Setting up for a strong future

Lyndon and Jane Strang survey the restoration work being undertaken on their Five Forks farm. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Lyndon and Jane Strang survey the restoration work being undertaken on their Five Forks farm. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Every summer, carloads of people arrive at Lyndon and Jane Strang’s Five Forks farm in North Otago, trying to access a swimming hole near the bottom of their property.

Brush, gorse and blackberry had taken over the 50m-wide fenced berm between the 290ha farm and the Kakanui River and public access had all but been blocked.

‘‘We wanted to open it up and create a walkway along the entire length,’’ Mrs Strang said.

With the help of funding from the Otago Regional Council’s Eco Fund and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Jobs for Nature Fund, they have done just that.

‘‘We knew we wanted to restore and plant it out but, with a 50m buffer, it would have taken us years, so we called up the Otago Regional Council and got in touch with the local water care group and they were all really supportive,’’ she said.

The council’s Eco Fund started the project with $12,000, allowing them to buy plants and hire a digger which a neighbour worked on for a week clearing the gorse. Then they called in pupils from Five Forks School to help plant 2500 plants.

Since then, they have been granted a further $18,000 from MPI’s Jobs for Nature fund to complete the entire length of the project, creating a walkway alongside the river, and allowing public access along the full length. They will complete the planting this spring.

‘‘It’s really satisfying to go down and see what’s there now. Anyone can come out and access the river at any point,’’ Mrs Strang, who has driven the project, said.
The couple have been on the farm for 15 years after they moved south in 2006, leaving behind their corporate jobs in Christchurch.

At that stage, Mrs Strang’s parents, Murray and Lynne Isbister, were talking about converting the farm at Five Forks, which had been a run-off for their dairy farm at Papakaio.

The couple started out working for Mr and Mrs Isbister and quickly moved to lower order sharemilking, then 50:50, before buying the farm within five years.

They started out with a very small herd made up of Mr Isbister’s favourite Holstein Friesians.

‘‘We bought a few pedigree cows that were carryovers and we grew the herd organically, milking all year round,’’ Mr Strang said.

Fifteen years later, Mr Strang now focused on giving back to the community and helping other new farmers find their feet.

The couple milk off 150ha of the 290ha farm and use the rest of the land as support.

Now spring calving, the 420-strong herd averages about 485kg/MS per cow but the Strangs are aiming for 500kg/MS per cow this season. They will increase cow numbers to 460 for next season.

Mrs Strang said her father had been a breeder for 50 years and they were proud to carry it on. She selected the bulls and did all the AI for the herd every season.

‘‘With every calf born we want it to have value, so, for that to happen, we want to choose the best genetics we can,’’ she said.

The herd was founded from the Ronnoco and Riverbrae studs in the early 1970s and Mrs Strang said they use mainly CRV genetics.

Among their best producers are Muritai Firenze Wynsordaughters. Three feature in their top 10 high producers.

Another line of high producers are daughters of CRV Delta Ireland. One of his daughters record 735kg/MS in 250 days.

They sell any 4-day-old bulls for calf rearing or raise them to 100kg themselves.

‘‘Because we have a Friesian herd, the beef buyers like it because they know they get a decent-sized animal,’’ Mr Strang said.

He said their passion and focus was on having a sustainable farm for generations.

That was why they had also become so involved in the discussion about water quality and the political side of farming.

Mr Strang was previously the dairy chairman of North Otago Federated Farmers and helped resurrect the North Otago Sustainable Land Management Group (Noslam).

‘‘We can see dairy farming has a great future, but there are a few things that need to be fixed and were happy to go out there and poke our heads above the parapet and say we’ll have a go at some of these things.’’

They have also taken on sharemilkers on the farm, Craig and Amy Kingan,and the couple were keen to help them on the pathway to farm ownership.

‘‘It’s how we’ve been able to move into a lot of the volunteer work we’ve been doing.

‘‘We’re trying to set ourselves up for a strong future, the whole community and North Otago,’’ Mrs Strang said.

 - Staff reporter

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