Handing over to the next generation at Broadlands Station
The Akers family on Broadlands Station won the Ballance Farm Environment Awards supreme award for 2015 in the Horizons region, along with the Donaghys farm stewardship award and the Beef+Lamb New Zealand livestock award. William Akers and wife Laura are taking over the reins on Broadlands from William’s parents Hugh and Judy. William is a fifth generation Akers. The property has been in the family since 1880, although for most of the time run by managers. Hugh came back to the farm in 1971 as the first of the family to actually live on the station and William has been working there since 2013 and completing a farming diploma. The award judges said “Broadlands is an excellent example of multi-generational farming for environmental stability and financial success.”
Consisting of 1650ha, Broadlands Station is in the western foothills of the Ruahine range over the Pohangina River from the town of Ashhurst. It is on Saddle Rd, on the way up to the Te Apiti wind farm overlooking Palmerston North. It has land on both sides of the river and both sides of Saddle Rd. Elevation ranges from 65m on the river flats to 400m above sea level. The river and tributaries running through the station provide a constant challenge of flooding and erosion control. The effective farming area is 1400ha plus 250ha of trees providing stabilisation in gullies and erodible areas. These are a mix of exotic woodlots and native vegetation. The farm has 15% flat land, 15% medium rolling and the balance hard hill country. Farm areas are broken into land management units according to a range of factors, including soil and contour.
The property winters 11,500 stock units with a 70:30 sheep to cattle ratio.
The machinery includes a grader and a truck to cart sheep across the river which bisects the property.
The 5-stand woolshed has associated covered yards for 2000 sheep and the nearby cattle yards hold 300 cattle.
Stock manager Wayne Romley, has worked at Broadlands for 30 years and is a key member of the team. Members of his family have been employed on Broadlands for more than 100 years.
The flock consists of 6000 Perendale ewes that are unshepherded during lambing and the sheep are not vaccinated or drenched, therefore encouraging natural resistance to internal parasites. Only sale ewes are mated to Poll Dorset rams, everything else to Perendale rams. The lambing percentage is 120% and lambs are finished partly on plantain forage crops, red and white clover and improved ryegrasses on sandy river flats.
About 1700 lambs a year are finished for the valuable but exacting Waitrose supermarket contracts, killed by ANZCO. Other works lambs go to Land Meats for local trade. The farm’s consistency and quality of meat production has been recognised with industry awards.
Broadlands has 300 mixed-age Hereford cows, plus approximately 100 head of yearling heifers and another 100 two-year heifers. Bulls go out with heifers on Nov 1 and with cows on Dec 1. Half of the Hereford bull calves are left entire to be sold about one year old as dairy bulls. Steers are fattened and sold before their second winter.
The Pohangina River and numerous tributaries run through the property and flooding and erosion is a constant challenge. Hugh Akers has overseen a programme of mitigation that includes ongoing planting work and the careful establishment and maintenance of woodlots and native blocks. The BFEA judges praised the family’s significant input into Pohangina River protection activities, which are now carried out in conjunction with the Horizons Regional Council.
Judges also noted rich biodiversity on the farm. A reserve has been established to protect native bush and another incorporates a large wetland area that is home to a rare native mudfish and healthy swamp maire trees. There are 10ha of fenced wetlands and 5ha of fenced dryland native bush.
Over 28,000 trees have been planted since Hugh took over and some have been harvested and used for river protection. The majority have been macrocarpa to be used as river protection firstly and timber if they are ready. Other species have been planted including 4800 pinus radiata, douglas fir, poplars, willows, lusitanica, eucalypts, pittosporum and some totara. Native species found in the fenced wetland include raupo, toetoe, kahikatea, maire, totara, miro, titoki, tawa, lacebark, cabbage trees and lemonwood. The wetland is mostly too wet for access.
Broadlands has a family museum that preserves much of the machinery and equipment used over the past 125 years. It also has a humidity controlled section for fragile records, photos, books and memorabilia.
William’s wife Laura works for a seed company and brings valued agronomic knowledge to the station.