Couple’s 18 years on Ngapara farm coming to an end

Farmers Ray and Janice Walker have sold their home and half their property to neighbours and are...
Farmers Ray and Janice Walker have sold their home and half their property to neighbours and are holding a clearing sale on their farm in Ngapara today. PHOTOS: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Ray and Janice Walker will close another chapter of their diverse farming career in North Otago today.

The couple will host a clearing sale on their more than 300ha farm in Ngapara, about 30km drive northwest of Oamaru, from 1pm.

Mr Walker said they had owned many farms but always liked the look of the property in Ngapara.

"This is the farm we always wanted."

They had spent more than 18 years on their farm.

"The farm has been our life and you only get out of it what you put into it."

They had sold their home and about 125ha to neighbours dairy farmers Phil and Becky Wilson.

When Southern Rural Life was visiting the Walkers, Mr Wilson called in to tell them some of their bobby calves had got into his paddock of fodder beet and they had been returned to their herd.

"They look fine but if you have any crook-looking ones in the next day or so that may be why."

They Walkers own a 4ha block in Weston Rd, near Oamaru, and run sheep on it and would move to a house across the road.

Mr Walker said the other part of their farm in Ngapara was for sale but had not been advertised.

"I’m not too bothered if it doesn’t sell because when we go to town I can come out and muck around."

"It will help him transition," Mrs Walker laughed.

The Walkers would continue running bobby calves in Ngapara.

Both came from farming families.

Mr Walker was raised in Enfield, between Ngapara and Oamaru, on a 90ha sheep, beef and cropping farm.

He was the middle child of nine.

Mrs Walker (nee Clark) was raised on a dairy farm in Greenpark, near Lincoln in Canterbury.

Mr Walker left school when he was 15 to go sharemilking in North Otago.

In his early 20s, he moved to Tākaka in Tasman for a sharemilking opportunity.

The cows were dried off at Christmas and he went fencing on a sheep and beef farm in the district.

The couple bought their first dairy farm, milking and breeding Holstein Friesian cows, at Makikihi near Waimate in the early 1980s, he said.

They milked their herd all year for town supply.

Sixty cows were milked in winter and 80 in summer.

Everything changed when floods hit in 1986, he said.

Seawater flooded half of the farm and nothing grew on it for five years.

"We virtually lost the farm. We were tossing up whether to walk off. It taught us a lot."

Their four children were young at the time.

To continue farming, they leased land nearby.

"We paid $103 an acre, which was big money."

Another cost was paying for the construction a floodbank.

"It cost us three and a-half months of milk cheques."

After the flood, they began supplying a factory, milking 100 cows on about 32ha.

To make more money, they bought two old sows to establish a piggery on their dairy farm.

They sold the piglets to invest in more sows.

"We bought a sow for $300 and they were having nine wee ones and we were getting $80 for each wee one."

They sold their pedigree cows to buy a 260ha property to farm sheep and pigs in Enfield in 1989.

The piggery had about 200 sows.

They increased the size of their farm by buying and leasing land in Totara, south of Oamaru.

They farmed in Enfield for 12 years and had stints farming at Deep Stream and Duntroon.

When they bought the farm in Ngapara, they ran sheep.

The farm was the best they had owned for growing grass and dried out later than some other properties in the district.

However, the dry conditions were a factor in changing from running sheep to rearing bobby calves.

"We’ve done that ever since and we’ve made a lot of money from it."

They were rearing about 700 calves this year.

The couple had held two clearing sales previously and did not find them them emotional, Mr Walker said: "You are only a caretaker of a farm while you are there."

"You don’t look back," Mrs Walker said.

Machinery at the clearing sale today includes an International BTD6 diesel crawler.

Mr Walker bought the crawler from a farmer in Hillend about 30 years ago, who had used it to pull a ridger to sow swedes.

Mr Walker used it as a bulldozer.

"I put a blade on it and had a play every now and again."

During their career, they had made money improving and selling up and moving on.

They were debt free when they bought in Ngapara.

To keep costs down, they did not employ any staff and made their own baleage.

The aim on the farm was always "to get in the black at the bank" and make money before spending it.

If you were spending the income made from the previous year, it would help you navigate tough economic times, he said.

"If you can get like that then you’ve got no worries."


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