I grew up in the Manawatu region, on a sheep and beef farm of 600ha. We spent our weekends over the summer months competing at local horse sports and A&P shows and in the winter, hunting to hounds or playing rugby.
Working dogs have been a big part of my working life with time spent at Ngamatea Station, dairy farming on the Hauraki Plains, farm manager at Vin Alto, Clevedon, which had a mix of deer, sheep and beef, as well as vineyards. More recently, my partner and I owned and built up a registered pedigree beef farm on 40ha at Matakohe.
Why Woodja Contracting? In 2001 after a number of years without having a working dog, I bought a border collie cross pup. He was the one that came running and tumbling over out of the litter to say hello. This pup became known as Woodja, and he lived a long life of 16 years, full of variety and skills and made a friend of every man or beast he encountered. He was a quick learner and very intelligent, but sometimes he acted as if his ears were painted on, as I could often be heard calling instructions: Woodja, sit down! Woodja, leave it! Woodja, come here!
It also ties in to my work life in earthworks, where I’d be on a job site or property that would have had a specific request, and while I was there, the owner would say, “Woodja mind looking at this”? “Woodja be able to just do that over there as well?” So Woodja Contracting it is.
I’ve had over 30 years experience in earthworks, farming (dairy, beef, sheep, deer and horses) and agricultural contracting - the majority in the Franklin area.
Through all this experience, I have seen how pasture and land management has been approached, but along the way, I have also seen a degrading of the environments in which I was working - including soil health and pasture health, and the decline in the health of waterways, animals and even my own family. The sprays and drenches have become stronger and the fertiliser applications more frequent, but the problems are not going away - they’re just increasing.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking at dirt/soil and the crossover of farming the soil, such as growing healthy pasture and crops. Moving large quantities of soil for property development, drainage, property shaping and landfill has given me a close up and personal understanding of the function of dirt!
Having a holistic approach to property - through design layout and pasture management - is like how you might treat yourself. You can eat and drink what you like, have a fast-paced or sedate lifestyle, and have no issues for quite some time, especially when you’re young, but eventually, the cumulative effects will start to show. This is, I believe, where we are now. If you treat the soil as a limitless source of life and feed it with products that in their very nature lock up the valuable biology that gives that life, it stands to reason that whatever you grow won’t respond as it did two, three or four decades ago. It becomes a vicious cycle of intensive fertilisers (chemical), intensified weed and pest sprays (chemical), intensified livestock drenches and medication(chemical), modified seeds, plants and livestock to cope with the resistance build-up in the latter.
If you own a horse, it is like the canary in the coal mine. Horses are physically and mentally sensitive to their environment, especially to types of pasture, fertiliser, and weed sprays. There is now a growing market in specialised multi-mineral products to cope with the rise in affected animals.
Owning a block of land - no matter how big or how small - is a lifestyle dream for many people. Unfortunately, it can become the biggest burden of time and money, and you feel like you’re never getting ahead of the game.
It should be as enjoyable as you dreamed. Much of the burden and difficulty comes down to property lay out. How many individual paddocks are there, is it raced, where are the gates located, are they easy to open and close, do you have holding yards and or a barn or stable, what is your water source, do you need hotwire (electric fence), what is the pasture type for what you are grazing?
All of these things can be designed to be one-person operated - not the whole family on the weekend- unless they want to. Ideally, your property should be set up to have anyone move stock around. Stock units to pasture availability is often a source of stress for owners. Too much or not enough? Again, this is about having a good pasture management set up for what you want on your property.
I can help with all of these issues, so that you, as an owner, can have that maximum enjoyment out of your property - just as you dreamed.