Waikuku was home for Simon and Kelly Beech, which they farmed on from Simon’s parents Martin and Philipa Beech. A successful farming business that has stood the test of time, succession and the many challenges of farming that stand to thwart the next generation coming through. They added to their business by purchasing a 400 hectare finishing block on easier country, and at that stage, were farming 1000 hectares. In a position to continue growing, Surreydale came on to the market, an iconic, magnificent local summer safe breeding property of 2000 hectares.  

Simon and Kelly, Ian and Sophie

It was to be bought by a Chinese syndicate but under Overseas Investment Office rules, it had to be put on the open market. The owner then, Arthur Waugh, a real salt of the earth character and rather parochial (not that I have ever met him), didn’t really want to sell to the Chinese and see the property possibly in trees. Seeing a young keen couple wanting to take a major step up, he helped to make it possible. Arthur Waugh had farmed the property well since 1975, he loved the hills and the fact the property had no flats. Apparently, he is the person the Footrot Flats character Wal was based on, Arthur and Murray Ball having been long term friends.

And the rest is history. The sale happened, Kelly and Simon consolidated on one place, injected some energy and enthusiasm into the business, and driving around it the other day, it is tidy, fertile and producing solid results. The 400 in calf cows are set stocked while the 9000 ewes rotate through in 3 main rotations. The cows seem to be on nothing (it’s well fenced and therefore well grazed), but the rushes are untouched (a sign of a real hungry cow) and they are in good winter condition. They are on steep country and are evenly spread over the faces.

Simon says the change has been manageable, because they have used the same simple but effective farming systems they used at Waikuku, just on a larger scale. Good fertility inputs, rotational grazing, good genetics and low labour inputs. While they don’t mate hoggets, they do mate yearling heifers, which is why I wanted to do a story on them for this catalogue. Simon’s view is there’s no point keeping dry heifers through to 2 year olds, when they can produce a calf, and get back into calf successfully. His all-grass system allows for it, which is a real credit to them. The Beech’s have followed our selection system for over two decades, maybe closer to three, that there are no carry overs, replacement heifers need to get in calf as a yearling, the rest are sold surplus.

This demonstrates, in my view, that if you want to mate heifers successfully you have to buy genetics, including genetics for mixed age mating, from a stud that as a hard rule mates heifers. It’s not just about the heifer bull, it’s about the innate capacity of the females to birth as two year olds successfully, and get back in calf. The ebv Calving Ease Daughters is important here when buying bulls for mixed age cow mating. Those higher growth bulls need to be producing female progeny that have positive ease of calving, to enable successful heifer mating/calving in the future. Kelly and Simon now are in a position where heifer mating and calving as a 2yo is not an issue, it’s just a part of the wider system. And that’s how it can be. We thank the Beeches for their support over the years, since the late 1980s, acknowledge their success and look forward to working with them in the future to further improve cattle performance and profitability.