 cows and Fonterra shares, and is working towards a larger share in the 250-hectare family farm in West Otago. Haugh, who has been working on the Tapanui farm for the last five seasons, began milking cows straight from school. He started on a neighbour’s farm for nine months while the home farm was run by 50:50 sharemilkers. His family then decided to buy a herd and employ him and his brother-in-law, Peter Allen, as lower-order sharemilkers. “I was only 18 and too young for the responsibility of a lower-order sharemilker,” Matt Haugh says. “I had the dairy experience, but I didn’t have the life experience to employ staff and


run my own business. Peter was running a dairy run-off block and was thinking along the dairy lines too. Dad decided we could do it together, and we worked together for three seasons.” In their first season, cow numbers were upped from 500 to 600, land from the adjoining run-off was incorporated into the dairy platform, and a new, 64-bail rotary dairy shed was built. The following year, the entire run-off became part of the dairy platform, 100 more cows were added to the herd, and the family bought a 150ha run-off block six kilometres away. After one more season, Allen moved back to Clydevale to convert his father’s sheep farm to dairy and milk 430 cows in equity partnership. Haugh stayed on as a lower-order sharemilker, then in June last year, bought the cows and shares from the family, and leased the farm and run-off from the family trust. He saw it as a way to simplify the farm’s operating expenses. “When I was lower-order sharemilking, I found myself doing things for the wrong reasons. For example, I couldn’t just put urea on the run-off because it wasn’t my expense. Now I’ve got a handle on the whole lot and I can do things for

Matt Haugh: ‘Now I’ve got a handle on the whole lot and I can do things for the right reasons.’

the right reasons, so the run-off and dairy farm complement one another. Also, having the income is a good opportunity to pay off debt and increase my equity in the land.” Two seasons ago, he raised per-cow production

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The 250-hectare Haugh family farm at Tapanui where Matt Haugh is a lower-order sharemilker.


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from 440 to 512 kilograms of milksolids, with the same total farm working expenditure of $3.10 per kg milksolids. Last season, before the drought took hold, he was on target for 540kg milksolids per cow. However, he pulled back and ended up with 520kg, but got the total farm working expenditure down to $3 per kg milksolids. “That’s my main focus – doing that sort of production for that sort of expenditure,” he says. “The reason I’ve kept costs down is that I haven’t gone down the road of really high input, and our pasture management is full on. “We spend a hell of a lot of time making sure the cows are fully fed every day and we’re never wasting any grass. This has kept animal health costs to a minimum, and empty rates under 5%.” He says he is well and truly on target for 550kgplus milksolids per cow this season. He generally feeds about 500kg of grain per cow, and a bit of molasses. With the high pay-out proposed, he says that if it gets dry, he will put in a bit of soybean meal for extra protein and feed the fodder beet left over from winter (which he has harvested with his new harvester).

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Steve and Nina Ireland are looking forward to more days in milk and increased profitability this season after a fast calving. They were 20-30 cows ahead of the same time last year and had to induce just 19 cows. That comes on top of record production last season – 255,000 kilograms of milksolids from their 550 cows. They are looking for 260,000kg this season. They achieved this production despite the drought that hit so many farmers during the 201213 summer and autumn. Irrigation was crucial. Because the Irelands’ entire 156-hectare farm and run-off near the mouth of the Rangitata River are irrigated, the drought had little effect on them. Half the herd is pedigree jersey, and the rest crossbred; the Irelands milk through a 50-bail rotary shed. “We synchronised and artificially inseminated the yearlings last year, and that brought calving forward,” says Steve Ireland. “There were only three cases of mastitis and the average somatic cell count was 83,000.” He believes teat sealing last autumn has been a key factor in herd health, while a pre-calving mineral

RURAL PEOPLE: Rosedale 13

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Rosedale heads right Neil Grant Growbulks – a third romney, a third poll dorset, a third texel – continue to rank on the top performance rung for dual-pupose sheep of various assessment criteria. “Growbulks still have the No.1 breed ranking for lamb survival from OVITA, measuring lamb viability at birth,” says Don Morrison. He and his wife, Brigette, farm 6000 stock units, including 2000 stud growbulk and romney ewes, on the Rosedale property, in Southland’s Waikaka Valley. “They are also ranked first, and have three of the top 10 ranks as the SILACE trait leader for dualpurpose meat yield, Morrison continues. “Three Growbulk rams feature in the top 20 of the latest B+LNZ Central Progeny Test for dualpurpose rams for meat and growth.  Last year Alliance analysis revealed that growbulks achieved kill and yield performance in the top 8% for all lambs killed – a “stunning result“ for a dual-purpose breed, says Morrison. Also last year, Rosebank Growbulk won the grand champion award at the Beef and Lamb New Zealand Glammies. The meat was judged on flavour, tenderness, colour and succulence. This is indicative of the information commercial farmers have when it comes to choosing the right breed and the right rams for their operation, says Morrison. “It isn’t ‘one breed fixes all’ for every farm, but the information is definitely there for whatever areas of production you most want to target. “And while this might read as an unashamed plug for the growbulk breed, it is actually a plug for all the breeders using OVITA, SILACE, AgResearch, the B+LNZ CPT, Zoetis or Abacus Bio as part of their breeding platform. “The strength of the New Zealand sheep industry

Don Morrison: Three biggest areas for production gain in sheep industry are successful hogget mating, lamb survivability, and ewe efficiency/longevity. is the big number and diversity of the potential gene pool. No one breed has the fix on actually being the best breed, but it’s the progress being made.” Success doesn’t happen by accident, but it can be the result of making a few mistakes, and learning from them. “There is no doubt that good planning brings good results, while taking shortcuts is quite simply the easiest way to stand still,” Morrison says. “Buying rams and the genetics used is an area where it is easy to take shortcuts. Buying the ram

It isn’t ‘one breed fixes all’ for every farm, but the information is definitely there for whatever area

that looks good but with no production figures, or the new breed with lots of hype and no proven genetic merit in the New Zealand environment, are perfect examples of mistakes we have made. “Good planning in genetics is one of the easiest things to get right because of the tools and information available to all of us. “Nowhere have we seen this better illustrated than in what we have achieved in our own production from the development of the growbulk sheep breed.” He sees the three biggest areas for production gain in the sheep industry as successful hogget mating, lamb survivability, and ewe efficiency/ longevity. “With our growbulk sheep we know we have a very high-performing, dual-purpose, maternal breed in what we have targeted as our main areas of production. “Weighing all stud lambs at birth in 1990 started

our programme on increasing lamb survival. Since our involvement in the OVITA lamb survival trial in 2003, it has been our equal-biggest production target along with growth rates and meat yield.” Industry can play a big part in the information and decision process. All Rosedale lambs are killed through Alliance and, through the use of electronic identification (EID) and individual ViaScan information, they get genetic analysis specific to sires used. Morrison says Rosedale has clear goals on what it wants to achieve. The sheep breeding programme is a big part of the operation, and in conjunction with this, there is development of things like the shelter planting, and the use of high yielding winter crops and new grass cultivars. “But,” says Don Morrison, “the message is clear: the goals and the planning are crucial, because good decisions bring good results.”

of production you most want to target.


year, then raise the target mix has helped reduce metabolic diseases and retained membranes. The effectiveness of these measures has been significantly enhanced by the Irelands’ base of a long-established herd and farm. Steve is a fourth-generation farmer. He worked on various farms in the south Waikato, completed a trade certificate in dairy farming and a certificate in business management through Waikato University. On an agricultural exchange in the United Kingdom, he tutored at a college where Nina (who does not have a farming background)was doing a Diploma in Agriculture. They returned to New Zealand together and went 50:50 sharemilking in the Waikato in 1990. Six years on, they moved to a 50:50 sharemilking position at Hinds, in Mid Canterbury, milking 780 cows. After five seasons, they bought and converted a sheep farm, and are in their eleventh season there. Steve Ireland gives a lot of credit to Wayne Reece, who has worked for him for six years,

and Brett Langford, in his first season with the Irelands, having come from Livestock Improvement Corporation where he was a progeny test manager. The farm also employs a permanent relief-milker. The Irelands’ Lynbrook Jerseys stud sells three or four bull calves a year to the artificialinsemination industry. They do a lot of embryology, super-ovulating their top-performing cows to fast-track their genetics. They also sell 80-90 jersey bull calves a year, and occasionally an elite female, at sales. They are both hands-on farmers. Nina does the calf-rearing and technician work, and shifts stock at the run-off where they graze young animals, winter cows, and grow kale for winter feed. Their daughters, Emily, aged 15 and Kate, seven, are keen on the farming life, and have a menagerie of pets, including a donkey, horses, pheasants, chickens, goats and pigs. “We just all really enjoy what we’re doing and plan to keep doing it for as long as we can,” says Steve Ireland.

The Irelands do a lot of embryology, superovulating their top-performing cows to fast-track their genetics.

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RURAL PEOPLE: Tom/Sally Beattie

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Tom Beattie outside the cowshed (left) and farm worker Katie Holliday hands on inside the 54-bail rotary shed.

‘Newbies’ have no regrets Now, when you drive

Sue Russell Looking back on what has been a challenging and exciting two years, ‘new to dairy farming’ couple Tom and Sally Beattie have no regrets about their decision to convert from sheep and beef. The couple milk 600 crossbred cows over their 250-hectare property at Kelso, in West Otago. Tom Beattie says the continued support and advice he has received as they’ve settled into their new lifestyle has been invaluable. “Alistair Megaw, a dairy farmer from Herior, has been there whenever we wanted questions answered or ideas about options to consider because situations have come around that are new to us. “He has given us a lot of confidence and I can see some positive differences have sprung directly from his thinking.” Such as in spring last year. It was a great spring, but Beattie, his farm manager and Alistair Megaw felt the cows could have been in better condition. So, while the central aspiration to be grass-based remained, they decided to introduce palm kernel and molasses into the feeding regime this season. “By late November and December last season,

aroud the farm it really looks like a dairy farm. things were getting fairly dry,” Beattie recalls. “We found the cows could have done with that supplement to keep their milk production up.” While the couple knew what they were getting into, the financial challenges have been real and a constant part of their life. Each milk cheque was already spent in the huge costs of set-up, but they wanted to do the conversion well and they feel they have achieved their goals to date. “I have really enjoyed converting the place,” says Tom Beattie. “Now, when you drive around the farm, it looks like a dairy farm. It makes life so much easier when it all works out.” . Support has also come from Dairy Nutrition and Management Solutions Ltd adviser Howard de Klerk, from Dunedin. As Beattie describes it, de

• To page 15

Two-and-half-year-old Sam (left) and five-year-old Louie Beattie outside the new shed built to the house the palm kernel, which the Beatties are feeding to their cows for the first time this season.



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RURAL PEOPLE: Ayers Partnership

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Ultimate target: ‘The best out of a lot of breeds’ Neil Grant “We are constantly looking to breed better rams for our clients and ourselves,” says perendale breeder Warren Ayers. “It is a common good in the industry – everyone is trying to get to a similar goal. We aim for things like growth and parasite resistance. The faster you can kill your lambs, the better.” Ayers and his partner, Sue, farm 888 hectares of rolling Southland land at Mimihau, about 10 kilometres east of Wyndham. The family business has been growing sheep and beef for 102 years. In a break with the tradition of the time, Warren’s father registered a perendale stud in 1972. “He was looking for hardiness, I think,” says Warren. “Perendales do well for us here.” He says they offer their clients sheep with fertility and capacity for growth, and “look after the wool side, too”: “Wool still is an income.” The stud has 650 perendale ewes, fully recorded on SIL (Sheep Improvement Ltd) as part of the 6300 perendale ewe flock the Ayres winter. They carry 200 ram hoggets, which they cull to about 150; they are sold as two-tooth rams at either the Gore ram sale or, more usually, on farm afterwards in mid-January. Clients are contacted, and can come and select their rams. “It is my opinion that people have got to take

home the rams they like and that will fit in with their breeding objectives,” says Warren Ayres. “We look at visual characteristics and SIL records. “Farmers are constantly crossing with one breed and then another. People keep trying to get the best out of a lot of breeds.” Is there a danger in this approach? It depends on what they are trying to achieve, he says. “Some breeds are known for having thin skins, which lessens their ability to survive a storm, for instance “Our aim is for big, growth, hardy rams, but we do not chase super-high indexes: we like something making steady progress all over. You can make progress sometimes by taking two steps forward and one step backwards.” Keeping up with new science is an important part of the process. Last year Warren and Sue joined FarmIQ, a sixyear programme that seeks to add value to the redmeat supply-chain through attention to the market, governance, databases, genetics, processing, and farm productivity.

PHOTOS: The Ayres stud is part of a wider commercial sheep (lower left) and beef (above) operation. Zoetis, formerly a business unit of Pfizer, has a product called Sheep 50K, which uses a 50,000 DNA marker panel providing molecular breeding value (mBV) predictions. “We have spent time and money on this, which is helping us make improved decisions,” he says. The Ayers’s farm is also a demonstration farm for Beef + Lamb NZ, helping with its project of matching lambs to their dams, and cows to their calves, to improve genetic selection.

We like something making steady progress all over. You can make progress sometimes by taking two steps forward and one step backwards.

As is usually the case with breeders, the Ayres stud is part of a wider commercial operation. They have a herd of mainly angus cows mated to angus bulls, with in-calf heifers bought in as replacements. This herd, plus up to 650 dairy-grazing cows brought in for the winter, make lambing time almost the quiet time on the farm, says Warren, especially as they do all their own crop cultivation, pasture renewal and balage The farm has a second-in-charge, and Warren’s father works part-time. “Dad keeps saying he doesn’t know what he is expected to do from one day to the next. I say that’s because I don’t know if he’s going to turn up or not.” Some things just never change.

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Couple celebrate grade-free debut • From page 14

Klerk has put them on the “straight and narrow.” “He comes every month. He’s the one setting us up for the season ahead, producing budgets and targets to work to.” Last year the cows averaged 401 kilograms of milksolids, a huge achievement for newcomers into the industry. “You feed the cows well and they feed you,” is very much Beattie’s attitude to placing stock quality high up on his priorities. This season the per-cow goal is 430kg milksolids, but he knows a lot will depend on the weather. He says he has good staff and his attitude is very much towards a collaborative approach that values the input and ideas of others. “I’m always interested in different points of view because by taking on other perspectives, you often reach a much better outcome in terms of decisions made.” Managing grass production is something Tom Beattie really enjoys. With sheep and beef, he would assess the state of pasture every three weeks or so; as a dairy farmer, grass growth and quality are measured in 10-day cycles. “You get to know every day what your cows are doing, and I like this level of connection with the central activity of the farm.” For the last two seasons, the farm’s milk

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Get the best for your sheep For efficiency & reliability Herd manager Gary Taylor in the 54-bail shed. output has been grade-free, evidence of the care and attention the Beatties and their staff put in to maintaining pasture and animal condition. “It was a wonderful surprise just before we got under way with calving to receive the certificate from Fonterra in recognition of our grade-free status,” he says

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DEER: Wilkins Farming

Business Rural / Spring 2013

GenNext gets lowdown on latest ideas Jo Bailey Mike Wilkins says it was “very worthwhile” to be part of the Next Generation Programme run by the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association in August. On the second day of the two-day programme, around 55 deer farmers in heir mid-20s and early 30s inside visited Wilkins Farming’s deer unit at Athol to view the latest tools and technologies in action. “It was great to see so many young farmers in the industry get together to network and learn some new ideas they can implement in their own businesses,” says Wilkins, He and his staff provided an overview of the farming systems, breeding programme and technology they use in an operation mainly intent on venison production at optimum growth rates. “The key focus of the field day was to show these young farmers some of the tools that are available to enhance farm production and manage a better breeding programme.” He says Wllkins Farming has always led the deer field in its use of technology. It is in its tenth season of collecting on-farm measurements of carcass loin for meat-quality traits through ultrasound scanning. A selection of animals go through CT scanning with Vio Scan each year, and breed values and DNA profiles are established for Wilkins Farming’s deer. “We select sires and replacement hinds based

on estimated breeding value (EBV) growth rate and carcass lean amongst other things. Our EBVs for 12-month growth rate and meat yield are exceptional with our carcass lean BV well above industry averages for this trait.” Yield trials at the Alliance plant at Makarewa also provide information to help maximisation of growth rate and meat production. The trials break down the carcasses from dead weight, and calculate the meat-to-bone yield as well as muscle groups of the animals. The use of electronic identification (EID) tags allows carcasses to be traced through the slaughter, chilling and boning process, and the inclusion of a number of liveweights achieved leading up to slaughter. “It was great to be able to share some of our knowledge about these technologies with the Next Generation farmers and we are keen to be involved in events like this,” says Wilkins. His attention has turned to the “exciting new catalogue” Wilkins Farming is putting

PHOTOS Above: Two Tui girls get alongside deer farmer George Williams and a Wilkins Farming stag at last year’s North Island sale. The stag was sold at the sale. Stag photos: Mike Wilkins expects the progeny of top DPT sire 144Orange 05 (left) and Eastern sire Vladimir (facing page) to create a lot of interest at the stud’s sale on January 13. 144 has sired a number of Wilkins Farming’s top stags; their key attributes include high growth rates, meatiness and hardiness. He says a number of good Vladimir sons are coming through in the Eastern line-up. Last year he produced the sale-topping stag, which went for $15,000.

