Home' Otago Southland Farmer : April 19th 2013 Contents 16
Bevan and Wendy Hopcroft
Area: 280ha Effective At
Scanning 187 per cent (includes
Lambing 159 per cent
All lambs finished at 18.4kg
42 per cent of lambs gone at
weaning including hogget lambs
Listen up: Wendonside farmer Bevan Hopcroft is focused on achieving high production at low cost.
Ewe bet: Coopworth-Texel ewes are averaging 159 per cent lambing.
Tight budgeting keeps farm sweet
He may have adopted some old-school farming
methods, but Bevan Hopcroft is keeping costs down
and maximising production on his Wendonside farm.
Diane Bishop reports.
Wendonside farmer Bevan
Hopcroft is the first to admit he's
tight with money.
His main focus is on achieving
high production at low cost on his
280ha effective sheep farm in
''I didn't set out to be a miserable
bugger,'' Bevan said.
But, farming through tough times
in the 1990s has seen him
prioritise his spending and all
farm expenses are kept to a
minimum and carefully budgeted
for, he revealed at a Beef + Lamb
New Zealand Meat the Margin
field day recently.
Bevan doesn't own much machin-
ery and what he has got has been
mostly borrowed from his father
John or shared with neighbours
and he won't use contract
''We still open shear and Wendy
[his wife] cooks for them.
''It saves us at least $5000 a year
and I enjoy talking to the
He also encourages the shearers
to mark the ewes with crook
udders and for each one they
mark they get a stubbie for their
Bevan, who was brought up on an
intensive sheep farm at Riverton,
moved to Wendonside in 1996.
He initially bought 210 hectares
and leased a similar size property
for three years before buying an
additional 78ha on which he runs
about 2350 Coopworth-Texel cross
ewes and 650 hoggets.
He also winters up to 300 dairy
The move from coastal Southland
to the driest part of Southland has
been a major adjustment for
Bevan and his family, who are
currently battling a late summer
There hasn't been much rain in
Wendonside and he is concerned
about having enough feed to get
through the winter.
Bevan has encountered three
droughts in the past 17 years and
has spent about $20,000 looking
for water on the farm so he could
irrigate, but without success.
The unreliable rainfall is the
main limiting factor at Wendon-
side, as well as grass grub and
But it's good sweet early country
and the property is well set up
with a central lane system with
adequate shelter and good stock
Bevan is passionate about the
sheep farming industry and his
main focus is getting a high
lambing percentage and high
''The key is having a good ram
breeder,'' he said.
The ewes are currently achieving
159 per cent lambing, based on a
187 per cent scanning rate, and
Bevan targets an average 18.4kg
carcass weight lamb with 42 per
cent of the lambs gone at weaning.
Production has been boosted by
addressing a major potash
deficiency and the farm now
grows about 10 per cent more
Bevan prefers the Coopworth-
Texel cross because of its
hardiness, good survivability,
their lambs typically yield over 50
per cent, and require minimal
The downside is they produce up
to 25 per cent less wool, scanning
rates are not as high as some
breeds and they easily get cast.
Bevan intensively checks the
ewes at lambing time -- up to four
times a day -- and he mothers-on
and uses twin straps, the result of
growing up on an intensive sheep
''I was brought up like that.
''I enjoy mothering-up -- I get a
real kick out of it.''
Last season he skinned 180 lambs
and had an 80 percent mothering-
on success rate.
Bevan also uses ram harnesses
which are key to estimating
lambing dates and crucial for feed
Also key to his operation is
having a good lamb drafter, a
good accountant and a good bank
manager and sharing ideas with
other farmers through his local
farm discussion group.
Bevan works 4.5 days a week and
puts in long hours which allows
him and Wendy to ferry their
kids to weekend sporting activi-
The kids -- Emma, 14, Charlotte, 12
and George, 10 -- have been taught
the value of the dollar and given
plenty of opportunities without
''We don't live extravagantly.''
Bevan has always made a dollar
out of sheep, but admits it has
been a struggle this year because
of the low lamb prices and he is
concerned about the future of the
red meat industry.
''As farmers we need to stick
''We are lacking direction and we
need to get behind this new group
[Meat Industry Excellence
He believed the industry needed a
strong leader with vision and
trust and that all farmers should
be paid the same schedule price
regardless of whether they sup-
plied ''two lambs or 20,000 lambs''
to their meat company.
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