How one of New Zealand's largest commercial farms manages 37,000 sheep and 5,800 cattle

Cattle at Beaumont Station
Cattle at Beaumont Station
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

More than 37,000 sheep, 5,800 cattle and cattle paddocks the size of rugby pitches are just some of the features that make up one of New Zealand’s biggest commercial farms.

Father and son duo Alan and Richard Hore run a Hereford breeding and finishing enterprise based on their farm on their Beaumont Station and Marydale farms in New Zealand.

According to Alan,“their job description is to consistently turn out top quality beef and breeding regardless of the variable and sometimes extreme weather.”

“That means being able to bounce back after long winters, calve and raise offspring over a short growing season and bear the brunt of adverse weather. We produce our first calf at three years old giving us time to grow out and adapt to the country environment,” says Alan.

The development of the herd has been a long journey since Alan and his wife Jean moved with their family to Beaumont in 1972. Now Richard and his wife Abby are part of the operation.

Back then the farm was running 2,000 Herefords and while this may seem like a lot to Irish farmers, Alan felt that the farm was lightly stocked and was “keen to bolster numbers”. For Alan a key criteria for increasing herd size and breeding cow selection has been “structural soundness”

“We don’t want our herd to be big and rangy. We like them well muscled and well framed which is very important in this environment,” he said.

In the past, bulls used to be bought in on the farm but Alan admits that sourcing suitable breeding pools became an “increasingly difficult” and “time consuming exercise”.

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“Although the bulls looked the part, several simply couldn’t cope with the high altitude conditions,” explains Richard.

With this in mind, the father and son established a non-recorded stud herd in 1993. The herd was based on six cows bought at a dispersal sale and was increased through AI, embryo transfer and careful replacement selection. The 160 cows are now mated to five bulls.

“The breeding sire pool is topped up each year. Of the bull progeny, 15 are kept for Beaumont and the surplus are sold as dairy beef herd sires or slaughtered,” explains Richard.

“About 30 heifers are retained and mated as yearlings to low birth weight bulls and calve on the lower lying paddock, country around the homestead.”

Alan’s initial focus was producing yearling store cattle for the local spring sale. However, while the local sale in Ireland might only involve loading a few cattle in to a lorry for a 15 minute drive, for Alan and his family it was a 30km two day horseback droving exercise, which Alan remembers as "taxing".

“We used to walk a mob of about 900 cattle 20km down the steep and winding Beaumont access road to an overnight stop beyond Millers Flat and early the following morning walked another 10km along the flat to the sale yards.

"It was a taxing trek break for both man and beast and all the more so when prices at the sale yards didn’t measure up,” he says.

Alan decided to pull the plug on on-farm selling in 1987 and built rugby field sized cattle yards with an adaptable selling facility.

“For six years we hosted a spring steer and surplus heifer sale and had up to 150 buyers from throughout the region, but the swings and roundabouts in store prices was frustrating, “he said.

In 1993, the family bought Marydale, a 440ha gently rolling farm that they developed for the wintering and finishing of Beaumont’s young cattle and labs. Fodder beet is also grown which typically yields 21 to 24 tonnes of dry matter per hectare.

Proof of the family’s ability to produce top quality is beef is also evident in their winning of the 2016 Silver Ferns Farms Pasture to Plate beef supplier award.

"We have no plans to greatly change the livestock breeding, feeding and selling formula fine tuned over many years. It's a proven and successful blueprint for success-just like our Hereford," says Richard.

If it isn't broke don't fix it!

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