Deer weights excel on rugged country
Located near the small north Southland settlement of Garston, south of Lake Wakatipu and set within some of New Zealand’s most spectacular high country, Fairlight Station is home to Red deer, Headwaters sheep and Hereford cows.
The mighty Mataura River, famous for its trout ﬁshing, runs right through the middle of the station, dividing the ﬂats from the hills.
At its hub is the station’s magniﬁcent double story wooden homestead – one of the oldest houses in Southland.
Built in the 1860’s by Captain John Howell, founder of nearby Riverton, the homestead is listed with the Historic Places Trust, and currently occupied by station manager Simon Wright and his family – something that he says is pretty special. Canadian’s Doug and Mari Harpur bought the historic 2650 hectares property in 2003.
The couple had already purchased the neighbouring property of Cainard, as well as Forest Creek Station in Canterbury’s Rangitata Gorge.
The Harpur’s are established red deer farmers in North America and heavily involved with the forestry industry.
Simon has been part of the venture ever since the Harpur’s bought the property, holding responsibility for its general management as well as consultancy for Forest Creek Station. He says about 500 hectares is cultivated land with the rest being medium to steep hill country.
“Fairlight has extensive and rugged hill country and we farm to 900 metres altitude. About 1400ha is deer fenced – most of the ﬂat and the entire north facing Fairlight hill country. Typically we’ve hot dry summers and cold challenging winters.”
A north facing property, exposed to the prevailing nor’ west wind, the stock do well in the warmer hill country which grows good grass if there is a bit of moisture.
Simon says the station is currently in semidrought and he’s having to de-stock as much of the trading stock as he can – mainly lambs and some cattle.
He says Fairlight’s vision is to have a diverse sustainable farming operation, integrating sheep, cattle and deer that contribute equally to farm proﬁtability.
“This year we’re running about 2200 hinds and around 1800 weaners plus sire stags,” explains Simon.
“A percentage of the weaner hinds will be kept as replacements, the rest sold as capital stock or slaughtered. We kill 90% of spikers before Christmas.”
According to Deer Pro, the national production report, Fairlight’s average carcass weight for yearling stags is six kilos above the industry average.
The deer grow over 30gms a day faster and are killed more than 30 days earlier than the average. The station runs 3500 Headwaters ewes, bred for high fertility and suitability for the high country, achieving a lambing rate of up to 148%.
He says with 900 hoggets mated, 60% lambing is achieved. The Headwater breed is gaining notoriety for producing the best tasting lamb in the world with the intramuscular fat high in Omega, with good polyunsaturated fats.
“We have about 470 Hereford cows, which we breed from. Most of the calves go to Forest Creek Station for fattening. All stock is integrated throughout the farm and priority for best pasture changes during the year between the stock classes. The challenge is knowing when to integrate.”
Simon says that he is aiming to put 30% of the ﬂ ats into lucerne to help mitigate against the dry conditions. There’s currently 90ha – heading towards 150ha.