Wairarapa brothers Pascoe and Henry Reynolds have brought a fresh perspective to running their generations-old family farm. Victoria O’Sullivan finds out what makes this energetic partnership tick. Photos Brad Hanson.

The old saying goes that two heads are better than one, and for Carterton farmers Pascoe and Henry Reynolds, it holds true.
As the fifth generation on their 380 hectare dryland farm, Henry (30) runs the arable operation while Pascoe (41) trades stock. Trading as Mayfield Brothers Partnership, they lease the farm from their parents Jim and Lois.
They’ve worked hard over the past five years to introduce synergies into the operation with positive benefits for both the arable and trading operations, from refining the stock types to engineering the perfect cover cropping mix.
After a career in the building industry Pascoe returned to the farm from Wellington eight years ago with his family.
He and wife Anna have two sons, Hugh (8) and Guy (6).
Henry studied agriculture at Lincoln University before working for an arable farmer in South Canterbury. He and wife Katie came back five years ago, and have two sons, Felix (5) and Silas (1).
Prior to Henry’s return the farm was finishing 6000 lambs, running a small breeding operation and cropping up to 140ha. But Pascoe found the wet July lambing miserable and the high incidence of bearings in the ewes disheartening.
Despite trying new ideas to reduce the bearings and improve the health of the ewes, his heart wasn’t in it. Then Henry arrived home brimming with ideas, and it was the catalyst for change.
“All of a sudden it made all the big things easier,” Pascoe says.
Building on his arable experience Henry floated cropping the entire 380ha. This gave Pascoe a framework to build the lamb trading around.
“Cropping took away all the grey area,” Pascoe says. “All of a sudden for the turnips I knew I had six tonnes/ha on the ground instead of ‘I hope I’ve got plantain of 3t/ha come February’.”
They have a style of open, forthright dialogue that allows for idea sharing.
Henry describes Pascoe as the “enthusiastic ideas man” but Pascoe says Henry’s the one who turns ideas into action. In fact, they could each be described as the yin to each other’s yang.
“I’d probably turn over all the stones before I leave a conversation but to take it to the next level you need Henry. That’s why we work well together.”
And there is no shortage of ideas when it comes to the business. “My brother is very similar to my mother, there is a lot of enthusiasm,” Henry says of Pascoe. “It’s hard to get away from . . . you’ve just got to run with it!”
When Covid-19 emerged at the start of the year they both had reservations about their level of exposure.
They mulled over solutions for their respective areas. With the lamb kill capacity hampered, Pascoe secured 1100 grazing hoggets that offered an income equivalent to lambs while Henry offloaded 450t of barley.
“We talk, go off and do our own thing then come back and double check with each other,” Pascoe says. “It’s a better approach to business with two heads in the game.”
The arable operation takes priority as it’s necessary for the summer income. Income normally splits about 65:35 in favour of arable. In the past this gap has narrowed to 55:45. That season, Pascoe netted just under $600,000 for 10,500 lambs at an average of $57 per head. That included buying in a few ewes, fattening them for a week and sending them off.
“That’s why I say I’m a trader, not a finisher. If I see a good margin, I’ll buy stock and just keep flicking it on.”
There’s always an element of healthy competition involved, Pascoe says. “We are both alpha males but I try to hold back pushing my end too far because it could be to the detriment of the arable side.”
That doesn’t stop them chasing each other for land in their respective busy seasons. During the summer Pascoe will offer scenarios up if he thinks he can make more money with stock, or vice-versa for Henry’s cropping programme in winter. “It’s good to knock heads a bit and come up with the best situation for the farm.”
Henry says that getting the books done and wages paid by a third party is an important part of keeping things healthy. “We don’t ever want the situation where it’s like ‘he made a mistake’ or ‘why is he taking more drawings than me?’. . . It doesn’t work well. Having someone else do the books takes that chance away.”

