28 | A repeatable and simple system With only 6% cultivatable land, the biggest threat on the Tosswill’s farm is the summer dry. Virginia Wright “The key is to keep their lambing percentage high to counterbalance the reduced stock numbers and to keep an eye on the trades.” RURAL PEOPLE » Richard & Becks Tosswill Proud members of Chartered Accountants Australia + New Zealand We congratulate Richard & Becks Tosswill on their great farming success! Leaders in Business Services, Accounting and Taxation Advice Address 444 Queen Street, Kuripuni, Masterton New Zealand Phone +64 06 370 0707 Fax +64 06 370 3294 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Website www.enumerate.co.nz Associate Director David Castles ACA Director Allan Newman FCA Richard Tosswill’s background in banking and the involvement both he and his wife Becks have in the community no doubt contributed to their winning of the 2021 award for the Wairarapa Sheep and Beef Farm Business of the year, but there was considerably more to it than that. ‘It’s looking at all aspects of your business,” says Richard. “So your nancials are important, environmental, people, what you do in the community, and overall sustainability is what it’s all about, along with consistency of performance over a period of time and if you’ve got any unique features it’s a bonus.” While not convinced it’s unique Richard believes the key to their success has been the guring out over the years of a repeatable, simple, system that can be replicated and is exible regardless of the ups and downs that a given season might offer, whether that’s through pricing or climate. “Trying not to put too much stress on the country, as in the soil and the pastures,” explains Richard, “or the stock or the people, has been pretty big for us.” Not putting undue pressure on the soil and the pastures translates into having reduced their initial 3500 ewes to 2600 as they’ve gradually reduced their sheep to cattle ratio from 80% to more like 60%. They’ve also brought more trading into their operation explains Richard, in terms of both sheep and cattle, “so if it’s a season that’s getting really tight we’ve got a few levers we can pull to get out, rather than being stuck with all capital stock, we can reduce numbers.” They recently took part in a clover trial which meant they saw for themselves the proof that pasture with a high clover content can have a positive affect on your weaning weights. It also taught them a lot about the importance of not over grazing and looking after your pasture. “I think every farmer knows it’s important in the back of their minds but probably doesn’t quite understand it, “says Richard. “I was guilty of that. When I did the trial I sort of understood the basics of clover but really I had no idea of the whole life cycle and management around it. Nor did I realize how much clover seed you could put into your soil just by shutting it up for a couple of months.” With only 6% cultivatable land, the biggest threat on the Tosswill’s farm is the summer dry. Being conservative with their stock numbers it may mean they miss out on the bumper seasons from time to time but the safety of averaging their pro t across the seasons regardless of what happens more than makes up for it. “It’s way more consistent,” says Richard, “and going into the dry season with heavy ewe lambs, a good amount off mum, and fat ewes, is a way better feeling than being exposed to the highs and lows.” The key is to keep their lambing percentage high to counterbalance the reduced stock numbers and to keep an eye on the trades they’re doing to ensure pro tability remains high. The bottom line for the Tosswills is that it’s a more sustainable system. The maths of mating everything, all hoggets and all heifers, is unarguable when you look at what it means out the other side, without even counting the cost of taking a dry animal through the winter. “If we get 600 lambs out of those hoggets at say $100 a head on average that’s 60 grand you might not have got otherwise. Even accounting for other costs it’s a no-brainer and it ts our feed curves too,” explains Richard. As far as keeping stress levels down in the stock it boils down to keeping them fed as well as they can according to Richard, who feels uncomfortable when he sees an animal that looks hungry. “How I’m feeding my stock is really important to me, and so’s making sure there’s plenty of shade and good water for the animals in summer. Over the years seeing the stock under the trees we’ve planted is a really good feeling.” For their staff the Tosswills work on making farming appealing enough that they don’t lose good shepherds, like their current 23-year-old Brigette Mossman, to other trades. That means keeping their hours manageable and giving them opportunities to learn and improve. “If there’s other things they want to do we make sure there’s a bit of give and take and make it as enjoyable as we can. This year we are taking on a Future Farming cadet which means the person we’re taking on, Casey Buckton who’s 19, has had no farming experience at all. The idea is that Brigette will develop further and learn about farming by teaching herself. Whoever comes here we want to give them the opportunity to grow,” says Richard, which sums up the attitude that helped the Tosswills win their award.