Friday, December 8, 2023

Breeding them tough and tender in the wild west

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Flagstaff Hereford is nestled in the West Coast’s Mahitahi valley.
Thomas Condon of Flagstaff Herefords in the Mahitahi valley, where most of the stock work is done on horseback due to the rugged terrain.
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By Emma Blom

Nestled in Mahitahi, a West Coast valley, is Flagstaff Hereford stud run by Thomas and Kate Condon. The stud consists of 180 heifers calving each year.  Due to the challenging climate and remoteness of the property, the animals have to be tough enough to survive many environmental elements, including the 5m rainfall per year. 

Flagstaff stud was established in 1976 from a Valhalla dispersal sale. Four heifers were purchased. More female stock was added from Braxton, Eriskay Blossom and Clachanburn herds. Since 1970 AI has been used in the herd with Thomas Condon as the technician. Throughout the year AI has been very successful, however in 1973 Condon lost a finger, making it more difficult. The herd has been able to achieve positive genetic gain due to management decisions. 

Condon was one of eight children and grew up on the family farm. Today the stud is run on a quarter of the original family land after being in the family for six generations, ever since 1880, when the Condon family settled in Mahitahi. 

Being three hours away from the nearest supermarket makes it a tough place to live and to farm. Most of the stock work is done on horseback due to the rugged terrain. The climate is one of the biggest challenges on Flagstaff, along with government regulations. 

At the end of May Flagstaff will hold its annual on-farm sale. Stock will be available on bidr and all are welcome on farm to see the animals in person. “Bring the kids along,” encourages Condon. Approximately 20 bulls are sold at the annual farm sale and an additional 60 yearling bulls are sold into the dairy market. 

Since 2019 they’ve been mating only polled sires to broaden the market. Flagstaff focuses on calving ease, constitution, temperament and carcase quality. 

Glacier Horned Herefords, run by the Williams family, sell their animals through the Mahitahi property, as do David and Robert Scott from Bannockburn Angus, making it a worthwhile road trip to the wild west.

Blom is being sponsored by Public Interest Journalist Funding and AgriHQ on the NZ Hereford Tour

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