Cameron Glammies Winners
Father and son team Forbes and Angus Cameron farm a sheep and beef breeding property in the Pohangina Valley, near Ashurst in the Manawatu. They have a philosophy of breeding animals with hardiness, parasite resistance and high survivability.
Forbes Cameron bought Ngaputahi Station in 1999. It is a steep block which in earlier days was only accessible by horse. When Forbes took over he invested in an irrigation system for the farm and in the process installed a network of tracks that at least mean he and Angus can get around the property on bikes.
The farm is a commercial sheep and beef block as well as a sheep and beef stud. The original business was 1500 ha. Most of it is on the western side of the Pohangina Valley. Its hill country with around 100ha of flats on the eastern side.
The Camerons have recently expanded with the purchase in November 2011 of another 330ha unit. Angus Cameron says that purchase knits into the existing farm and allows them to increase numbers. It also gives their business a bit more scope.
The Camerons run the breeding flock and cow herd under commercial conditions with the aim of producing animals that can cope with tough conditions.
The recorded flocks and herds are only separated for mating and lambing/calving. The remainder of the year they are part of the commercial farm operation. Their business aim is to have minimum input to produce maximum output.
In 2008 Forbes and Angus were inaugural winners of Beef and Lamb NZs Glammie awards - an annual award recognizing the countrys tastiest and most tender leg of lamb. Forbes says they want an animal that is hardy, has high survivability but also produces tasty meat.
They run around 6000 ewes of which 650 are recorded. Theres 1750 ewe hoggets, 40 rams, close to 400 recorded ram hoggets and around 850 trade lambs. There are crossbreds as well as Romney.
They have rams called growbulks which were developed by AgResearch during a 13 year breeding programme. The sheep are equal parts of Romney, Poll Dorset and Texel. They were initially bred as a dual-purpose animal to offer a premium high-bulk reduced-micron wool clip. However the breed also proved popular as a meat sheep.
When they were first trialed in 2008 the breed also had high lamb survivability. Forbes says the growbulks do well however they have required some culling. Some have had feet problems and others poor resistance to internal parasites or flystrike.
Forbes says the perfect ewe is 55 to 60 kg and weans around 80 90kg of lamb at 12 weeks.
The cattle tally is around 530 breeding cows, 470 yearlings, 56 rising two year old bulls, 75 rising 2 year old steers and 112 rising 2 year old heifers.
The Camerons have long been interested in objectively measuring performance of their cattle. They dont cull for age - as long as a cow is sound and produces a good calf and is able to cope through the winter, she is retained in the herd.
Theyve chased a strain of cow with hardiness and longevity. The cattle, like the sheep see little animal health treatments. If they need treatment they go into the commercial mob and are then culled.
The property isnt farmed organically but they have a philosophy of minimum use of chemical. Sheep are bred to have parasite and flystrike resistance. Forbes has had a philosophy of not being too soft in his selections anything showing susceptibility to flystrike or parasite burden in the breeding flock his culled
They have been fans of the Carla Saliva Test which has been developed by AgResearch scientists as a tool for selecting sheep with greater immunity to internal parasites.
The test provides an accurate and simple way to select animals which suffer less from the effects of parasitic worms, and which pass fewer worm eggs onto pasture.
The test measures antibodies against worm larvae in sheep saliva: animals with high levels of antibodies are better at preventing worms establishing in the gut. This means the animals can put more of their energy into growth without any increase in dags.
The Camerons are fans of a farm fertility regime that focuses on improving soil health. They are clients of Outgro, a biological soil management system that concentrates on increasing soil health.
The system is still a little controversial (some call it snake oil) but its supporters simply say it works. In practice the system uses little N P and K.
The property is comprehensively soil tested and a liquid fertilizer treatment is developed for individual parts of the farm. Forbes says the brew includes lime and trace elements and occasionally a little nitrogen if required. On the Cameron property that brew is flown on using a chopper. Forbes says the system isnt cheap but hes happy with the results hes seeing.