Quakes, cyclones hit hard
Mendip Hills Station was hit hard in the Kaikoura earthquakes with extensive damage to farm buildings and the land.
It has been a rough time for those running the farm to get things back on track – a huge workload in addition to the normal farm work.
Then the out-of-the-ordinary weather bombs and cyclones arrived. “We’ve already cleaned up tracks twice and they’ve slipped again.
We’re a bit nervous about what the winter will bring,” admits farm manager Simon Lee.
The North Canterbury farm sits between the Waiau and Leader rivers; it’s a broad expanse of grassed flats, rolling hills and tussock high country.
The farm runs 40,000 deer, cattle and sheep and employs eight full-time staff.
Because of earthquake damage, the old homestead, where the farm-owners stay when visiting will need to be pulled down and replaced. So will the deer shed.
Simon says every building on the farm, plus the stockyards, has had damage. Things have been patched up to be functional.
But it is damage to the land – which cannot be insured – that will be the most expensive to fix. Erosion, landslips and cracks in the landscape will take time to rectify.
In the midst of all this Simon and Miesha found themselves a finalist in the South Island Farmer of the Year competition. The awards ceremony was the day after the Kaikoura earthquake.
Simon had lost his speech on his earthquake-damaged laptop and roads were closed.
Somehow they managed to make it to the big night and Simon winged it with a new speech.
The couple took out the Human Resources Award. It turned out to be a much needed night of encouragement.
Simon and Miesha have been managing Mendip Hills.which has a history going back to 1861, for 10 years.
Today the station occupies 6100 hectares and has an additional 180ha irrigated block at Spotswood, about 12 kilometres away just north of Cheviot, and another 150ha of irrigated land near Ashburton.
Mendip Hills runs 10,500 romney ewes and 6300 ewe and trading hoggets, and has 1120 breeding cows, including the rising-two-year-old heifers.
The deer operation is made up of 1250 mixed-age, red hinds, 250 in-calf rising two-yearold hinds and 300 rising one-year-old hinds.
All the mixed-age cows are run together over winter, then separated into two herds, angus-cross and pure hereford, at calving and again before the bulls go out.
Bulls are left out for 45 days, which helps to keep the calving pattern tight. Weaning is in the second week of April, and the mobs then join together.
With the aim of improving the herd, Mendip Hills has been part of Beef & Lamb New Zealand’s beef progeny test.
Cows and heifers are DNAtested before being inseminated.
Hereford bulls, both horned amd polled, are selected to fit with the breeding goals as well as targeting a high percentage of intramuscular fat in estimated breeding values. It’s not just the farm that has been affected by earthquake damage.
There’s also the damage to people. Simon, wife Miesha and their children – Zoe, 12, Jonty, 10, Harry, six, and Digby, one – were all asleep when the earthquake hit.
They were initially trapped in the house, but eventually made it outside. The farm staff turned up shortly afterwards.
Everyone slept outside that night. Simon says everyone is coping well.
He credits Federated Farmers as being lifesavers. The 0800 number set up by the federation has brought muchneeded volunteers to the farm to help with the extra workload.
“We’re still living out of boxes at our house until it’s fixed. We all have to pace ourselves – it won’t happen overnight and work will be ongoing for a couple of years to get the farm sorted.”