Born and raised at Matakanui Station, Andrew Paterson always wanted to be a farmer. Andrew met his wife Tracy at the University of Otago, they travelled overseas together returning home from their OE (Overseas Experience) to Andrew’s family farm in 2001.
“Dad had an unusual situation on his hands, he had two sons who wanted to return to the family farm when many farming families had none.” After years of hunting and saving, the Paterson family bought another large southern station in Herbert, where Andrew’s brother now resides. Andrew and Tracy officially took the reins of Matakanui in 2015, where Andrew had been managing since 2004.
Matakanui is a high-country Station in Central Otago, today it consists of 23,000 acres rising up to 5,000 feet on the Dunstan Mountains. The majority of usable land is made up of long leading spurs, open tussock flats and irrigated paddocks. Matakanui runs approximately 17,000 sheep and 1,100 head of Hereford cattle.
Reflecting off the back of a good season, Andrew says that the Central Otago climate is always a challenge. “Quite often we are either heading into a drought, or just coming out of a drought. We have an average annual rainfall of 500mm, though some years we have seen as little as 280mm. The implementation of irrigation means we have the ability to now grow supplements, making feeding stock though the winter more manageable.”
Andrew enjoys the day-to-day variety being a farmer brings, “It’s just the fact there are so many different things you can do. This week I have been a plumber, an electrician, shepherd mustering, I’ve been tailing, been a builder, a tractor driver, truck driver and an accountant.”
When asked what he loves about being a farmer, Andrew is clearly passionate about his way of life. ‘It’s having your own place that no one else goes where you can do your own thing, have your dogs running around barking and let off fireworks without the neighbours getting upset with you. I think a lot of townies, they look at farming and think it’s all about whether you’re making money or not. The reality is, it’s so much more than just a job or a business. It’s a really cool way of life. It’s pretty special’.
‘Being a farmer means you have a little piece of New Zealand that is actually yours. You can enjoy it how you want, without anyone else having a say on it. In today’s world, that’s pretty important’.
Matakanui is a fairly complex operation, with 206 paddocks currently in Mobble, Andrew and Tracy run a well-established Hereford cattle herd and their own sheep stud with a number of breeding programs. “We have a lot of mobs at any one time. We’ve been looking for a program to manage stock and stock numbers, a user-friendly one that everyone can access. We wanted a program that could record animal health details rather than having to write things down in the book at the woolshed and one where you could also record mob shifts. We just wanted something simple enough that you can put the information in and people would do it.”
“We were having trouble knowing exactly what stock we had, where and how many at any point in time, Mobble now allows us to know that. I'm not involved with the stock work every day, I've got a stock manager that's doing that, but if I go in on Mobble I can instantly see where everything is, especially now, with the addition of the map feature”.
On-farm communication between workers has stepped up at Matakanui with Mobble’s help. “We run a roster here at Matakanui. Whoever is rostered on will get a text from the shepherd that’s in charge of that area and they’ll tell them what they need to shift, then they just automatically go to that paddock on Mobble and shift them. So that’s really, really cool. Mobble cuts down a lot of that phone calling, texting and the miscommunication”.
Andrew notes that quick access to livestock totals has also put time back in his day and removed any guess-work.
“It’s saved a lot of time rounding up tallies. When the bank manager is here and he says ‘how many sheep have you got at the moment? What have you got where?’ I just jump into Mobble and go, right, cattle one year old. Bang, that’s the tally, lambs one year old. Done. Just like that. There’s no guessing.”
Andrew also highlights what recording casualties with Mobble can bring to the table.
“We had high death rates in a couple of paddocks with lambs. People don’t really report when they dispose of one dead lamb here and there, but when actually recording the casualties, we started to see there may have been say 8 dead ones picked up between three or four people in one shift. After much investigation the vets determined the cause of death as lucerne bloat, which is unusual in sheep. Now we’ve put 500ml of bloat oil in the troughs and the deaths stopped.”
When asked why Andrew would recommend Mobble to another farmer, "Because it's simple to use. It's common sense stuff, you know, so it's not overly technical. This product has been aimed at staff, not just farm owners and managers".
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