Ben Dhu Station
“It’s definitely going to up our performance, there’s no question about it.”
Hamish and Pip Smith are keen to boost the performance of the deer on their high country station and hope Seed Force™ lucerne mixes will be a contributing factor.
The Smiths are farming at Ben Dhu Station, 3,500 hectares 10km west of Omarama, running a sheep, beef and deer operation.
They are a store property with no irrigation and the harder, colder country, about 680ha, is deer fenced. The flats lie to the south east, which is slower country, but is good at hanging on in the summer.
The property runs 3,200 merino ewes plus replacements, 350 Elk-cross hinds and 250 velveting stags, along with about 90 replacements. They also calve 180 beef cows each year as well as taking through 40-odd heifer replacements.
“With the sheep our aim is to grow an 18.5 micron sheep, the more of that we can clip the better, but we also want to produce a lamb the finishers want – so an uncomplicated sheep with a reasonable frame. Wool is a huge factor, you’ve got to have the wool and a store lamb to make it viable.”
While sheep have been their focus since buying the property 10 years ago, more recently the Smiths have turned their attention to pushing the velveting side of the business.
Hamish says good feed and genetics go hand in hand and he hopes to focus on these two factors now reap the rewards later. The lucerne mixes he is now feeding the deer are an important cog in this plan.
“For the last couple of years we have been putting in a brew of SF Force 4™ lucerne, SF Greenly cocksfoot, SF Rossi™ red clover and SF Boston plantain and we’ve had amazing performance out of it. It basically takes all of the stags off a lot of country for about 60 days, which made a huge difference.”
These mixes are generally drilled into the slightly wetter, or better, ground and they find the lucerne mixes are better for their country and climate than straight lucerne stands, although they do have about 33ha of straight lucerne planted. This is used solely as supplement for the deer and sheep.
Ben Dhu is a high altitude property, with the high point of the flats at 630 metres, and the altitude combined with the frosts and high winds they’re prone to seems to knock the straight lucerne a bit. “I feel the mixes are more suited to our climate.”
The red clover has performed very well in the heavier ground, he says, and they have drilled a further 20ha of the lucerne mix this year.
“The idea is to have that quality feed on hand in spring when other grasses, the native types, aren’t performing. We want to subdivide some of the big areas and push the velveting side of the business more. It also means using better genetics, we can no longer hide behind extensive native blocks.”
Hamish hopes this focus on feed and genetics will lift the performance of the velvet stags and he can also see the positive spin-offs for the hinds and fawns. “Once we’ve finished velveting, at around Christmas time, these particular paddocks can be shut up. The plan is that the hinds and fawns will be mobbed up in early February and go into those paddocks and hopefully we can put some more kilograms into our weaners.”
Hamish says the Seed Force™ products are having a huge impact on their business, though it has been a slow process done over time, so the business is changing constantly. “It’s definitely going to up our performance, there’s no question about it.”
Seed Force™ territory manager Liam Donnelly has been key to everything they’ve done, Hamish says. “He was the one who came in and sowed the seed and got us going in the right direction, growing a crop that suits our environment. His input is really appreciated here.”