Station branching out into cherries

Ardgour Station owners Bruce and Linda Jolly are growing cherries and new varieties of apricots...
Ardgour Station owners Bruce and Linda Jolly are growing cherries and new varieties of apricots on their Tarras property. PHOTO: HORTINVEST
Ardgour Station owners Bruce and Linda Jolly have been branching out and their plans have come to fruition.

The couple own the 3150ha sheep and beef property near Tarras and along with some of their neighbours, have diversified into cherries, and also to Wagyu beef for First Light Foods Ltd.

They planted 39ha in seven varieties of cherries about two years ago and the fruit will be exported to Asia for the Chinese New Year.

Mr Jolly called the orchard, which was managed and developed in partnership with Hortinvest Ltd, a "passive investment", saying the move into horticulture fitted their stage in life.

"I was looking at something that could build passively and allow me to wind down."

He chose to grow cherries as the soil was too good for grapes, he said.

Unlike other growers in the region, the orchard was on a site with a lower risk of frost, so did not require frost-fighting. Additional cherry trees and new apricot varieties Nzsummer 2, 3 and 4, which were bred by Plant and Food Research at Clyde, will also be planted.

First Light Wagyu contacted the couple about becoming growers for Wagyu.

The Jollys bought their initial 200 first-cross, 240kg dairy yearlings with the Wagyu genetics from Southland about 12 months ago, and added a further 250 this season.

They will remain on the property for up to 16 months;once they reach the required condition score First Light Wagyu sells the meat to high-value markets in the United States.

While liveweight gain in Wagyu cattle is not as rapid as composite cattle, Mr Jolly is raising them for better returns.

"What I like about it is I know what it is going to cost and I know the price per kilogram when I sell them.

"Then we know what we can expect to earn, which is in the vicinity of about $300 more per animal to slaughter.

"It is a good point of difference, and we are trying to get away from being a commodity."

As he irrigated about 250ha, he could guarantee to finish stock on high quality grass year-round, which was one of the company’s requirements.

The Jollys have been Icebreaker suppliers for about 10 years and run 3200 merino ewes at 110% lambing. Meat from the lambs is sold under the Silere brand.

They winter the 3400 lambs, as well as buying in additional stock when needed, and sell earlier for better prices.

They also run 120 breeding composite cows and trade beef cattle, taking about 400-500 beef animals through the winter to slaughter.

The property grows about 700-800 tonnes of grass and cereal silage.

Contractors also planted 30ha of fodder beet for the beef cattle, which gives them good growth rates during winter.

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