• To page 17

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DEER: Otago Deer Transport

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Love of deer drives specialist transporter Jo Bailey A passion for deer farming and a love of deer led Stephen and Sharon Grant to form Otago Deer Transport Ltd. Stephen was initiated into the deer industry in the 1980s when he worked for Gramada Farms (now known as Landcorp Dawson Downs). He clocked up experience in other types of farming and ran his own sheepshearing business, but deer were always his passion. The couple bought a small deer farm and, in 2000, they bought Balclutha-based deer transporting company Big River Deer. Then, in 2011, they acquired The Otago Deer Transport and merged the two into Otago Deer Transport Ltd. The business has grown to cover the Otago, Southland and South Canterbury regions, and beyond on request. The vehicle yard is in Milton and the company office is operated from the Grants’ deer farm. The company’s key point of difference is its specialisation in transporting deer, says Stephen Grant. “We specialise in deer and we have certified crates with the correct pen size to protect the animals,” he says. “The crates have no protrusions sticking out, which means that the deer can move freely during loading and unloading. The crates also have plenty of ventilation to make for a comfortable journey and to avoid stock stress.”

Two of Otago Deer Transport’s specialist deertransporters.

Most of the company’s work involves transporting stock to slaughter plants for clients such as Alliance, Silver Fern Farms, Clover Exports, and Duncan and Company’s Otago Venison. The firm transports deer for farmers who are relocating breeding hinds and store stock to fattening blocks and the like. The company also delivers stags from stag

They are very intelligent animals and I love working with them. I grew up on farms, so I have a real passion for the land and animals.

sales, transports trophy stags to hunting blocks (it has specialist trophy crates with extra headroom and wide opening doors to protect the animals’ valuable antlers). Transport is provided by a fleet of four doubledeck and single-deck, trophy-crate trucks. Grant acknowledges the contribution of his staff. All of the company’s drivers are experienced deer handlers. Otago Deer Transport is accredited with the Deer Industry New Zealand Deer QA Transport Quality Assurance Programme and the Alliance Group Livestock Transportation Accreditation Programme, and has joined the New Zealand Livestock Transport Assurance Programme for Silver Fern Farms. Stephen Grant attends to the day-to-day running

of the operation – scheduling trucks, liaising with clients and stock agents, and getting behind the wheel whenever he can. Sharon handles the administration. “I’ve been dealing with some of our clients for more than 13 years, and I enjoy getting out, working with the deer, and meeting the clients,” says Stephen. The couple are expecting another busy spring and summer season, and say their aim is to keep expanding. But it is still the deer themselves that keep Stephen passionate about the deer industry: “They are very intelligent animals and I love working with them. I grew up on farms, so I have a real passion for the land and animals.”

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GenNext gets the latest ideas • From page 16 together for its South Island sale on January 13. “Our breed values are up to 24 for 12-month growth rate, and a number of 15-month liveweights between 180 and 190kg were recorded in February 2013. Last year’s sale line-up had only one stag above 180kg liveweight at this time, so it’s a fantastic gain.” Around 60 stags are up for sale...a good mix of the company’s various bloodlines that include Eastern, German, European and English red deer. “For the first time we’re also selling the progeny of the Doncaster herd we bought two years ago from Peter Doncaster, a Southland breeder who had a good following. His father, Lindsay, had put 20 or 30 years into breeding these stock, which add a bit depth to our breeding programme.” Wilkins expects the progeny of top DPT sire 144Orange 05 and Eastern sire Vladimir to once again create a lot of interest at the sale.

“A number of our top stags are by 144; key attributes include high growth rates, meatiness and hardiness. “We also have a number of good Vladimir sons coming through in the Eastern line-up. Last year he produced the top-priced stag at the sale; it went for $15,000 to Peter and Dianne Allan, of Maple Valley Deer, Dipton.” As well as the stud, the family company runs a significant commercial deer and finishing operation. Mike is also involved with his parents, Ray and Pam, and brothers, Brendan and Sean, in running Wilkins Farming’s large-scale livestock and cropping operation, which is spread across several farms in Northern Southland. However it’s the deer operation that remains his passion. “We’ve been in the deer business a long time, but continue to make good progress with our breeding programme and production, which is really satisfying.”

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DEER: Peel Forest Estate

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Left: Two-year-old stags in antler. This velvet has been harvested and the stags have been growing a new head this year; they will be sold as three-yearolds in the Peel Forest Estate’s sale on January 10. Below: These rising one-year-olds of the B11 terminal sires are sold privately.

Breeders move with times Jo Bailey Peel Forest Estate recognised some time ago that commercial deer farming was moving rapidly towards the harder hill country, and a different type of female line was needed, says stud manager Steve Blanchard. “We are very aware of this shift and the need for us to produce the right animals to perform in the changing environment.” Last year Peel Forest Estate bought a neighbouring 1400-hectare hill block where a large number of its Forrester hinds are being put out to fawn this season. “We sell animals to commercial farmers, so we have to be able to test them under commercial conditions. It’s quite exciting to be able to challenge the animals in this way, and we’re confident they will prove themselves.” Blanchard says the introduction of an even harder hill-country block (carrying on from its Lincoln Hills block) is a big plus for the South Canterbury stud and commercial deer operation. “It means we can assure our clients that our stock have already performed in similar country to theirs, so will do well for them too.” The operation is carrying around 2500 hinds, 2300 of them stud stock. This includes all Forresters, trophies, velvet, Peel Forest Estate’s own B11 terminal sire bloodline, and the Windermere herd it bought last year. Blanchard says the stud is always prepared to “try a few things” and see how they go. “We can’t sit back and think things are just going to happen. We are conscious we have quite a few lines, so it’s important we treat them equally so that nothing gets left behind.” The B11 terminal sire bloodline – a composite

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with elk and high DBV reds for growth rate – was developed and trademarked by Peel Forest Estate. “We are planning to AI the B11 hinds again this year, introducing a slightly different breedline to keep diversity in the genetics and add to the carcass,” says Blanchard. The terminal sires are easy to manage, reliable, and produce fast growth rate fawns, he says.

• To page 19

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DEER: Netherdale Red Deer Stud

Business Rural / Spring 2013

China velvet shift source of optimism Jo Bailey Positive market indicators and a change of emphasis in velvet grading are good-news stories for Southland deer breeders David and Lynley Stevens, of the Netherdale Red Deer Stud. “I’ve just been to Wellington where I had a meeting with one of the large velvet-buyers who was very positive about forward orders. Some seasons are slow to get started, but this year it looks as though buyers will be purchasing well before Christmas.” Most of the demand is out of China, with Korea another strong market, he says. “There has been a huge shift in the last few seasons, with close to 70% of velvet production now going to China.” The market is also dictating the change in emphasis away from trophy-style heads towards “tidier” heads, which are smoother with fewer tines, says Stevens.

“This has changed the grading a wee bit for good-quality velvet, which works well for us as that is where our genetics are more focused.” Netherdale is one of the few New Zealand studs to concentrate solely on velvet, he says. The Stevens aim for velvet of superior quality, balance and style, while increasing the weight through the finest velvet genetics. The stud has featured consistently in New Zealand velvet and trophy antler awards, winning the three-year-old class multiple times. A head from Netherdale Harlem, weighing 8.88kg, is the current national velvet champion in the five-year-old red section. Some of Harlem’s first progeny will be on the marklet in Netherdale’s 27th annual sale, at 1.30pm on January 9 next year. David Stevens is looking forward to the sale, and expects stock numbers will match the 30 threeyear-old velveting stags, 70 two-year-old velveting stags and around 40 young hinds that were sold at the 2013 sale.

• To page 20

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“We get a lot of consistent repeat buying for our B11 sires, and have already taken a large number of bookings this year. Some clients even have a standard order in place two years ahead.” He says there is also good interest in this year’s Forrester maternal sires, which produce hardy, robust, fertile, quiet hinds able to handle the stresses of more extensive commercial farming. Peel Forest’s terminal and maternal sires are also extremely resilient to Johne’s disease, which has been another major thrust of the stud’s breeding programme for the last 11 years. “Some really exciting things are starting to come out of the Johne’s programme,” says Blanchard. “We are seeing consistency in the research of both resilient and susceptible animals, which is giving us some powerful information to use in selecting matings and breedings.” Clients are also saying their problems are disappearing with the use of Peel Forest’s Johne’sresistant genetics, he says.

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‘Exciting things’ from Johne’s “It’s the ultimate to have clients come back and say that. It’s a good feeling and gives us evidence we are on the right track.” All Peel Forest Estate stock are DNA-recorded at birth, and all animals carry EID (electronic identification) tags. “We used EID for four years before it became compulsory. It’s a fantastic, accurate tool for stud breeders. It works great with our automatic-weigh scales and a couple of wands, which means we can have both sheds going at the same time.” Peel Forest Estate is now gearing up for its upcoming stag sales across all its lines. “Normally at our early sale we sell the venison Euro sires and sometimes a few top-end maternal sires. The B11s and some Foresters are sold privately as well, and we’re thinking about having a December sale for our venison animals again, although that’s not set in concrete.” There are already strong early bookings, he says. “No animals physically leave here until the end of January, so there are plenty of opportunities for buyers to get their name down for a stag.”

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• From page 18


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DEER/RURAL SERVICES: Netherdale Red Deer/Amuri Transport

Velvet producers optimistic • From page 19 The first progeny from another highly promising sire, Spotburn 403, which stands at Netherdale on loan from John Scurr, could also be included in the January ‘14 mix. “403 achieved an unofficial world record CIC score and is also unofficially in the top 10 in the world with an incredible 635 SCI for a massive head,” says Stevens. “We hope to have a few of his hinds in the sale, but his stags aren’t old enough yet.” He won’t finalise the catalogue until late November, but is hopeful it will be an even better line-up than last year. “We are always trying to lift the bar in everything we do.” Velveting started earlier at Netherdale this season, which he sees as a reflection of the season, and the market wanting velvet a little earlier than usual. Last year Netherdale’s three-year-old stags averaged 6.32 kilograms of velvet, a result Stevens expects to achieve again this year. “Last year our top three-year-old cut an outstanding 8.4kg, with the next four in the mid 7kgs,” he says. When the couple bought the property in 1982,

it had already been in the Stevens family for more than a century. David and Lynley S tevens have gradually replaced the sheep operation with deer, developed the deer stud, and, in 1996, built a substantial deer complex. Netherdale is a true family business, he says. Lynley puts a “huge amount of work” into the garden and the property. Since their daughter, Tania, and her husband, Al Clarke, got involved, the Stevens have phased out their commercial herd of around 2000 deer and gradually introduced more cropping to the mix. The aims was to bring diversity to the operation and to provide a buffer against the fluctuations in the deer market. David Stevens is a life member and committee member of Deer Farmers’ Association Southland, and current chairman of the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association selection and appointment panel. After more than 30 years in the deer industry, he remains passionate about superior velvet production. “It’s an exciting industry as the results are easily quantified,” he says. “When we cut the velvet and weigh it, there is no guesswork involved. We can see the sort of genetic gains we’ve made from one year to the next.”

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Dairy spin-off Sue Russell The continuing growth of dairying in Culverden area around Culverden – already a major farming centre – potentially provides a springboard for transport company Amuri Transport Ltd. Peter Fiddes, who has recently joined the company as general manager, believes changes in the company’s structure will reinforce the opportunity created by dairying. “The timing for expansion is perfect,” he says. “We’re going to be part of any growth in the area, and we’ll become one of the key players in the transport business in this region. That goal is highly achievable.” Change is not new to Amuri Transport. The company was born out of upheaval; it evolved following the downfall of one of New Zealand’s largest transport companies, Transpac Holdings, in the late 1980s. Eight drivers from Transpac refused to quit and, instead, re-mortgaged their houses to buy the depots and vehicles from the receivers. Three of

the original owner/directors – Peter Murphy, Mike Murphy and Kevin Crean – are still in the business. Their latest move has been to employ a general manager to handle the day-to-day running of the business. While Fiddes – who has come from a position as South Island regional manager for Halls Refrigerated Transport – is still settling into the role, he has set himself some initial goals. One of them is to get out on the road with the company’s drivers to experience their lot first-hand and to strengthen relationships between the company and its clients. “I was looking for something different to get my teeth into,” he says. “I had been in a corporate environment and really wanted to be more closely involved in leading a business. So, when the directors of the company made the decision to employ a general manager, the timing was perfect. They were ready to go to the next step, and my job is to lead that way.” Amuri Transport does just about everything... general freight, livestock, fertiliser supply and spreading, supply of cement, coal, gravel, sand and shingle.

Realm of under-cover milkers New Zealand’s growing dairy-goat farming industry has given rise to a number of associated and service businesses. Such as Hamilton-based Aztech Buildings Ltd. For some time Aztech has been catering to the growing need for goat-dairy barns. While the sheds are similar to those required for cows, there are key differences, according to Aztech Buildings marketing manager Matthew Hoyle. “The design of dairy-goat barns is a specialised process. We have a specialist division focusing on dairy-goat barns and with years of industry experience with numerous barn systems.” Hoyle says international demand for goat-milk product is increasingly prompting Kiwi farmers to consider the economics of converting all or part of their farm to milking goats. “Goat milk is suitable for infants and the demand for goat milk, particularly from Asia, outreaches the current shortfall of goat farmers.” Unlike dairy-cow farmers, goat farmers practise a zero-graze technique to get the most production out of their herds. The goats are housed in dairygoat barns full-time and do not graze directly on pasture, although they do have outside access for sun and fresh air. Fresh grass is cut and carried to the goats. along with other nutrients and supplements through one of the feeding system methods. Hoyle says Aztech Buildings’ timber-structure design provides warmth and safety for the herd, with air-flow and temperature optimised to enable maximum fresh air and productive conditions.

Goats do not develop a natural resistance to worms. Typically, a standard building coverage area for goats is 2.5 square metres for each kid and 3 square metres for each doe – although some goat farmers make their own adjustments to the building size to suit their specific situations and requirements. Obviously, the herringbone or rotary milking shed is an important asset for the goat barn to ensure the goats can be milked twice a day in a safe and efficient manner, he says. Benefits of the zero-graze technique and a goat dairy include the elimination of the worm issues that are a major problem in large herds that graze on pasture, he says. “Goats don’t develop a natural resistance to worms and require regular drenching, resulting in milk being withheld from the vat and loss of production.” The barn also reduces foot problems, scald and footrot, meaning fewer foot treatments are required, he says. “The goats’ diet can be managed better when they are indoors, and as dairy goats can’t stand the rain and cold, they can be kept warm in a goat dairy with no risk of a drop in production in bad conditions.”

Peter Fiddes settles into his new role as general manager of Amuri Transport Ltd.



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RURAL SERVICES: Amuri Transport

Business Rural / Spring 2013


likely to trigger transport The timing for expansion is perfect. We’re going to be part of any growth in the area and we’ll become one of the key players in the transport business in this region. The business’s fertiliser-spreading arm is an area Fiddes plans to enhance. “There has been an evolution of technology around fertiliser and its application. Farmers now work with sophisticated software systems and the whole approach has become quite scientific. They can actually place orders, specific to each paddock, directly through their systems, reducing the potential for human error.” Most of the company’s fertiliser trucks have in-built computers on board to work in with the farm-based software. With such a wide range of carrying work on the company’s books, Fiddes says the quality and experience of the drivers is key to its success. “Most of our drivers are local guys. Some have been loyal to this company for a long time. They tend to stay in their area of specialty of livestock, fertiliser or general freight. Management of resources, both human and physical, is a top priority, but he says he’s aware of just how important it is to see all aspects of the company’s operation and to listen to those who

A truck-and-trailer unit at Amuri Transport Ltd’s new headquarters in Culverden. have been part of it for so long. “It’s good listening to the guys talk about the past. The three remaining directors are all very involved at a day-to-day level. I think the business is in a good state and I’m here to be part of what I see as an exciting and challenging future.” A new headquarters has been built in St Leonard’s Rd, Culverden while the original base

in Mountain View Rd still has a freight shed and workshops. Fiddes can see the day when the whole operation will be located on the one site, but he’s taking things one day at a time. “I’m planning on getting in the trucks with the drivers and getting out and about. I’m especially keen to meet our clients face to face to build on these vital relationships – that’s not something

you can do by being behind an office desk. We appreciate and value the ongoing support from our customers and I want to ensure this continues.” He finds his time behind the wheel as he makes the hour-long trip between home in Christchurch and work every day valuable processing space, particularly with the challenges that come with being new to the company.

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Business Rural / Spring 2013

Dairy shed market picks up

The framework goes up for a Rural Building Solutions dairy shed.

Jo Bailey Nigel Hodges hasn’t looked back since leaving his former career as a senior foreman on large commercial projects, to start his own Canterburybased business specialising in dairy-shed construction. “I’d become disillusioned with the commercial market and, after moving to Darfield in 2007, could see a definite gap in the Canterbury agri-sector for a quality builder. Concrete and large structures are my background, so building dairy sheds was the logical next step.” Rural Building Solutions, owned by Nigel and his wife, Ruth, has now built 27 dairy sheds, eight of those in the last year. “The market has really picked up again after a couple of slower years during the global financial crisis,” says Nigel Hodges. “We’re almost back to the numbers we were building before it hit.” Rural Building Solutions sheds come with a patented vented roof system that allows the shed to be closed in.

