Stud farming of Mahitahi

Published date09 March 2022
Publication titleWest Coast Farming Times, The
Meg Fulford ventured south, saddled up, and was shown an operation that combines tradition and science, with impressive results

Thomas Condon has a moustache reminiscent of a Wild West gunslinger, and, settled at the kitchen table, he off ers up "tea, coff ee or whisky" before launching into a leisurely chat regarding the stud's past and where he sees its future.

"My great grandpop was an Irishman, he arrived at Gillespies Beach for the gold rush, but he didn't do too well with the gold so he came down here, growing meat, making butter and selling it to the guys who did do well.

"There are roughly 250ha here, that we settled in 1880 and the first hut was made of pungas, "Robin's Castle".

"The stud began in 1975 when my father picked out four heifers and the first calves were born in 1976.

"I had done my AI (artificial insemination) training a few years prior in 1973, and LIC (Livestock Improvement Corporation), was then located on Hereford Street in Christchurch," he says, laughing at the irony.

As for the stock: "We breed for a range of traits and strive to have excellent all-round figures along with great constitution".

"We do all our stockwork on horse or on foot, so a good temperament in the cattle is an absolute must. The stock are raised on river flats, and beef farming is often done intensively with break fences, so there is no room for wild or aggressive cattle."

Condon has a firm grip on the future and appreciates the part science plays in ensuring sustainability.

"With DNA profiling and genomic evaluation, there are even more traits for selection on the horizon. Identifying cattle which naturally emit lower amounts of methane is probably going to be one."

Outside, two horses are grazing in a small yard, and Condon's partner Kate helps with the bridles and stirrup adjustments before it is time to set off on horseback to see the farm.

A track leads through and beside the creek, navigating through several gates on its way to the main stud herd at the 'Top Flat'.

The paddocks are dotted with dense totara trees, an abundance of birdlife in the mossy branches. These trees provide shelter for the cattlebeasts as well, either as shade in the summer or respite from the South Westland rain.

As his horse Dixie navigates a marshy patch, Condon says "People say to me why don't you clear more trees? Well, If I wanted to live in a treeless place I'd sell up and move to Canterbury."

The rusty Hereford coats are now appearing, standing out against the lush...

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