Tuesday, 19 February 2019 14:55

Facing challenges with gusto

Written by  Peter Burke
Central Hawkes Bay farmer Sam Clark, his wife Gudrun (‘Cookie’) and baby Archie. Central Hawkes Bay farmer Sam Clark, his wife Gudrun (‘Cookie’) and baby Archie.

While the hills in Central Hawkes Bay remain green, which is remarkable for this time of the year, Porangahau farmer Sam Clark and his wife Gudrun are on the lookout for drought.

The pair are taking over the family farm Airlie, a 400ha property on which they run 2000 Romney ewes, 100 Angus cows and 120 finishing bulls/heifers.

The farm has been in the Clark family since 1929. Sam is taking over running the medium-to-steep hill country property from his father David. 

After leaving college, Sam did a farm cadetship, worked on various farms in the region then returned to the family farm about two years ago.

Recently he was elected to the Beef + Lamb NZ farmers’ council and began looking at issues that he believes BLNZ should be focusing on. 

He says while there is feed galore on the farm and stock prices are high, this could all change in a matter of weeks.

“There is always a drought in waiting if the winds get up; the weather is one thing we have no control over,” he told Rural News.

Good weather has enabled Clark to finish most of his stock onfarm whereas normally he would sell about 50% of his lambs as stores. A key to all this, he says, is flexible management enabling him to make decisions quickly if conditions change.    

On the issues affecting farmers, Clark says compliance issues don’t scare him, “but I can understand how the older generation might feel”. 

“Young farmers like me have grown up with compliance. I can see more compliance issues coming, especially in animal welfare and traceability. 

“On M. bovis, I believe biosecurity needs to be managed better onfarm, but we need better programmes behind it such as the NAIT system which has proven to be poor.” 

He says broadband and cellphone coverage also need to be addressed. For Clark and his family cell coverage at the farm is nonexistent and they have to go several kilometres down the road to get coverage. “I tell people ‘just call me on my landline’.” 

He says new technology can help farmers but for many the problem is cost.

His wife Gudrun – or Cookie as she is known – says farmers need teaching in how to use technology and to farm better by, for example, embracing better genetics to obtain better yielding animals. 

The BLNZ farmers’ council could do this, she says.

Sam Clark reckons forsees changes and challenges for the red meat sector. However, he doesn’t fear the advent of “lab meat”, saying the need is to promote the qualities of red meat, not rail against alternative products. 


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