Lumsden farmer Willie Menlove is serious about growing lucerne.
He aims to grow about 85 hectares a year of the specialist feed crop to finish his lambs - about double the area he has in lucerne.
Until recently he had only "dabbled" in lucerne, growing just 5ha a year, which he would "cut and carry" and feed out to his stock.
"But all the literature suggests it's best fed [as a standing crop] directly to stock," Willie said.
The merits of growing lucerne were discussed at a Beef + Lamb New Zealand Meat the Cultivar field day at Willie and Phillipa Menlove's property north of Lumsden recently.
Seed Force Southern South Island representative Liam Donnelly said there had been "massive" interest in lucerne in the past five years.
"It's a very flexible crop. It's not just for hay and silage - we've got farmers growing it in inland Canterbury and Otago for grazing and they are achieving awesome results," Donnelly said.
Farmers could expect eight to 10 years from a stand of lucerne and it was a good option, along with cocksfoot, for those who farmed in drought-prone areas, he said.
The Menlove family have farmed Sweetacres since 1929, and Willie was the third generation to take up the reins on the 2000ha hill-country property.
"When my grandfather bought the place there was a huge rabbit problem.
"About 30,000 rabbits were killed in the first year," Donnelly said.
The Menloves farm more than 5000 perendale sheep and also run 1270 ewe hoggets.
They aim to achieve 140 per cent lambing, and last season their lambs averaged 17.88kg carcass weight, which was back on the previous year's average of 18.25kg.
They also farm about 500 mixed- age hinds and their progeny including some velveting stags, as well as 80 mixed-age cows.
Their calves were sold at Castlerock saleyards and 18-month-old heifer replacements were bought in.
Donnelly said the strength of the property was its good balance of flats and hill country and simple systems, while its porina problem on the hill country and drought susceptibility were its Achilles heel. "We can dry out here in five days," he said.
Hill country development has been a major focus on Sweetacres.
Donnelly has continued what his grandfather started in the early 1980s and about 328ha has been developed so far.
"We started developing the hill 30 years ago but the guts of it has been done in the past 15 years," he said.
The trend has been to bog disc the hill in winter, apply plenty of fertiliser, and put in two crops of annual ryegrass and turnips and then permanent pasture.
About 50 to 60ha goes into new grass each year and direct drilling has been the preferred regrassing method.
Donnelly has focused on developing the flatter areas on the hill and the gullies have been left in their natural state because they provide a good nutrient buffer and natural shelter for the stock.
"The cost of developing the gullies would not be the best bang for our buck," he said.
Donnelly said there were lots of pasture options out there and it could be confusing, but it was important farmers used those that fit their situation. "It's important to get sound agronomic advice and build resilience in your pastures."
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