Day 11

We left Te Anau at 8:30 AM for Mt. Linton Station, an operation that runs 3,000 head of Angus cattle with 850 of them being stud herd, and 45, 000 head of Romney-Texel sheep. The manager for the Mt. Linton station is Ceri Lewis. He operates the place with a staff of 20 people. Twelve of them are designated to manage the stock, and 8 of them are designated for routine management, such as equipment and fence line maintenance. The cattle program, as mentioned above, is divided into both a seedstock and commercial operation. Manager Lewis has an annual Angus bull sale that has grown to sell 400 bulls. The genetics that Lewis emphasizes are primarily maternal traits with calving ease and fertility. He then considers carcass traits with an emphasis on marbling due to the Beef Eating Quality (BEQ), which is similar to our USDA quality grading. For the BEQ, Lewis targets his market cattle to be 560 kg, with a carcass weight of approximately 300 kg, which converts to 1,234 lbs. and 661 lbs., respectively. He sells his steers to Silver Fern farms that will market the beef for U.S. imports. This year, he scheduled to market 1400 steers to Silver Fern Farms. Lewis sources his genetics out of Australia and practices artificial insemination with his cattle. He is looking into embryo transplants to help maintain and improve the genetics of his herd. Currently, he operates the best marbling herd in the country, but competition is catching up to him via embryo technology.
Mt Linton Station’s feeder lambs out on pasture.
Since New Zealand is in the Southern hemisphere, the seasons are opposite to those in the United States. Therefore, spring begins around September, which is when they begin calving and lambing. The cattle and sheep will start calving the 5th of September. The seedstock herd starts in September, and the commercial herd starts in October. The sheep will lamb in waves based on herd type. The terminal sired ewes will start in September, the maternal sired ewes will start in October, and the hoggets will start in November. Note, a hogget is a 2-toothed ewe, usually the equivalent to what we call a yearling ewe. The sheep portion uses two breeding programs. One is a terminal system using a Suftex breed, and the other is a maternal system using a Romney/Texel crossbreed. To maintain good production, Lewis incorporates shelter belts. He began increasing the number of shelter belts 12 years ago and found his lambing crop increase from 90% to 130%. He harvests trees when needed and will replant the same amount as harvested. He began with planting 80 km of shelter belts, but decreased the amount to 6 km. The trees used are of a eucalyptus species. Another defense mechanism in maintaining good production that Lewis uses is selecting traits for resistance to parasites. He only drenches both sheep and cattle three times in their life time. The income for the station is 60:40 in a sheep to cattle ratio, meaning that the sheep provide the main income for the place. However, on an individual stock value, the cattle are worth $112 compared to the sheep valued at $106.

Mt. Linton Station’s overview of their shearing shed
Mt. Linton Station’s overview of their shearing shFor feed, the animals receive little supplementation. He will graze them on rye grass mixes and red clover, but will plant the fields ahead of time using an airplane. The animals will graze through the summer and start of fall on the lower lands. When winter starts to set in, the breeding cattle and sheep will be moved to higher pasture ground for continued grazing. The cattle will graze Tusac grass, which will stand through the snow so they can find it without expounding copious amounts of energy to dig through the snow. The cattle will lose some body condition when in the higher pastures, but Lewis noted that if they have water, they will make it through alright. The steers, however, are transitioned to fodder beet for winter feed due to the high dry matter content. The transition stage takes 14 days to complete in order to avoid metabolic upsets, and the steers are administered one rumensin capsule per animal prior to turn out.
Mob of Mt. Linton Station Angus steers being transitioned to fodder beet.

To maintain the fields, Lewis spends approximately $1.8 million on fertilizer consisting of phosphate, potassium, lime, and sulfur. Since the stocking rate is 14 stocking units per hectare, Lewis said that fertilizer plays a significant role in maintaining decent soil health.

The group decided to pose for a picture in front of the bus being stuck.  This was the first occurrence for an SDSU tour group.
The crew experienced a little bit of excitement while touring the Mt. Linton station. Lewis was on the bus with the students, professors, and tour guide as we were headed up a steep hill. It rained just prior to arriving and was still sprinkling as we were headed up the hill. The road was a little too greasy, and those in the back of the bus could feel the bus sliding around. We came to a slight curve in the steep hill, and the back end of the bus slid into the ditch. The students promptly unloaded and called for a John Deere tractor to come pull the bus out of the ditch. One of Lewis’s men came and quickly pulled the bus out so that the students could continue the tour. Thank goodness for John Deere tractors! J
JOHN DEERE SAVES THE DAY!    Picture of the tour bus being towed out by a John Deere tractor.
Hattie and Samantha