Four years ago, when David Kidd took over the management of 555ha of leased bare land overlooking the Kaipara Harbour, he knew he had work to do.

He and his employer, McEwan-Kidd partnership, began an intensive development programme which included subdivision, installing a water system and carrying out fertiliser and pasture renewal programmes.

They also set up a cattle-only stock policy on the flat to rolling land, running Angus breeding cows, beef bulls, trading heifers and steers - amounting to 5000-6000 stock units.

Angus and Friesian-cross cattle on the South Kaipara Head farm. Photo / Ian Anderson
Angus and Friesian-cross cattle on the South Kaipara Head farm. Photo / Ian Anderson

Mr Kidd says the intention was to have the bulls finished before their second winter and the trading steers and heifers finished the following spring. But with so many classes of cattle - coupled with unpredictable seasons - the system was not working, with trading cattle taking too long to finish.

Advertisement

Something had to give, says Mr Kidd, and that "something" was their 150 breeding cows.

These were recently sold to make room for more profitable finishing stock.

Mr Kidd came to this decision after rethinking the whole farm business through processor Greenlea Premier Meats' involvement in the Red Meat Profit Partnership Programme, which he joined because it was an opportunity to be part of a unique processor-run extension model and to work closer with Greenlea Premier Meats as part of the supply chain.

The programme brings together a range of farmers who share their knowledge, ideas and experiences, as well as providing opportunities to use farm consultants and other agribusiness professionals.

For Mr Kidd, hearing other farmer experiences - and having a farm consultant cast a fresh set of eyes over their business - had been behind the decision to streamline the whole operation.

"We made some massive changes within two weeks of him being here," he says.

One of these changes was selling their breeding cows and they will also sell their finished heifers within the next few months.

From next year, their focus will be solely on finishing Friesian beef bulls and Angus and Angus-cross steers.

With the intention of finishing around 600 cattle annually, Mr Kidd has bought 150 Friesian and Friesian-cross bull calves and will buy 200 Angus steers from his parents, who farm nearby.

The balance of cattle has typically been sourced from weaner fairs, but this will change as Mr Kidd seeks to build relationships with commercial breeders.

While preferring Angus-cross weaners, Mr Kidd admits they have had all sorts coming off the truck.

He would like to be in a position to only buy weaners over 250kgLW and, ideally, buy directly from the breeder.

Two months ago, the business invested in Gallagher electronic weighing and sensor equipment.

While the farm had always used scales, they did no more than flash-up a figure as stock moved across them.

The new electronic set stores data that can be downloaded and analysed, enabling Mr Kidd to see which forages are driving the best animal growth rates and, most importantly for finishers, identifying which genetics perform best.

"In the long-term, we hope to have relationships with commercial breeders and the price - which is in line with market prices - then becomes irrelevant. It's an ideal relationship."

In line with building the farm's infrastructure, Mr Kidd has been renewing at least 10 per cent of their total area through summer and winter crops, such as rape and maize, and sowing high quality forages such as plantain and chicory.