Case study: Laurie Copland's beef farm, Northland

24 March 2015

Strong industry and community involvement and meticulous record-keeping and cattle management have characterised Laurie Copland's lifetime in the hill country farming district of Broadwood.

Laurie won the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award at this year's Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards. The third generation Copland farmer in the area, he took over management from his father in 1979.

He leases 248ha in two blocks from the Copland Family Trust and runs finishing stock, mainly beef bulls and heifers, with some breeding cows which are being phased out. Pockets of native bush and the waterways make for a very attractive farm.

The largest blocks of native bush have been fenced and a large area of bush on the southern boundary was sold to the Department of Conservation some years ago. However it is also challenging because it is dissected by the flood-prone Manganui-o-wae River that impacts on livestock movement and the steeper hills have some erosion and access issues.

As a sole operator, Laurie has to be very conscious of cattle movements, water reticulation and personal safety around the farm.

The farm is intensively subdivided and well served with laneways and access points. The intensive subdivision enables good pasture control and cattle weight gains plus the ability to avoid pugging and soil profile damage in wet weather by relocating cattle. Fencing for pasture subdivision also restricts stock access to natural areas, streams and waterways and creates laneways so Laurie can move cattle by himself.

This year's Ballance Farm Environment Award judges said he has a very good understanding of the soil types and structures and a keenness to maintain and enhance the natural features of the property, especially native trees and water quality. Laurie has kept long and extensive records of soil tests, fertiliser applications, livestock numbers and performance, animal health and the farm management plan, enabling someone to run the farm in his absence. He has kept meticulous production and soil testing data since 1979 and uses this data to guide stock and fertiliser policies, and is now upskilling with OVERSEER to provide the "what if?" answers.

"Lack of animal health problems are indicative of the low stocking rates and good use, research and understanding of testing data taken over many years, including copper and selenium levels," the judges said.

Laurie has never stopped learning. A stalwart on the Beef + Lamb New Zealand farmer council, he has also served on the Grasslands Association, the Northland Pastoral Advisory Group to Enterprise Northland, the North Hokianga A&P Association, the Broadwood Hall committee and the Broadwood Area School centennial committee.

Farm facts at a glance

  • Type: Beef
  • District: Broadwood
  • Total area: 248ha
  • Effective: 185ha
  • Production: 170-220kg/ha/yr beef

Judges' comments

  • While picturesque with its patches of native bush and its streams, this is not easy country – it is steep and erodible land and access to parts of the farm can be difficult
  • The farm is intensively subdivided enabling long grazing rotations, improved pasture and stock performance, and stock moved before they can pug the clay hill country
  • Quality stock water is reticulated to most of the farm with the remainder to be completed this year
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