Breaking in 100ha of a family farm that’s been in the family for generations is “pretty exciting”, says Andrew Overton. Andrew and wife Deborah own Lora Station, an 1800ha sheep and beef farm in the Hokonui Hills that has been in the family since 1926. The land is hilly and runs up to 700 metres above sea level in parts.
Last season the Overtons sprayed 30ha of the block they are seeking to further develop and this season will root rake it and spray out an additional 30ha. “It’s good ground but has reverted back to broom and scrub.
A lot of this 100ha is too steep to cultivate so cattle have just been wintering and calving on it,” explains Andrew. “We want to use it to lamb singles and use it for ewe rotation after weaning.”
Dealing with the feral deer population has been part of the plan to regenerate this land into a useful farming block. Unfortunately deer have taken a liking to any swede crop planted on the rougher scrub areas and bushy gullies so the newly cleared blocks will no doubt be tempting.
So the Overtons have grouped together with other farmers in the district and secured the services of a deer recovery operation – and what’s more it hasn’t cost them a cent. “It was costing a lot to feed them (the deer),” says Andrew with a smile.
“The deer recovery team are doing a really good job and it will make a big difference in the area. They have a good market for the meat so this pays for them to do the job.
We may even make a little out of it.” Lora Station runs 8000 stock units – 5000 romdale ewes, 1350 hoggets and 180 breeding Hereford/angus cattle.
For the past two seasons the Overtons have been experimenting with selling store cattle saying it gives them flexibility. “For example this year we had a drought over summer, which is not normal for this area.
The weight gain on the cattle wasn’t as good as normal and with the works having to do so much extra killing with the mycoplasma bovis outbreak it was hard to get them in.
The market for store sales has been good so we have sold 100 – about twice the number we sold last year.” Needing good growing conditions from beginning of December until the end of April can easily be upset if the weather doesn’t play ball so selling stores gives them more options, says Andrew.
This season they coped with the dry spell, which slowed lamb growth rates, finishing slightly down on the usual weights but without to sell any store lambs.
The Overtons typically put their romdale ewes to a dorset down terminal sire.
This season they are trying out some terminal dorset texel cross sires hoping to increase muscling around the rump and speed up weight gain.
Andrew says the aim is to move the kill date forward a few weeks. The Overtons employ two full time staff and Deborah takes care of the administration side of the business.
They are currently in the process of working out a retirement plan so they know the direction to move towards for their future although Andrew stresses they certainly have no plans to retire any time in the near future.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Hughes Contracting Ltd
- Longridge Rams