In 2009 Rural Building Solutions became the first South Island firm to become a licence-holder for the Waikato-based Chapman Dairy brand. “We already had a good shed design, but I wanted to make it smarter, so I rang an engineer in Hamilton I had worked with in my commercial days. He put me in touch with Don Chapman and the relationship grew from there.” Hodges says some of the key features of the Chapman designs include high cow-flow efficiencies, durable low-maintenance structures, and the choice of herringbone or rotary sheds (from 50 to 80-bail) that are easy to integrate with modern technology. “The sheds also come with a patented vented roof system that vents the hot air out through the roof, allowing the end of the shed to be closed in. This makes for a more comfortable milking experience in bad weather and less condensation in the shed.”

• To page 23

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Business Rural / Spring 2013

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Wintering barns on horizon • From page 22 Rural Building Solutions’ customised design service provides a choice of options in shed styles, yard lay-out, plant-room design and pipework configuration. “I meet with clients personally for an initial no obligation, free consultation to go over the variety of Chapman Dairy plans,” says Hodges. “They are a great tool for initial planning and design, before we start to incorporate features unique to the farmer’s specifications and needs. It’s not about building a standard shed, but

having the flexibility to provide our clients with solutions.” The company has constructed Chapman dairy sheds for clients across most parts of Mid Canterbury, North Canterbury and the Culverden Basin. It also builds calf sheds and other farm buildings and is looking to introduce a new range of wintering barns and herd homes to the market. “We visited the United States and Canada this year to look at what’s on offer as we have identified

• To page 24

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New housing, renovations Dairy Sheds, wintering barns • Commercial buildings • Commercial Commercial buildings buildings buildings Commercial • work All concrete work sheds Dairy Sheds, wintering barns • Farm sheds, shearing • All concrete All concrete work • All concrete work Custom built joinery • Custom built joinery Farm sheds, shearing sheds • New housing, renovations • Custom builtjoinery joinery • renovations Custom built New housing, PHONE 03 688 2181 PHONE 03 688 2181 • Commercial buildings Commercial buildings INFO@TONYBOYCE.CO.NZ I WWW.TONYBOYCE.CO.NZ All concrete work INFO@TONYBOYCE.CO.NZ WWW.TONYBOYCE.CO.NZ PHONE03 03688 688I 2181 2181 • All concrete work PHONE

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RURAL SERVICES: Rural Building Solutions/Tony Boyce Builders

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Lull in sheds Karen Phelps Tony Boyce Builders Ltd has expanded its offering to clients. When demand for new dairy-shed builds slowed during the recent recession, the company concentrated on diversifying. The firm is now involved in building cow barns, irrigation systems, sheds, houses and alterations. Company owner Tony Boyce says it has been a positive thing for both the business and its clients, and it has resulted in some interesting projects. For example, for the past two years the company has been involved in the South Rangitata Irrigation Scheme, a project spearheaded by Gary Rooney, from Rooney Earthmoving. Tony Boyce Builders has done all the concrete structures for the project, which has involved having eight staff on the job. It has been a challenging job with adverse weather conditions and high water tables to deal with, but Tony Boyce says it is indicative of the type of jobs the company is willing to take on. “I’ve always had a go at any challenge right through my career. People give us a challenge and we do it.” Boyce started his apprenticeship with T.H. Barnes & Co Ltd, in Blenheim, at the age of 16 in

1969. He moved to Winchester where the intention was to farm, but someone heard that he was a carpenter and, a few months later, he built his first herringbone cowshed for Alvin Reid, and Tony Boyce Builders was formed. He and his builders are registered Master Builders. The company uses only quality products and sub-contractors. At present the firm employs 35 staff, including carpenters, apprentices, hammer hands, and four office staff. Based in Washdyke and servicing North and South Canterbury (further afield when required), the company handles a variety of projects –from the installation of a single letterbox to multi-milliondollar commercial contracts. Boyce has converted some refrigerated containers into portable living units, which can be transported to a site to house staff during projects that well away from home base or areas where accessibility is not easy.. Concrete-construction projects have become a large part of the business. These include wedges, feed and silo pads and effluent saucers. The company has also many many new houses – from the architecturally designed to spec houses built on a budget. Tony Boyce says he has several highly trained

A finished concrete feed pad outside a dairy shed constructed by Rural Building Solutions.

Owner ‘oversees every build’ • From page 26

these products (wintering barns and herd homes) and feedpads as the main growth area in the rural market over the next few years, particularly with the changing rules around effluent.” The company has three “competent dairy shed foremen” in addition to Nigel Hodges, who oversees every build and keeps a close eye on quality. Also on the staff are a concrete placer, two carpenters, an office manager, a human resources and accounting officer. Five additional sub-

contractors do most of the company’s North Canterbury work. “We have been fortunate to attract the right people to the company, which allows us to achieve higher productivity and quality, without extra cost to the client,” says Hodges He is a licensed building practitioner, and Rural Building Solutions is registered as a Master Builder. Hodges says the partnership with Chapman Dairy allows his company to offer innovation in design and construction, as well as have access to the benefits of large-scale buying power. • XFLAM • EPS • MINERAL WOOL

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Tony Boyce says he has always been prepared to have a go at a challenge, and that’s pretty much how his business, Tony Boyce Builders Ltd, is now positioned. The farm cottages (above), dairy shed and wintering barn (facing page) are examples of the the firm’s wide range of activity.


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RURAL SERVICES: Tony Boyce Builders

Business Rural / Spring 2013


process ‘positive spark

craftsmen who do solely high-end housing. The company also has its own joinery shop, T & S Joinery Ltd, which can design and build kitchen and bathroom joinery, manufacture and repair timber windows and doors, and build custom staircases. The firm is an agent for Wide Span sheds and has built hundreds of pole sheds, wood sheds, hay barns, workshops, garages, stables, shearing sheds, cow sheds and feed sheds, says Tony Boyce. He says there has been a growing demand for cow barns, and his company can look after the entire project for clients. Tony Boyce Builders has sub-contracted to Rakaia Engineering to complete the concrete work on a 140-metre long, 600-cow barn project at Hinds, in Mid Canterbury. The company is also building a block of two bedroom cottages on a farm, manufacturing concrete tilt panels for a fertiliser shed, and is involved in building a new robotic cowshed. Brad Evans, who has worked for the company for 10 years, has been promoted to manager to provide an additional point of contact for customers. Tony Boyce says he plans to expand further, with the goal of setting up another branch within the next two years.

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RURAL SERVICES: Farmers Mill Ltd

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Mill the spark for ‘a lot of opportunities’ Sue Russell The story of Timaru’s new flour mill is one of parochialism, staunchly based on leveraging off local expertise and resources, and seed and grain varieties developed for New Zealand’s highly variable environment. Farmers Mill Ltd chairman Murray Turley – a local arable farmer – is confident the new mill will open up a whole lot of opportunities for growers, for South Canterbury, and for the South Island. Turley says the $10-million mill is the result of arable farmers wanting to secure their future after milling-industry control moved overseas and the number of cropping farms within Canterbury shrank as many converted to dairying. Bringing back milling production in South Canterbury was the obvious step, he says. “We knew there was no better way to do this than to get 12 South Canterbury arable farmers to team up, mill their own grain, and work closely with our customers and the New Zealand public.” He is proud so much has been achieved by a farmer-owner company and, with prospects looking positive, is hopeful staff numbers will swell beyond the present nine. The mill, which began commercial production in April, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Grainstor Ltd, which has the the South Island’s largest grain-storage complex (total capacity of more than

25,000 metric tonnes) at Washdyke, on Timaru’s northern reaches. All but one of Grainstor Ltd’s 13 shareholders are growers, with Turley as chairman. The new mill has 28 suppliers of grain, all from South and Mid Canterbury. It is designed to process both soft and hard wheat, and has capacity to process up to 40,000 tonnes of wheat and produce up to 28,000 metric tonnes of high-grade baking flour a year. It took 10 months to build and, after trial flour production as part of the commissioning process in March, set about its first contract – supplying flour to biscuit-maker Griffins Foods Ltd. Turley says the work of the Foundation of Arable Research, funded from levies received from its grower members, has been crucial in ensuring arable farmers have access to the latest information to maximise on-farm production. “The foundation is constantly researching ways to improve crop performance, from timing of chemical and fertiliser application through to crop management programmes. Its work is critical to the future of the seed and grain industry.” . He says the growing trend amongst consumers to seek greater transparency on food safety and traceability should help Farmers Mill. New Zealand arable farmers believe their wheat varieties and farm practices can match, if not better, the best overseas growers have to offer.

Prime minister John Key (right) cuts the ribbon to add the official opening touch at the Farmers Mill Ltd factory at Washdyke, in South Canterbury, in May. Farmers Mill chairman Murray Turley got the grandstand view. While industry data suggests New Zealand harvest volumes of wheat have risen 29% in the past five years, he says it is disappointing that the imported volume of wheat has increased by 88% in the same period. Turley describes the arable industry as being in good heart and willing to embrace the challenges posed by competing land uses and global demand

for protein derived from quality production sources. He is also an advocate of vertical integration, and is adamant the brightest future will come through farmers unlocking the value that resides within the “paddock to plate” supply chain. “That’s the way of the future in this industry, not the generic rhetoric from others that so often surrounds the philosophy.”

RURAL SERVICES: NZ Groundspread Fertilisers’ Association

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Bid to improve GPS positioning Karen Phelps The New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers’ Association (NZGFA) is liaising with Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ) to improve the definition of the regulations for the mounting of global positioning systems in spreading vehicles. The association is seeking to establish recommendations on the issue. “The incidence of accidents in fertiliser spreaders is an industry issue, says NZGFA executive director Kevin Geddes. “If the GPS is not positioned accurately, this can not only affect safety, but also placement of the fertiliser,”

He says the present regulations lack detail, which has led to individual VTNZ stations around the country taking different approaches. The NZGFA is also very likely apply for a permanent exemption for spreaders from the current over-dimension truck restriction. The rule limits hours of travel for over-dimension vehicles during statutory holidays and weekends. “Over-dimension trucks are greater than 2.5 metres wide,” says Kevin Geddes. “Spreaders are only slightly wider than this because of the tyres and rubberised mudguards they have to have so that they can go off road. “The trailers are not over-dimension, so we do not believe spreaders are a safety issue on New Zealand roads.”

Bid to reduce accident rate The New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers’ Association is developing a generic health and safety policy to help address the high accident rate in the industry. NZGFA president Stuart Barwood says the policy will emphasise the value and use of driver training. The association is setting up a qualified driver-trainer who members can call in to train staff. “With new drivers coming into the industry all the time, it is important we offer more regular training opportunities and continue to increase levels of professionalism,” he says. A draft policy has already gone to an

association council meeting for comment but NZGFA executive director Kevin Geddes no deadline has been set for when the policy might be available to companies to use. Many companies are meeting their obligations under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to identify hazards and establish policies and strategies to deal with them, but the nature of the work makes it an industry with a high accident rate, he says “The industry has identified a problem, so we are developing an industry-wide policy. The aim of the new policy will be to reduce the incidence of accidents.”

Spreadmark tops ton of members To ensure quality placement of fertiliser, farmers should consider using a member of the Spreadmark fertiliser quality placement assurance programme, says New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers’ Association executive director Kevin Geddes. The Spreadmark scheme, which has been in existence for more than a decade, now has more than 100 members, he says. “It is recognised by industry and regional councils as the best management-practice scheme in New Zealand.” The Spreadmark programme was established by the NZGFA in 1994. It was then expanded by a group that included representatives from Federated Farmers, the NZGFA, fertiliser companies and FertResearch. The main objective of the scheme is to ensure the placement of fertilisers in locations where they

can be of the most agricultural benefit and the least environmental harm, says Geddes. To be registered under Spreadmark, a spreading company must prove that it has certified spreading machinery, trained operators and an appropriate quality management system. These factors are seen as critical in meeting the expectations and objectives of the farmers/growers, and in protecting the interests of environmental sustainability. Overall systems are subject to an independent audit to ensure that both farmers/growers and regional councils can have confidence in the programme. The Spreadmark scheme is governed by a council consisting of representatives from fertiliseruser groups, fertiliser applicators and fertiliser manufacturers.

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The New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers’ Association is doing research to determine the effect of particle size and strength on the placement of fertiliser.

Size info ‘could prove critical’ Research by the New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers’ Association seeks to determine the effect of particle size and strength on fertiliser placement. NZGFA executive director Kevin Geddes says the research will be of critical industry importance to help offset the factor of variability in the placement of fertiliser on farms. “There has been a huge investment by the industry to increase accuracy and invest in more accurate spreader technology. Spreader

and fertiliser manufacturers are also completing research on this issue.” Information gained from the research could prove critical to spreader operators and farmers, he says. “We need to know more so that operators can spread according to the physical properties of the fertiliser. This research has never been undertaken before, and it’s good to see there is agreement within the industry to learn more about this issue”

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Business Rural / Spring 2013

Voluntary system puts robots in Kelly Deeks AgRural has installing its first voluntary milking system – an approach to milking described by the company’s managing director, Tim Scott, as “a smart system designed to make dairy farmers’ lives and work that much easier”. Six DeLaval VMS systems are being installed on a 500-cow farm. he says. The farm runs a pasture-based system, and the cows will pass through the milking system as they move from one grazing area to the next. “Their motivation for moving is that they’ve eaten all the grass,” Scott says. “They learn that they get to the milking station and can get their feed. If it has not been long enough since they were last milked, they will either be sent back or sent to the new grazing area.” Scott says one of the confusing things for conventional farmers to get their heads around is the fact there is no herd, only individual cows. “At any given point of time, cows are all over the farm. The computer uses smart selection to identify where individual cows are at numerous points in the system.” This is the third DeLaval VMS system, or milking robot, installed in New Zealand.

One of the confusing things is the fact there is no herd, only individual cows. AgRural is installing six DeLaval VMS systems on a 500-cow farm.

PO Box 2867 Christchurch 8140 Telephone 03 379 7260 Mobile 021 135 9938 Email

Dave McCrea Building Ltd • Commercial • Alterations • Can apply application rates below 7mm/per hr and depths down to 3mm, while still dealing with raw effluent • The GBMagnum has mounted rain gun to provide twice the application area you would cover with a conventional travelling irrigator • Low Application rates, while cutting down the labour input

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MEAL FEEDING SYSTEMS FOR ... • Rotary, Herringbone & Robotic Sheds • Molasses’ Systems • PKE & Pellet Systems • Silos • Augers • Mills - New Generation • Mineral Dispenser’s • Dust Kits • Air Fluidizer Kits AND MUCH MORE FROM THE COMPANY THAT UNDERSTANDS MEAL FEEDING

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Business Rural / Spring 2013



charge Scott says DeLaval has led the way in product development and revolutionised milk production since it developed its first cream-separator in 1878. Scott says the need for more intensive management on farms to meet nitrate leaching limits set by local authorities is the driving force behind more automated systems and more barn equipment being sought by Canterbury and North Otago dairy farmers. “Only 10% to 15% of effluent is captured at the dairy shed. The remaining 85-90% is distributed by the cows, which is not an exact science. “When cows are kept in a barn, all the effluent is captured in one place and farmers can come up with a nitrate-management plan.” A cow barn can also improve any farming system by catering to the needs of the herd, he says. “Cows start to go under heat stress at 16 degrees, and how many Canterbury days are hotter than 16 degrees? “When a cow goes into heat stress, it affects all sorts of things. If a cow is too cold, that’s not good for it either. If it has to walk long distances, that’s no good for it either. “When you put those cows in a barn, you can control their environment and, instead of the cows spending thyeir energy on keeping warm or cool, they can spend it on making milk.” In a DeLaval barn supplied by AgRural, each cow has its own cubicle that they will often claim as their own. The cubicles are fitted with mattresses and are designed so that cows can lie down and stand up in the natural way. The roof is pitched at 21 degrees to allow natural air flow to ventilate the barn, keep it cool, and allow things to dry out.

The need to manage nitrate-leaching limits is the driving force behind dairy farmers buying more barn equipment. In this DeLaval barn supplied by AgRural, each cow has its own cubicle and mattress.


Researchers and producers agree – cows that Cow comfort isn’t a single product or tool – it are comfortable in their environment produce is a way of working with your cows 24/7. more milk and live healthier, longer lives. Let us show you how our cow comfort product At DeLaval, we have cow comfort solutions to suit your herd’s every need. Our solutions Talk to your DeLaval Dealer today. include tip troughs for clean water, rubber coverage to improve walking, through to barn stalling and mattressing for optimum cow positioning when lying down.



