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Char ltoThe Shedman
With Diane Bishop
Cows adjusting to Siberia of South'
Family farm: Andrew and Heather Tripp with their children Alisha, 10, Danielle, 12, Rebekah, 16, and Josh, 7.
The opportunities of
changing land use were
highlighted on Nithdale
Station during the NZ
annual conference in
Gore earlier this month.
Diane Bishop reports.
Andrew Tripp's grandfather
always said there would be dairy
cows on Nithdale Station one day.
He was right.
Five years ago Andrew and his
wife Heather converted part of
their 1478ha sheep and beef farm
at Kaiwera into a dairy unit
milking more than 500 cows.
It was an unusual move for a
family so immersed in the sheep
Andrew was passionate about
sheep genetics but, like many
farmers at the time, was disap-
pointed with rising input costs
and lamb prices which had
reached an all- time low.
He decided dairy cows would
provide another income stream
and spread their risk but the
conversion was not without its
''I could write a book about what
not to do in a conversion.
''We had budget overruns and
teething problems with the shed
and plant,'' Andrew said.
However, the Tripps have proven
that dairy cows can be success-
fully farmed in Kaiwera, an area
Andrew refers to as the ''Siberia
of eastern Southland'' because of
its fickle climate.
Since their conversion, several
sheep farms in the area have
also been converted to dairy.
Key to the success of the
dairy operation is their
lower-order sharemilker and
Ivan Lines, who presented a
breakdown of the costs
associated with the conver-
sion at the field day which
was held as part of the NZ
Grassland Association con-
The conversion cost $2.8
million, which was within
the mid-price range, and
included the construction of
a 54-bale rotary cowshed,
regrassing and lanes.
This season the Tripps
expected to produce about
360,000 kilograms of milk solids on
their 275ha milking platform.
The dairy operation is farmed as a
completely separate entity and
pays for the winter grazing and
supplements, such as silage and
baleage, which is made off the
Andrew, the son of an Anglican
minister, regards himself as a
steward of the land and views
farming Nithdale Station as an
His grandfather Charlie Tripp
bought the property in 1924 when
it was overrun with rabbits and
''covered in tussock, swamp and
''Charlie developed the property
and farmed it through the
''We wouldn't be here if it wasn't
Though Andrew was brought up
in Christchurch he was always
drawn to the land and used to
spend his holidays on the farm.
After gaining an agricultural
science degree at Lincoln Univer-
sity and attending bible college in
Auckland, where he met Heather,
he took over the management of
Nithdale in 1994.
In the 1980s the property ran
about 6000 ewes and 400 cows,
including a hereford stud, which
was later sold to the family-
owned Orari Gorge Station at
The Tripps bought into the
farming company in 2001, leasing
the station off the company and in
2008 bought all the land with the
aim of creating a self- contained,
profitable, sustainable and diver-
Employing a lower-order share-
milker and sheep and beef farm
manager enables Andrew to focus
on the sheep genetics side of the
''I'm still passionate about sheep,''
Though sheep numbers have been
reduced to make way for dairy
cows, the property still winters
about 3800 commercial romney
ewes and 1000 commercial hog-
In the early 1980s the Nithdale
romney stud was established but
this has since been added to with
the purchase of Murray Rohloff's
Awareka stud in 2008.
As well as 1000 recorded romney
ewes, the property also carries 375
recorded suffolk ewes.
Since 1992 the Tripps have been
selecting for worm resistance and
since 2005 they have been
breeding MyoMax genes into
This year's romney ram lambs are
13 per cent MyoMax gold.
The Tripps were hit hard by the
spring storm of 2010 but have
bounced back and expect to tail
140 per cent this year unassisted
on the hill country.
''It is a challenge lambing on the
hills and some days there's not a
lot of distance between us and the
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