Farming has been a great career choice for sheep and beef
farmers Nelson and Fiona Hancox, of Tapanui.
They own three farms in West Otago and, in addition to
improving production on each of them, have won several
farming awards and are regarded as farming leaders for the
Mr Hancox is the third generation of farmer in his family.
Shortly after graduating from Lincoln University, Nelson
bought his first farm near Balfour in 1984, with help from
his parents and the bank.
The previous owner could not sell it as it was so run down,
so loaned Mr Hancox the money on a fixed interest vendor
During the first two years of his ownership the interest
rates rocketed to 18% for a first mortgage.
''I had been hay baling and contracting when I was in school,
so I had enough for a 20% deposit,'' Mr Hancox said.
''The 181ha farm was a bit run down and cheap at the time,
but still halved in value in the first year (of ownership)
and then doubled its value in nine years. ''That taught us to
be profitable and be willing to take risks.''
Mr and Mrs Hancox stayed on the Balfour property for nine
years before moving to West Otago to buy the 200ha Kowai
Downs property from her parents, which was a more reliable
property and was closer to family.
Later, as they paid off debt, they bought the 1360ha Wohelo
farm at Wilden Settlement (including a run block) from the
They leased and later bought additional land to increase
Kowai Downs area to 550ha. In 2008, they took over running Mt
Allen, with lease to buy, from the Richardson family.
They have about 20,000 ewes, and 220 breeding cows, plus
replacements and lambing percentages are about 140% to 150%,
excluding hogget lambs, across the three properties.
The Romdale lambs are finished to an average of about 18kg.
Each farm is run by a manager - Julian Kelly at Mt Allen and
Paul Slack at Wohelo - and all work in together for greater
''We always try to stay in the top 20% of sheep and beef in
terms of production per hectare in the district,'' Mr Hancox
They have also carried out extensive mole drainage of the
heavier land, which he said improved lambing survival and
ensured better pasture growth.
They introduced better genetics, improved pasture, and
started hogget lambing as well as introducing the Inverdale
fertility gene into the Wohelo ewes.
He said they believed in paying off debt and increasing
equity as quickly as possible, then leveraging themselves
into buying more land.
As for the future, they intend to continue reducing debt, so
they can look at new opportunities in preparation for
They have four children: Mitchell (20), Elliot (18), Zoe (17)
and Tom (13).