10 Mar 2017

Living lightly on the land

From Country Life, 9:35 pm on 10 March 2017
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Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Northland farmer Geoff Copstick runs angora goats and he reckons they should get government funding as natural stress relievers.

His 90 hectare goat and cattle farm, near Helena Bay 40 kilometres north of Whangarei, is run to minimise costs rather than increase income and that takes a lot of time and energy.

Fertiliser is made from the hay and dung on the floor of the goat's shelters, he plants plenty of fodder trees to provide protein for the goats during droughts, and because his house is off the grid, he needs trees for firewood.

So do he and his wife Kate ever get a holiday?

"We see spending a couple of hours with the goats as a real holiday. It's the nicest thing ... most stress reducing  thing you could ever do with your life is spend an hour or two with a mob of angora goats. They are absolutely brilliant, natural stress relievers. You don't need to spend time at the gym, you don't need to drink, just spend time with your goats, that's my message."

This Scotsman, now into his second or third career, is just as enthusiastic about their 50 hectare QE2 block.

He says previous owners, in an effort to drive up production, used cattle to bulldoze over native trees in gully areas, and while some poor quality grass would grow, the land also slipped into the creeks and streams.

"We get three metres of rain a year, mainly in winter, and the leaching into the waterways was killing the streams and the biodiversity in those streams."

He saw that as irresponsible, and along with Kate, took a different approach. They fenced off any steep bush area, "working with the land, not against it."

The regenerating gullies now provide food for bees and protection for an increasing population of kiwi.

"We've got a lot of pest control, and weed control, gorse and stuff, down in our bush block and we can go and camp down there and live down there  for a weekend, and spray and stuff.  So it's quite exciting. It's like an adventure for adults, it turns it into a play ground. It's brilliant."

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Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

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