Monarae Station sure has a great outlook. It’s the kind of place all of us would have liked to work at one time in our lives – on a good day! The rim rock outlook from the main farm buildings is a sight to behold, turn the other way and the outlook is just as inspiring, up into the Mohaka catchment and beyond. Dave Danks, current Manager and all round good guy, once met the owner of Monarae when he was a kid, she said then that maybe he would work for her one day, he didn’t put two and two together untill after he had started at Monarae as to who she was. Since her passing the farm has been a charitable trust, and has donated over two million dollars to worthy causes.
Dave started in 1991, 28 years. He has kept the place immaculate, and the stock even better. Drive around the place and you can see that he likes fat stock, no bones about it. And they perform for him. Big Romney ewes (his culls kill out at 33 kgs) and big cows and heifers. The top end of his weaners were 400 kgs, the average with a good 3 in front of it. His ewes lamb at 150% over what was mated, and a good nudge of the lambs go prime at weaning.
With results that read like a wish list it was no surprise Monarae won the Hawkes Bay farmer of the year in 2018. Usually with stock performance like his, one might be fooled into thinking he was understocked, but the judges came and went, crunched the numbers and were impressed with the farm’s financial performance. On the field day there was a really good crowd, probably close to 200 people, and the farm looked good on that autumn day. The sheep were in tupping condition and probably averaged close to 4 for condition store. People were introduced to Dave’s grazing system; not a rotation and not set stocking either, this article won’t be long enough to describe it, just to say it’s a hybrid system that takes a good stockman to perfect.
There was one lady that kept on asking why Dave didn’t mate his heifers, not once, not twice, but several times, each time at a different stop on the tour. Dave must have known the inevitable was going to happen, and he was at our yearling sale in 2018. Not because of this lady, but more it was a natural progression of the farm’s development. He bought a good yearling heifer bull and mated his best heifers. Can’t say how it went yet, but because his heifers are so forward and their skeletal development has not been compromised, it will be a breeze given he’s used a bull with good calving ease EBVs.
Dave’s herd now has Totaranui as a firm base. He likes the Totaranui bulls, saying they are durable, easy to handle, fertile, and the male progeny perform well in their 18 month finishing programme, which is based on weaning at 300kgs plus, then growing hard all through the winter into the spring (they finish to 18 months on another block down nearer the coast).
Dave says he hates seeing stock not performing. Once you’ve taken a drive through his place you start to understand the benefit of stock condition, and just how much some of these more experienced farmers have to offer those wanting to listen. He wouldn’t let me take a photo of him.