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Creating a farm fit for family, finances and the future

On the east coast of the North Island, slightly northwest of Napier lies Te Hau Station, 285.3 hectares of flat to rolling land owned by Patrick and Isabelle Crawshaw.

The young couple are each only 25 years old, with Isabelle from the city and Patrick having plenty of farming experience growing up on the family’sKenhardt Angus stud and being a finalist in the Young Farmer competition. In addition to owning and running the farm by themselves, Isabelle runs an events business and Patrick works part-time for First Light Foods.

Add on the fact that Te Hau Station is a Beef + Lamb New Zealand East Coast(B+LNZ) Monitor farm with four public field days per year and regular committee meetings and you have a busy couple with plenty of experience and some impressive goals for the property which will revolutionise the farm’s people, environment and financial performance.

Te Hau’s soil is a mixture of Gisborne ash and sedimentary clay, and benefits from 1,300mm of rain a year. Land is divided into 52 paddocks, interspersed with a woodshed, cattle yards, sheep yards, a calf shed and haybarns, and framed with 6 hectares of pinus radiata.

Total stock units was sitting at 3,200 sheep and beef wintered – namely trade hoggets, ewes, replacement hoggets, heifers, steers, cows and bulls, the policy of which is in a transition phase. When they purchased the farm in August 2018 they “had to buy what we could, to eat the grass that we were growing at that time” Patrick explains, and now they are trying to clear out that stock purchase to make way for their ideal stocking mix going forward.

The plan is to have approximately 2,500 winter trade lambs as the sole sheep policy, plus 60 breeding cows, 200 trading beef cattle and 95 calved 2-year old heifers which will come on as yearlings breed one calf and sold as an in calf three year old.

Other big goals for the farm cover the areas of productivity, sustainability and animal welfare: “We want to hit 280kg of carcass weight per hectare in 2021, and we are on track to do that. We want to establish shade and shelter in every paddock by 2021…animal welfare is the main reason, plus feed, aesthetics and biodiversity,” adds Patrick.

"FARMAX gives you a lot of very tangible, meaningful reports…it’s been really helpful in terms of us wanting to run it like a business and make it work like the asset like it is."

- Patrick Crawshaw, Te Hau Station

Patrick and Isabelle also want to have total stock exclusion from waterways, own 500ha of farm land within 10 years, complete annual personal development and take four weeks of leave each year. The couple are committed to the farm vision they developed: “to be an attractive, sustainable and progressive family run business that holds valuable relationships and strives for greatness”. It is balance in both the farm business and their personal life that is paramount to achieving this vision.

Balancing farm work with his job at First Light Foods has its challenges too, says Patrick, but for now it is exactly what he needs to stay focused, energised and motivated: “there’s a bit of distraction that goes on with it, but there has been a lot of learning not just time management and planning but a broader skill set from a different line of work.” Communication has been key to ensure their work weeks balance; consideration for one of them to be on farm with achievable work tasks are tackled in a timely manner.

“One of the best things I get from my off-farm work is stimulation – I’ve got quite a busy mind so if I was just talking to my dogs and chasing stock around each day, I think I’d potentially need a bit more than just that. In our current scale of business there’s not quite enough stimulation for me to be doing that whole-heartedly, so it gives a good balance to my life at the moment.”

Being a B+LNZ Monitor Farm also keeps the couple busy and excited about the farm’s progress, and the regular meetings and reports means they have a lot of accountability which is great for creating good business habits and staying focused on the goals ahead.

Patrick and Isabelle value the opportunity of having experienced farmers from the district coming along to monitor farm field days, sharing their ideas and concerns, and allowing the business to tap into their vast experience and knowledge of farming – “we get a lot of value out of that”.

FARMAX has been used on farm since Patrick and Isabelle bought the property, and with the help of rural consultant John Cannon from Challenge Consultancy, they are starting to gain a better understanding of Te Hau Station.

“With us purchasing the farm, we only had assumed information prior to the purchase, but FARMAX has been quite instrumental in terms of modelling out what our systems are going to look like and the feasibility of these in terms of the biological system and how much feed we grow versus how much we are wanting to consume in the same period,” explains Patrick.

“The biggest thing [with FARMAX] is the ability to plan and make educated decisions for us – it gives us a bit more accuracy around our thinking and when to buy, when to sell, what our profit margins are going to look like on certain opportunities.”

He appreciates the accuracy FARMAX brings, how it is “there for the future” and that in years to come it will be even more important for business planning and strategic decision making.

“FARMAX gives you a lot of very tangible, meaningful reports…it’s been really helpful in terms of us wanting to run it like a business and make it work like the asset like it is. Having that ability to get feedback out of it…it’s massive to be able to make decisions, but also to know how you’re tracking and where you need to get to.”