Working hard to boost production by 9 per cent

17:28, Feb 26 2014
Deer are the main focus on Landcorp’s Stuart Farm.
HIGH VALUE: Deer are the main focus on Landcorp’s Stuart Farm.

Landcorp's Stuart Farm is the latest property to join the Farm IQ programme.

The 2750ha effective property in the Te Anau Basin has a particularly strong deer focus, unlike the other 10 farms in the nationwide programme which are mainly sheep and beef.

Luke Wright and his partner Nicola Esler manage Stuart Farm which winters 28,000 stock units comprising 60 per cent deer, 20 per cent sheep and 20 per cent cattle.

Luke Wright and his partner Nicola Esler manage Landcorp’s Stuart Farm in the Te Anau Basin.
TEAM WORK: Luke Wright and his partner Nicola Esler manage Landcorp’s Stuart Farm in the Te Anau Basin.

They run 3800 commercial hinds, of which almost half (40 per cent) are mated to Wapiti stags, and all surplus progeny are finished at good weights.

"We aim to evenly supply deer throughout the spring to meet chilled market demands," Wright said.

Wright is passionate about deer farming and is particularly proud of this year's crop of fawns which were on display at a field day on the property last week.


A major focus is the 600 hinds which make up the elite red deer herd. They have their own protection area for disease status and produce breeding stags for other Landcorp farms and their external clients.

Wright said it had been a great season at Stuart Farm. Grass supply was plentiful and unusual for this time of the year, but the crops were starting to look a bit parched from the recent dry spell.

"We need rain soon or we will have to bring weaning forward," he said.

The main aim of the Stuart Farm IQ programme is to achieve 180kg of product a hectare from meat, wool and velvet - up from 165kg/ha which is currently being achieved.

Financial analysis from Baker & Associates has shown that to achieve an increase of 15kg/ha, production would have to increase 9 per cent.

This would lift gross farm income to $1000 a hectare.

The fawns, both the red and red-wapiti animals, were currently averaging about 52.6kg at processing and an average kill date of mid November.

Wright said there was potential to increase weaner growth rates.

He was currently achieving about 90 per cent fawning in the mixed-age hinds and was pleased with that given the challenging climatic conditions.

About 6500 Landmark ewes, including hoggets, were lambed on Stuart Farm in 2013.

Hogget lambing is a major focus and Wright aims to have the hoggets at a minimum 43kg when they go to the ram on May 1.

"We sell those that are not in lamb.

"It's important that every ewe lamb gets in-lamb," he said.

Ewe lambing is staggered with the four and five year ewes lambing in August and the four-tooth and two-tooth ewes lambing in mid-September.

The four-tooth ewes are mated to a range of sires as part of the FarmIQ meat quality progeny trial.

All surplus progeny are finished and about 50 per cent of replacement ewe lambs are sourced from other Landcorp properties.

About 45ha of lucerne is being grown and this high quality feed is helping achieve good growth rates in the ewes and lambs.

However, two-tooth performance has been disappointing.

Last season they scanned just 163 per cent so Wright has been focused on improving their nutrition and lifting their live weights.

About 800 tonnes (dry matter) supplement is conserved on the farm annually.

This year almost 200ha of swedes have been grown along with 13ha of fodder beet, 40ha of Italian ryegrass and 23ha of rape/grass mix.

Wright also calves 520 Angus cows including yearling heifers.

The surplus progeny, along with a further 200 bought-in steers, are finished for sale to the Five Star Beef Feedlot in Ashburton.

The cattle operation also plays a supporting role providing quality feed for the sheep and deer stock classes.


-Owned by Landcorp

-Managed by Luke Wright and Nicola Esler

-It is 2750ha effective in the Te Anau Basin

-The property employs seven full-time staff

-Rainfall about 1000mm a year

-It winters 28,000 stock units. This includes: 3800 commercial hinds 600 elite red hinds which produce breeding stags for other Landcorp farms 6500 Landmark ewes including hoggets 520 Angus cows including yearling heifers

-Cropped area for 2014: 196ha of swedes (direct drilled) 45ha of lucerne 40ha of Italian ryegrass 23ha of rape/grass mix 13ha of fodder beet About 800 tonnes (DM) conserved on-farm annually.

The Southland Times