‘Doing something different every day’ the joy of high country life

‘Doing something different every day’ the joy of high country life
Mustering sheep in snowprone high country at Crown Rock Station in the Umbrella Mountains

Taking its name from the large rock that sits almost at the highest point on the farm’s run block, Crown Rock Station sits on the Umbrella Mountains; dramatic but snow prone country in the top corner of Otago.
Part of the farm runs along the Otago/Southland boundary while the northern end of the farm nearly reaches Central Otago.
Of the rock, Dave Eason, the third generation in his family to farm the land, says despite being an impressive 12 metres across you would need a pretty good imagination to find a crown on it. The station has been in Eason hands since 1965 when David’s grandfather bought it.
Apart from eight years mustering in West Wanaka and the Mount Cook high country sheep station Glentanner, Dave has lived all his life on the station, returning in 1995 to work with his father until his retirement nine years ago. The station is broken into two blocks, with the Pomahaka River running between the two.
Dave bought the home block, consisting of 445ha off his father when he retired, leasing the 3674ha run block, still in his father hands.
“To drive stock between the two blocks is a three-hour drive, crossing the Pomahaka River and then coming up through one of the neighbours properties. In my grandfather’s day it was done on horseback every day, but these days it’s with four wheelers.”
Along Dave’s farming journey he attained both fixed and rotor wing pilot licenses and owns his own Robinson R22 machine – an invaluable tool that he describes as being another staff unit with the time and animals it saves.
“I use it for mustering and carting musterers out. We use it for putting salt blocks out and hunting stock down before snowstorms. Locating caste sheep is probably one of the biggest things. If you can fly around and pick up caste sheep and put them back on their wheels again, with a ewe being worth $150 and a two tooth being worth $200, it doesn’t take long to pay its way.”
Most agricultural work is done on farm by Dave, his partner in life Ruth Armstrong, along with a couple of general shepherd hands, so the farm owns a lot of agricultural machinery.
But Dave says the four 4-wheelers are probably the next most important piece of farm kit, used extensively for transport around and between blocks. The station is home to 9000 ewes of which 5000 go to a Snowline™ ram.

‘Doing something different every day’ the joy of high country life
Culling wild deer at Crown Rock Station. To drive stock between the farm’s two blocks is a three hour drive crossing the Pomahaka River.

About 2000 go to the Suffolk ram and some older Romdale rams are being used till the numbers of Snowline™ are built up. Dave moved to Snowline™ two seasons ago because they were a reasonably fat lamb with very fine micron wool.
“We run two separate flocks between the run farm and the home farm. The run flock is quite fine wool anyway – between 29-30 micron. We didn’t want to lose that because we get a premium for the wool. The Snowline™ should go all right.”
There are about 400 mixed aged cows, another 170 three-year-old heifers and 140 two-year-old heifers. The farm is also home to a large number of wild deer that Dave regularly culls by helicopter, primarily for the pet food industry, which brings the biggest returns.
“At its peak, before we started shooting we had between 800 to 1000 wild deer on the property. We start to cull when the fawns are able to survive. We try to manage it so that we are not cutting our own throats by shooting everything.”
A man of the land all his life, Dave says, “It’s about getting out and doing something different every day, you don’t know what you are going to be doing some days, especially up here with the snow.”
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