Business Rural / Spring 2013

Dairy-shed partners celebrate Sue Russell An Otago family-owned and operated business has been through extensive diversification and growth since it began in the early 1960s. Managing director Hamish Keith redits the hard work and vision of his parents, Bill and Mary Keith, who bought the company in the mid-’70s, for setting the company on its current path. “My father is still actively involved with the company, providing experienced knowledge when working out solutions for our customers,” says Hamish Keith. “I have been managing director for the last four or so years, but I started with the company as an apprentice fitter-welder more than 18 years ago.” Balclutha-based CCMP, which has a branch at Momona, just south of Dunedin, began servicing the farming sector by manufacturing farm gates, tailing pens and loading races. As dairying began to have an impact in the area, it made sense to expand into designing and building rotary and herringbone milking sheds, something the company has been engaged in for more than 30 years. Bill Keith installed the company’s first dairy shed in 1979. The company specialises in “turnkey” rotary and herringbone dairy sheds; it offers this design-andbuild approach to farmers wanting a new dairy shed. The process begins with consultation about the type and size of shed, the budget and consent issues, then continues to site selection, construction and commissioning. All design and planning is done in-house using the computer-aided-drawing (CAD) software. “We have common designs we use in the projects that help keep costs down,” says Hamish Keith

CCMP has recently turned its attention toward constructing cow housing, like this barn in South Otago.

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Business Rural / Spring 2013


their century “Having a DeLaval dealership also allows us to fully integrate the dairy design to maximise milking equipment performance,.” . This year, the company’s long partnership with local builder Kevin deGroot will see them build their hundredth dairy shed together. Keith says it is very satisfying to have so much repeat custom, and is testament to the fact that building milking sheds is just as much about a relationship as it is about the final product. “We know we’re doing a good job when, as we’ve experienced, we have built five dairy sheds for the one farmer,” he says. With news that forecasts for sheep and beef are not in such a good space, CCMP is experiencing more demand for dairy sheds than at any time in in the last 12 months. CCMP employs about 30 staff, some of whom have been with the company for more than 20 years. Keith says the company is not just about building dairy sheds; it is also committed to the continuing back-up and servicing of all of itsr equipment, and has built an experienced, qualified group passionate about the dairy industry. “Basically we aim to be a one-stop shop for the farmer when it comes to dairy hygiene, milking machines, rotary platforms, pipework, water systems and effluent systems.” DeLaval plays a major part in the engineering activities of the company. CCMP supplies and installs DeLaval’s rotary platforms and, in the last six years, has installed more than 100 rotaries in seven countries. The company has recently turned some of its attention towards constructing cow housing.

“Back in 2006 we built our first large cow barn in South Otago,” says Keith. “ There has been a growth in interest in housing cows indoors given the temperatures and grass conditions that prevail through winter. We’re poised for this, doing our own CAD designs using DeLaval cow-comfort equipment and support from DeLaval cow barn specialists. “We have also converted a couple of sheep covered in yards to cow houses, suitable for 100150 cows.” He says the company has a fabrication workshop capable of producing a wide range of metal-based products, from wire-mesh, purpose-

Basically, we aim to be a one-stop shop for the dairy farmer when it comes to dairy hygiene, milking machines, rotary platforms, pipework, water systems and effluent systems.

built structural steel. Its engineers are also mobile, carrying the equipment needed to repair and maintain farming equipment out on the field. CCMP understands that time is money, says Keith: We pride ourselves on our ability to respond to clients effectively, minimising down-time and costs.

CCMP specialises in “turnkey” herringbone dairy sheds like this one near Gore (above), and rotary sheds, like the recently completed project for the Telford Farming Institute near Balclutha (lower left).


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RURAL SERVICES: Chamberlain Transport

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Silage ripens for ‘good combination’ Farmers spend a lot

Sue Russell Making, carting, buying and selling silage, balage, hay and stray is the specialty of Central Canterbury contractor Chamberlain Agriculture Ltd. Dean and Jackie Chamberlain bought the Sheffield-based business in 2006 , and began the silage operation in 2008. Several clients had said they wished there was a local silage operator, so it made sense to them to develop that side to the business, especially with dairying becoming so widespread. “It meant I could offer a better service and now accounts for about a third of the business,” says Dean Chamberlain. The company’s array of machinery includes round, medium and large square balers, seven in total, two Claas forage harvesters, three truck-andtrailer units. The owns four tractors and leases a further three in the peak season. Dean Chamberlain says it makes sense to put money into more machinery than in owning more tractors. The business, which has been locally owned and operated for more than 45 years, works over a sizeable chunk of Canterbury. from Arthurs Pass in the west, south as far as the Rakaia River, north through Oxford. and to Christchurch in the east. Dean Chamberlain’s family farmed in Sheffield at Russell’s Flat and he has never moved out of the district. At 17 he ran his first business – a successful crop-spraying operation – which he sold 10 years later. . Jackie Chamberlain has an accounting background and does all of the bookwork, which Dean hates. “So, it is a good business combination,” she says. Dean rates reliability of service and quality of product as, the two most important factors in the business, along with good communication with clients and staff. “Farmers spend a lot of their budget on supplementary feed, especially in the dairy industry,

of their budget on supplementary feed, especially in the dairy industry, and they demand a high- quality product. and they demand a high-quality product,” says Dean Chamberlain. “Less feed is grown on farm now and it is a big part of my business to make sure supply meets demand.” Weather is a significant factor in the business and he monitors it on line each day in the season. But, he says, local knowledge is invaluable when trying to predict the forecast. “I rely on the Met Service website, but I’m only interested in looking three to four days ahead. I can prioritise jobs and allocate my staff well within these time-frames, but there are always seasonal surprises.” Seasonal work starts end of October and once under way it is busy right through until March. The Chamberlains rely on seasonal staff and have a core of workers who return each summer. In the peak of the season Chamberlain Agriculture employs 15 staff, five of them experienced operators from England. The company has accommodation available for them. “They love coming over to work here, but once they have worked a season, it is more difficult for them to get working visas again the following year. “This is something the Rural Contractors’ Federation is trying to work on as there is a definite shortage of skilled workers in this industry.”

Chamberlain Agriculture specialises in the making, carting buying and selling of silage, baleage, hay and straw.


Proud to have supplied Baling Twine to this business for the last 20 years and wish Dean Chamberlain a successful future

Phone:03 318 8229 Fax:03 3188720 91 Horndon St, Darfield, Canterbury

51 Waterloo Road, Hornby, Christchurch Ph: 03 349 5975 Rod Lewis: 027 706 4147

Business Rural / Spring 2013

SERVICES: Yaldhurst Wools/AgWorx/Crozier Refrigeration


No real cause for celebration Kelly Deeks Crossbred sheep farmers shouldn’t be too quick to celebrate an upturn in the mid-micron wool market while a wool-producing country continues to promote synthetic carpets, warns John Betts, of Yaldhurst Wools “I think it’s disgusting. Every time I see Kevin Milne on TV, I think he’s a real traitor to New Zealand.” The Christchurch earthquakes have caused the rebuilding of a lot of farmers’ houses, and Betts says retailers are telling them to put in synthetic carpets. “And some of the farmers are listening!” He can’t understand why anyone would choose

a synthetic carpet when wool is a natural fibre and will do everything a synthetic carpet will do. “There has never been a rhino on a wool carpet.” One of the major drawbacks of synthetic carpets has to be their flammability, says Betts. “If there is a fire, synthetic carpets put out fumes and burn. Wool carpet does not burn. You can wrap yourself in a wool blanket and run through a burning building. It could save a life.” The marketing is still not doing the business for the promotion of wool carpets. Betts says wool carpet manufacturer Cavalier Bremworth does its best to advertise, but there is not enough money going into promoting wool carpet. “There should be more support from the retailers to promote our fibre,” Betts says.

Effluent-to-water filter within the next year Jo Bailey Within the next year Ag-Worx expects to become the only New Zealand company to offer a system capable of filtering dairy effluent down to water that meets New Zealand drinking standards. “Our associated company, Forsi Innovations, has been working on this new filtration technology for around seven years and should have a prototype finished by Christmas,” says Ag-Worx general manager Craig Hawes. “The system will enable dairy farmers to process effluent straight off the yard back to water that could be re-used for things such as washing down the yard or irrigating pasture, or even be put back into the stream.”

Given the increased regulations facing the dairy industry and the need to provide cows with good quality, clean drinking water, water treatment and filtration is a growing business for the two companies, he says. “Dairy cows need to drink up to 60 litres of water at one time, but may drink much less if the water isn’t clean. This can impact directly on milk production and profits.” Ag-Worx has been able to filter iron and manganese as well as other elements from farm water supplies using the patented Aquafier IM filtration systems, developed by Forsi Innovations, which is also owned by the Hawes family. Hawes agrees that the $40,000-50,000 price tag is a “significant investment”, but says farmers are seeing the payback from increased milk production in just one or two years. The technology is also used successfully for “any water filtration demand”, from chicken sheds, factories and processing plants; to houses, horse swimming pools, and even small towns, he says.

Yaldhurst Wools is also doing its best to promote and use wool, offering a line of wool products of increasing variety. Sister company Exquisite Wool Blankets, set up four years ago by Betts’s daughter, Polly McGuckin, provides John Atkinson blankets, cushions, and throws to the New Zealand market. John Atkinson is a sub brand of the Hainsworth Mill in West Yorkshire, England, to where Betts has been supplying New Zealand wool for 37 years. Some of that wool goes into making the John Atkinson blanket, which has adorned many beds, including those of royalty in Europe and the Middle East. “We’re quite surprised at how well the blankets have been received here,” Betts says. “Even though we have to send the wool over there and bring it

back. People love the blanket – its extra wide, the quality is superior, and the colours enhance any bedroom.” Another Hainsworth Product imported by Yaldhurst Wools is Natural Legacy, a woollen coffin supported on a strong, recycled cardboard frame. Betts says the popularity of woollen coffins is increasing in the United Kingdom as more cemeteries require caskets to be 100% biodegradable. He feels wool has made gains in the market since the international worldwide Campaign for Wool began in September 2010. “There has been a lot of money going into the campaign, and the market is only going to get better,” Betts says. “Wool is going to become a fibre that’s seen as superior to others.”

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Invention spices up refrigeration Kelly Deeks A combination of the Palmerston North-based Crozier Refrigeration’s 35 years of experience and the technical expertise of managing director Matt Parkinson has seen the development of new controls and motors. The company is in the process of releasing a milk monitor, which farmers can text into and receive a return message with the current temperature in the vat. “I saw the application of the hardware and I adapted it with a GSM unit (sim card) set up with a timer,” says Parkinson. “If the milk takes too long to cool, or it’s too cold, or the power goes off, the monitor sends the farmer a text. If farmers are off the farm and wish to check the temperature, they can text into it.” The company has had success with dairy control panels too. Having had trouble with control panels, Parkinson decided to build his own, and the company now sells them to other suppliers.

“I built them a bit more bullet-proof with a nice blue arctic display that really stands out,” he says.“But a great feature is the delayed start. “This allows the milker to turn on the refrigeration before milking, and then go into the shed to milk, allowing an amount of milk into the vat so that refrigeration is not running on an empty vat.” Parkinson has also developed his own design of agitator motor, which has been a “resounding success” with Crozier Refrigeration clients who own their own vats. “It is being looked at by Fonterra as an alternative to its present model,” he says. “As a by-product of this development, we were also being asked to supply motors for colostrum tanks. Again, we developed a smaller motor for this application and can supply this when requested.” Crozer Refrigeration has been working with a local sheetmetal company and has developed its own solid refrigerated vat. And it has design projects for pre-loading and heat recovery in the pipeline.

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FENCING: Fencing Contractors’ Association of New Zealand

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Fencing contractors work in some of the most beautiful and most remote parts of New Zealand.

Assn nails fencing career skills Jo Bailey Fencing skills can create a pathway into other industries and create a path around the world, says Fencing Contractors’ Association of New Zealand president Simon Fuller. Like most industry associations, the FCANZ is keen to attract more young people to the industry. he says. “The issue was widely discussed at our recent conference in Queenstown. For young people who prefer working in the outdoors rather than sitting in an office or warehouse, fencing is a great career path. “It can take them around the world and also give them a broad base of practical skills that can lead into other industries.” The profession offers apprenticeships and training towards a New Zealand Qualifications Authority Certificate in Fencing Level 4. Fencing contractors get the opportunity to work in some of the most beautiful and most remote parts of New Zealand, says Fuller. “What other workshops have the views that we do?” They also have the opportunity to travel and meet people from around the country: “I can find a bed pretty much anywhere thanks to the contacts I’ve made through fencing.” Fuller says the 2013 FCANZ conference was well attended, with nearly 100 people at the conference dinner where the guest speaker was All Black Andrew Hore. Networking and family-based activities formed a big part of the conference programme. “A lot of our members work alone or in small groups, so to be able to get together to share business ideas, tips and solutions to problems, with their peers from throughout the country was fantastic.” Delegates visited the historic Hayes engineering works at Oturehua, where both the parallel and permanent wire strainer was invented by farmer and flour-miller Ernest Hayes in the 1920s – products

The FCANZ offers apprenticeships and training towards a NZQA Certificate in Fencing.

that revolutionised fencing around the world. Delegates also had the opportunity to see a new Kiwitech four-wire, sprung-pivot flexi-fence in action on a dryland sheep and beef farm near Cromwell (the fence was featured in the industry’s latest Wired magazine. “Fencing pivot irrigators is not easy, and it’s essential to spend time at the planning stage to get things right from the start,” says Fuller. “Our North Island members don’t come across a lot of centre-pivots, so it was interesting for us to see the different types of set-up.” FCANZ was founded in 2006 by a group of fencing contractors and its founding strategic partner, Wiremark, to encourage and develop professionalism and high standards of fencing in New Zealand. Fuller, who runs Waikato-based Fuller Fencing, was on the steering committee when the association was formed and is a second-timeround president. “Fencing wasn’t really classed as an industry in the past, and contractors had no voice at all before

the association was founded. Now there are very few contractors who are not qualified or skilled. The profile and standard of the industry has really been lifted.” FCANZ accepts both regular members and accredited fencing contractors, who have to provide evidence of their professional skills and company policies – in the same way builders apply to become members of Master Builders. FCANZ provides training and information to members through regional meetings, and resources such as fencing technical-fact sheets, legal-fact sheets, and advice for running a business. It can also investigate and resolve disputes.

Fencing wasn’t classed as an industry, and contractors had no voice before the FCANZ was founded. The profile

Simon Fuller says the focus of the association over the next 12 to 18 months will be to set formal standards for industrial fencing, which includes fencing for commercial and industrial premises, security, pool, sports and Corrections Department facilities. He says the recent reference to FCANZ by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) in a tender document highlights the growing awareness of the association and its goals. “It is great to see fencing grow as a stand-alone industry, with the FCANZ recognised as the group raising its profile and setting standards nationwide,” he says. 347 Arundel Belfield Road RD22 Geraldine 7992 p. 03 693 8088 m. 021 523 291

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FENCING: Ewing Fencing Contractors

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Life on the tops thing to savour Jo Bailey Mark Ewing has no regrets about switching trades to become a fencing contractor over 30 years ago. “I qualified as a motor mechanic but decided to get into fencing instead. I liked being outdoors and in the hills – fencing gave me all of this.” For 10 years, Mark and Bernice Ewing have run Ewing Fencing Contractors from their North Otago lifestyle block just north of Oamaru. Mark Ewing started in business with another fencing contractor, mainly doing high-country fencing. That is still a big part of the operation. “We try to do as much high-country work as we can in summer,” he says. “Our young guys really enjoy it.” The business employs four full-time staff, and Ewing says the workload is getting to the stage where an extra employee could be beneficial. The Ewings’ son, Logan, has worked in the company for several years. “Logan and I run a crew each, but work together on bigger contracts to complete them faster,” says Mark. “It’s great having his fresh ideas and enthusiasm, and he ensures the business keeps up to date with the latest technology.” The rural and farming sector provides the bulk of the company’s work, with fencing for dairy and dairy-support farms accounting for at least half of its business. The remainder of the rural work is largely on sheep and beef farms. The firm is also involved with several projects each year for the Department of Conservation. These include fencing maintenance on high-country land that has gone through tenancy review, and pulling down fences that DOC no longer requires. “We are also a preferred installer of the Boundaryline Post and Rail fences, which are very popular for lifestyle properties and farm entranceways,” says Mark Ewing. “The demand for this type of fence is increasing yearly.” He says the company’s staff enjoy the variety this mix of projects provides. The firm’s fleet of modern equipment includes two post-drivers on four-wheel-drive tractors.

He ensures the business keeps up to date with the latest technology.

“Our latest Series 4 Kinghitter post-driver can be used in any position, from side-mounted to rear-mounted. It is fully hydraulic, has a telescopic mast, and has two spikes of different diameter.” The company’s work is concentrated in North Otago and South Canterbury – as far south as Palmerston, and particularly up the Waitaki Valley into the high country. However, as Mark Ewing says: “We are happy to go anywhere there is work.” Ewing Fencing Contractors is an accredited contractor of the Fencing Contractors’ Association of New Zealand, which supports the New Zealand fencing industry. This qualification gives clients an assurance of quality and workmanship, which he and his staff are “very passionate” about, Ewing says. PHOTOS: Above, Ewing Fencing Contractors has two post-drivers mounted on four-wheel-drive tractors (above, one at work in the high country; left, upper, the other with company staff). Left, lower: Driveway fencing.

