Measuring and recording boosts production on Barewood Station

Barewood Station farm manager Marty Deans, left, chats with Lone Star Farms general manager Boyd MacDonald at a recent ...
Diane Bishop

Barewood Station farm manager Marty Deans, left, chats with Lone Star Farms general manager Boyd MacDonald at a recent field day.

Sheep production is a major focus on Barewood Station.

"No longer are we chasing numbers, it's all about production," farm manager Marty Deans said.

Deans manages Barewood Station, a 6420 hectare hill country property at Pukerangi, between Outram and Middlemarch.

In 2004 the property was bought by ex-pat American Tom Sturgess and now operates as part of the Lone Star Farms operation.

Lone Star Farms owns a total of eight properties covering 18,000ha effective and is largely a sheep breeding and finishing operation with trading stock bought to manage genuine feed surpluses.

Deans, who has managed the 40,000 stock unit Barewood Station since 1998, hosted a Beef + Lamb New Zealand North and East Otago Farming for Profit field day on the property recently.

He and wife Nettie have overseen the development of tussock country into productive farm land, and a major fencing, fertiliser and regrassing programme, which has included a swing to lucerne-fescue based pastures.

Traditionally a breeding property, these changes has enabled the farm to now finish most of its stock and purchase trading stock as feed supply opportunities allow.

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Barewood, which is 5300ha effective, forms part of a historic Otago run and gold mining was undertaken on the property in the early 1900s.

It carries more than 18,000 Romney-Texel cross ewes and 5300 ewe hogget replacements and has continued with much the same sheep genetics since it was purchased by Lone Star Farms.

SIL-recorded Romney-Texel cross rams were bred specifically bred for Barewood by North Island sheep farmer Derek Daniell on the condition the property bought at least 50 ram hoggets.

However, Headwaters rams, which have a Finn component, have been used more recently to increase fertility in the ewe flock and this has resulted in the lambing percentage increasing from 122 per cent in 2012 to 139 per cent this year.

Lone Star Farms general manager Boyd MacDonald said the farm had "bloody good sheep, but not enough lambs" before the introduction of Headwaters genetics.

Barewood Station also employs stock manager Blair Thwaites, head shepherd Wayne Marshall, shepherds Daniel Adam, Julie Graham, and Marcus Elliot as well as tractor driver Pete Morrison and general hand Dougie Howell.

The staff have bought into the concept and value of regular condition scoring of the sheep as well as feed budgeting.

Deans said the ewes were body condition scored three or four times a year and the aim was to maintain them at a BCS of at least three for optimum production.

The goal across the Lone Star Farms group is to achieve 150 per cent lambing and to produce 3200 tonne of meat and fibre by 2018.

Barewood used to run a beef cow herd, but Deans much prefers the flexibility of trading cattle on the summer-dry property.

About 1000 cattle are bought in each year, depending on feed surpluses.

"Cows were a real liability here - we had no tucker for them when it dried out - now we just buy and sell cattle as we require," Deans said.

Last season more than 15,000 lambs were finished on Barewood at an average 16.9kg.

MacDonald said a lot of measuring, recording and benchmarking was carried out on the property which had resulted in a significant production lift.

"By recording and measuring we've been able to identify opportunities and we've seen a 20 per cent lift in production."

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SIDEBAR

LONE STAR FARMS

-Owned by Tom Sturgess

-8 properties covering about 18,000ha effective

-Wintering 140,000su and peak during early summer at 190,000su

-Largely a breeding and finishing operation with trading stock purchased to manage genuine feed surpluses

-80:20 per cent sheep/cattle ratio

-7 farm managers and 35 farm staff

-Company goal of 150 per cent lambing producing 3200 tonne of meat and fibre by 2018

-Try to operate as one farm and any transactions between farms are done at market value

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Lone Star Farms was started in 1997 with the purchase of Quartz Range in the Aorere Valley in Golden Bay. Puponga Farm Park was leased from the Department of Conservation in 1988 while Raninbow, Mt Albert, Barewood and Caberfeidh Station were bought between 2000 and 2004, followed by The Wandle in 2009. Hadleigh/Mt Clyde was purchased in 2012, being the first farm in the North Island for Lone Star Farms.

 - Otago Southland Farmer

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