Like most New Zealand farmers, Patrick (Patch) and Nic Murphy quietly go about producing quality protein in the face of many challenges, both on and off farm.
Increasingly, external challenges include policies to mitigate carbon emissions and pressure from vocal vegan minorities seeking to eliminate animal protein from the table.
Despite this, Patch does not see beef and lamb disappearing off people’s shopping lists any time soon.
“It’s a product that everyone is (still) going to want and there is becoming more of a niche market for quality protein and people are paying a premium for it.”
The Murphy’s are the owners of Whare O Paia Station, a 1015ha, 826ha effective Tologa Bay property; 189ha of its total area is in native bush and scrub.
While farming has its challenges, there are plenty of positives and it provides a “fantastic” family lifestyle, including for their two children Arabella, 9, and Maisy, 7, Patch says.
Patch and Nic, a relief teacher, are the fourth generation on the farm after taking part of it over in 2014.
It was previously owned in a larger form by Patch’s father, Roger.
Patch and his elder brother, Jeremy, split the property in half when it was sold, which left Patch with a hill block and Jeremy with the flat land closer to the coast.
“It suited us both because he likes driving tractors and I’m more of a get-out-on-the-hills sort of a guy.”
The changes meant Patch needed to review their farm’s stocking policy; it was also like starting a new farm from scratch, including establishing a homestead.
The station supports 3000 breeding ewes, 900 hoggets, of which 650 are lambed, and about 345 predominantly angus cows are calved, including R2 heifers.
About 190 steers are sold as yearlings each November; of 140 yearling heifers 55 are kept as in-calf replacements.
“The rest (of the heifers) are either finished if its a good season or we sell them as stores.”
The farm’s sheep and cattle are in a state of genetic transition.
Its romney’s are in the second season of being crossed with Hinenui Genetics’ coopworth rams with the aim of improving reproduction and maternal traits.
Hinenui Genetics’ focus is on breeding eczema tolerant sheep ewes with high production for progeny, nil drenching of ewes and no special treatment through high faecal egg challenges.
While Patch agrees the present lambing of 140% to 145% is a reasonable figure, there is always a desire to improve, he says.
“The plan at the moment is to try and get that up to 150% in the next couple of years and drop the ewe numbers.”
The Murphy’s source their angus cattle genetics from Turihaua Angus.
Patch’s proven selection skills combined with the use of Turihaua Angus livestock have been a winning combination.Whare O Paia has won the Gisborne A & P Show Supreme Heifer Challenge Turihaua Trophy for the past three years running.
Judges have commented that Whare O Paia’s cattle are exceptionally well grown, that Patch has excellent animal husbandry skills and an eye for quality genetics.
This reputation means the majority of cattle are sold privately.
The station employs a full time shepherd, Tu Harrison-Boyd, 23, who was a finalist in this year’s Awhenua Young Maori Award.
Patch describes him as a very motivated young guy.
“He’s always keen to learn and to know what’s going on.“
Full credit to him for entering the competition and to get into the final.”
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