Dairy adds diversity to family station

Dairy adds diversity to family station
Kiwitahi Station’s Brigid and Paddy Lowry.

Born and bred on Kiwitahi Station, surrounded by native bush that once formed an ancient and mighty rain forest in the Central North Island’s high country Paddy Lowry says it was an amazing place to grow up; a solid framework for a long life on the land.
Thirteen kilometres nor’west of Taupo on Poihipi Road, the farm’s front gate sits at 680 metres above sea level and then the farm rises to 785 metres – it is high country.
Generally very wet and cold during the winter months, spring on the farm can be variable but summer safe as a rule.
“We can experience short dry periods in the summer,” says Paddy.
Directly above the middle of Lake Taupo the farm looks down on Kinloch Bay, into the western bays of Lake Taupo and the mountains, north into the Bay of Plenty area and east over Lochninvar Station.
Kiwitahi Station was effectively 900ha of cut-over native bush when Paddy’s father, Pat, bought it, developing the land throughout the 1960’s and early ‘70’s as a drystock property carrying 5000 romney ewes and 500 angus cows.
Paddy says that when the property was first developed it had tremendous natural fertility.
“The forest had been cut over at the time of the depression and again during the war and they were still logging when my father got here. Dad stopped all of the logging, left a lot of the better bush and developed the country that had been heavily logged. We still have a lot of beautiful totara trees and stands of native bush.”
After attending Lincoln University and spending time overseas working in the arable industry, Paddy and his wife Brigid returned to Kiwitahi Station to manage the family farming business – Kiwitahi Land Company.
“We did that from 1996 through till 2009, at which stage we formed Kiwitahi Trust, leased the farm, bought the stock and plant and started our own farming journey. We also formed a contracting business called Kiwikontractors and that helped us with cash fl ow in the early days.  It also helped us get our crops in on time and I realised that was very important when running a reasonably intensive operation.”
In 2014 Paddy and Brigid purchased two adjoin-ing blocks amounting to 150ha of reasonably good contoured country they had previously leased and farmed as dry stock.
Together with 30ha purchased from Kiwitahi Land company, the couple developed a 180ha dairy block.
Paddy says the dairy was the ultimate add on to the whole diversity of Kiwitahi.
“Of course our timing with the dairy conversion was not particularly good. After the conversion we faced three years of $4.00 payouts, which we really struggled with and we’re still trying to play catch up with. At the altitude that we’re farming it was going to be right on the economic verge of dairy country but because it’s high and cooler we do have a longer growing season and can extend the peak milking season further into the summer.”
Having farmed high country for a long time, Paddy was well aware of the challenges he would face but sought advice from a local dairy consultant who knew the farm well.
“He has helped us develop the ideal farming system for the area. We calve just over 600 Kiwi-cross cows and aim to peak milk 580. One of the things that I insisted we did was get good conformation, good structured cows. The production levels didn’t worry me too much so long as they could handle the conditions. It gets very cold here.”
Production has steadily increased each year and last season finished at 280,000kgMS.
As at Christmas time this year, Brigid and Paddy were in a position to complete their ultimate goal of ownership of Kiwitahi Station.
“It is sense of achievement for us. We have had to really stretch ourselves and the next challenge will be holding on to it for the next generation. Since my father started here it has been quite a story of development, carving it out of native bush to where it is today. That development journey is still continuing.”
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