Te Umuopua Station

April 2016

A priority given to tree planting for years won the East Coast Ballance Supreme Award in 2015

Alastair and Tracy Ormond and Alastair’s son Daniel farm a 620ha property Te Umuopua at Hatuma in Central Hawke’s Bay. They won the Ballance Farm Environment Award Supreme East Coast prize in 2015.

“I’ve never entered any other award in the past; I never wanted to bring attention to us,” Alastair admits. “But now I thought we were at a stage here where it would be really good for Daniel to get feedback on the farm and where we might go. He will benefit from that.” Alastair is proud they won the prize on their first attempt. “I am really surprised that the planting I have done is considered enough,” he says.

Their extensive plantings for soil erosion, riparian protection and production forestry are only part of the reason they won. The judges said the farm had been well planted and thoughtfully developed. “The land is managed with recognition of the limitations of the soil types and contours.”

Back in the late 1990’s the farm was one of the first to have an environmental plan mapped out by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. Soil maps of the farm have proved invaluable in describing the capabilities and limitations of the farm.

Alastair says the farm has some real limitations with steep land and difficult soils, some of which are heavy, some are dry and bony. This means only 20% of their stock units are cattle, although he would like to be able to run more.

The judges also noted an open-minded and analytical approach to all things in the farming business. They said it had a great mix of land use, with 6ha of fenced native bush alongside intensive lamb finishing country, with marginal sidlings fenced out into riparian areas.

Fallow deer are naturalised through the plantations on the farm, Alastair says. “It is special to have them but we have to be careful about where we let them be.” And the farm has a beautifully laid out homestead area. “We love living here,” Alastair and Tracy say. Daniel feels the same way. “I enjoy getting up every morning to go to work.” He’s been planting trees for a long time too. “Dad got us all into it.”

The Ormonds have a series of retired dams along their waterways. The plantings along the waterways meant the water off the steep hill country wasn’t going in a rush, and stripping nutrients at the same time.

They use a cross-slot drill on the high easy country to minimise the risk of erosion and runoff to get high production pasture species in without the risk of losing soil.

The Ormonds also carried out long-term planning based on good resource management data.

The judges commented that the Ormonds are committed to doing a good job, not just to make money but to look after their land, and Alastair walks the talk.

Along with the supreme prize, the Ormonds won the Beef+Lamb NZ Livestock award, the Hill Laboratories Harvest award and the East Coast Farming for the Future award.

The best 100ha of Matapiro sandy loams winter 262 bulls in a cell grazing system. Spring sees the most cattle on the farm, with a maximum of 400 head, some of which are cows brought in for tidying up pastures from a 300ha property Daniel and his wife Holly lease at Napier.

The Ormonds have developed good country with plantain and lucerne for lamb finishing. There is 8ha of lucerne and 23ha of plantain, doing so well that more is planned to be planted.

All the livestock are committed to Silver Fern Farms.

The farm also runs 3300 high performance ewes and half the 1065 ewe hoggets were mated last season. The plan is to mate all the hoggets in time.

The rams are Texel Finn cross and mated to Romney ewes. The terminal rams are Suffolk Texel.

Including hogget lambs, last spring’s lambing percentage was a respectable 152%.

Daniel, who has a background in banking, and wife Holly now own half the livestock on this farm, and run a 300ha lease block in their own right. “When we make decisions on this farm, it is not just about this farm, we make decisions based on the whole business – and the whole family,” Alastair says. “Driving the last dollar out of this particular farm is not what I am about,” he adds.

Te Umuopua was originally purchased by Alastair’s maternal grandfather in 1908 as a wether run.

When Alastair moved onto it in 1978, the farm had two ha of eucalypts and pine shelter belts protecting the two houses and the sheep and cattle yards. These pines are now being logged. The farm now has 33ha of pine plantations.

Alastair began a big intensification and planting process, but says funnily enough, the winter stocking capacity of the farm is now the same as when he took over the property. “Our per head and per ha production is more now. We are much more environmentally aware, and we don’t have the large numbers of cattle which the farm used to run.”

Part of intensifying the farm was joining the Tourere Water Scheme 25 years ago. “We have got very good water, being at the top of the Maharakeke catchment. But we couldn’t get any of the dams on the free draining Matapiro soils to hold water.”  Joining the scheme, which pumps water from a spring nearby to the top of the ridge and then gravity feeds, allowed them to reticulate water to this part of the farm.

Farmax figures show the property is humming along. In a good year Te Umuopua ranks in the top 20% of the Farmax database (all farms in the database irrespective of farm type or size) for many of its key performance indicators.