Beefy questions at station field day

Mendip Hills Station manager Simon Lee says Herefords are easy to manage. Supplied photo
Mendip Hills Station manager Simon Lee says Herefords are easy to manage. Supplied photo
The importance of the beef cow was discussed by about 200 farmers at a field day at Mendip Hills Station recently.

Hosted by the New Zealand Hereford Association, Beef and Lamb NZ and Honda Motorcycles, the field day was packed with speakers who challenged, informed and entertained those attending on the 6000ha property near Parnassus, north of Cheviot.

The cow herd of around 1000 head is mainly Hereford with Hereford-Angus cross making up the balance.

Mendip Hills Station manager Simon Lee was asked why he had mainly Herefords and some Angus-cross cattle and was not using an exotic breed in the mix.

''I like the British breeds and Herefords are nice and quiet, which is really important when you have staff.''

Mr Lee said that, when he began, calving was spread over a long period. That had now been condensed and some heifers were calved as 2-year-olds.

He said the station had been tough with culling criteria. The move was paying off, with cows running with the bull for 45 days. Cow numbers had been lifted and yearling heifers were mated.

Mr Lee said his goal was to further develop the property and he had identified the ability to carry another 6000 stock units.

The farm carried 13,000 ewes, but the hoggets were not mated because Mr Lee was transitioning the breed from a Corriedale base to Romney.

The business also carried 1120 mixed-age hinds and was run in conjunction with a 150ha block at Ashburton and a 180ha irrigated block at nearby Spotswood.

Former farm adviser Nicky Hyslop reviewed findings from Beef + Lamb NZ's beef profit partnership projects in the South Island.

She said the value of the beef cow was often misrepresented because cows passed on much of their value to other stock classes.

One recurring theme from the work was that looking after breeding cows, from calving to mating, played an important role.

''If you do that, you get her a long way towards achieving a good reproductive weight and good weaning weights.''

Mrs Hyslop said this might mean conserving pasture or moving the calving date. However, beef farmers still needed to look at ways to improve the productivity of the beef herd.

''A 5% increase in calving percentage equals gross margins of $4 per stock unit,'' she said.

Lincoln University Professor Jim Gibbs discussed fodder beet crops, which he described as a ''sugar bomb'', with the bulb comprising up to 70% sugar.

The bulb was also 75% dry matter and the leaf 25% dry matter.

Prof Gibbs said there were no toxicity issues with fodder beet, but transitioning cattle over a 14-day period was essential. He rejected suggestions it was an expensive crop. While it could cost up to $2100/ha to plant, with yields of up 30 tonne it equated to 6c-8c/kg DM.