New Whangara Angus owners eye the future

Farmer Tom Sanson and veterinarian Andrew Cribb have leased the Lane brother’s Whangara Angus stud near Gisborne. Tony Leggett talked with Tom to find out more about the duo’s plans for the farm, which also runs commercial cows and sheep.

In Business8 Minutes

Farmer Tom Sanson and veterinarian Andrew Cribb have leased the Lane brother’s Whangara Angus stud near Gisborne. Tony Leggett talked with Tom to find out more about the duo’s plans for the farm, which also runs commercial cows and sheep.

Gisborne young farmer Tom Sanson is expanding his farming business through the long-term lease of Lane Brothers’ Whangara farm north of Gisborne. He and local veterinarian Andrew Cribb are equal partners in the venture and took over in March after agreeing to a 10-year term with another 10-year right of renewal for the 1006ha (900ha effective) farm.

They bought the entire livestock, comprising 300 Angus commercial cows and young stock plus sheep, and the highly respected Whangara Angus stud cattle herd, developed over decades by stud-master Patrick Lane. The opportunity to lease the farm was handled by Bayleys Gisborne real estate agent Stephen Thomson who produced a detailed appraisal for the family.

For Sanson, the long term lease is a similar arrangement to his home farm at Otoko which he and his wife Adeline have leased from his parents for the past 12 years.

“The 20-year term means we can invest in the property almost as though we own it ourselves which is great,” he says.

“Andrew and I have both looked for ways to expand and opportunities like this don’t come up often. So, we were keen to give it our best shot.”

The farm has 76ha of flat country and a water system which feeds troughs in almost every paddock from a massive lake on the property. Sanson says the infrastructure on the farm also includes an all-weather central lane plus several sets of yards and a bull sales complex.

“It’s an amazing property and one that I could only have dreamed of ever owning myself.

Rent is paid monthly and the rate can be reviewed every three years if required.

The lease agreement also includes an agreed level of annual investment in repairs and maintenance plus minimum annual fertiliser requirements.

“To be honest, the property is better than we anticipated and Patrick has been fantastic to deal with, making the transition very smooth,” he says.

Sanson will oversee the farm’s commercial operations and stud cattle enterprise, while Cribb will contribute to overall strategic decision making and provide animal health advice and services.

The pair have employed two permanent staff to run the day-to-day operations at Whangara. Chris Richardson took on the role of managing the farm from mid-April and was joined soon after by a shepherd general.

Sanson says he expects to make the 50 minute trek from home to the farm once a week and occasionally more frequently depending on activities.

He enjoys the genetics side of cattle breeding and is looking forward to building on the great foundation laid by Whangara stud principal Patrick Lane, a stud breeder he describes as innovative and an outside-the-square thinker.

“Patrick placed a lot of emphasis on breeding values and performance so we want to build on this with a vision to breed high performance, highly functional maternal cattle that will deliver maximum value to our commercial clients on East Coast hill country.”

Their own Gold Creek Simmental stud bull sale is about a month before the Whangara sale slot in the Gisborne Angus bull week in early June, so that will help to spread the workloads for preparing bulls for the auctions.

Sanson says the stud’s fifth bull sale after taking over will be particularly significant for them.

“That fifth sale is really our first generation of bulls based on our own selections, so that is the real test of progress we’ve made based on our own decisions.”

Sanson plans to join more than 20 other Angus studs who are leaving the New Zealand Angus Association and basing their herd’s performance data analysis in Australia.

“We know the Australian beef sector is more focused on the use of estimated breeding values (EBVs) in bull selection and we know the science supports the use of EBVs and indexes for selection of the best genetics for our clients,” he says.

Stud Master Eyes New Venture 

Ill health forced Patrick Lane to lease the family’s Whangara farm, but he’s delighted with the outcome.

Local farmer Tom Sanson and veterinary business owner and farmer Andrew Cribb took over the lease in mid-March.

“The farm is in excellent hands and I could not be happier for Tom and Andrew who now have the chance to run it like their own,” Lane says.

He has been battling cancer since 2018 but says he’s “on top” of it now.

“I haven’t been here for much of the past two years because I’ve been away from the farm getting treatment. So, the decision to lease the farm out and sell the stud and commercial stock had to be made.”

He is convinced new and emerging technologies will revolutionise the stud cattle and sheep sectors. He predicts traditional animal recording and analysis will disappear quickly as more studs adopt the latest tools based on genomics.

“The whole industry is evolving and changing so rapidly. I’ve seen it in the United States and it’s coming on fast here in New Zealand and across the Tasman too.”

To take full advantage of the power of genomics, Lane says it requires youth and dynamism to capture the gains through innovation and new technologies.

“Every other business is heading that way. They are quickly adopting any new, proven technologies to create better or more products. The beef industry will be no different,” he says.

Lane predicts the wider adoption of genomics-based selection will ultimately lead to fewer larger studs with the size and genetic diversity to deliver large numbers of predictable performing bulls for the beef sector.

These will be used widely, through both artificial insemination and natural mating.

With the day to day management of the farm now in the hands of Sanson and Cribb, Lane is concentrating on developing a new venture on a separate area of the farm.

“Watch this space for further developments,” he says.