Maintaining the diversity

Each season all 380ha of the farm are covered by the tractor and cross-slot drill, which they have just updated to a 6m drill and quad track for the coming season. Last year, 550ha effective was cropped in the form of greenfeed, cover crop or cereals.
In the autumn the whole farm gets replanted. One third is sown in cereals (malting barley and oats) along with ryegrass and red clover crops, which are to be grazed through winter and harvested for seed. Spring plantings include malting and feed barley, milling wheat, mustard, buckwheat and sunflowers along with rape and turnips for forage.
Malting barley for beer production has been grown for 15 years and is a rotation staple. The variety they grow is Chill, which is sent to the Malteurop facility in Marton for processing.
Buckwheat and sunflowers are two of their niche crops. “Everyone sparks up when you mention those but we make no money from them!” Henry says with a laugh.
Henry’s son Felix was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance so they began buying buckwheat porridge for him from the United States. Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat nor is it a grass. It’s more closely related to sorrel or rhubarb.
They started with 1.6ha of buckwheat as a trial and now grow 7ha, which they market themselves. They took it to a local pizza maker who milled it and used it in pizza bases. “People like it because it’s an ancient grain,” says Henry.
Bringing in a stonemill is something Henry may follow up in future. “We are definitely quite passionate about seeing things through – there’s a satisfaction in growing something and seeing the end product.”
Peas have been a contentious crop in the Wairarapa on account of the pea weevil. The Reynolds have traditionally grown 30-50ha, and with yields up to 4.5t/ha their arable margin took a hit with the ban. Now that the weevil is eradicated Henry’s looking forward to getting peas back in.
“It’s an awesome crop, you get a good return and the pea straw is fantastic.”
During the ban Henry became part of an alternative crop strategy group that looked at crops to fill the void left by peas. They trialled durum wheat and sunflowers, keeping the latter in rotation as they’ve found a market for their hybrid oil variety in rabbit food.
About 100ha of the crops they grow are certified, including oats, red clover, ryegrass and rapeseed.
Henry gets a buzz out of knowing the seed he’s produced is being grown by other farmers. It was when drilling a paddock of rapeseed for a neighbour that he realised the seed was some he had produced in 2018.
“There’s a real pride that goes along with what you do,” Henry says. “It’s great when you can share that pride and others recognise the heart that went into it.”

The farm is cropped in greenfeed, cover crop and cereals

The golden breakdown ratio

Managing crop residues and cover cropping is an area of continuous improvement for the brothers. Five years ago they found their oat stubble wasn’t breaking down as expected despite being chopped up. This made crop establishment difficult.
They tried burning but Henry says it just didn’t fit with their ethos. “You are forever learning about the damage you are potentially doing,” he says. “We got a lot more weeds at establishment and I was thinking to myself… this isn’t good, what do we need to change?”
Pascoe attended a cross-slot conference where he was introduced to the carbon-nitrogen (C:N) ratio. To get their residue breakdown humming, the C:N ratio needed to be 25:1. Combine the high ratio cereal stubble (80:1) with clovers, herbs and legumes (anywhere from 8:1 to 15:1) and it’s the balanced diet the soil microbes need to work their magic.
To find their holy grail seed mix they went back to basics. On the stock side, Pascoe needed better winter growth and a higher sward to prevent a worm burden. They were also keen to increase beneficial insect numbers, manage herbicide resistance and build nitrogen in the soil for the crops that followed.
“We didn’t just put 30 species into the ground to see what works best,” Pascoe says. “We started off somewhat educated in what we were doing by focusing on the goals we wanted to achieve at the other end.”
Italian ryegrass provided the quality bulk, rapeseed brought early bulk and diversity, annual clovers fixed N and improved soil structure, phacelia attracted beneficial insects while plantain has long been a favourite for the brothers as they like the fibrous root system and find their barley yields improve when they follow it in rotation.
Summer forage crops include rape and turnips planted with crimson and balansa clovers, plantain, phacelia and sheep’s burnet. They’ve also experimented with biannual forage legume sulla, which has high levels of condensed tannins for animal health benefits. Once the turnips are grazed, a good rain sees the herbs and clover come away again.
“We find it improves animal health but also gives the stock a choice.”
Following their cover cropping regime faecal egg numbers have decreased and growth rates have improved. They weighed stock every 30 days and at one point recorded 450gm/day in the winter. “It was mind boggling,” Henry says.
They continue to tweak their mixes and next season will aim to add an extra tonne of dry matter to their first graze in the autumn. Since introducing cover cropping they’ve been able to direct drill a red clover certified seed line into a fully chopped oat paddock.
“That’s how far things have come – we are now establishing certified seed in those conditions and feeling confident doing it,” Henry says. “You couldn’t do that four years ago.”
Maintaining the quality of the heavy clay soils has taken years of work. Not only is there substantial drainage throughout the farm, direct drilling has been used for close to 25 years. All cereal residue is chopped, which directly feeds back into the soil, while the impact of continued direct drilling has been incredible for the soil structure. “You dig a hole anywhere and you’ll find bucketloads of worms. It’s unbelievable,” he says.
Another benefit of direct drilling is the ability to go from grazing stock to a crop in a few days. “It keeps the system flexible.”.
Soil testing is carried out every second year across the farm if ground conditions are favourable. Lime is applied to keep the pH at 6, while phosphate and potassium are drilled with the crops. Olsen P is kept at mid to high 20s, and incorporating the straw residue back into the soil is beneficial for the potassium levels.
Heavier stock and high stocking rates can jeopardise the soil structure, so they’ve adopted a no-cattle policy.
“I like cattle, they hit spring and they get a new coat and the blossom out into these big bulls with these big necks on them and they look grouse, but it’s just not the right soil,” Pascoe says.

