Couple’s flexible approach paying off

Debbie and Jason Smith, of Waimumu, were delighted when their lamb racks were part of a 14-tonne...
Debbie and Jason Smith, of Waimumu, were delighted when their lamb racks were part of a 14-tonne order that went to the My Food Bag operation recently. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Waimumu sheep and beef farmers Jason and Debbie Smith have a "take it as it comes" approach to farming and it is paying off — despite their operation being affected by Covid-19.

The couple have a 747ha property and this year are fattening 23,000 store lambs as well as running 200 beef cattle under Smith Farming 2018 Ltd, a move made as part of their succession planning.

That is in addition to the 7000 lambs they bred themselves.

They also have a contracting business also under the Smith Farming Ltd name.

They employ three full-time farm workers as well as another four drivers through the summer.

The Smiths, like many other farmers, were affected by delays at processing plants because of Covid-19, which meant stock had to be on farm for longer.

However, Covid-19 also supplied an unforeseen market for them.

With Queenstown butcher Neat Meat acting as a go-between, they and three other farmers supplied 9 tonnes of lamb racks to meal kit home delivery service My Food Bag two weeks ago.

The restaurant quality meat was supposed to be exported but demand from overseas food-service clients declined because of Covid-19.

My Food Bag will continue to use quality protein cuts such as lamb racks, as well as other cuts such as eye fillet as they have had really positive feedback from their clients who enjoyed them.

My Food Bag took the order as part of its drive to support local New Zealand farming and community businesses.

"We want to keep working with them and we are keen to see New Zealanders have access to export quality meat at reasonable prices.

"We take great pride in that," Mr Smith said.

The Smiths normally finished their lambs at about 18kg to 20kg by the time they go to Affco in Invercargill, but they had to hold on to them longer, sending them away at 21kg to 22kg, with the last shipment averaging at 21.3kg.

"We killed 9000 lambs this quarter as everything was pushed up quite late because of Covid.

"I can normally get the store lambs to 18kg quite quickly but the next push to 22kg took longer."

That meant the lambs consumed feed that was usually reserved for a second cohort of stock they bought in.

They are now carrying 11,000 through winter to the spring market.

‘We have had a really mild winter so far with sheep on swedes and fodder beet for the cattle."

Normally they start swedes in May and will have enough pasture for the lambs they still have, so have yet to see any impact from the less than favourable season.

"However, we will take it as it comes."

Mr Smith took over the farm from his parents John and Joan through the 1990s and 2000s, then bought neighbouring blocks over the past 10 years.

The couple have four children aged 14 to 21, all of whom are interested in farming.

When not working he enjoys hunting and fishing with his children. He also coaches the Pioneer Senior Division 1 rugby team.

He would eventually like to expand his acreage and improve his production.

"I enjoy farming and doing what we do, but the main thing is to have good stock and a good farm to make good progress."

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