Two generations of the Craw family farm together on a collection of seven blocks of coastal hill country on the northeastern reaches of Banks Peninsula. Their passion and farming expertise has been recognised at this year's Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Hamish (above left) Annabel, Alastair (above right) and Sue Craw have won the Beef and Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award.
A lot of work has gone into improving the 422 hectare property since they took it over in 1994. Alastair says “It was in a fairly underdeveloped state when we came here so we subsequently rebuilt the woolshed, put a new house on the property and did quite a lot of fencing, water supply and top dressing".
Currently the dryland hill country farm is running 1650 ewes, 800 hoggets and 105 carry over cows. By the end of lambing they are expecting to have about 3000 lambs on the ground. Their farm system is geared up to maximise lambing percentages and weaning weights within the confines of the dry conditions they experience in summer.
Alastair, who has spent most of his life on Banks Peninsula, has been breeding sheep for production since the 1970s and the sheep currently on the farm are mixture of the Romney, East Friesian, Texel and Poll Dorset genetics. “By the time the summer hits a lot of the lambs aren’t ready for the freezing industry, so what we’ve tried to achieve is grow them faster and have them ready for the freezing works prior to the dry months and try to insulate ourselves and move from being a store producer, to a prime lamb producer.’
The Craws have also joined the Beef and Lamb New Zealand Demonstration Farm Programme and as part of that, research is underway on trial plots to find out if high quality forage can be grown on uncultivable hill country. The work, is being overseen by AgResearch and will eventually be up-scaled to a paddock-size trial. “We’re trying to increase the legume content of pastures using spray techniques and broadcasting seed onto it to try and get the legume content up to increase pasture production. If we can do this it will be a big game changer to what we can do on this country” Hamish says.