Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Awapai way

Taking a balanced approach to farming is important to Simon and Josi Beamish. Richard Gavigan reports on their operation.

Simon and Josi Beamish run 1300 electronically DNA-recorded Primera ewes, 7000 commercial Highlander ewes, 1250 ewe hoggets and 1200 cattle on Awapai, west of Hastings.

The terminal-type Primera ewes form the nucleus flock for Focus Genetics, a sheep and beef cattle breeding partnership formed in 2008 by Rissington Breedline (RBL) and Landcorp Farming. Simon and Josi are shareholders in RBL, Simon is a director of the company, and the Primera nucleus flock is owned by RBL. Focus Genetics sells around 400 ram hoggets each year from Awapai, while additional sires are transferred to other farms and sold as two-tooth rams in the autumn. Focus Genetics plans to sell around 2300 terminal sires this year, making it one of the largest sources of terminal sheep genetics in New Zealand.

The Highlander sheep flock was initiated on Awapai in 1995 as an alternative to Romney genetics.

“We had a goal to move from 140% lambing to 170% and maybe beyond,” Simon says. “We were looking to use crossbreeding as a high-fertility option so we joined forces with Andy Ramsden (founder of the DIBO breeding programme, a forerunner to RBL) and piggy-backed on his Finn genetics.”

The Highlander composite ewes have enabled Beamish Farms to achieve a lot of the sheep breeding targets they set in the mid-1990s. Today, the focus is on refining their ewe management systems to capture more of the breed’s potential for lamb production.

The Beamish ewe hogget flock comprises 500 Primera but only 750 Highlander replacements. Additional replacements for the Highlander flock are bought from November through to January from other farmers using Highlander genetics. Simon has been working to develop a consistent source of quality replacement sheep, and all replacements must be on Awapai by the end of January so that the management team has a high degree of control over the ewes during the lead-up to mating in the first week of April.

A range of cattle classes is run across the 1780ha to suit the country and complement sheep production. Around 190 breeding cows, mated to a Simmental bull in a terminal programme, are calved across Waitata. Their yearling offspring are wintered on the home farms, while the rising-two-year steers and heifers out of the cows spend their second winter on the lease block to be killed through the spring.

Up to 650 yearling Friesian bulls are grazed on a pivot-irrigated finishing block on Waitata and areas of new grass on Awapai. The bulls are bought as 100kg weaners in November and December and typically sold store at around 450kg livewight 12 to14 months later. The same areas of the farm, rendered more “parasite-friendly” by cattle grazing and the new pastures, are also grazed with lambs once the big bulls have gone.

Farm Facts:

Simon and Josi Beamish

1780ha effective across Awapai, Waitata and a Ngatarawa lease block

Managers Shane and Suzie Tilson

Three additional staff

Detailed business plan reviewed and updated regularly.


1300 Primera ewes

7000 commercial Highlander ewes

1250 ewe hoggets

1200 cattle.

Cattle yards on Awapai.

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