Keeping opportunities open

Pascoe fattens up to 10,000 lambs a year on contract for AFFCO. He looks for a true Romney as it gives him versatility to finish it at 18kg or take through to 25kg.
“You’ve got scale and the bigger frame helps with how much they put on per day.”
He sources lambs from the saleyard and through a local agent. Ultimately, his goal is to present the best article he can to the processor, trading his way there if necessary. He’s careful to avoid the overfat lamb the abattoirs don’t want.
“I would rather have a nice lamb I can present and argue price with them.”
When they began trading, they drenched every 28 days. Henry hated drenching and always used to question it. This got Pascoe thinking about whether it was necessary. They’ve since moved to Zolvix as a quarantine drench.
“Why bring them in to jam a drench gun down their throats if they don’t need it? It stresses the animal and you’ve potentially lost 220gms a day at $3/kgLW. It doesn’t make financial sense.”
The winter lambs are gone by October and the cropping season begins. By November, the only animals onfarm are working dogs and two rams in case they want to bring ewes into the system.
Pascoe uses the turnip yield to gauge his stocking rate, then brings lambs back onto the farm in January. This frees him up to help Henry harvest and gives the pastures a break from stock, which he says is a key part of their worm strategy.
Lambs graze the turnips and rape then are killed by early April to avoid autumn thrift and to further minimise the worm burden. Lambs are back on-farm in May and graze through the winter on the rocket fuel cover crops, ryegrass and red clover seedlines.
Pascoe says the growth rates have been hard to believe at times, and it’s not unusual to have them gaining 250g/day regardless of the weather.
“It’s high-performing stuff, the animals are clean, they don’t have that worm burden and they just absolutely smoke all the way through the winter.”
He works on lighter stocking rates as he feels this brings out the best in the animals. “It’s the old school saying – the only thing that stops a sheep gaining weight is another sheep,” he says. “To put on weight, you need to be comfortable in your own paddock and just eat.”
He says he trialled some lambs on the cover crop at 10su/ha, something he got a fair bit of stick for from his mates. They challenged him that he’d never make money at that rate, but he begs to differ.
“If you’ve got lambs stocked at 20su/ha doing 110 grams per day and I’ve got them at 10su/ha and they are punching [at] 350-400gms a day. . . I’m doing better and I’m leaving my soil in a better state because I’m not compacting it with a lot of feet.”

The path to succession

Both credit their father Jim’s ability to let go of the farm and encourage them to forge their own path as instrumental in running their operation.
“He gave us the opportunity to make mistakes – but on the back of that he’d ask questions, so we didn’t make them,” says Pascoe.
Jim’s experience has proved invaluable many times over when it comes to decision-making. “If you have a thought, he will listen to it and say, ‘mate you forgot about this’,” Pascoe says. “It’s always the hidden stuff that you don’t think of.”
He says that while the farm is not amazing in terms of soil, the hard work their father put in has meant they could come in and concentrate on their vision for their respective areas.
“Dad never took his finger off the pulse. Every fence is straight, every gate swings and everything was tidy going in,” Pascoe says.
While they get contractors in to do their spraying, they do all the fertiliser spreading themselves. They are careful to ensure that when they get professionals in, they can concentrate on the high-value work to be done. All the ‘boy’s jobs’ are taken care of by Pascoe and Henry.
On account of their solid relationship, expansion for the brothers is a possibility. In the meantime, they’ll keep challenging, innovating and remain open minded.
“It’s been an incredible ride over the past five years,” Henry says.
“Whatever we do from here will be both of us together,” Pascoe says. “It’s a good mix and it rolls well.”


About 65:35 in favour of arable. In the past this gap has narrowed to 55:45. That season, Pascoe netted just under $600,000 for 10,500 lambs at an average of $57/head.


  • 380ha cereal, seed, forage and sheep trading
  • All of it is drilled each season
  • Last year 550ha effective cropped
  • Fatten up to 10,000 lambs/ year on contract
  • Versatility to finish at 18kg or 25kg.
  • Residue breakdown humming