7 Apr 2016

One month to muster 3000 cows over 60km

8:04 am on 7 April 2016

The annual cattle muster on New Zealand's biggest farm, Molesworth Station, is set to start next week.

Pudding Hill, Molesworth Station

Pudding Hill, Molesworth Station Photo: SUPPLIED

The Crown-owned, historic high-country station in south Marlborough runs the country's biggest herd of beef cattle over 180,000 hectares of river valley and tussock plains, shadowed by towering mountain ranges.

Manager Jim Ward said tough summer conditions meant a bigger weaning plan than usual, but good planning in preparation for the El Nino season meant stock and feed were in good order for the winter ahead.

Mr Ward, who has been in charge of the farm for 16 years, said it would take about a month to bring in cattle from a 60km stretch of the farm.

"We've got just on 3000 cows to bring in and wean. There's 900 cows at the bush gully that have to come in to the bottom end of station, another 1200 mixed stage cows from Tarndale and 600 first calves to come in, so a lot of droving.

"It depends on the weather how long it takes, but they just walk home really."

It was the first time they had weaned everything in autumn, which was a decision driven by seasonal conditions that started with no real spring and a bone dry summer. He said the stock had come through well but it had meant they were going into winter very short of cattle feed, though what they had was good quality.

"When El Nino was predicted last winter we made plans back in August to do certain things by certain dates and we've achieved all those, so we're actually going into the winter...although we're short the stock are in good order and we're pretty confident we can get through."

Acheron Accommodation House

Acheron Accommodation House Photo: SUPPLIED

After the cattle were brought in the bulk would go to a finishing farm in Hanmer and about 500 heifer calves would remain at Molesworth, where baleage would keep them going through the winter.

The Department of Conservation (DOC), which administers Molesworth, said the Acheron Road through the station was due to close for the season, and would re-open again at Labour Weekend.

Acheron Road, from Cob Cottage in the north of Molesworth Station to Acheron Accommodation House in the south, is a popular off-road driving and cycling route between Blenheim and Hanmer. It also provides opportunities for fishing, walking, mountain biking, hunting, tramping and even paragliding.

DOC said this past season had seen a number of special interest groups travel the road including members of the Indian Motorcycle Club and a group of vintage tractor enthusiasts.

Farming operations such as the autumn muster would now use the road until the winter weather made it impassable at times.

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