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Perendales a big part of Rae’s life

Perendales a big part of Rae’s life
Rae Mitchell with his Supreme Champion Perendale at the 2017 Christchurch A & P Show.

F odder beet has revolutionised the way the Mitchell family of Wairuna fattens its cattle over winter, says Rae Mitchell who owns the business with wife Roslyn and son Scott.

“By fattening them on fodder beet we can kill 50% of the R2s two months early and avoid the driest period as well as capitalise when the price is higher in August/October.

They also make baleage and silage earlier in late November/ early December as fodder beet has also allowed them to double the number of cattle they can finish.

Around 100 R2s are bought in the autumn and put on 0.8 kilograms per day on the high sugar crop.

Fodder beet crop yields are also markedly better, he says. It’s the family’s fourth year of using fodder beet and has also worked well in the dry summers.

Rae says last summer was the driest in his 50 years farming and that the fodder beet still grew well. The fodder beet block was rolled down for the first time because of the extreme dry and it worked well with the soil retaining moisture.

But it is sheep that form the main part of their business and because of changing climate they decided seven years ago to plant lucerne, transforming 20ha to top quality feed to fatten lambs to heavier weights.

They have 3400 perendale and cheviot ewes and 800 hoggets. The family has operated Hillcrest Perendale stud since 1972 and it comprises 170 stud ewes.

They also have Cheviot Stud started in 2002 with 190 cheviot ewes making them the biggest cheviot breeder in the South Island. As perendales are a romney-cheviot mix it made sense for them to start the second stud.

“I could see people were starting to lamb their hoggets to get extra lambs and cheviots are the ultimate sire to go over hoggets because they have a small head and shoulders, making for ease of lambing, with meaty carcass,” he says.

Perendales have been a big part of Rae’s life. He represented Otago and was on the Perendale Sheep Society Council for 16 years, 12 of these as treasurer.

In 2015 he was honoured with life membership. Rae exhibits at the Christchurch A & P Show and last year won Supreme Champion Perendale with an outstanding woolly hogget.

Through the Perendale society Rae says he has made life long friends. Rae grew up on the home farm and is the third generation to farm this original block after his grandfather William James Mitchell took it over in 1929.

Rae started working on the farm when he left school then went into partnership with his father in the 1970s.

Rae and Roslyn took over the 210ha farm in 1978 and over the years have added neighbouring blocks to give 640ha total.

The farm is a real family run business with Rae taking charge of stock, Scott focusing on machinery, grain and cropping as they grow 50ha of barley and 35ha of winter crop.

Roslyn and Scott’s partner Sara help when needed. It’s all about ensuring a profitable farming business that can be handed onto the next generation.

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