Lime quarry sale adds a profitable twist to eco’ farming
The move by New Zealand farmers to becoming more conscious about their environmental practices has spurred the owners of one of the North Island’s biggest lime quarries to place the fertiliser plant on the market for sale.
Brown’s Lime Quarry near Dannevirke is a 13.7 hectare open cast lime-producing pit which has been operating since 1994 – servicing both dairying and sheep and beef farms in the Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, Manawatu, Rangitikei and Wanganui regions.
With dairy and meat production continuing to increase from growing exports, and farms ramping up their stock and pasture management procedures to keep pace with demand, quarry owners Richard and Marie Brown have decided now is the optimum opportunity to take advantage of market conditions and sell up and retire.
The fully consented quarry and crushing/drying plant is being marketed for sale by Bayleys Napier through a tender process closing on June 19. Bayleys salesperson Glyn Rees-Jones said the quarry was estimated by mining analyst company Arcadia Resources Ltd to contain between five and seven million tonnes of lime.
“The highest annual production from the quarry in the past 20 years has been 35,000 tonnes, so there is still plenty of rock which is prime for excavation and crushing,” Mr Rees-Jones said. “ It’s unlikely this quarry will run out of lime as the existing face and cuttings are surrounded by billions of tonnes of high grade lime.
“The plant has been run as a small owner/operator business employing the owner and two other full time personnel. With existing open cast excavation infrastructure and faces in place, and room for the addition of more plant and machinery, there is considerable potential to bolster output levels,” Mr Rees-Jones said.
“Brown’s Lime Quarry has a distinct market advantage - being the only lime producing quarry in the North Island which uses a drying plant in the processing. This process makes its lime the most even-spreading and free flowing lime on the market.
“The hourly production rate utilising current plant is up to 70 tonnes per hour. Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) at the quarry grew substantially over the intervening years between 2009 and 2012. However, the Browns see now as a good time to move on while still leaving growth potential in the business for a new owner.
“The quarry is surrounded by sheep and beef land, with no residential dwellings in close proximity, so any move to increase production output would have minimal environmental impact.”
Buildings within the quarry comprise a 1440 square metre steel shed housing the crusher, conveyer and dryer unit, and also provides cover for the uncrushed lime and machinery storage. Two smaller sheds and three lockable containers – individually used as an office, small workshop and general storeroom – are also part of the offering.
Plant and machinery assets being sold in association with the quarry include a Cat digger, a loader, a dump truck, two crushers, a lime dryer, screening unit, and various tools and spare mechanical parts.
Lime is the most common soil preparation used in New Zealand and is applied primarily to neutralise acidification in the soil. Acidification occurs in all farmed soils - caused by normal biological processes, such as nitrogen fixation, nitrate leaching and photosynthesis.
The more intensively land is farmed, the greater the rate of acidification. The process is also accelerated by higher rainfall, due to increased leaching. Browns Lime Quarry is certified under the Fertiliser Quality Council’s FERTMARK quality control programme for producing high quality agricultural lime, di-calcic phosphate and dairy race rock used for dairy walkways.
Soil micro-organisms prefer alkaline conditions. Clover growth is more likely to be limited in dry soil conditions where pH is low. As the pH level in soil increases up to a more neutral rating of six, growing conditions become more favourable for micro-organisms and they mineralise more of the nitrogen in the organic farm matte. This can sometimes show up as a greening of the pasture after lime is applied.
“Use of lime can improve the absorption of rainfall into soil. This can be particularly important on dry hill country with the rain absorbing into the soil faster rather than running off the surface,” Mr Rees-Jones said.
“With numerous drought and near-drought scenarios impacting on Lower North Island regions over the past decade, water retention in soil has become ever more critical for farmers, and is one of the reasons why Brown’s Lime Quarry has prospered.
Mr Rees-Jones said the undulating hillside land immediately surrounding the quarry was leased to a sheep and beef farmer. The quarry would be sold with clear title.