Professional touch can be pivotal Pivot fencing is a good example of the importance of engaging an experienced professional to erect permanent fencing, says wing Fencing Contractors’ Mark Ewing. Wheel crossings – where the irrigators run over the fences – are particularly vulnerable, he says. ”If the wheels cross the line at a 90-degree angle, the irrigator will usually run cleanly over the fence. However, problems can occur if the irrigator crosses the fence on a sharp angle.” This may cause the wires to get caught up in the wheels of the irrigator and sometimes gets wound around the drive unit. “This can wreck the drive-unit and result in the pivot pulling the fence out and dragging it along with

it. No farmer wants to go out in the morning and see that kind of mess in the paddock.” One way to alleviate this issue is to create a “mini gateway” for the wheels to run through, with a length of electric bungee cord installed into the gateway for the wheels to run over. “If the wire does get caught, it is only a small job to repair. This process also allows us to angle the fence so that the mini-gateway is at right angles to the wheels running through.” “We’ve been doing it long enough to know the basics of quality fencing. You do need a bit of experience to get it right.”

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FENCING: Whyte Contracting

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Steep learning Jo Bailey

Andrew Whyte has recently added this FencePro post driver and Holland tractor to Whyte Contracting’s growing stable of fencing machinery.

There would be few 25-year-olds around who have run their own company for eight years. But this is true of fencing contractor Andrew Whyte, who started Mid Canterbury-based Whyte Contracting at the age of just 18. “It was hard to begin with being a younger contractor, as it takes time to build up trust with clients. But the company has a good name in the market now,” he says. Whyte Contracting specialises in rural fencing, which accounts for around 90% of its business. The company claims particular expertise in farm layouts for dairy conversions and pivotirrigator fencing. “Both have quite specific requirements, so it’s a good idea to talk to us at the earliest stages of any development,” says Andrew Whyte. “We work on these sorts of projects all the time so can provide recommendations on the best locations for laneways and underpasses to ensure the most efficient stock-flow. We can also advise on some of the innovations now available for pivot fencing.”

Electric fencing is another major part of the job, he says. “We do the whole job right from when a farmer rings us, to GPS of the site, organising the layout, doing the earthworks and installing the underground cabling. When we’re finished, the power is on, the gates are finished, and everything is in the ground ready to go.” The company also builds timber stockyards for cattle, sheep and deer; as well as calf sheds and general farm sheds. “Cattle yards are our biggest one, although we’ve recently started two large sets of sheep yards in the Mayfield area,” says Whyte. Other services include entranceways, outdoor living areas, concrete patios, pathways, pool fencing, and supplying and fitting water systems. When Whyte started the business in 2005, fencing was one of several services he offered. “I started out leasing and hiring gear and doing silage, mowing and building work. In my first winter I hired a post-hole driver and in the second winter, I bought one and decided to get right into fencing.” His father, Vernon, worked alongside him during his first 12 months in business, and was

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Proud to support J Whyte Contracting Contact MARK today PHONE: (03) 688 2591 FAX: (03) 688 2594 MOBILE: 0274 80 44 73 44 Racecourse Road (beside Gordon Handy Machinery), Washdyke EMAIL: WEB:

FENCING: Point Lumber

Business Rural / Spring 2013


curve for young specialist a “massive help”, he says. “Dad would help out when I needed an extra person. But it quickly grew to several employees.” He admits the rapid growth of the company was a “wee bit daunting” at the time. “After three years in business I had eight staff. I wasn’t that long out of school, but had to learn very quickly how to manage staff, clients and time.” There are still six “good, reliable, hardworking” staff, plus Andrew. Second-incharge Andrew Tillier started with the company six years ago. “It has been really satisfying to watch Andrew grow from a young guy of about 18, who hardly knew anything about fencing, to someone who has hung around and proved himself, and who I can now leave in charge when I’m not around,” says Andrew Whyte. Since the company started. his parents, Vernon and Sue Whyte, have converted their farm near Hinds and are in their second season of milking. Whyte Dairies is also home to Whyte Contracting. The business has recently bought a new FencePro post driver and new Holland tractor to add to his growing complement of machinery – which includes a two-tonne digger used mainly for laying underground cable and water pipes; and a larger 12-tonne digger used for earthworks. Most of Whyte Contracting’s work is in the Mid Canterbury area, although it has worked in North Canterbury and on Banks Peninsula, putting up cell-phone-tower fencing. Andrew Whyte is a member of the Fencing

Timber stockyards for cattle, sheep and deer are a major part of Whyte Contracting’s repertoire.

Contractors’ Association of New Zealand and takes his professional development seriously, completing a number of courses. “We are always looking for more innovative ways to construct fences that will do the job more effectively.” He says the company won’t do “cheap or temporary patch up jobs”. “It has taken eight years to get to where we are now and we haven’t taken any shortcuts on the way. We have many repeat clients and we stand by our work.”

Local identity seen as supply company’s greatest strength Jo Bailey Contractors and farmers are the biggest market for Washdyke-based fencing supply specialist Point Lumber Ltd. “We have a sizeable yard and retail outlet where farmers can pop in at any time to load up their trucks or trailers,” says sales manager Mark Edmond. “We are also the preferred supplier to many local contractors servicing the rural market.” He says Point Lumber carries a full range of product for rural and livestock fencing, protection, safety and security fencing, retaining fences, chain link and barbed wire fencing. The company specialises in round-wood post manufacture using radiata and corsican pine, he says. A post-peeling and post-point mill is set up at its Washdyke yard, while treatment of the posts is done at its smaller Pleasant Point yard, which is also used for product storage. A by-product of the post manufacturing process is proving popular with local farmers, says Edmond. “We supply thousands of cubic metres of woodchip to local dairy farmers, who use it mainly for calf rearing. It’s a big part of our business now.” Point Lumber also has its own mill for timber production. “We do have to buy some timber in as well, because we sell more than we can make ourselves.” Edmond and sales consultant Paula Fletcher are the first point of contact at Point Lumber’s retail site, helping customers select from a variety of timber, posts, beams, fence-strainers, poles, fence fittings, netting and framing, gates, gate operators, fittings, latches and anchors, and fitting tools. As well as dealing with the public, Point Lumber supplies some larger South Canterbury rural supplies stores, such as CRT and PGG/Wrightson. Locally owned and operated, the company has been in business for around 20 years. It has 12 full-time staff in its production yard and sales office, plus casual staff. As the business has grown, the owners have

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bought more land. Its two sites now cover a total of nearly four hectares. A sideline business deals with the manufacture and sales of timber picnic tables, playhouses, chicken coops, rabbit hutches and timber products. “We have several picnic tables on display in front of the retail shop, and access to a builder who will custom-make pretty much any smaller timber item,” says Edmond. “If customers come in for a chat, we can talk about what they want and give them a price.” He points to several reasons for choosing Point Lumber. “We are open six days, have a wide product range under one roof, offer competitive pricing and free quotes, and provide a cartage and delivery service. But, most importantly, we are a local company, providing the market with locally made products.”

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ON FARM: Tony Rogers/David van Bysterveldt

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Tony Rogers...a man with a few opinions, and not afraid to express them, he keeps the general readership informed about the dairy/ agricultural sector, and lets his constituents know they have a voice in the industry.

Cheerful controversialist Neil Grant Being the Federated Farmers dairy section chair in a region where there are only 16 dairy farms could be seen as a bit of a drag. Tony Rogers has held this Wanganui district position for more years than he cares to think about. He was asked to stand by the branch chair, and no-one has stood against him. So he just carries on. “It’s rather bizarre,” he says. “It’s not a very active branch. Federated Farmers is a very worthwhile organisation, but it’s expensive to belong to. “They employ a lot of staff, who don’t come for nothing. It is expensive for farmers who are on the bones of their bums. The reality is, the only ones belonging are getting long in the tooth and are not doing day-to-day farming, so have got more time.”

The section may be small, but Rogers still takes the job seriously. “I go to a lot of conferences and I listen. It’s time consuming, but it’s interesting. Branches like Waikato and Canterbury get all the attention, but that’s where all the action is.” Rogers reckons Wanganui has still probably got as many cows as it has ever had, but far fewer farmers. It has never been a big dairy area, probably because of its climate. It’s a bit too dry, by and large, but not dry enough to make irrigation worthwhile, as in Canterbury. So, it could all be a bit of a doddle. But Rogers is a man with a few opinions, and not afraid to express them. He gets articles in the local papers, and is cheerfully controversial in them. This keeps the general readership informed about what is happening in the dairy or general agricultural sector, and lets his constituents know they have a voice.

The easy thing to do is have a good winge, but his articles show a pretty healthy balance. Sure, he claimed that the Green Party’s Russell Norman was almost “treasonous”, but other articles have dealt with increased Fonterra payouts and how these will affect the local economy, and being innovative on the farm in the face of the drought. “I try to make things topical, and try not to go off on a tangent. It’s easy to grandstand, and make a twit of yourself. But I don’t go out and about pushing the barrow. “One chap in the federation said to me he had learned the best way to deal with things [at meetings] is to keep your mouth shut. If you just do your job, you get respect from the directors.” A meeting had a discussion between bosses of Fonterra and Westland Milk Products. This appealed to Rogers because he has a farm at Inangahua as well as the home farm at Turakina.

produced from bits and pieces soldered together. It worked, so the next model was made on a “breadboard”, a solderless electronics base. It was better, so was refined again until David van Bysterveldt was satisfied it would work on his four farms. Rather than just make four, he had a hundred produced, enough for himself, and some to sell to others. “I think it’s a marvellous product,” he says. “It will sell, no problem. We’ve sold a few already to people who have lost a vat-load of milk. “It’s too late then. A farm with 250 cows could lose more than $3000 if the chiller isn’t on. People should buy it before they have an accident. It’s cheap insurance.” A number of the alarms have been sent to Australia, and have started selling there. The device is a little box mounted near the main electrical switchboard. Two clamp leads are clipped around the milking plant’s and the chiller’s electrical leads. The microprocessor in the monitor records current passing through the leads.

It has got complicated

“They were talking about the co-operatives working together and not competing in the same overseas markets. Then there was talk about Synlait, which tried to get local support but eventually got backing from China, now having shareholders from FrieslandCampina, Fonterra’s major competitor. Now that would really set the cat among the pigeons. “Whether it comes to much, only time will tell, but FrieslandCamina does want to get its foot into the New Zealand liquid-milk market.” Rogers is generally inclined to accept change as “the inevitable”, and look for ways to make use of the new environment. “The trend is for farms to be owned by by massive investors. Dairying is becoming increasingly corporate, with lots of investors owning a bit of the farm while someone else does all the work.”

One ‘Just Cool’ science project over spilt milk Neil Grant The threat of losing a whole vat of milk because someone forgot to turn the chiller on should send a chill of its own up the back of any dairy farmer. Even worse, if the worker responsible did later turn it on, but the milk was already spoilt, it could ruin the whole tanker-load and cost even more As a result of just such an experience, Morrinsville dairy farmer David van Bysterveldt had been mulling over how to prevent a recurrence. As luck would have it, his 15-year-old son, Ben, came home from school with a problem of his own. He had to prepare a project for a science fair, and did not know what to do. The two of them talked it over, then went to see an electrician friend, and started learning about solenoids and switches, and later, when they got in touch with the Novel Ways electronics company, about microprocessors and current monitors. Ben spent time with the company finding out about electronic stuff, and the first prototype was

electronics in it, but it’s brilliantly simple. At the end of milking when the machines are turned off, the alarm sounds if the chiller has not been running. There is a buzzer on the monitor, and another waterproof one near the milking-platform operators. The monitor’s job is to ensure that once the milking plant starts, the chiller turns on. If the chiller is not turned on within 20 minutes of the start of milking, the alarm sounds for 30 seconds as a prompt. If, at the end of milking, the chiller is not turned on, the alarm sounds for 30 minutes. If the plant has a secondary chilling system, such as a snap chill or an ice bank, and the milk comes down to temperature during milking, the system microprocessor picks up that the chiller has

been working for more than 20 minutes during milking, and does not trigger the alarm. The alarm is given only if a certain sequence of events does, or does not, happen. A new model also has the ability to send alarm text messages to cell phones. “It has got complicated electronics in it, but it’s brilliantly simple,” says David van Bysterveldt. “There’s nothing else on the market at our price that can do what this one does.” He wanted to call the system ‘Just Chill’, but someone already had the 0800 number for that, so he settled on ‘Just Cool’. 0800justcool is easy enough to remember. It stands for 0800 58782665. Information: davidvanbysterveldt@ Ben has moved on from the project, which came second in the school’s science fair. Like most teenager, he has found other interests.. “It was a means to an end for us both,” says David. “I wanted him to see that you can take an idea, run with it, have it come out successful, and bring something in for you.”

ON FARM: Raymond Miller

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Raymond Miller is using the MINDA herd records service as his primary source of information on which to base his decisions on improving the quality and performance of his 1050-strong herd.

Cows ‘less physical’ than sheep Kelly Deeks Raymond Miller may be a novice dairyman and he certainly doesn’t claim to have it all sussed after just one season. But he reckons dairying is comparatively easy compared with sheep farming. “With sheep, everything you do is physical,” he says. “With milking, all you have to do is get up early in the morning. There’s no crutching, dagging, and drenching.” A born-and-bred sheep farmer, he completed his first year of milking last season – something he had never envisaged he would be doing. Having gathered a base of knowledge and experience in his first last season, Miller is now aiming for production gains through the initiatives he has put in place to help him improve his herd. Miller certainly did not plan to become part of the dairy industry. The switch came about by circumstance, When the run-off he was managing for FarmRight was sold, the investment and management company offered him him a new job managing a 1050-cow farm at Riversdale, in Southland. The biggest hurdle in the 2012-13 season – his first – was learning how to milk in the 52-bail rotary dairy shed. His years of pasture-management experience, combined with support from a FarmRight overseer and consultants, helped him settle in to his new role.

The biggest hurdle was learning how to milk in the 52-bail rotary dairy shed.

And at 355,000 kilograms of milksolids, the farm’s production beat beat the budgeted figure by 5000kg. The cows were dried off a week ahead of schedule because of the dry conditions, and the 250 that were wintered off farm returned in good condition. The herd is in better condition than last season, he says. Faving farmed in the Middlemarch area for five years, Miller says he knows what droughts are all about. The Riversdale farm is right by the Mataura River; half of the farm dries out, and half does not. All supplement used is grown on the farm in the form of silage, and through the drought, he bought in two unit-loads of ryegrass straw to avoid having to use his winter feed. After drying off a week early, Miller brought the calving date a week forward. He is working on the farm’s calving spread, which is quite wide, and aims to get some cows in calf earlier to make up for the later ones. With an average herd and an empty rate of 8% this season, he intends to keep culling. These decisions will be assisted by the use of the MINDA herd records service, which the farm began using last winter. “Everything that happens to a cow is recorded, so when we go to cull, we can find out how good the cow is. It’s going to help our herd improvement.” This season he is running the farm without the assistance of the overseer, but is maintaining close contact with FarmRight consultants. He has four full-time staff and two relief milkers, and says the farm’s performance comes back on to all of them. “If we do more production, it gives us more money to pay good wages, buy better bikes, and provide better working conditions,” he says. “The more we make, the more we get to put back in.”



RURAL PEOPLE: Andrew & Tracy Paterson

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Friendly rivalry Jo Bailey

Around 17,000 sheep were shorn on the 8700-hectare Matakanui Station in Central Otago. The high-country property also winters 1300 cattle.

We pride ourselves on the whiteness, brightness and amount of wool our animals produce.

