Maungahina Stud owners reckon ‘stud breeders are bred, not made’

Mark and Bruce McKenzie.

Located on Castlepoint-Riversdale Road, just out of Masterton, Maungahina is a 607-hectare sheep and beef property home to the Maungahina Hereford Stud. Steeped in pioneering history, the property has been in the McKenzie family since 1899, and the stud wends its way back to 1906.

Passionate about farming and the Hereford breed in particular, the McKenzies have been hosting on-farm bull sales for 78 years, making it the oldest on-farm auction in Australasia, as far as is known.

“The commercial market is what we target. They are our bread and butter.”

Mark McKenzie is the 5th generation to operate the farm and reckons stud breeders are bred, not made. It’s about the little people listening to the grown-up conversations around the dinner table, by the fireside or out on the paddock. It just becomes second nature.

“Over the generations, this is what we’ve done, and our forefathers have told us what to look for. It’s all we talk about. It’s in the blood, you just know what to look for. We’re not hot on EBV figures. Never have been. We just use that data as a tool. We still feel very strongly about type, structure and using your eye.”

“You have to like the way the animal looks, and it’s proven that what we’re doing works. I have a daughter coming through. She’s sixth generation. She’s keen and has a very good eye.”

Maungahina runs two herds. There is a herd for the more powerful, muscling bulls that will find their way into the two-year-olds’ auction held in June of each year. “We’ve always been strong on structure, good bone and plenty of strength, grunt and meat,” says Mark.

“And we will never go away from that. We had 32-two-year-old Herefords on sale in June 2023 and had a great sale. We sold thirty of the bulls and averaged $9,780, with a top price of $22,000, to commercial beef farmers. One bull was sold to a breeder. We were very pleased with the results.”

“The commercial market is what we target. They are our bread and butter. If we sell to a bull stud, that will be a bonus.”

The other herd is where the lower birth weight bulls find themselves, and will make the cut to the yearling sale held every September. “For the yearling sale, we are concentrating on the dairy industry and beef heifer mating. In 2023, the sale was held on the 23rd with about 35 Herefords on offer.”

While genetics have been bought from Australia and some from North America, Maungahina predominantly buys New Zealand stud bulls. “We go out and buy the very best bull that suits our program. The benefit of the Hereford breed is its quiet nature, and I believe we’re seeing a swing to Hereford sires over Angus.”

“There are massive benefits of using a Hereford over a commercial Angus herd. As a first cross, it delivers ten to fifteen percent hybrid vigour. You’re also getting fertility, milk and they are very good at converting grass to meat. They are very feed-efficient cattle. There are so many benefits in your first cross. To put a Hereford over an Angus, you’re instantly going to get growth, and that extra kilo.”

Mark acknowledges that it has been very difficult times with legislation, the weather and interest rates. “It has been nervous times for us. Over the last three years, we’ve lost six big stations to plantation forestry – six customers we no longer have.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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