Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Keeping the farm in the family

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Kairuru farmer Amanda Henderson says there’s a whole lot more to farming than picking a paddock and putting some animals in it. The fourth-generation sheep and beef farmer is dedicated to shifting the perception of New Zealand’s primary sector. She spoke to Luke Chivers.
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When people think of agriculture, not all think of science, innovation and technology. 

But, thankfully, one South Islander is set on changing that.

“I believe education is critical in the agricultural sector,” 33-year-old Amanda Henderson says.

“Any way I can promote it, the better.”

Henderson has long been passionate about rural New Zealand, having grown up on her family’s 1400-hectare, 700ha effective, sheep and beef farm on the Takaka Hill near Motueka.

“There’s no office quite like it.

“I love my dogs, my sheep and my cows. They’ve always been my happy place.”

But Henderson hasn’t always been on the farm. 

She left home in 2004 aged 17 to study for an agriculture degree at Lincoln University.

Not long after graduating Henderson moved to Southland to work on a dairy farm for a season. She then tried her hand as a technical field representative with PGG Wrightston in Culverdon for three years before moving to Otorohanga.

That was in 2011 and it was when she met Jarred Sircombe, her now husband. He was a local working as a diesel mechanic on tractors.

They met through a mutual friend from Lincoln University who was also living in Otorohanga.

Returning home was always on the cards and so, too, was the goal of running her own farm.

“Coercing Jarred to move didn’t take much. I don’t think my life would be complete if I wasn’t back here.

“It’s just something very special that’s always ingrained in you when you’ve grown up on a property like this and you’ve got that sort of family history. It’s something that always draws you back.”

So, naturally, in 2013, the couple moved to the Takaka Hill to help run the Henderson family farm, Kairuru.

The property is home to 1650 Perendale ewes and about 450 replacement ewe hoggets.

But it is still a late calving farm.

“We typically start around October and we’re weaning in May.

“Normally everything would go straight off mum but this year we sent 14 of the steer calves down to the leased block to finish them off. That’s purely because it’s quite nice to see some stock until the end. We always see our replacement heifer calves coming through but we don’t usually get to see our steers.”

Everything else is sold as calves come weaning. Last time they pregnancy tested their cattle had 98% in-calf.

Lambing is in late September.

“We sell them straight off mum at the end of January.

“What can go to the works goes otherwise everything else goes store. We retain about 200 lambs for the lease block.”

Their sheep tend to scan at 150% and tail at about 127%. 

They often get about half singles, half twins, which the couple are pleased with.

In recent years Henderson has looked for ways to give back, particularly to her local farming community. In 2013 she started serving in a part-time role as a tutor in the industry.

“I work for a company called AgriLearn. 

“They’re based out of Timaru and have tutors scattered around the South Island. We get contracted out to Primary ITO to teach.”

Henderson teaches Primary ITO levels three and four as well as production management. 

“At the moment, I’m mainly running the dairy courses but I also teach sheep and beef.

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