Juggling a full-time job and managing a 200-hectare property is no easy task. But it’s something that Beef+Lamb NZ extension manager Lauren Cameron says is helping to build equity so she and husband Ritchie can one day farm full time.
Lauren grew up on her parents’ stud beef farm in Gladstone, south of Masterton. Her father Peter is a well known stud breeder who has produced top-quality breeding stock for the past 30 years.
“Growing up I always had an interest in agriculture but I never studied it. That’s probably one of my biggest regrets.”
Instead she completed a Bachelor of Business Studies with a major in marketing. It wasn’t until 2012 that she took a step back into the agriculture world when she took up the role of manager of the Generate rural leadership programme at Taratahi agriculture training centre.
“I joined up to Young Farmers at the same time. Through those I found I had a real enjoyment of working with young people and encouraging learning opportunities.”
But it was competition in the Future Beef hoof and hook competition at the National Beef Expo that really reignited her passion for the land. In her second year competing she took out the coveted Beef Ambassador award.
“It was during the interview phase for the award with Mike Peterson that I found out about Beef+Lamb and the opportunities they had.”
‘The Gelbviehs are a breed that fit the needs of our business particularly around their docile nature, being sound and have good fertility. They do really well on our country.’
Landing the Beef +Lamb young ranchers scholarship gave Lauren the opportunity to head overseas and take part in round-table discussions on the industry at an international level and she came away impressed with what our international partners had to say about Beef +Lamb and their work with farmers.
“That’s what really pushed me to want to work for Beef +Lamb, I wanted to do my bit and be involved a company that is working hard to make a difference for their farmers.”
Since then, working as extension manager for Beef +Lamb went to the top of her short-term career goals. After a stint as a field office for Young Farmers Lauren caught the break she was after and landed the role of Eastern North Island extension manager.
“The job is mainly around providing information, knowledge and skills to farmers to help them in their business. To help build their capabilities and generally just support them in what they do.”
When she’s not busy working with farmers there are plenty of other things to keep her busy. Most notably the farm she runs with her husband Ritchie. Ritchie also works full time on the neighbouring farm. The couple purchased 100ha from Ritchie’s uncle and lease a further 100ha off Ritchie’s parents.
The property is home to their own herd of Gelbvieh cattles, many of which they inherited from Lauren’s father.
“Dad wanted to help us in the sector and as he was down-sizing it seemed like a good fit. The Gelbviehs are a breed that fit the needs of our business particularly around their docile nature, being sound and have good fertility. They do really well on our country.”
Lauren and Ritchie have a partnership agreement with Peter. Lauren and Ritchie breed the cattle with a proportion of weaner bulls being sent to Peter’s farm for finishing. They also sell some of their bulls directly into the stud market along with another proportion into the commercial beef market to help keep the system financially viable.
Non-replacements are grown out and culled at 18 months old.
Lauren and Ritchie have big plans for their Gelbvieh herd. Being a minor breed in New Zealand compared to the more popular Angus and Herefords they want to put effort into getting the potential of Gelbviehs recognised in the wider market.
“When we have a bit more time we want to focus on the marketing of Gelbviehs and of Gelbvieh and Angus crosses, called Balancers. We want to carry on what dad has been doing on the breed society and be more involved in the society.”
They source many of their genetics from Canada and Australia due to the limited gene pool in NZ. As a result some good genetics are being filtered through their herd which they hope to start spreading through sale of pedigree animals into both the commercial and stud markets.
Alongside the 40 pedigree Gelbviehs, the pair also run 850 ewes and 40 dairy cows to spread their risk and manage cash flow more effectively. The sheep are a terminal flock and they hold no replacements due to the limited time they can spend on farm.
“Because we are running the farm in our own time outside of work hours we need to make sure the property can pay for itself.”
Lauren says the sheep are more of Ritchie’s passion that he’s brought to the farm. Having never dealt with cattle much, Lauren has been able to teach Ritchie a few things and vice versa.
“We really enjoy running the place together. We are stoked that we had the opportunity to get into farm ownership. In the future we want a block of land that’s big enough and sustainable on its own”
For now, it’s heads down and working hard for the couple while they work on building their equity so they can consider an equity partnership in the future.
“We are in the process of working out how we are going to achieve our goal of farm ownership at the moment. For now we just want to build up our equity to get ourselves in a better position.”
Getting out and meeting people in the industry to expand their contact base and surrounding themselves with the right team of people will be an integral part of their plan.
“Getting the right accountants and consultants will be important as well as meeting people who could be keen on entering into an equity partnership with us in the future.”
In keeping with her passion of helping the younger generation of farmers Lauren sits on the Future Beef committee. Her involvement with Future Beef began when she helped out her dad with teaching and training Taratahi students work with their steers for the competition.
“The competition is becoming more refined and we are getting more support from the industry so we can make it more challenging for senior competitors. Our numbers are building and we are getting a larger reach from across the industry.”
Many of the competitors are ending up in jobs with key supporters and more schools are getting on board with the competition and getting students involved.
“I really enjoy giving back and help young people in the industry and help them grow.“
With all this on her plate, time management is the key to making sure everything that needs doing gets done.
“We have identified how we can improve things. This year we built new cattle and sheep yards. Previously it would take half a day to get stock near the yards. These new ones are more central and save a lot of time.”
After four years running the farm they have a good handle on what needs doing and when. Lauren says in many ways the farm feels like a hobby and they are enjoying seeing results and improvements.
“We are so lucky that get to work together on our farm and build it up together. We have big plans for it and are excited for the opportunities in the future.”