Limestone Downs has, until recently, been known as a large sheep and beef cattle farm, south of Port Waikato. The 3216 hectare property was purchased in 1926 by Charles Baker, a Malay based New Zealand businessman, who cleared and developed the land into a working farm. On his death, the farm became a Trust, then in 2007 a Charitable Trust. After 87 years as a sheep and beef cattle farm, Limestone Downs is undergoing further development, as a portion of the farm is converted to a dairy operation.
Alf Harwood, Farm Manager, has been associated with this iconic New Zealand property for the past 27 years. He explains the changes that Limestone Downs is experiencing in the 21st century. “In the 1930’s as land was cleared and tracks were constructed to allow access, beef cattle and sheep worked fine.”
Over the years the farm grew and changed with the implementation of re-development programmes and new management techniques aided by a close association with Massey University.
“There is always something to work on in a property of this size,” says Alf. “As the property is quite peaty in places, there is a very large flat area of the farm, where we had a programme in place for re-draining. It was first done in the 1960’s, then over time humped and hollowed to ensure adequate drainage.”
With the expense involved in re-draining 340 of the 2500 effective hectares of the farm, and with the very good return dairy farmers are receiving, the farm management team put a proposal forward to the Trust to consider converting this portion of the farm to a dairy operation. With current returns on sheep and cattle farms of about $500 per hectare compared with approximately $3000 per hectare for dairy, the Trust agreed to finance the conversion.
“It has been pretty hectic over the past year obtaining the required consents and meeting Council’s requirements. Projects include creating a very large effluent pond, constructing a tanker track, completing the drainage upgrade and constructing a brand new 60 bale rotary milking shed.”
With so much change on the property Alf and his team have relied on the help of companies such as Humes Pipeline Systems. Humes have supplied DN 1500mm, Class 2 culvert pipe for the tanker track and more than 100 CB1500 litre troughs for the new stock water system.
“We are very pleased to be involved with the re-development of a portion of Limestone Downs into a dairy operation,” says Dave Casey, Sales Representative for Humes. “It has been very interesting to meet Alf and learn about this property.”
Alf and his team have been buying in herds and will start the new dairying side of the operation with 600 cows growing to about 850 in the next 2-3 years.