The New Zealand Royal Agricultural Society’s National Golden Fleece competition has created years of “friendly rivalry” within the Central Otagobased Paterson family. This year, it was Andrew Paterson, of Matakanui Station, near Omakau, who came out on top, winning the Supreme Fine Wool Fleece award. He had finished second to a relative, Alan Paterson, on several occasions. “Alan produces very good merino wool and has won the supreme award a few times over the years. We knew it would take a pretty special fleece to beat him,” says Andrew Paterson. The winning 24-micron fleece, which scored 98 out of a possible 100 points, had a skirted greasy weight of 6.05kg. It was also the champion quarterbred, or polwarth, fleece. Matakanui hadn’t won the supreme award since the early 1980s, when Andrew’s father, Martin, took the honours. Martin and Hilary Paterson retired off the farm a few years ago. This year’s win follows the station’s success in producing the Supreme Champion Fleece at the Canterbury A & P Show last November, a feat the Patersons have managed seven times in the last nine years. “It’s great to consistently achieve this sort of recognition,” says Andrew Paterson, who with wife Tracy, farms the property. “We pride ourselves on the whiteness, brightness and amount of wool our animals produce,” Around 17,000 sheep were shorn on the 8700-hectare Matakanui high country property this season; 15,500 were wintered, along with around 1300 cattle. “We’ve reduced ewe numbers a wee bit to around 8000, and are increasing wether numbers as part of a campaign to improve footrot resistance.” Andrew has also been “challenging” his rams by wintering them in a swampy gully for the last two years. “If any of the rams get lame, we leave them in there in the hope they will build resistance, and footrot-test the remainder. I don’t believe it’s possible for stock to build resistance to the disease without actually experiencing it.” He describes this system as his “biggest leap forward” in footrot management. “I’m determined my kids won’t have to stand around and watch me trim sheep’s feet.” Improving animal health is part of a master plan


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RURAL PEOPLE: Andrew & Tracy Paterson

Business Rural / Spring 2013


produces polwarth gold We’ve improved the stock considerably over time with a focus on producing the right sort of animal for our meat and wool contracts. to produce versatile stock capable of surviving the harsh, high-country climate, but that can also handle being fattened on improved country. “We’ve improved the stock considerably over time with a focus on producing the right sort of animal for our meat and wool contracts with the likes of Smartwool and Icebreaker. “By doing that we’re making good returns.” He is also experimenting with his own fine-wool, terminal ram to enable him to shear his lambs for the Smartwool contract, rather than producing black-faced lambs with no wool value. He says a significant investment in technology has played a big part in stock improvement at his Matakanui and Rockthorpe studs, where all stud stock are tagged at birth and fully recorded for genetic traits, individual performance characteristics and wool quality. “We have introduced electronic identification (EID) and six-way auto-drafting which is making a big difference.” EID really comes into its own when the Patersons sell around 200 rams privately on the station over summer. “We have an EID wand set up with a 40-inch flatscreen TV so that the buyers can view all the information about the rams they are interested in on the big screen. It has been quite successful.” All rams are micron-tested, eye-muscle scanned, and are footrot and lamb survivability gene tested. On the advice of Merino New Zealand, Paterson says he has gone back to single-sire mating. “Merino NZ said this is the way of the future for breeding values, so we’ve moved towards that. We’ll probably start weighing the lambs and tagging with EID at tailing time which will give us some pretty accurate information.” Tracy Paterson has given up her job as a lawyer to look after the administration of the Matakanui Station, and that of the Mt Stalker Station, at

Significant investment in technology has played a big part in stock improvements at the Matakanui and Rockthorpe studs. Herbert, which is run by Andrew’s brother, Hamish. This year she took up wool classing, with Andrew as her mentor. “She’s got a real eye for it, which is not bad for someone from Waiheke Island,” he says. “We’re hoping she’ll be an ownerclasser by this time next year.”


probably increase stock numbers by another 10,000 before this development even occurs. The irrigation project may be a few years off, but this gives us time to continue to make improvements to our stock, so they are able to handle that situation when it comes.”


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The couple have three children – Niamh 10, James 8 and Ciara 5 – who are all well adjusted to station life. With the possibility of a major irrigation project going through the property, Andrew says there is plenty of scope to increase stock numbers. “We are far from capacity as it is, and could

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RURAL PEOPLE: Nithdale Station/Aaron Hawkins & Tracy Finch

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Breeders’ quest for parasiteresistance ‘long way down road’ Karen Phelps It has taken them 20 years to get there, but Andrew and Heather Tripp are now well on their way towards breeding the first parasite-resistant sheep. Their Nithdale Romneys stud’s breeding value for faecal egg counts in adult ewes is now 50% lower than it was 20 years ago when the couple

began to target their breeding programme towards parasite resistance. “At the same time, we’re also improving production traits such as wool, fertility, growth and meat,” says Andrew Tripp. The Tripps say their targeted breeding programme has resulted in less drenching and better animal health. Andrew Tripp thinks parasite burden on sheep is

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an often overlooked issue that has real impact on a farm’s bottom line. “The issue of drench-resistant in sheep is one that won’t go away. Parasites are adapting to new drenches quickly. “There is also the issue of growing consumer resistance to the use of chemicals on their food, and food safety and quality issues. One only has to look at what’s happened to Fonterra recently to see how big an issue it is becoming,” The Tripps’ aim is to one day breed totally parasite-resistant sheep that do not need drenching. They are already seeing lambs develop immunity to worms much earlier and have managed to cut their lamb drenching back by about half. “I get frustrated sometimes because I’d love

to not be drenching the lambs at all right now, but we’re not quite at that stage yet,” says Andrew Tripp. “We’re certainly a long way down the road though, which is very rewarding.” He says that as a breeder, it’s important for him to keep on top of global trends and try to mirrorball-gaze into the future. This was what first led him to think about breeding parasite-resistant sheep. He had joined the Southern Romney Development Group, which had just decided to work with AgResearch as part of its WormFEC programme after discovering that some sheep were naturally more resistant to internal parasites than others. This indicated that resistance to parasites was theoretically a trait that could be bred.

Heather and Andrew Tripp began breeding towards parasite resistance 20 years ago.

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New sharemilkers target Karen Phelps Aaron Hawkins and Tracy Finch have a number of changes in mind in their first season as lower-order sharemilkers on Borst Holdings-owned Incholme Farm, a 192-hectare (effective) unit in the Kakanui Valley, near Oamaru. They aim to turn around the somatic-cell count which has averaged 280-300 for the past two years, and tighten up the calving spread. They have already upgraded the teat-spraying system to compressed air for better coverage, and have re-fenced the lower part of the farm into more evenly sized paddocks for improved pasture management to help ensure the cows are fed more consistently. “It’s about setting things up in the spring, using rapid mastitis testing to make sure every cow that leaves the colostrum herd is clean, and culling older cows,” says Hawkins.

“We have put more fibre into the calving cows so that they don’t make too much milk before they calve. If they’re leaking milk and sitting in the mud, they are more prone to infection.” During calving, they brought the cows through the shed before they calve, feed them barley and spray their teats. Calving is being tightened up by vet checking any cow that hasn’t cycled before mating. The farm milks 870 friesian and crossbred cows through a 46-a-side herringbone shed. The entire farm is irrigated with a mix of centre-pivot, k-line and Roto-Rainers. Four full-time staff are employed – a second-incharge and three calf-rearers. Aaron and Tracy look after day-to-day management. The farm is owned by Robert and Sylvia Borst, of Borst Holdings. Robert Borst comes from a dairying background and has worked in the industry all his life. He bought his first farm at Five Forks, inland

They were lucky to sell their cows at the height of the market, which enabled them to buy their dairy-grazing block. Their aim is to buy more land for grazing and Email: 60 RD OAMARU Phone: (03) 439 5809 Mobile: 0274 334 250 Fax: (03) 439 5806

perhaps invest in a dairy farm.

Business Rural / Spring 2013

RURAL PEOPLE: Nithdale Station/Aaron Hawkins & Tracy Finch


Far left: The faecal egg count in Andrew and Heather Tripp’s adult ewes is now half what it was when they started breeding for parasite resistance 20 years ago. Left: An aerial view of the 1478-hectare Nithdale Station at Kaiwera, near Gore. The station runs 1200 stud romney ewes and 3500 commercial romney ewes, and the Tripps farm 1850 commercial hoggets. They also converted part of the property to dairy six years ago, and now milk more than 800 cows. Tripp began a targeted breeding programme that which has included letting parasite burden build up in ram lambs in the stud flock, doing faecal egg tests and recording the results. The ram lambs with the lowest counts were used for breeding each year. The Tripps are using DNA technology available through Zoetis, blood testing their sires and ewes to determine the parentage of the lambs through their DNA. Their hard work has brought them success in the Beef + Lamb NZ Sheep Industry Awards. Last year they won the ACE Dual Purpose plus WormFEC Flock award, which means they had the best dual-purpose flock in New Zealand breeding for resistance to internal parasites. And this year they picked up two more awards at the 2013 awards - SIL-ACE Dual Purpose for Reproduction and SIL-ACE Dual Purpose for Internal Parasite Resistance. Andrew and Heather Tripp farm Nithdale Station, 1478 hectares at Kaiwera, north of Gore. They run about 1200 stud romney ewes and 3500

commercial romney ewes. The commercial ewes are mated back to the romney for the first cycle and then sufftex (suffolktexel) rams, which the Tripps have bred from their 400 stud sufftex ewes. They also farm 1850 stud and commercial hoggets. The Tripps converted part of their property to dairy six years ago and now milk more than 800 cows, which they say has helped diversify their income. Since the dairy conversion pushed the sheep off the productive flats on to the hill country, production has been more challenging, says Tripp. In their best year, their stud ewes lambed around 165% and the commercial ewes around 140%. The Tripps sell rams each year by private treaty in November and have some organic-farming clients. They are developing their market into the North Island. Andrew Tripp says he had a client whose lambing percentage rose from 100 t0 130 in just three years, so results can sometimes be quick.

Maternal & Terminal Sires • Proven performance • Easy care Winners of the Beef + Lamb NZ Sheep Industry Genetic Awards 2013 for Reproduction and Resistance to Internal Parasites (Winners of Beef & Lamb Sheep Industry Awards 2012 Best Dual Purpose Plus WormFEC Flock) Contact: Andrew Tripp (03) 205 3586 0272566647


I get frustrated sometimes because I’d love to not be drenching the lambs at all right now, but we’re not quite at that stage yet.

calving, somatic cells from Oamaru, in 1997 and converted it to dairy. Now 340ha, this farm runs 900 cows. The Borsts also own and operate two other dairy farms in the area, running 3600 cows across the three properties. They also lease a 200ha run-off at Five Forks where they carry over cows, beef stock and winter some dairy cows. Hawkins and Finch are also developing their business. They live on their own property at Reefton, a 46ha dairy grazing block run by Tracy. She grew up on a poultry farm at Milton and went dairying when she left school, working on a few farms around Oamaru. Aaron went into farming at 14 when his parents

bought a drystock farm on the Waitaki Plains and converted it to dairy. He worked on other farms before meeting Tracy, and they took a lower-order sharemilking position together on a farm on the Waitaki Plains. After three years they bought the herd and went 50:50 sharemilking on the farm. They were lucky to sell their cows at the height of the market, which enabled them to buy their dairy-grazing block. Their aim is to buy more land for grazing and perhaps invest in a dairy farm. Meanwhile they are out to lift production on Incholme to 430,000 kilograms of milksolids – the farm achieved 410,000kg last season.

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ON FARM: Paul & Stacey Butson

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Paul Butson chats with farm workers Lynsey Selcraig and Tony Laird in the 50-a-side herringbone shed (left) while Butson’s son, Riki, keeps a close eye on proceedings (right).

Family affair on plains

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The difference between a self-proclaimed animal health specialist and a

Neil Grant That’s one sticky problem solved. Another thing to deal with is pugging. If the weather is damp, the cows can mess the paddocks up, so the Butsons have a concrete feedpad that can hold 300 at a time. In the off season the cows go to a run-off block down the road where they luxuriate on fodder beet, and the pasture regenerates. The three road crossings the cows have to make at each milking time take a bit of organising and require staffing. Nut, that’s just part of dairying life here. Until recently, mastitis had been a worry. Paul Butson says that seems to have been fixed since cup removers were added to the plant in the cowshed. The farm is still very much a family business, he says.

“Mum is the calf-rearer, and does the recording. Dad is out doing the groundwork. We employ three full-timers, and my sister helps Mum and Dad.” Stacey Butson is mother to their two-and-ahalf-year-old son, Riki, when he isn’t out helping his dad. “She’s from a sheep farming background,” Paul says. “I think she’s starting to enjoy the change. Anyway, her father has just converted their farm to dairying. He has seen the light.” The future could eventually see this couple get into sharemilking or an equity partnership, as so many young dairy farmers do. In the meantime, they will continue to learn what there is to learn from his father and mother; deal with the milking, the feeding out, the fertilising and the maintenance. And thank their lucky stars that Paul’s parents were clever enough to buy a farm on the uphill side of the Taieri where it doesn’t ever flood.

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RURAL PEOPLE: Grant & Nicola Neal

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Share info, avoid chasing tails Neil Grant Gypsy day, it’s called. Every June 1, when dairying’s equivalent of musical chairs takes place, sharemilkers throughout the country swap farms, and often even islands, to take up new challenges. Grant and Nicola Neal moved to their new farm on June 1 this year. Their new owners had taken possession of the dairy farm on the 1st and have combined it with their adjacent run-off The 320-hectare farm is on the terrace above the Otago side of the Waitaki River, between Georgetown and Duntroon. It is a new conversion, just in its third season, so the shed is new, and much of the land has been regrassed. It is not as flat as the intensive dairy country downstream, but still suitable for the four centrepivots and peripheral k-line irrigators needed to grow enough grass for cows in North Otago. The farm is watered by the North Otago Irrigation Scheme, and a small local scheme serving several neighbours. The Neals had been dairying near Oamaru for five years. Nicola Neal works part-time as a veterinarian as well as being a farmer. This, and the couple’s inclination to be involved, makes them active in local discussion groups. “We had a discussion group for local calfrearers on our farm,” Nicola Neal says. “They were

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The young and the restless: North Otago farmers Grant and Nicola Neal have their hands full with calves and young family (left) and take cover under the irrigator (below). a very enthusiastic group of people. About 40 were involved, a good active group. We had a similar one about two years ago, so this year was to follow up on some of the ideas from the last one. It’s always great to learn things from how others do things.” “The idea is to try and continually improve by recording what you’re doing, measuring your results and comparing them with others’ results,” says Grant. “There’s a bit of a shortage of relevant New Zealand trial information around rearing dairy calves, so good, real-life reports are really important. Nicola was involved with Dairy New Zealand to get it organised and advertise it. We really enjoy these sorts of events. They give us great ideas on how to best use our time, what different facilities and resources are available, and fitting family time into the farm system. Information sharing helps you focus on the important things and not just chase your tails.” The Neals’ big challenge for the season is to bring the calving date forward from August 8 to August 1, and to make it more compact. Their focus is on cow condition and maintaining it over the calving period when, typically, the cows lose a full score or more. “We’ve been working hard over the winter to get

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the cows in condition for calving,” says Grant Neal.. “Fodder beet is a good tool for that. “We are now experimenting with how we can

feed the springer and colostrum cows better so that we can minimise the condition loss to less than half a score. This could have a big impact on the cows’ reproduction and production. “There is a lot we are learning along the way. I’m not sure if I’ll ever truly understand a cow’s hormones over the calving period though; it’s much like when your wife is expecting your first baby, a bit of a hormone crockpot.”

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RURAL PEOPLE: Tom and Jan Pinckney

Business Rural / Spring 2013

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Northburn Station is a combination of award-winning food-and-wine venue and high-country sheep station on the eastern shore of Lake Dunstan, near Cromwell.

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Northburn Station climbs from the eastern shore of Lake Dunstan just north of Cromwell to the schisttorred top of the Dunstan Range. It’s dry, steep, unforgiving country. To be successful, a farmer needs to understand there will be years when drought or snow, rabbits or some other pestilence will make life difficult. Tom Pinckney grew up on Glenaray Station, a huge Northern Southland farm with dependable rainfall, growing crossbred sheep, deer and cattle. On such regular-rainfall properties, stock can be grazed fairly intensively on the developed country using rotation systems to maximise pasture use. So it came as a shock to his system when the family bought Northburn in 1993. “Farming the dry environment is challenging to get to grips with,” he says. “I hadn’t dealt with merinos before. But, animals are animals – feed them well and they will perform well. “The dryness took time to come to grips with: to learn how to manage the dry instead of the wet. In Southland, the grass just keeps on growing. Here, you can have spectacular failures.” Compared to Glenaray, Northburn is a relatively small sheep farm. The Pinckneys enlarged the business in 2001 by buying the neighbouring Leaning Rock Station. What had been an 8500 stock-unit farm when they arrived took on another 3000 stock units with that acquisition. The mix is now 6800 ewes, replacements, and wintering 1000 hoggets, and 150 cattle. “It was a standard Central Otago, high country sheep station,” says Pinckney. “I would say it took me 15 years to figure out how to run it in a traditional manner. “According to the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, this is driest place in New Zealand; and, according to Google Earth, the most inland point (halfway; at 119.44 kilometres, between Milford sound and the east coast near Hampden) “Up here it is traditional to stock lightly and encourage the stock to wander. I’ve got comfortable with it.” Not so comfortable, though, as to settle into a rut. “I guess I just naturally enjoy doing different things,” he muses. “When we started to think about diversifying, we kept getting approached by different groups of people.” The first approach came from those interested in establishing a windfarm. Anyone who has been

to Cromwell knows it can blow a bit and, because Northburn is freehold right to the top of the range, it clearly had potential. Companies interested in developing a tyre testing site on the other side of the Clutha Valley from the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground came and had a look around. Consent has even been gained for a canyon swing up one of the gullies, although the current economic climate means that is on the ‘back-burner’. In the mid-90s a number of people approached the Pinckneys to see if they could grow grapes on the lower slopes. “I thought, ‘Hello, is this ostriches and goats all over again?’” he says. “But we thought if there could be a viable business, we might as well do it ourselves. “We started thinking about it in ‘96–’97, did the research, and started planting in 1999. Over three years we planted 23 hectares, and supplied Peregrine. We had to learn to walk before we could run. “We started bottling our own wine in 2006.” Jan Pinckney was a restaurateur in Queenstown, and had developed skills in wedding catering and event organisation. They tapped her expertise for the next part of the diversification. The Shed – a restaurant offering food and winematched tastings, lunches (including, of course, merino lamb, cellar door sales, and specialty produce, including the merino cuts) –is designed to reflect the atmosphere of a typical high-country shearing shed. It caters for dinners for groups (say, 30) up to large events with 200 guests. The Automobile Association includes it in its list of 101 “must-dos” for Kiwis, describing it as “one of the most stunning wine and food venues in Central Otago”. Twice in a row, it has won the New Zealand Great Wine Capitals of the World ‘Best of wine tourism’ award, as well as the 2011 Central Otago tourism award. A farm manager handles the agricultural side of things, the vineyard manager is a viticulturist, a general manager looks after The Shed and the staff required to keep it all going. “I’m the CEO, I suppose,” Tom Pinckney says. “I help out occasionally in The Shed, behind the bar, and doing wine tastings.” Before the Pinckneys bought Northburn, the previous owners, the Lakes, had been approached by Brian Molloy, the Queen Elizabeth 11 National Trust’s high country representative, concerning what are known as The Cockayne Plots – fenced experimental plots on the station set up from about 1919 by Leonard Cockayne, perhaps New Zealand’s foremost early plant-research scientist.

