Thursday, July 7, 2022

Raising the bar

John and Linda McGurk have spent many years working to improve the performance of their breeding ewe flock. They are continually raising the bar and embracing new challenges. The latest challenge came in July, 2010, when they sold their Ohuka Valley farm and bought Te Awa, in the nearby Ruakituri Valley, Northern Hawke’s Bay. John and Linda took over 291ha at Ohuka in 1987 from John’s parents, buying a neighbouring 100ha a decade later. When they visited Te Awa to buy rams, owners Ron and Linda Hayden mentioned the farm was for sale. The McGurks discussed the idea of buying the farm and eventually decided to go for it.

Farm facts: 

Te Awa

Size: 417ha effective; 565ha total

Location: 51km inland from Wairoa

Stock ratio: 70:30 sheep to cattle

Contour: Class 5 hill-country. One-third easy rolling hills.

“We don’t regret it at all,” John said.

By coincidence, John and Linda lived and worked on the farm when they were first married 27 years ago.

They farm in conjunction with eldest son Brent, so this farm had the advantage of a second house for him and fiancee Amanda Neumegan. As well there was a quality Romney ewe flock, and more scope for development.

The McGurks second son Brad is also at home, helping out and spending much of his time tending his beehives.

Predominantly southerly facing, the farm is reasonably summer safe, with a good natural water system. A spring feeds water to troughs in about half the paddocks, while the remaining paddocks have dams or natural water flow.

Since buying Te Awa, the McGurks have installed 3km of electric fencing and 2km of new tracks. “Having good access speeds the whole job up and makes it easier,” John said.

Ewe rotations have helped improve pastures, but the McGurk family are still exploring options for improving soil fertility.

They want to lift Olsen P from 13-18 to the mid-20s to shorten the winter.

More lime is needed to lift pH levels from 5.4-5.5 to 5.6-5.8.

Capital fertiliser was applied last year, plus 500kg/ha of lime on one-third of the farm.

“Ideally we should be putting on a tonne of lime/ha, but that’s too dammed expensive,” John said.

Instead of applying lime to another third of the farm this year, the McGurks might try new fertiliser TerraCare, which John said had a higher phosphate level than other dicalcic products.

A recent purchase of a weed wiper for the back of the quad bike will be used to spray some of the many rushes on the farm. They won’t kill all of them, though, because they provide shelter for ewes and lambs.

They also used the quad bike to sow 15kg/ha of nitrogen early in May this year, which was effective in getting some growth going before winter.

Related stories: Next on the rankFine-tuning the formulaAmbitious goal

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