Newman Hill Country Farmers of 2014

July 2014

Rob and Karen Newman are Federated Farmers' Hill Country Farmers of the Year for 2014

Rob and Karen Newman won the Gisborne Wairoa Federated Farmers Hill Country Farmer of the Year Competition for 2014, scoring well in all criteria, and making a return on capital as good as most dairy farmers.

Tiniroto Station was purchased from Gary and Mary Hope in 2004 and the Bushview block of 117ha was added soon after. At first Rob and Karen along with other family owned the property but by the end of June 2012 Rob and Karen had bought out the other family members.

Rob studied for a year at Massey after high school. Then he returned to Gisborne to work with Leaderbrand, driving tractors for crop establishment. He then worked in the UK in various agricultural roles and met Karen, who was working as a veterinary nurse. Rob and Karen returned to Rob’s family farm (Fairfield) in Gisborne, where Rob worked in the sheep, beef and cropping operations at Fairfield and Karen worked for Eastland Vets.

In August 2006 Rob and Karen moved to Tiniroto Station. After having Ellie (now 9) and Spencer (7), Karen left the job at Eastland Vets. She has now become more involved in the day-to-day farm activities, including doing the farm accounts and GST.

The farm is 703ha with 607ha effective, and they have 155 paddocks, with an average size of 3.9ha. Sheep make up 40% of their business and bulls 60%. Their objectives are to build equity, reduce debt, increase options for the future, increase use of casual staff to free up workload, consistently dock good quality lambs at 150% and dock hoggets consistently at 100%.

The sheep policy is to put Romney rams over a mob of cross Highlander/Perendale ewes. All the ewe hoggets are mated, and the dries killed. A terminal sire is mated over the two-tooths and tail-end mixed age ewes. The objective is to get lambs to carcass weights of 18-20kg and to sell all the dry ewes and hoggets. They also want 90% of the lambs sold by June. Target weights at tupping are 70kg for the mixed age ewes, 65kg for the two-tooths and 42kg for the hoggets. This year they have 620 ewe hogget replacements and 800 trade hoggets, 520 two-tooths, and 1300 ewes.

The cattle policy is based around buying in weaner bulls at a minimum weight of 160kg. The top bulls are killed at 18 months and the remainder kept for two winters. They also buy in 18 month bulls at average weights of 350kg, and kill them by May the following year when they reach the right weight and margin. This year they are running 200 rising yearling bulls and 500 rising two-year old bulls.

The Hill Country Farmer of the Year competition is an event held every two years and is run by Federated Farmers.

The competition is judged using a set of criteria totalling150 points that are allotted as follows:

  • Financial performance and production levels (averaged over three years) 50 points
  • Farm maintenance and reinvestment 20 points
  • Farming ability and knowledge 20 points
  • Non farming community participation 10 points
  • Environmental management 20 points
  • Objectives, judgement, outlook, attitude, sustainability, farm management and innovation, 20 points
  • Health and safety management 10 points

The win benefitted the Newmans to the tune of $11,000 worth of prizes from a range of sponsors.

Rob and Karen won the Gisborne Wairoa Federated Farmers Hill Country Farmer of the Year award because their financial performance was sound. It was judged on 2013 figures.

A former winner of the competition, Grant Hickling, was the chief judge this year. He said the Newmans scored well in all criteria, but “the money they are making is the real standout.” Their return on capital is as good as most dairy farmers. It was noted that the Newmans “do the basics” well, and are efficient. The farming system is low cost, and although other farmers might have the same gross income levels, their net income levels are impressive.

Rob is very proud of how well Karen is doing here. She was brought up on a dairy farm and worked in London, but moved to Tiniroto, which is an hour from Gisborne. “She’s taken it all on board, and embraced it, which is pretty massive. It’s a little tinpot town here and she loves it.”

“We are pretty passionate and dedicated to this farm and to farming in general. We just want to have options in the future, maybe off-farm. We want to put ourselves in a position where we have good options because we have built a bit of equity.”

Rob says in the last two years it has been dry all over the country. “But Tiniroto would be the greenest little pocket in the North Island. Normally we get 1500mm of rain a year, and because we are exposed to the south we get a lot of rain. It saves our butt every time. We get just enough rain to keep on ticking over.”