10,000 reasons to remain ambitious

18:30, May 06 2014
Rob Lawson, left, his father Jim and brother Willy operate their hill country property Moana, south of Waikouaiti, as a family business.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Rob Lawson, left, his father Jim and brother Willy operate their hill country property Moana, south of Waikouaiti, as a family business.

Producing 10,000 lambs a year is an ambitious goal.

But it's one that the Lawson family hope to achieve on their East Otago hill country property.

Jim Lawson and his sons Rob and Willy farm 5500 Romney- Perendale first-cross breeding ewes and 1350 ewe hogget replacements on their 2336-hectare property Moana Farm, south of Waikouaiti.

Their main focus is lamb production and cattle, which have currently taken the place of a modern tractor, and are used as a pasture management tool.

"We aim to finish all our own lambs," Rob Lawson told farmers at a FarmIQ field day at Moana last month.

Moana, which has been in the Lawson family since 1950, comprises four different land types, from intensive flats to improved hill paddocks, rolling hill, and native hill country.


It is also prone to drought which means getting lambs away early in the season is a priority.

Their main goal in the FarmIQ programme is to produce 10,000 weaned lambs a year within the next four years.

Rob said to achieve this ambitious target they would need to lift the ewe lambing percentage from 133 to 140 per cent in the short term, increasing to 150 per cent in the long-term.

They also aim to kill 1500 plus lambs before Christmas, eventually increasing this to 2000 lambs in the long term, and maintain an average lamb carcass weight of 17.5kg. "We're starting to tick things off.

"This year we killed 1800 lambs before Christmas but it's important we get more lambs away early to de-risk the autumn for the ewes," Rob said.

The Lawsons, who mate almost half their ewes to terminal sire rams, aim to eventually lift ewe numbers by about 1000 and consistently lamb about 500 hoggets each year.

The continued improvement of their hill country will enable them to significantly lift ewe numbers.

Sheep currently make up 70 per cent of the 10,000 stock units farmed at Moana, while cattle make up 30 per cent.

The Lawsons farm 250 Angus- Hereford cross breeding cows and most of their progeny are finished at 18 months, while about 50 lighter cattle carried over a second winter.

There is no irrigation on the property.

However, a reticulated water system is operated on the intensive flats while on the hill country stock have access to natural water via rivers, creeks and ponds.

The Lawsons are undertaking several projects on their property which include looking at the effect herbs and clover have on lamb finishing and if a dose of smart shot (B12) will increase lamb growth rates.

They are also wanting to find out what effect iodine supplementation has on ewe conception rates and if cattle treated with BVD vaccine have higher growth rates than those left untreated.


Owned by the Lawson family since 1950

It is 2336 hectares (2051ha effective)

It consists of:

120ha high performance block

525ha improved hill paddocks

850ha improved hill

520ha native hill

36ha lease block


5500 Romney Perendale first- cross ewes

1350 ewe hogget replacements

works lambs finished at an average 17.5kg carcass weight


250 Angus-Hereford cross breeding cows

Most progeny finished at 18 months.

The Southland Times