Young farmer determined to be great lamb producer highly commended in Glammies
Allan Paterson always knew he wanted to be a farmer and with only three seasons under his belt he is already gaining recognition for his efforts.
Paterson, 27, farms Bushline Farm, a 300 hectare sheep farm between Otautau and Tuatapere, in Southland. The farm, originally bought by his father Graham in 1968, runs 2500 mainly coopworth ewes and 700 replacement hoggets.
"That's what I've always wanted to do since I was a boy ... farming is sort of in my blood," he says.
In his three seasons of farming, Paterson has been an eager competitor in local lamb competitions, with wins the past two years for the Waiau A&P Show's terminal cross hoof and hook competition.
His lambs in the competition averaged 60 kilograms of liveweight this year, he says.
But it was at the Wanaka A&P Show last week Paterson gained national attention as he went up against seasoned farmers in the finals of the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Golden Lamb Awards, or Glammies as they are known. The competition had 166 entrants overall and only 20 made it through to the final.
Paterson was highly commended in the terminal cross class of the competition.
Before he made his way back to the farm, Paterson was living in Invercargill and working as an engineer for six years.
"My parents wanted to me to do a trade before I came back to the farm."
He says the engineering has come in handy during his short stint on the farm, but he hasn't quite given it up outside of farming yet. About six months a year he still works part-time as an engineer as well as managing the farm by himself.
Working as an engineer allows him to supplement his income, he says.
"It's not difficult it's just big hours."
Especially when he runs the farm without staff.
"I've been by myself the whole time since I've been here. I do everything myself."
The mainly coopworth flock is being mated with perendale/texels.
"My parents always had perendale/texels but the coopworth flock was here when I came back."
While Paterson is finding success in competition circuits with his lambs, he says he owes a lot of that success to his ram breeder Robert Gardyne.
"We get the rams off him, they're very good. He'd have to be the best ram breeder in the country."
Gardyne was also a finalist in the Glammies this year, and walked away with the Producer of the Decade title after consecutively being a finalist 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and the 2016 grand champion.
Paterson keeps his lamb finishing simple, with a grass-based system. He jokes he basically just feeds them and opens the gates.
"It's the hills and it's really genetics from the rams that do it," he says.
Hill country farming was an advantage for him because the lambs yielded better, but he still maintains a lambing beat during the spring.
"I do try and get around once and twice a day."
He isn't ending up with a bunch of pet lambs running around the house, and only occasionally "mothers on", he says.
Paterson entered a steep learning curve when he arrived back on the farm which he leases from his mum Gayleen.
The first year was a lot about learning what not to do, he says.
"I thought it was going to be easy, I probably made a couple of mistakes but I've changed a lot of things and it's looking uphill from here."
He came back at 25 and jumped straight into running the farm. Since returning he has shifted the way he feeds the sheep through winter to retain their body condition during the colder months, he says.
In the winter he grows brassicas for the ewes.
"Over time I'm just picking it up as I go, learning more about it and every year is just getting better and better."
Paterson says he is a practical, "self-taught" person who learns through doing and watching others do things, instead of learning through theory.
While there's been a lot of learning, Paterson is pretty proud he made it into the Glammies, especially against farmers with far more experience. He is one of the youngest finalists the Glammies has had in its 10 years.
"All those people there they've been doing it for decades, they're top of the line farmers."
It was also exciting to make it into the finals with Gardyne, who has helped him along in his farming career, he says.
While entering the competitions gives the young farmer a buzz, he also has a special reason he wants to do well.
When he was young his dad Graham died and the farm was leased out before his mum remarried and leased out again before Paterson returned.
"My stepfather Chris Eade passed away, that was one of my things when he passed, when I came back to the farm, that I wanted to carry on what he did to show that he could have got first if he was still here."
Eade got the same placing the last year he entered the Glammies before he died, Paterson says.
While he is still early on in his farming career, he is already thinking about the future.
He says his lambing percentage is nothing to brag about at this point, but it is one of the main areas he wants to improve for the farm.
He also has his eyes set on getting back into the Glammies finals and is determined to eventually win, he says.
"I'm going to carry on and try and get in the final and hopefully win."