David Kidd, Kaipara Harbour

Four years ago, when David Kidd took over the management of bare land overlooking the Kaipara Harbour, he knew he had work to do.

Having leased two blocks of adjacent land – 455ha and 100ha – within six months, David, and his employer McEwan-Kidd partnership, began an intensive development programme which included sub-division, installing a water system and implementing fertiliser and pasture renewal programmes.

They also set up a cattle-only stock policy on the flat to rolling land, running Angus breeding cows, beef bulls, trading heifers and steers – amounting to 5000-6000 stock units.

David says the intention was to have the bulls finished before their second winter and the trading steers and heifers finished the following spring. But with so many classes of cattle-coupled with unpredictable seasons – the system was not working, with trading cattle taking too long to finish.

Something had to give, says David, and that "something" was their 150 breeding cows. These were recently sold to make room for more profitable finishing stock.

David came to this decision after rethinking the whole farm business through processor, Greenlea Premier Meats' involvement in the Red Meat Profit Partnership Programme (RMPP).

David, who was the 2014 Young Farmer of the Year, says he joined the programme because it was an opportunity to be part of a unique processor-run extension model, and to work closer with Greenlea Premier Meats as part of the supply chain.

The programme brings together a range of farmers who share their knowledge, ideas and experiences, as well as facilitating opportunities to use farm consultants and other agribusiness professionals.

For David, hearing other farmer experiences – and having a farm consultant cast a fresh-set of eyes over their business – has been behind the decision to streamline the whole operation.

"We had made some massive changes within two weeks of him being here," says David.

One of these changes was selling their breeding cows and they will sell their finished heifers within the next few months. From next year, their focus will be solely on finishing Friesian beef bulls and Angus and Angus cross steers.

With the intention of finishing around 600 cattle every year, David has bought 150 Friesian and Friesian cross bull calves and will buy 200 Angus steers from David's parents who farm nearby. The balance of cattle has typically been sourced from weaner fairs, but this will change as David seeks to build relationships with commercial breeders.

While preferring Angus cross weaners, David admits they have had all-sorts coming off the truck. He would like to be in a position to only buy weaners over 250kgLW and ideally, buy directly from the breeder.

Two months ago, the business invested in Gallagher electronic weighing and sensor equipment after David saw it being demonstrated at a Greenlea Premier Meats' RMPP day.

While they had always used scales, they did no more than flash-up a figure as stock moved across them. The new electronic set stores data that can be downloaded and analysed. This will allow David to see which forages are driving the best animal growth rates and most importantly, for finishers, identifying which genetics perform best in their system.

David had always known that some lines perform better than others, but the electronic scales quantify this through objective data.

"In the long-term, we hope to have relationships with commercial breeders and the price- which is in line with market prices- then becomes irrelevant. It's an ideal relationship."

Only having had the scales for two months, David admits he is not using the data to its full potential, but believes the information it generates will help further streamline their operation.

In line with building the farm's infrastructure, David has been running an aggressive pasture renewal policy. He has been renewing at least 10% of their total area through summer and winter crops, such as rape and maize, and sowing high quality forages such as plantain and chicory.

Having carried out so much development since buying their land, David is now striving to streamline their farm business and Greenlea Premier Meats and the RMPP programme is helping him do just that.