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Lincoln-University Organic Meat Production

Lincoln-University Organic Meat Production A Field Day

Leading Canterbury organic farmer Ian Henderson of Milmore Downs, Amberley, will pass on lessons in organic meat production at an Organics Field Day at Lincoln University this coming Saturday (29/1/00).

Ian and wife Gita operate a 310-hectare mixed livestock/arable farm in the Canterbury foothills and two years ago they were runners-up in the Lincoln University Foundation Farmer of the Year competition.

The farm carries around 2000 stock units (50/50 sheep and cattle) and has 40 hectares in grain, and Ian emphasises a long-term approach to the business side of his operation.

"Short-term economic profit doesn't give a true picture of the long-term value of an enterprise," he says. "We aim to maximise financial return in the long-term and this means not overtaxing the land today, so that tomorrow it also produces a yield."

The operation is diverse, but Ian says that after several years of fine-tuning the varied activities on the farm are now well integrated and the operation has achieved an inherent stability. It is in equilibrium, he says.

"This, along with the biodynamic method we practice, has allowed us to maintain production without needing chemical parasite control, other biocides, or water-soluble fertilisers.

"As well as being good for the environment this is of course an advantage financially. Environmental stability at this level of integrated diversity is more economically stable, because not all eggs are in one basket.

"Originally when cropping was introduced to the sheep farm, feed problems arose in the summer. Large amounts of straw became available, but green grass was required for ewe flushing, lamb finishing and for growing ewe hoggets.

"Introducing cattle meant that the straw became a useable resource, as fodder.

"However solely running cattle would mean parasite problems would certainly arise, but the safe pastures produced by cross-grazing sheep and cattle at the right ratio is one string to the parasite control bow.

"For the cereal cropping areas a good crop rotation is required which allows soil structure recovery - that is, periods of deep rooting pasture species interspersed with the arable crop. This provides excellent nutrition (hay and silage as well as grazing) for the stock, which in turn fertilise the land."

The Hendersons sell their wool to Japan at a premium ... the meat from their cattle is marketed through local butchers, again at a premium, and it is sold with their own label on each pack. They also run some free range pigs to utilise the screenings from grain cleaning and the pork is marketed as continental small goods, bearing the Hendersons own label, and with a premium price for the meat.

Key points of the Hendersons' business strategy are -

Determining what the market wants

Producing that end product on-farm, thus adding maximum value

to the raw commodity

Direct selling to customers or selected retail outlets so as to

build up a loyal customer base

Obtaining premium prices for products marketed under their brand name, with an independent quality assurance seal.

Ian joins Lincoln University graduate and fellow Canterbury organic producer Tim Chamberlain of Leeston in addressing Saturday's field day from the perspective of successful, practising organic farmers. Tim will speak on his experiences with organic vegetable production.

Other speakers at the field day include Seager Mason of the national certifying body Bio-Gro New Zealand, John Manhire of Agriculture New Zealand and Professor Steve Wratten of Lincoln University. A visit to Kowhai Farm, the Heinz Wattie's/Lincoln University organic farm , is also on the programme.

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