Keeping it simple

By Lynda Gray

In Business9 Minutes
Mark Ivey

Simple is how Mark Ivey describes the deer component of the breeding and finishing system he’s developed from dryland beginnings.

Over the last five years Mark and wife Kate have transformed the former run-off block of the family-owned Glentanner Station creating a standalone partly irrigated lamb breeding and finishing focused system along with deer, cattle, and cropping.

Deer income is from yearlings, 90% of which are finished for the higher paying pre-Christmas market.

Mark’s overall deer feeding approach is about matching feed quality and supply around the seasonal demand of hinds and weaners. For the hinds, energy and feed levels progressively increase from calving until pre-rut weaning to maintain lactation and body condition.

Hinds calve during November in a 27ha dryland block with plenty of natural cover. In early December, the gate is opened to an adjoining 7ha block where they get the first grazing of raphnobrassica. Mark is a fan of the kale-radish hybrid.

“It’s a reliable summer crop and it’s great for the hinds with fawns.”

Hinds move off the raphno in mid-December to the irrigated pastures vacated by the weaners and are rotated around this area until pre-rut weaning in the second week of March. Stags join the hinds at weaning and go back to the 27ha fawning block which by this stage has a good covering of standing hay for flushing. The goal is to have the hinds at a body condition score of 3.75 when they’re taken off the block on June 1.

The hinds winter on about 2kg/DM/ha a day, made up from saved pasture and balage.

The weaning process is kept as simple as possible for fawns. Two weeks before they’re drenched and given a multi-mineral injectable. There’s no Yersinia vaccination, Mark believes it’s not necessary given that the fawns aren’t facing any undue stress, the key trigger of the bacterial disease.

The newly weaned fawns go back to the paddock they came from and when settled rotate around the irrigated area. They start grazing kale from the last week of April – before their growth slows down – and stay on it for winter with supplements of balage.

The feed pinch time is in September, when the kale has run out, but spring growth hasn’t started. Any shortfall is plugged with oats fed in Advantage feeders.

About 100ha is cultivated each year.

Regrassing has focused on replacing the cocksfoot and Timothy mixes which were the mainstay of the dryland system.

Pasture development of the irrigated area is a four to five-year process starting with a kale crop, followed by Moata, clover and oats. The Moata mix is multi-purpose, it produces two cuts of protein-boosted balage and at the end of the season is grazed by lambs. The permanent pasture is a ryegrass, clover, plantain, and prairie grass mix. The prairie grass provides good shoulder season growth.

There’s also 50ha of lucerne which is cut and provides the bulk of the balage fed in winter.

As with most other things on the farm, pasture and crop establishment is kept as simple and straightforward as possible.

“We have two sowing dates, the first week of October for grass and the first week of December for brassica.”

Keen on deer

Mark’s original intention was for a lamb trading system based around the grazing of stud Merino, as well as deer which he knew would be well suited to the dryland areas.

He’s always been keen on deer, buying his first 125 hinds when he was 21 and running them at Glentanner. He worked on a few farms with deer and, before moving to Catherine Fields, managed Glentanner’s hind breeding and store weaner operation.

The deer breeding side is simple and straightforward. Peel Forest Estate B11 (terminal) stags were used for the first three years but changed to Forresters two years ago. Every year 20 in-fawn R2s are bought in from nearby Braemar Station.

“It makes sense because we have all terminal sires so are not breeding hind replacements. It also keeps it simple because we have only one mating mob.”

Angus breeding cows have been added to the livestock mix with a breeding herd of 70 built from bought-in calves from Ben Dhu station near Omarama. Mark plans to increase the herd to about 90 mixed-age cows. The cows are helping maintain pasture control and quality. Their progeny, targeted at Alliance Group’s premium beef programmes, provide another income stream.

The Merino ewes are mated to Texels, and the lambs finished for Silere contracts. Also, 1500 lambs from Glentanner are winter grazed until the end of September on saved pastures and lucerne balage in a contract arrangement. Mark and Kate own the Glentanner Merino stud, selling about 70 rams a year.

Cereal crops are another income stream made possible by irrigation. This year 34ha of white oats was sown following the summer crops and harvested for seed.

“The Mackenzie area is well placed for growing it because we get hot weather and can generally grow it without the need for spray.”

The transformation has been intense but very satisfying for Mark. The most frustrating process was getting irrigation consent to pump water directly from Lake Pukaki, under State Highway 8 and up to Catherine Fields, a total distance of about 800 metres.

Mark’s parents Ross and Helen started the consent process in 2000 but by the time the consent was granted Ross had started to step back from the day-to-day running of Glentanner.

“It’s a great credit to Ross and Helen that they persevered and realised their aspiration of irrigating what was marginal run-off land to create a viable farm.”

The green light for irrigation was the perfect opportunity for the family to sort succession and realign the Glentanner Station business which the Iveys have owned since 1957. Mark and Kate who had been managing Glentanner Station for seven years took on Catherine Fields in a share farming arrangement. They initially bought stock and machinery while Glentanner retained ownership of the land. That will change this year with Mark and Kate buying the land creating a standalone farming entity. Mark’s brother George and wife Catherine run Glentanner Station.

Wintered stock

  • 800 Merino ewes (600 Stud plus 200 terminal ewes)
  • 2500 lambs
  • 100 rams
  • Deer (Red)
  • 180 hinds
  • 160 R1 (mixed-sex)
  • Cattle (Angus)
  • 70 mixed-age cows, including in-calf heifers
  • 55 R1 (mixed-sex)

Key points

  • Income is split 55% sheep; 15% deer, 15% beef and 15% crop.
  • Fawning: 92% (hinds to stag)
  • Average kill date: mid-November
  • Deer gross farm income/ha: $1000/ha.

Farm facts

  • Sheep, beef cattle and deer breeding/finishing,
  • Merino stud and cropping
  • Lake Pukaki, near Twizel
  • 485ha of flat to gently rolling country including 190ha pivot irrigation