Pasture utilisation a win for Oban

Pasture utilisation a win for Oban
John Richmond out in the yards with his eldest son on Oban Station.

Family-owned, Hawkes Bay farm, Oban Station nearly didn’t continue into the fourth generation with current owner John Richmond having little interest in farming when he left school.
“I had helped out on the farm over the years when I was younger and I struggled to get enjoyment from it,” he laughs with the realisation that it is now his life.
John completed a course in mechanics beyond school and ended up travelling through Australia and America driving grape harvesters.
“I also went to England and did the typical Kiwi OE for a couple of years and came back to the farm after that.”
That was ten years ago. John and his wife Charlotte have since purchased the 550ha station and contract manage a neighbouring 450ha cattle finishing farm.
“I guess I just became a bit more grounded with travel and that worldly knowledge slowed me down a bit and I began to enjoy farming.”
It was John’s great grandfather William Richmond, founder of Richmond Meats, who originally bought Oban Station back in 1916 now, four generations on, it’s all up to John.
Since taking on ownership, John has worked closely with his consultant, John Cannon, to “revolutionise” the farm and play to the strengths of the climate.
“When I came in around ten years ago I managed the farm for dad for a while.
He still had breeding stock and it was quite extensive so we came in and did a huge development.”
The challenge being the summer dry conditions, “we seem to have a system now that works really well with that.”
The focus is now on trading bull beef and finishing winter trade lambs.
“We tend to make the most of our strengths which is a pretty mild winter and do quite a big winter trade. We don’t do any breeding, it’s all fattening.”
Along with trade stock, Oban Station is home to a 6ha vineyard which was developed around 20 years ago as a major interest of John’s late mother and is now leased to Sileni Estates.
During the summer, John says they drastically destock only taking on a few 100kg calves that are put onto crops.
“Other than that we just have a couple hundred two-year-old bulls kicking around.”
But with the shift away from breeding, John says that they were struggling to get good pasture utlisation with the extensive paddocks.
“That was the biggest downfall. It was a matter of coming in and putting in a whole heap of fencing,” he says.
Around 20km of new fencing was put in over one summer, a bit of capital fertiliser and a new reticulated water system.
With a big “dollop of capital” thrown at the farm, John says their focus now is on debt reduction.
Thankfully, the benefits of subdividing are shining through.
“The property has come in leaps and bounds, it’s unreal what can be achieved on this hill country with good pasture utilisation. The rest is just beating the market.”
John’s father still works with him on the farm, and they’ve taken on two more employees since the developments got underway, a nod to its success so far.
For ease of management, John is still looking to chop the paddocks up a bit further to make them more uniformed and believes they’ve got enough equipment and hands now to look into leasing some more hectares in the near future.
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