““We never get dry here: we get good growth through summer and early autumn to grow enough feed. We will be utilising every blade of grass. The goal is to grow bull calves as quickly as possible. We just do one winter with the bulls as the farm is too wet to hold them over two winters.””
When Mt Hamilton Station was split into two farms in mid-2018, it opened up an exciting opportunity for a forward thinking farm manager to join Pāmu’s Southland team
Cody and Jewel Beck and their family took the opportunity to move to Waipuna, the station’s former 800ha sheep and beef breeding unit, with Cody now spearheading the property’s bull beef farming transformation. Cody previously worked as a farm manager on a privately owned farm in Southland and is relishing his first Landcorp management role.
“You get a sense of farm ownership here, as I’m making all the day to day decisions on my own,” Cody says. “At the same time, you can access a lot of support; if you need it, they’re only a phone call away.”
Waipuna Farm is in northern Southland, 15 minutes from Mossburn and around 40 minutes from Te Anau. “It’s definitely quite an isolated spot, but Mossburn has a school, a shop and a pub along with the local rugby club and we’re quite heavily involved with rugby and also enjoy taking the boat to Te Anau in our downtime.”
Cody is thankful that recent flooding in Southland did not impact too heavily on the property. While it’s quite swampy country and gets a lot of rain, the farm is at a reasonably high elevation.
Today, the 720ha effective farm runs 2000 Romney ewes and some 650 yearling Friesian bulls. Cropping has been taken out of the farm system, in favour of an all-grass wintering system. Cody is confident enough grass can be grown to feed stock, without having to rely on crops.
“We never get dry here: we get good growth through summer and early autumn to grow enough feed. We will be utilising every blade of grass.”
The goal is to grow bull calves as quickly as possible. “We just do one winter with the bulls as the farm is too wet to hold them over two winters.”
The shift to running small mobs of bulls is driving significant investment in water development to support the smaller paddocks that are being formed. Three new tanks have been installed to create more water storage, with 15-20 new troughs a year going in over a three-year development phase through to 2021. There is also a big focus on new fencing, with around 15km of bull fencing a year being added as part of the development work, including 5km of environmental fencing per year (to fence off waterways).
“We’ve got six weeks from Christmas to mid-March to get all the work done, so summer is full on!” Cody says it is difficult attracting keen young staff to work at Waipuna, given its remote location and intensive bull beef farm system. At the moment he works sole charge, employing a casual as needed. “It is tough farming but once all the development work is done, this will be a high profit, high production farm.”
Sheep will always retain their place at Waipuna. “They’re so light on their feet and are a good tool for cleaning up on the grass where we’re finishing the bulls.”
Cody and Jewel have a family of four, aged from three to 14 years. Jewel also plays an active role on-farm as time allows, particularly at lambing and calving. “She’s a massive asset on the farm.”