Con­trast­ing for­tunes at Lime­stone Downs

Franklin County News - - COUNTRY MATTERS - GER­ALD PIDDOCK

‘‘We set some goals to lift the sheep per­for­mance with­out re­duc­ing the net prod­uct pro­duced per hectare which was his­tor­i­cally around 180kg.’’

It has been a year of con­trasts for two farm busi­nesses that make up Lime­stone Downs Sta­tion.

The prop­erty’s sheep and beef farm had a lift in per­for­mance in its sheep flock over the 2016-17 sea­son while its dairy farm bat­tled tough, wet spring con­di­tions that re­sulted in milk pro­duc­tion fall­ing be­fore re­cov­er­ing later in the sea­son.

The 3219 hectare hill coun­try sheep, beef and dairy farm is 15 kilo­me­tres south of Port Waikato and is owned by the C Alma Baker Trust.

It has a 320ha dairy plat­form, 400ha of na­tive bush and the bal­ance is used to run sheep and beef.

Gen­eral man­ager Paul Ma­honey out­lined the sta­tion’s progress dur­ing the 2016-17 sea­son at its an­nual open day. The dairy farm milked 226,000 kilo­grams of milk solids last sea­son, up by 4000kg on the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

The farm’s cost of pro­duc­tion was $5.61 a kilo­gram of milk solids and it had a six-week in-calf rate of 52 per cent and an empty rate of 22 per cent.

It strug­gled through the wet spring and dry sum­mer.

By the end of Jan­uary last year, the farm had milked 153,000kg, a drop of nine per cent.

The cost of pro­duc­tion to the end of Jan­uary was $4.43/kg, there was a six-week in-calf rate of 67 per cent and the most re­cent scan came out at a 13 per cent empty rate.

Heavy rain last March also caused heavy flood­ing with the flats un­der wa­ter for at least two weeks re­sult­ing in 40ha need­ing to be re­grassed.

In con­trast, the sta­tion’s sheep flock thrived.

Sheep and beef farm man­ager Dave Milne said his goal was to try and im­prove the per­for­mance of the sheep since he ar­rived at the sta­tion two years ago.

His­tor­i­cally, the sheep and beef farm has scanned its ewes at 140 per cent and weaned its lambs at 27.5kg.

‘‘We set some goals to lift the sheep per­for­mance with­out re­duc­ing the net prod­uct pro­duced per hectare which was his­tor­i­cally around 180kg.’’

To do that, he con­di­tion scored the ewes two to three times a year and scanned all of the ewes to al­low him to man­age the mul­ti­ple bear­ing ewes bet­ter.

Sheep num­bers also dropped by just over 2000 as he con­cen­trated on a lower stock­ing rate but bet­ter per­for­mance from the ewes that were left.

‘‘We man­aged to get some rea­son­able re­turns this year at 147 per cent [lamb­ing per­cent­age] and a 33kg av­er­age.

‘‘That gave us an av­er­age of 48kg of lamb weaned per ewe, up nearly 10kg.’’

Lime­stone Downs Sta­tion’s sheep and beef man­ager Dave Milne talks to farm­ers at the farm’s an­nual field day. Lime­stone Downs sheep and beef farm man­ager Dave Milne

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