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RURAL PEOPLE: Tom and Jan Pinckney

Business Rural / Spring 2013


sets high country run apart He used the plots, which range in altitude from 250 to 800 metresl, to demonstrate that depleted, semi-arid grasslands land could be revegetated productively with pasture plants. The Pinckneys agreed to covenant 10 of the plots, which have been refenced with rabbitproof fences, in one case outside the old wires to preserve the cultural heritage of what old fences looked like. “The lion’s share of the scientific value has been gained,” says Pinckney. “We now know that pine trees grow in a non-irrigated environment, so in consultation with QE11, we chopped them down because we don’t want them to spread. The same with the gum trees, although we can’t bloody kill them. “We’ll see what plants come naturally again. The plots are now largely of historic interest rather than purely scientific.” In an economic climate when politicians rabbit on about New Zealand business people needing to diversify, you would walk a long dusty trail on a scorching Central day before you found a better example than Tom and Jan Pinckney.

Tom and Jan Pinckney share a love of farming, food and fine wine on their high country station, near Cromwell.

Island-hoppers drawn south by the big bovine udders and South islands is “grass”. “People here know how to feed cows well, and there’s a real focus on feeding them properly,” says Hannes. Big udders led dairy farmers Hannes and Lyzanne “We have to compensate for the cold, and feed du Plessis to shift from the North to the South the cows more because of this. The weather can Island. be more extreme, so we can’t muck around as cow “My cousin, Stefan, and his wife, Annalize, condition can drop quickly. We have to make sure who are farming in Southland, kept sending us the cows are in top shape all the time.” photos of cows with big udders in February. In the The du Plessis are basically free to run the farm Waikato where we were, most cows were doing as they see fit, with assistance from MyFarm. They one kilogram of milksolids; in Southland, they were say the farm has to be slightly over-staffed (four doing 1.8kg,” says Hannes. staff are employed) because of the age of the shed The du Plessis, originally from South Africa, arrived in New Zealand thinking Hannes would work – they can spend up to nine hours milking during the spring. in his chosen profession of horticulture. Lyzanne homeHe was raised on a farm in South Africa We can’t muck around as schools their sons – Dashane, 11, Matchil, 8 and says farming and Deron, 6. had been his life. He cow condition can drop In their first season studied horticulture (2012-13) on the and agricultural quickly. We have to make property, the couple economics completing put 279,000 kilograms a Bachelor of Science sure the cows are in top of milksolids in the vat, degree at Stellenbosch and they’re are aiming University, close to for a similar figure this Cape Town. He worked shape all the time. season. The season in a fruit nursery, the before they came, the private sector and as a farm did 253,000kg milksolids. research technician in the university’s horticultural A fertiliser spreader has been bought for the department. farm this season, with the hope of growing more They were attracted to New Zealand because grass through strategic application, and reducing of the opportunities they believed this country reliance on bought-in feed. They have also had represented. great success with growing fodder beet as a “I never intended to be a dairy farmer,” Hannes supplement. says. “But after I saw what the industry provides, it The du Plessis intend to continue rearing calves seemed the right move for us.” to build up their stock numbers. They lease these On arriving in New Zealand they started as farm animals, around 50 each year, as in-calf heifers or assistants on a 700-cow farm at Te Aroha, in the sell them on. They see their next step as a 50:50 Waikato. sharemilking. They progressed to herd-manager roles on Cambridge and Morrinsville farms before embarking on lower-order sharemilking. Their goal was to be self-employed sharemilkers, a milestone they reached within five years of arriving in New Zealand. they operate as a Visit our website company under the name HL Dairies Ltd. They came to the South Island in 2011 and are now into their third season as contract milkers on for more information a 220ha (effective), 650-cow farm at Brydone, in Southland. The farm is operated by Edendale Pastoral, a syndicate of 11 shareholders, and is administered by MyFarm. The predominantly friesian herd is milked through a 42-a-side herringbone shed, with the farm supported by an 80ha run-off next door. The du Plessis say, with tongue in cheek, that the biggest difference between farming in the North

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RURAL PEOPLE: David & Emma Thame/John & Anne Freeman

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Manager gets used to Bay farming ways Sue Russell

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With a season under his belt of experiencing all that the Tasman district’s weather has to offer, David Thame is adjusting to his new role of managing a Golden Bay dairy farm. He milks 650 crossbred cows over 245 effective hectares of a rolling, sometimes steep, and often wet and muddy farm owned by John Freeman. “John has a run-off over the road and looks after the calves and other young stock. Farming on this side of the South Island is very different from sharemilking in Canterbury where we had been earlier,” says David. The farm is carrying a good coverage of grass and the season is going well, partly because he feels he is managing the property better – one of the benefits that comes with having experienced a full year’s farming cycle, and adjusting decisions and thinking as a result. Helped by plenty of rainfall, grass grew all through winter, but Thame also feeds out

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Tasmyn, aged three, and Damien, six, help dad David Thame walk some newly calved cows.

maize, balage, palm kernel and hay as feed supplements. “The farm is made up of a few different farms; the original block, plus the run-off and two other leased blocks. Last season things went to custard a bit. It was a steep learning curve, but I’m expecting this season we’ll do much better than last season’s 134,000 kilograms of milksolids.” Some of the farm’s paddocks are set amongst stands of bush, and the farm sits on the edge of a national park. It’s a beautiful landscape to work in, says Thame, who has always been a ‘rural lad’. Brought up in Havelock, Marlborough, he and wife Emma went to school together in Rai Valley. He describes Takaka, a small town on the south-eastern edge of Golden Bay, as a good community and a fine place to raise a family. The couple have settled into the district and made some good friends. “We used to attend a ‘big rides’ day in Methven, where children could get a taste of riding in a fire-engine, police car, tractors, and

harvesters as a fundraising event,” says David Thame. “We’re hoping to work in conjunction with the local kindergarten to build something similar here. He has two full-time farm workers, and says he likes to employ good people with similar skills who do the basics well. This gives him more flexibility when working out work rosters, he says. Casual and part-time staff help cover increased workloads over calving and mating, and help him manage staff rosters and annual leave. There are a lot of dairy farms in the area and he plans to attend more discussion groups this season, and include his staff in these. John and Anne Freeman, who have owned the farm for 17 years, are still actively involved in rearing the calves, maintenance and fertilising. They have also bought another run-off of 50 hectares. The farm’s as big as he intends it to be, says John Freeman. “Our youngest daughter is in her last year

• To page 49

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RURAL PEOPLE: Ross & Tania Hughes

Business Rural / Spring 2013


A decade of development In the swing of things: Tania and Ross Hughes with younger children Taryn and Callum. They have two older children, Brooke and Trent..

Kelly Deeks A move towards in-shed feeding of barley on Ross and Tania Hughes’ Southland dairy farm has seen some new developments with the installation of a second silo with grain crusher. The couple have also pushed cow numbers up from 1000 to 1100 this season – also as a result of feeding grain in the dairy shed. The Hughes have been farming in the Taramoa area since 2002 when they bought a 88-hectare farm, put on 250 cows, and contracted a lowerorder sharemilker for three years while they continued to 50:50 sharemilk. In 2005 they moved to their own farm, and began buying up neighbouring land as it came available. They started with 40 hectares next door in 2005 and then a 12-hectare block next door. In 2008, they bought a 224ha farm adjoining their original 88 hectares, and converted it. They also built a 64-bail Waikato rotary dairy shed to replace the 24-a-side herringbone, and installed a Clean Green effluent system with Southland Pumps & Servicing. They pushed cow numbers up to 1000, and then brought a 28-hectare lease block into the milking platform as well. The necessary increase in cow numbers this year was helped by a low empty rate, says Ross Hughes.. “We had in-calf cows I wasn’t going to send to the works,

“We may even go to 1200 cows,” he adds. “We’ve got 480 hectares here, so we can milk them, and because we’ve got the grain in, we need to push the numbers up a bit.” The Hughes have switched from feeding palm kernel in the shed to feeding barley because the

cows wouldn’t eat enough of the palm kernel in the shed. To complement the new silo and grain crusher, they bought their own auger so that they can unload the silo themselves. Other developments last season include a new vat for the calf milk to replace the old plastic tank.

“It’s a proper milk-vat and it’s so much easier to clean than the plastic tank, which could get quite mucky underneath,” Hughes says. “It has its own vat wash and chiller to keep the calf-milk nice and fresh.” Staff levels have been increased by one labour unit this season, with four full-timers now working to push production towards the target of 420,000 kilograms of milksolids. “We didn’t quite get to 400,000kg milksolids last season, but with the extra cows, our target should be quite achievable this season,” Hughes says. There are plans to install a Protrack system in the dairy shed this season, with the aim of having it ready by mating time. “It should make things easier for wintering by allowing us to get the cows into their calving mobs a lot more easily,” Hughes says. Some cows have been wintered off the farm, but he is hoping that using the Protrack system may allow them to keep the cows at home for a bit longer.

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Patons Rock beach provides an idyllic backdrop to the Takaka farm managed by David Thame. The farm is owned by John and Anne Freeman, who are still actively involved in aspects of the operation.

Manager gets used to Bay ways • From page 48, at school and is keen to go farming. She already does a lot of relief milking for David.” When the couple advertised for a manager they received many applications from farmers in Canterbury. Freeman says there were several reasons why he and Anne felt David

Thame would be ideal for the manager’s role. “His connection with the Rai Valley where he was brought up, along with his enthusiasm and our sense of his ability to cope with the climate here led us to choose him.” Longer term, the Freemans plan to phase out of farming, perhaps taking on a 50:50 sharemilker or even selling.

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RURAL PEOPLE: Terry & Jacqui Carr/Manawai

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Old gut instinct not what it Sue Russell It’s just as important to be sustainably profitable as to be environmentally sustainable, says Terry Carr in summing up the philosophy that underpins the way he and wife Jacqui approach farming, . “Regional councils need to come in and help the industry,� he says. “Fines only create negativity. What we need is a win/win thing, and not this punishment model.� He is candid about the nature of the relationship

that often exists between farmers and those working on councils. “They can often be tricky personalities to work with, but some are good, and those who are have a real positivity about this industry, and what it means for the region and its economy.� The Carrs were Otago regional finalists in this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards, winning the regional LIC Dairy Farm Award and Meridian Energy Excellence Award – an achievement they feel very proud of. The judges noted the couple’s stand-out

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performance with energy-efficiency initiatives, the ongoing quality of their relationship with staff, and especially the “exceptional relationship� they have with contract milkers Chris and Sandra Campbell. The couple used their decision to enter the competition as a way towards new learning that will help them develop their business in sustainable ways. The dwindling number of young farmers who come through the ranks and stay for any length of time on the same property is at the core of Terry Carr’s concerns for the future of the industry. He believes that this short-term approach does not support aspiring farmers’ learning or understanding of how and what goes into developing land and the farming systems to their potential. “It is just so important to see how cows respond to changes in feeding systems and conditions, and these things take time,� he says. He thinks that the way farming data is required to be gathered and reported these days, through software systems and computer hardware, has to some degree disengaged farmers from using their innate sense and gut instinct as much as they once did. “The humble back-pocket diary, once the way we recorded information and ideas, is no longer relied upon.� Terry and Jacqui Carr are the equity managers for the Argyll Dairy Farm Partnership, milking 1200 friesian cows on a 332-hectare (effective) property at Clydevale, in South Otago. They formed an equity partnership with the owners of the sheep, deer and dairy grazing farm five years ago,a and converted the property to dairying. “This season has been good so far,� says Terry Carr. “We are 8000 kilograms of milksolids up from last year. I put that down to a great spring and a tight calving spread. We’re planning on doing more production this season and we are off to a great start.� . His herd has come through winter and spring in

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“Gutsy, middle to bigger-range cows with the capacity to milk, were what we were after,� says Ben Lamont “We wanted quality cows. We weren’t so worried about the figures.� Lamont and his wife, Jen, had been managing a dairy grazing farm near Cheviot for a United Kingdom company when they decided to go dairying themselves. The company responded by giving them the opportunity to manage the conversion of the farm they were on, and become equity partners. “They are amazing people. We are pretty lucky and very grateful,� says Ben Lamont. The Lamonts worked for six months on a dairy farm at Culverden to get experience, especially in calving and mating. Returning to Cheviot in November 2011, they got stuck into the conversion, which involved a total gutting of the farm, refencing it, putting in laneways, and complete regrassing. This was all done in good time, but the new dairy shed was not built as





quickly, which created some difficulty. While the conversion was proceeding, the Lamonts employed an agent to sound out a suitable herd. Whether to buy early or late is always a bit of a gamble, Lamont says – you just do not know when prices will be high or low. So, they just stipulated what they wanted, and took their chances with the price. A 600-head crossbred herd came on the market at Tokoroa – belonging to a sharemilker who was downsizing. The cows met the Lamonts’ requirements, so were shipped south. “It was really hard on the cows,� says Ben Lamont. “They lost weight’ then, the shed wasn’t ready and we had to truck them away to be milked. A neighbour took 70, and another 130 went to Culverden before we got going. “Then, last spring (2012) was terrible. The cows got stressed and their condition was suffering. We had our work cut out to get them back in calf. “Our initial goal wasn’t production, it was to tighten calving up and get them back in condition. We had a good pregnancy rate, so all in all it was pretty good.

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better condition than the previous year, he sees this season’s target of 500,000kg milksolids through the farm’s two 54-bail rotary sheds as highly achievable. Contract milkers Chris and Sandra Campbell employ five staff and are in their third season on the farm. Carr says it has taken this time for them to really understand what the equity partnership wants to achieve on the farm. “We have daily phone calls and I try to get around the farm once or twice a week.� In his 33 years of farming, Terry Carr has seen a big change in the physicality of the role, with the biggest changes coming in the last 10 years. “Basically it is not so physical these days. Back when I started out farming, everything was done physically. Nowadays, the younger generation and the use of technology have really influenced the way farms are managed and reported on.�

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RURAL PEOPLE: Terry & Jacqui Carr/Manawai

Business Rural / Spring 2013

used to be


PHOTOS” Farm sustainability is a two-way process – between profit and the environment, says Terry and Jacqui Carr. The couple – Otago regional finalists in the 2013 Ballance Environmental Awards – say regional councils need to get alongside farmers, understand what they’re trying to do, and help them. ‘What we need is a win/win thing, and not this punishment model,’ says Terry Carr. ‘Fines only create negativity.’

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Terry and Jacqui Carr are proud to have been selected as Otago regional finalists in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, but they believe farmers need to combine sustainable profit with being environmentally sustainable. These three photos are taken on their Clydlevale dairy property.

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‘cold,miserable spring’ We wouldn’t have learnt as much if it had been a cruisy spring. It was really cold and miserable. It was stressful, but I’m pleased it happened. “We learnt a lot. We wouldn’t have learnt as much if it had been a cruisy spring. It was really cold and miserable, and we didn’t grow grass until the end of October into November. It was stressful, but I’m pleased it happened.” The new 50-bail shed has Read plant, cup removers and Protrak drafting, with a walk-over weighing system. Individual cows are weighed monthly by the adviser, but the walk-over weigher shows them the trends. This is especially important leading up to mating when the cows need to be putting on weight. Because the whole farm was regrassed, it was important to allow for a renewal programme. The farm has nine paddocks, eight of which are 17.5 hectares in area.

One paddock was sown in short-rotation grass so that it could lead the way in the rotation plan, ensuring there would be no pressure to regrass a number of paddocks all at once after five or so years. Electric fencing enables a type of techno system – part of a paddock can be temporarily fenced off to make sure the cows get exactly the amount of feed they need, or decisions about haymaking more easily arranged. “The farm’s finished now, no further changes need to be made, or no major capital expenditure needed,” says Lamont. “We did 1440 kilograms per hectare milksolids last season, even with starting late and the cows being light. “I’m happy enough with that production.”

