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Eye on the pulse and options open

Eye on the pulse and options open

Alan Newton from Waipopo Farm in South Canterbury is reconsidering his options this season for buying in-store lambs, since the recent rainfall has seen demand increase and prices rise.

“We farm to the markets, and that includes our cropping operation,” he says. “We weigh up the difference between the risk and the return.”

He say s he may not buy as many store lambs this season as he has the option to make baleage, put in an autumn crop instead of a spring crop, and maybe graze some cattle.

Alan is running the mixed cropping and sheep finishing unit where he was born in 1956.

While his father originally had about 46ha of his own, Alan and his wife Jan bought 48ha down the road and eventually went into partnership with his dad.

Eye on the pulse and options open

South Canterbury mixed cropping and sheep farmer Alan Newton checks the lamb clip with Chris and Samantha from McCarthy Shearing Timaru. Alan with one of the farm’s latest tractors and working out the straw tallies for the season with Cam Scott from South Canterbury Ag Services.

Today Alan runs 200ha with another 450ha leased, all in the same area bar a paddock 10kms away in Geraldine, where he grows potatoes for McCains.

He also share-farms carrots with McFarlane Agriculture who supplies Juice Products New Zealand, and today seed crops have replaced the peas and sweetcorn he used to grow until the factory closed down 10 years ago.

On the sheep finishing side, Alan normally runs about 1000 ewes and 1500 lambs. He buys in store lambs in summer, fattens them up then sells them the following October.

He also buys in old ewes who are having trouble on the high country, brings them down to kinder country where they clean up the crop residue, puts them over a fat lamb breeding ram, then sells them all counted with a lamb at foot.

Alan runs four permanent employees as well as casual staff who are mainly brought on during summer and autumn for the potato harvest and tractor driving.

Alan’s son Tim has been home from Australia and working on the farm with Alan for the past four years.

Alan says Tim always wanted to go farming, and the working partnership of older and younger works really well. “The next generation has some different ideas,” he says.

“I’ve still got a bit to offer being older and more experienced, but the young ones are really good with the modern gear and computers.”

Jan is in charge of the family business’s administration, which Alan says is becoming a bigger and bigger job due to increased health and safety, resource consent, and food safety requirements. “We’re just about at the stage where we need someone full time to cover the administration,” he says.

“It’s been hard to change from a one man unit. I used to be shearing sheep as well as running the farm. We used to get paid for everything we did, but now we have to do work just to be able to do our work.”

Waipopo Farm is NZGAP (New Zealand Good Agricultural Practice) Certifi ed, and as such demonstrates sustainable production practices, and has systems in place to ensure its products are safe to eat.

The farm is regularly audited and monitored to ensure it continuously meets the New Zealand GAP criteria.

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