Hill country development, water quality present challenges

Hill country development, water quality present challenges
Matt and Tory Simpson busy tagging at Ranui station. Photos: Meg Simpson photography.

Matt and Tory Simpson have been farming Ranui Station for 24 years.The 4100ha high country station is located in a beautiful part of the country. The home-stead is 15km up the Mt Nessing road, from a small township called Albury, 25km south of Fairlie.
Predominantly hill and high country the farm has just 150 ha of paddocks, which Matt says has been historically the main limiting factor in terms of farm management practices.“Having said that we are fortunate to have quite a bit of easy hill country which we have over-sown.”
The farm’s spectacular elevation soars to 5500 feet at the top of the Hunter Hills (Mt Nessing) and continues right over the tops to the Haka Block which is roughly 2800ha of the farm’s total footprint. The farm carries 2600 half-bred ewes, a Romney/Merino cross.
Rams are sourced from Benmore Station, Omarama, as are the Hereford Bulls. Also roaming over the farm are 210 Hereford cows. The bull calves are kept though the winter and sold in spring as yearlings, which service the dairy market.
“We are a store property and have a lamb sale as part of the Rollesby annual sale in early February. We also carry 630 half-bred hogget’s. The property winters approximately 5200 stock units.”Matt and Tory manage the farm by themselves and life is busy with Tory holding down a part-time job off the farm as well.
Though this obviously ties the couple to the farm Matt is the first to say they are happy with the farm business and the way it is currently operating.When Rural South spoke with Matt they had just started experimenting with breaking in some hill land.
He says this presents some interesting challenges coming out of the government’s fresh-water draft policy. “We have been toying with the idea for some time and are involved with a RMPP (Red Meat Profit Partnership) group to share our thinking and gather more information on how best to go at this.”
RMPP was established to improve the way that information and knowledge are shared between farmers with the goal of supporting best practice and improve the bottom-line for sheep and beef farmers.
An environmental issue potentially affecting the farm is the question of use of the land which carries a slope of over 20 degrees, which in the case of this property is a considerable area.
“It may mean we cannot winter graze on our farm as the draft proposal suggests land by property title carrying slope over 20 degrees will be regarded as being unsuitable for winter forage grazing.”Winter grazing is an essential management practice for this property.
Federated Farmers members are able to access a slope map from the website, which indicates the degree of slope per property title, with four categories of slope indicated by coloured shadings for 0 to 5/5 to 7/7 to 10/above 10 is without shading.
The primary reason for the mapping is for members is to be able to determine whether their properties require stock exclusion fencing, under the government’s fresh water proposal’s and how it will affect them. Matt says he has thoroughly enjoyed his role as branch chair of the Fairlie branch.
He has also been appointed to the newly formed biodiversity and pest liaison group for the southern region of ECAN. There is also the issue of what is being demanded in terms of water quality levels, which Matt says are unachievable on his farm.
“We are being asked to get our waterways to a Dissolved Inorganic Nitrate (DIN) level of 1 which lacks commonsense, given information we have received about the DIN levels on other local rivers is 3.5-4 and that is in their natural state.”
Matt says there appears to be a lack of understanding as to what can be achieved and the time-frame for change.“Too much expected too quickly is a recipe for disaster because farming practice takes time to change.”
Matt says one of the frustrations is the submission process and its time-line, with only eith weeks given. It hasn’t given Federated Farmers and other stakeholder’s time to gather all the information that affects water quality management.“Whatever levels are finally arrived at has to be right from a practical and sustainable perspective.”
He’s also frustrated because the water quality consultation process is not full enough. “It’s only going through a sub-hearing. Someone will decipher all the feedback gathered and then decide what information goes through to the select-committee stage.”
Matt would like to see realistic statements put out to the world by our political leaders about the true state of farming practice in this country.“You know, when compared with agriculture practices overseas we here in NZ leave the smallest footprint in terms of environmental impact. We lead the world on this hands down.”
He is also hopeful some sense will be made of the current ban on semi-automatic guns, given the impact the absence of use of these firearms will have on pest-control.

Hill country development, water quality present challenges
Matt Simpson has been farming the 4100ha high country station for 24 years.

“We have a terrible problem with Wallabies in this region. It’s a huge issue here. Again hopefully some common-sense will prevail as the firearms policy is worked through in consideration of this issue.”He advocates a special license category be applied to accredited farmers and pest-controllers so that the use of these firearms is permitted under certain stringent conditions.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…

  • Benmore Station
  • Heartland Electrical
  • Canterbury Lime Co.
  • Montana Perendales
  • Kevin Hessell Shearing
  • Alexanders
  • Waikaka Genetics

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