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RURAL PEOPLE: Stonehenge

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Jim hands firmly on the ball at Stonehenge Jo Bailey Central Otago high country farmer Jim Hore has started to think about succession planning, but says it will be some time before he’s ready to completely hand over the reins to his sons, Charlie and Andrew. “Sue and I have no immediate plans to step aside yet. I’m still the bloody boss.” Jim is the third generation of the Hore family to farm Stonehenge, a vast station near Patearoa, in the Maniototo, that originally settled by his grandfather, Chas, in 1910. Jim took over Stonehenge not long after he and Sue were married in 1972. At the moment Jim and Charlie are farming the station “in one big heap”, with All Black hooker Andrew back on the farm when his rugby

commitments allow. He’s 35 and in the twilight of his international career, and there has been a bit of media speculation about his retirement from top-level sport. But that’s not something Jim will be drawn on. He is just pleased that both his boys and their families (Charlie has a son and three daughters, and Andrew a son) will eventually be back on the station full-time to carry on the family legacy. “The operation will probably be split in two, with Charlie farming Patearoa Station and Andrew at Stonehenge. But that’s a way off yet.” The station carries around 22,000 sheep (merinos and halfbreds), and 400 hereford cows and their calves which are fattened to two-yearolds. All hoggets and calves are wintered on farm. The Hores breed merino rams for sale to other studs and for use over commercial flocks. Around 400 hectares of the total property is

Horseback musters are still the norm on Stonehenge: Photo Barbara Newton irrigated, which means all lambs and cattle can be sold prime to Silver Fern Farms. Stonehenge’s relationship with the meat company goes back to 1936. “They look after us and we look after them,” says Jim Hore. The warm, dry summers and cold and dry winters at Stonehenge are ideal conditions to produce the sort of high-quality merino wool demanded by the market. The station’s merino ewes produce around 5 kilorams of wool each, averaging between 17 and 18.5 microns. Virtually all of the station’s 90,000kg of wool ends up with clothing manufacturer Icebreaker, via Merino New Zealand. The Hores were in the middle of shearing 5500 mainly merino hoggets when Business Rural South spoke to Jim recently. He says he values the station’s longstanding relationships with shearer Paul Lyon, from Alexandra, and wool classer Barbara Newton, from Dunedin, who has been a “big part of the place for the last 24 years”. Newton wrote a book on the history of Stonehenge; it was launched around 18 months ago, not long after the Hores celebrated a century of family ownership with a “very big party”. She had written a couple of other local histories

and says Jim was “adamant” he wanted her to help the family collect their stories, given her long connection with them. “I’ve had the same cook for 41 years,” he says, before handing the phone to Sue. She has a rural background too, with both sides of her family longtime Taieri farmers. For the last 40 years, feeding her family and their farm workers, musterers and visitors has taken up a fair bit of her time. She is known for her hospitality. “It still amazes me what you learn at the kitchen table over a cup of coffee,” she says. She says the highlights of their long tenure on the farm so far are “watching it develop and seeing the kids achieve”. Stonehenge currently employs five staff in addition to Jim and Charlie. Jim is a big fan of getting “the young ones” on horseback and out on the winter muster, one of his favourite times of the year. “Using horses and camping out is a bit of a dying art, but we love it.” With the property so ingrained in his DNA, he says retiring off the farm is simply not an option. “There are six bloody houses on this property. I’m not going anywhere.”

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Barbara Newton

p. 03 455 8807 m. 027 331 8808 e.

A 723

Offroaders drive through Stonehenge’s high-country terrain, near Patearoa in the Maniototo.

Stuart Rd, Ranfurly Ph: 03 444 9615 P.O. Box 53, Alexandra Ph: 03 440 2277 86 Centennial Avenue, Alexandra Ph: 03 440 2275

Ph 03 448 6378 Fax 03 448 9201

Knox Street, Ranfurly, Central Otago For Productivity Improvement • Livestock Cartage • Computerised Lime, Super and Seed Sowing • Ready Mix Concrete • Gravel, Sand and Cement Supplies • General Cartage • Loader, Crane and Forklift Hire McLaren Transport Ranfurly Phone: 03 444-9738 A/H: 03 444-9611 Mobile: 027 231-6895 or 027 436-0575

Contact us for all your agricultural, hay & baleage requirements James 0274 797 102 The Yard 03 4449 705 Ph/Fax: 03 4449 370

RURAL PEOPLE: Collie Hills

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Locals ‘central to philosophy’ Neil Grant In 1956 Eric Ross’s father started a corriedale stud on his Collie Hills farm, near where the Hakataramea River joins the Waitaki River, The corriedale, a New Zealand-bred sheep developed from crossing merino with lincoln sheep, is known for its hardiness, long life-span, docility and high fertility. Clearly, these are all attributes suitable for an animal required to live in country with low rainfall, hot dry summers, and cold winters, and to forage for tucker on steep hill country. The corriedale’s other important attribute is that it is a true dual-purpose sheep, producing a thick stapled, bulky fleece of medium-fine wool suitable for worsted and tweed garments and much desired by home spinners, along with top quality meat. In 1981, Eric Ross added a suffolk stud to the business. The suffolk is a somewhat older cross of southdown rams across norfolk horned ewes, and said to be much better than either of those breeds. This black-faced sheep is famed for its meat breed, producing fine grained low fat meat. It is widely desired as a sire across many maternal breeds, producing progeny that are quick-maturing, high-yielding and hardy. The Collie Hills stud is now a partnership of Eric Ross and his son-in-law, Wade Newlands. “Our ram hoggets, after they are weaned, go onto the native hill country until June,” says Ross. “This allows them to adapt easily to any environment they are sold into. “Collie Hills rams are renowned for their shifting ability. Then they are put on grass and turnips for the winter.” Rams of either breed, which are available for sale from December each year, are sold to farmers for their commercial flocks from Blenheim to Palmerston , and sometimes to other breeders for their own stud flocks. The commercial side of the business has 1900 merino ewes, 1900 corriedale ewes, and 350 ram hoggets, in addition to the 600 stud corriedales and 350 stud suffolks. Newlands also runs 200 to 600 bobby calves, along with 100 cows. “We’re thinking of ditching the merinos,” says Ross. “It’s easier to run just one flock, and the corriedales have fewer health problems.”

Collie Hills owns 1600 hectares and leases a further 2000ha. One hundred and twenty hectares are irrigated – not by centre-pivot either, which. in view of the recent wind damage through Canterbury, may have been a blessing. “The wind wasn’t too bad here, but it’s hard enough keeping the trees we’ve got without cutting them out for pivots,” says Ross. Looking after the locals is central to his philosophy: “We sell to the local wool man in Kurow, use local shearers, local contractors, and local stock agents.” Come December, buyers will get in touch and place their orders for this year’s rams: “We have a loyal clientele, with some having been buying from us for 50 years or so.” It all adds up to continuity and stability. About what you might expect from a farm that now has the fifth generation of the family working the land.

Collie Hills, near Hakataramea, farms 1900 merino ewes, 1900 corriedale ewes, and 350 ram hoggets, in addition to the 600 stud corriedales and 350 stud suffolks.

Come December, buyers will get in touch and place their orders for rams. We have a loyal clientele, with some having been buying from us for 50 years or so.

DAVID O'NEILL CONTRACTING LTD Proud to be associated with Collie Hills Partnership

PH 03 436 0436 MOBILE 027 430 7678

Available to cover all your shearing and crutching requirements Experienced merino and crossbreed ... Shearers and Shedhands, local and reliable



0274 335 523


RURAL PEOPLE: Fernvale Genetics

Business Rural / Spring 2013

DNA testing tool proves value The test reduces the risk of making the wrong selection decisions and helps identify superior animals for breeding purposes.

Lloyd and Sue Brenssell with their family. Lloyd continues to develop the sheep stud pioneered by his grandfather, John, in 1946.

Karen Phelps

Ph 03 448 6378 Fax 03 448 9201

After just two seasons Fernvale Genetics is starting to see the results of using Sheep50k DNA testing in its romney sheep. A Pfizer genomic testing tool, the Sheep50k DNA panel consists of nearly 50,000 markers and provides genomic predictions expressed as molecular breeding values. The programme is designed to help breeders make significant improvements in their breeding selection programmes for 22 economically important traits, including adult ewe liveweight,

facial eczema, number of lambs born, and dag score. The technology is used to predict and increase the accuracy of breeding values across the flock. Lloyd Brenssell, the fourth generation of his family to run the stud (now Ferndale Genetics), says the test reduces the risk of making the wrong selection decisions and helps identify superior animals for breeding purposes. He concedes it is a long-term investment and it will take a while to see the final result in terms of data linked with specific traits in the flock. But, he says they are already seeing encouraging signs linking DNA to physical traits in the flock. “We still do all of our on-farm recording. The DNA tests represent an advantage for our clients who now not only get the usual standard SIL (Sheep Improvement Ltd) data but also DNA data for more precision.” For the first time, the farm is also recording the DNA for parentage with Shepherd Plus this year.

The eventual aim is to record the whole romney stud for parentage. “Rather than going out to the paddock when the ewes are lambing to record the parentage, now with DNA testing, we can take a sample of the ewe prior to lambing, get the DNA of the sires, skip tagging, and at tailing time take a DNA sample of the lambs. The aim is for multiple, naturally born and reared animals; because we are avoiding the tagging process, we can leave the ewes and lambs alone at lambing time. This will guarantee the ewes are completely unshepherded.” The Fernvale Genetics stud – which was started by Lloyd’s grandfather, John Brenssell, in 1946 – now has romney, romdale, suffolk and sufftex breeds. John Brenssell’s vision was to breed romneys that were productive on the very undeveloped Moa Flat country in West Otago where the farm is

• To page 55

Fernvale Genetics at Moa Flat in West Otago, breeds romney, romdale, suffolk and sufftex sheep.

RURAL PEOPLE: Robert & Marjorie Smith

Business Rural / Spring 2013


Pivotal decision made - delayed ‘long enough’ Kelly Deeks After delaying the decision for “long enough”, Robert and Marjorie Smith are replacing their old border-dyke irrigation with centre-pivots on their South Canterbury dairy farms. A good season for grass growth has also seen them increase cow numbers this season. They are running 2000 cows on their two dairy farms (550 hectares in total) at Glenavy. The farms are managed by contract milkers Johnny Apafi and Lucia Cassarino. The couple have been with the Smiths for the three years, working their way up from managers to contract milkers. Production has risen every year under their stewardship. The Smiths bought the original 256ha block in 1994, moving from a dairy farm in Northland for the benefits of irrigation. “We’ve got a much more stable growing season here,” Robert Smith says. “We’ve still got some variation, but nothing like we had in Northland.” In 2002 they bought the sheep farm on their dairy farm’s southern boundary, converted it, built a 54-bail rotary dairy shed,, and put the whole of the property into wide borders, apart from one 50ha area of k-line irrigation. Now it’s time to replace the irrigation on the original block. The borders here were developed in the early 1970s. “The choice was to reborder with wide borders,

or change to pivots, and I’ve delayed long enough,” Smith says. “We’ve got two pivots we put in last winter, and three more to go. We’ve got a fair bit of ground development to do to take out the old borders, so we’ll try and get 60ha of that done this season, after doing 40ha last season. We’ll put in two pivots in late autumn, and we hope to get the third one next year.” His decision to install centre-pivots has been driven by compliance. He believes it’s going to become extremely difficult to comply with nutrient regulations using border-dyke irrigation. Because the Smiths invested heavily in rebordering the newer farm in 2002, they will retain that border-dyke irrigation. But 110ha of border dyke has been already been replaced by pivots on the 87ha run-off block at Hakataramea, where the Smiths live, 8km from the dairy farms.

Geoff Phillips, who has been working for the Smiths for 10 years, manages the support block, as well as driving the tractor and helping feed out silage on the dairy farms. The Smiths’ son, Marshall, who has been working on the run-off, has recently become a director of the Smiths’ company, Papamoa Enterprises Ltd, with his parents. Robert Smith says that, with the extra cows and improved irrigation, the farms will produce 10%

more than last season, when production totalled 830,000 kilograms of milksolids. They expect the new grass planted under the new pivots to produce more and better-quality feed. They have used a mix of Trojan and Shogun, from Agriseeds. “That’s what we did last year in December/ January, and we were grazing it in six weeks,” says Robert. “That’s the beauty of irrigation – you can plant stuff at that time of year, and get it to germinate and grow like hell.”

It’s going to become extremely difficult to comply with nutrient regulations using borderdyke irrigation.

PHOTOS: Top, Son and father, Marshall (left) and Robert Smith at the family’s run-off at Hakataramea. Marshall has recently become a director of the company. Above: A new centre-pivot irrigator in action on the Hakataramea property.

Only multiples make breeding grade • From page 54 situated. Lloyd’s father, Harry, then took over the business in 1978 and continued to develop the stud. The Brenssells’ breeding policy has been rigid – only multiple-born-and-reared rams are used within the stud and offered for sale. Only multipleborn-and-reared ewe hoggets are retained back into the stud. SIL and sire referencing are used to identify top-performing sires and dams. All ram hoggets are scour-scored, and culled if they do not meet

Fernvalle standards. All ewe hoggets are put to the ram. Fernvale is the original family farm, an 820-hectare block in Moa Flat. The Brenssell family business also includes a 4408ha property (Whitecomb) 14 kilometres away from the home farm. Bought by the Brenssells in 1990, it is a large commercial operation, which says Lloyd, is useful for measuring the performance of sires in a real-life farm environment. The family also owns a 151ha run-off at Ettrick, which is used for wintering young stock. All up, the Brenssells winter 27,000 stock units.

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Ph. 03 431 3760

Cell. 027 433 8030

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Fine chopped silage, direct cut whole crop head, mower conditioning, round & square baleage, general cartage and suppliers of silage & straw MUCK SPREADING AND CULTIVATION SERVICES NOW AVAILABLE

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RURAL PEOPLE: Bill and Maureen Lott

Business Rural / Spring 2013

Stud breeder trials his first electronic sale I would like to get up to

Neil Grant Dorper sheep are relatively rare in New Zealand, but if Bill and Maureen Lott and other breeders have their way, they may become much more numerous. Dorpers were developed in the 1930s by South African Department of Agriculture scientists by crossing dorset horn and blackhead persian sheep, with the intention of creating a hardy meat producer with good lambing percentages. The result was a black-headed, and a white-faced strain, each with its own characteristics. Both lines have proven successful in arid conditions, and are widely grown in the Middle East, the Americas and Australia. They have a tendency to shed their wool and hair, so they may look scruffy for a while. But farmers never have to get the shearing gang in. There’s a saving. Obviously, then, the meat production needs to compensate, and there is no doubting their ability in this field. Ewes are sound mothers, and their lambs grow rapidly to a high weaning weight. Lambing

500 ewes eventually, but because of heavy culling we’re not there yet. Sunnyvale’s Costa, judged Supreme Dorper for the last two years at the Canterbury A & P Show. percentages often exceed 150%, and the lambs are highly mobile at birth. Dorpers are an economical breed because of their feed conversion ability. They can adapt to most grazing conditions. These attributes encouraged the Lotts to give them a try when they established their farm at Sunnyvale in the hills above Fairlie. They had had a simmental stud at Garston before shifting, and a texel stud and suffolk/texel flock. A friend saw dorpers in Australia, and as the Lotts wanted to develop better composite meat sheep, they imported dorper semen to see how things worked out. They were amazed at the result, and, about 11

years ago, imported 200 purebred live sheep and some embryos. They kept 10 of the 200 and sold the rest. They have concentrated on getting their flock to adapt to New Zealand’s climate and diet. “Their meat yield is high, so it is worthwhile going through a bit of pain,” says Bill Lott. “They’re lovely natured sheep. I train my dogs on them.” Sunnyvale currently has about 100 ewes. They have been doing embryo transferring (ET) to reproduce cold tolerance, and improve traits such as foot problems and worm counts. “I would like to get up to 500 ewes eventually, but because of heavy culling, we’re not there yet. And we sell out every year.” As their flock improves and more commercial farmers realise the value of putting dorper rams across their ewes, the Lotts are confident the breed will become better known and more desirable. Bill Lott has taken rams to the North Island to sell, but found it cost more than he received. This year, he will be displaying the stud’s

top sheep at the Canterbury A & P Show, in Christchurch, from November 13-15. The sheep will then be available for sale on line (website http:// and click on Agonline). “This will be our first electronic sale,” he says. “We’ll see how it goes. These things take a while for people to get onto. Electronic sales are strong in Australia.” Australia’s dorper flock is now of sufficient size that the meat is available for customers to buy specifically. Bill says there are not enough producers in New Zealand yet to emulate that. But he hopes it will happen in time. He says the meat is more like romney and merino than texel. It’s soft with fine grain and a little intra-muscular fat. The market for dorpers is nationwide. The Lotts sell them to commercial farmers in Gisborne and broader North Island East Coast region, as well as in the South Island.

White Dorper, Texel and Suftex Eight-month-old white dorper lambs at Sunnyvale.

J&A JONES CONTRACTING NOW OPERATING HORSCH DISC DRILL Your local seeding specialist operating

Rams will be offered for sale at the South Island Dorper Helmsman auction on the 22nd through agonline

Phone Jeremy or Ange 685 5997 or 021720 369

Bill and Maureen Lott Registered Dorper Breeders Phone 03 685 8814 Mobile 027 685 8814 @SunnyvaleGen


Proud to Support Sunnyvale Stud Alexandra 03 440 0100

Ranfurly 03 444 9158

Mt Michael Downs RD 17, Fairlie, South Canterbury, New Zealand.

Business Rural Spring 2013  
Business Rural Spring 2013  

You get readable, down-to-earth snapshots of what farmers and rural-based businesses are thinking, doing and planning. You get information a...