Monday, April 22, 2024

Business diversity brings rewards

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Simon and Pip Todhunter run a diversified farming-based business on the Kaikoura coast, which means they have plenty of balls in the air to keep an eye on, as Colin Williscroft found out.
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The Todhunters run a combined sheep and beef, contracting and glamping operation at Kekerengu, 40 minutes north of Kaikoura and an hour south of Blenheim.

They are a couple who work on gut-feel when it comes to what they do, and that it’s better to focus on the positives around them rather than dwell too much on things that are out of their control.

On their mainly hill country property of about 1100 hectares, they run about 2500 ewes and up to 1000 bulls, half of which are for beef, the remaining half Jerseys and Herefords are grown out for the dairy industry as service bulls.

Bull numbers are weather-dependent on the summer-dry property, with higher numbers run in a good year.

The couple also run Ngaio Downs Contracting, a small contracting business that provides direct drilling, spraying and cultivation services to farmers in the area.

A third aspect to their business is glamping, which they operate through the Canopy Camping umbrella, a company that runs a website and marketing service, as well as taking bookings, for glamping campsites around the country, in exchange for a commission.

The Todhunters’ site has three tents, sleeping 10 people, which mainly attract groups, especially families and friends, with the majority from Christchurch.

The farm is divided into about 140 paddocks, all of which have water in them.

The goal is for most of the bulls to be gone by Christmas.

Then, after a break in January and February, the bulls start coming through again as the grass grows. Following a traditional beef cow system on the farm allows stock to move with the climate, following the growth curve.

There’s about 300ha out the back of the farm that can be run slightly more intensively but other than that, stock is rotated year-round, apart from the month during lambing.

One of the main challenges on the farm is the climate, which can be unpredictable.

Two weeks before Farmers Weekly visited, the couple were looking at unloading stock because of the dry conditions, however the arrival of rain saw grass growth pick up to the extent where they were considering going the other way and buying in more stock.

After their original house was damaged in the Kaikoura earthquake, the Todhunters rebuilt on what is viewed as the best location on the property.

As with any farming operation, there are a lot of balls in the air, but Simon can’t imagine doing anything else.

“As you get older, your appetite for stress and pressure is not where it once was, but with that comes other things,” he said. 

“You probably get a little bit better at managing that.

“Sometimes you’ve got to step back and have a look at what you have done and celebrate your achievements a bit more.”

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