This summer has seen pasture covers over the Newport’s farm well ahead of the past two skint years. And they are loving it.

Daniel and Tarsh Newport’s 364ha farm at Korere, south of Nelson, had early January covers of 2500kg of dry matter per hectare (kg DM/ha). Usually, it would be closer to 1200 to 1800 kg DM/ha.

The surplus feed has been turned into lamb weight – on both store and prime lambs.

“The store lamb price is so poor anyway so it makes financial sense,” said Tarsh. “But we are watching the schedule.”

The first draft of lambs in early January resulted in only lambs more than 40kg sold.

“We didn’t do an early pre-wean draft as we had the luxury to feed everything more for longer.”

Beating the schedule can be tricky.

“The debate on the drafting day was should we go lighter but our next draft should have significant numbers, and is not too far away,” said Tarsh.

Despite drought conditions last autumn, flushing ewes on Goliath rape meant scanning was maintained at 188% (lambing 155%). This meant there was a similar number of lambs on hand. The Newports graze a block next door as the feed allows, which helps relieve pressure at times.

‘Last season we had to set-stock the whole hill in spring as it was so tight, and the clover wasn’t allowed to set seed.’

As well as adding lamb weight, the Newports also took the chance to spell hill blocks to allow the existing but scattered annual clover to seed.

“The punt to lock up 30 hectares of hill country back in September, to let the sub clover flower and seed, has turned out to be perfect timing,” said Tarsh.

“We didn’t need the blocks anyway.”

The underground seed burs are now safely buried and cattle have been let onto the blocks to clean up the roughage.

“Last season we had to set-stock the whole hill in spring as it was so tight, and the clover wasn’t allowed to set seed.”

The 35 hectares of lucerne is rocketing after rain. It was dry in early spring but then 421ml of rain fell over late spring. It was used for lambing in September then shut up mid-October and 300 rounds of balage taken. The spring-sown chicory/red clover/grass permanent sward was ready early and the non-permanent chicory mix is feeding replacement ewe hoggets.

The aim is to keep good condition on the 1800 Romney and 80 stud Dorset Down ewes.

More mixed age ewes will be retained, to build numbers.

“We will be able to maintain good condition score on ewes, even if it dries off – no concern this year,” said Daniel.

“The feed ahead should set us up nicely for winter.”