SHEEP ARCHIVES

The finishing touch

Mike McCreary and Liz Casey bought Kumenga Farm in a 50-50 partnership with Mike’s parents in 2008. Since taking on the 540ha effective property in southern Wairarapa they’ve transformed it into a high-performance, specialist finishing operation. Andrew Swallow reports.

Long-standing legacy

Historic 2200ha Pukemarama Station on the southern side of the Rangitikei River, 15km south of Bulls and 3km from the coast at Tangimoana, is the largest farm in southern Manawatu. 

It has been farmed continuously by the McKelvie family since 1870 when it was acquired by James McKelvie, one of two sons of original European settler John.

John McKelvie had bought a large area of land on the northern side of the Rangitikei River (across the river from Pukemarama Station) in 1852. When John died his oldest son Lynn took over the farm. It was sold in 1930 and subsequently developed into the well-known farm cadet training institution known as Flock House.

Marginal trading reduces risk

On their Tangimoana finishing farm the McKelvies buy and sell on the same market to evade a cattle trading pitfall. 

Tying up millions of dollars in trading cattle can be a risky business.

This is particularly so if there is a significant time lapse between selling and restocking. Serious capital can be eroded if cattle prices rise sharply during this period.

Traditionally, many sheep and beef farmers buy trading cattle in spring to control the “spring flush”, then finish these in the autumn-early winter.

The spring cattle market is always buoyant and the autumn beef schedule price often depressed, so farmers are usually on “a hiding to nothing” when it comes to making a profit from these animals.

Mexican sheep industry the real enchilada

Another exposure to Mexican sheep farming in November was enlightening because I once again found the enthusiasm and commitment to growing the Mexican industry very infectious. 

The introduction of new genetics is considered the most important way to achieve this growth. Some of these genetics are from New Zealand but much is from Australia and the United States.

Ocker flock headed south?

Lifting lamb production in Western Australia by 200,000 lambs a year will increase sheep farm profitability and contribute at least A$2 billion to the state’s economy.

That’s what Western Australia (WA) sheep and mixed-cropping farmer Robert Egerton-Warburton from Kojonup, 256km south-east of Perth, told farmers at last year’s Grassland Society of Southern Australia conference.

Off-farm grazing a capital idea

Sending capital stock away to off-farm grazing is proving to be one of the best strategies drought-affected farmers have adopted. North Canterbury farmer Tom Maxwell says the money he spent on grazing a number of his ewes’ off-farm was money well spent, because it meant the ewes retained their body condition and fed their lambs well.

Minimising waste

Massey University researchers are investigating ewe wastage on New Zealand farms. It is a not a well-documented subject – a worldwide search to find similar studies drew a blank.

Top of the class

Friesian bulls are Neil Aicken’s stock in trade on Waikawa Farms, south of Pukekohe. His dedication to the class paid-off last year when he won the Silver Fern Farms Plate to Pasture award. Anne Calcinai reports.

An eye to the future

I took part in a recent facial eczema forum that considered, among other topics, areas for more research. This disease continues to be a significant cause of production losses in New Zealand and also has the potential to be a big animal welfare issue. 

Genetics the driving force

Producing high-performing, easy-care two-tooth ewes for clients running simple sheep-breeding and finishing businesses is one of the primary focuses of the Massie family, of Dannevirke.

“For the last six years we have contracted 1500 ewes to two large clients who don’t breed their own replacement females,” Grant Massie says.