Business Rural North Autumn 2022

| 33 Dairy and Beef Shorthorn a great mix 2022 sale bulls (top) Shane Dromgool and grandson Ratu-James (above left). Jacob Dromgool (above right). Sue Russell Dot and Shane Dromgool own and operate a 200ha effective dairy unit, half-way between Kerikeri and Okaihau in the Bay of Islands. They also lease a block of crown land where they run a Beef Shorthorn stud. The dairy farm runs between 450-500 cows where they milk a mainly Friesian herd on a oncea-day basis, farming under a System 2 principle. Whilst the dairy farm has been their mainstay, they have always been passionate about the Beef Shorthorn breed. “As dairy farmers, we struggled to procure the type and number of bulls needed to tail off the dairy herd,” says Shane. So, when the opportunity arose to have the pick of Shane’s late father’s Shorthorn herd, they jumped at the chance to start their own stud. This went some way toward ful lling their bull requirements for tailing off the dairy herd. Following that success, the herd grew rapidly, and has since become the largest recorded Beef Shorthorn herd in the country. Careful attention has been paid to the selection of overseas genetics through a large AI programme for the long-term improvement of the herd. “Due to the size of the herd we produced more bulls then we needed for our own purposes, which prompted us to showcase the best selections of our herd at NZ Beef Expo.” They were very well received in competition and encouragingly, this corresponded with impressive sales, thereafter it became a good platform to present their bulls to buyers outside of Northland. “Since the demise of Beef Expo we have sold bulls at our on-farm annual auction, with bulls sold to new homes all over NZ.” The initial selection of bulls for sale is made directly following the annual sale of the previous year and is based on performance and visual appeal. Once identi ed they are brought back to the dairy platform where they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their potential. From this initial group of 50 bulls, a selection of 20-25 is made for the following year’s sale. This is largely based on parameters such as 400-day weight, scanning data and eye appeal. “Our main aim is to produce cattle that allow our clients to maximise their ability to create pro t through genetic input” says Dot. “We are passionate about this breed for many reasons but for us temperament is a key factor.” A testament to this is the fact that Shanes late father was still running a successful commercial RURAL PEOPLE » Shane & Dot Dromgool Shorthorn herd (and fully hands-on) in his 90th year.” On top of this is the breeds known ability to produce quality meat from an animal at a younger age. The breed is popular overseas because of its high level or marbling and is only 2nd to Wagyu, making it restaurants’ choice of beef all over the world. The Beef Shorthorn breed combines its natural maternal characteristics with performance and ease of management and in uences pro t like no other breed because they balance ALL traits of economic importance, not just a few. Shane and Dot are continuously thinking about ways to adapt to become more ef cient in an ever changing environment. This year Shane has experimented with a new feed supplement. “We are still growing maize but because we had such a wet spring I decided to plant an alternative mixed cereal crop which we will feed to the bulls. It’s a blend of sun owers, oats, green peas and buckwheat. We wanted a reasonably high grain content with a good balance of bre, protein and carbohydrates”. Buckwheat was added to the mix as an experimental exercise given its ability to extract phosphate from within the soil. Buckwheat solubilizes and takes up phosphorus that is otherwise unavailable to crops, then releases these nutrients to later crops as the residue breaks down. The criteria for the crop was that plants selected could be direct drilled and reach harvest under 100 days, thus enabling regrassing in early autumn. Having just harvested this crop prior to the recent rain, all looks well for having the new pasture planted before the end of February with paddocks back in the rotation before winter. The Dromgools are fortunate to have their 3 children home on the farm, and son Jacob has spent the last 7 years establishing a vineyard, producing boutique wines under the label “144 Islands”. As the workload for the beef and dairy farms taper off, the vineyard workload rises with grape harvest normally taking place in late February/early March after a long growing season. Jacob takes a pragmatic approach to viticulture, utilising an integrated pest management strategy, incorporating some organic philosophies wherever necessary. “By removing the focus off single-varietal wines, we’re not so affected by isolated weather events close to harvest. If the Chardonnay doesn’t perform exactly how I want it to in a given year, something like Albariño will raise its hand and take its place as the frontrunner in a blend for the year. We focus on building our wines to a style, which can be dif cult to do with single varietal wines when each vintage can be so dramatically different. We eliminate this issue somewhat by utilising multiple varietals in a eld blend,” says Jacob. It seems the market has responded positively to this outside-the-box approach as 144 Islands has grown steadily in the past year, gaining a presence in many notable Auckland restaurants. Recently, Jacob invested in an under-vine weeding machine, which will help them eliminate the need to use herbicide. Jacob says the focus for 144 Islands is to gain a presence in the best restaurants in New Zealand, and to use that momentum to build direct sales, through their mailing list and website, with the next obvious step being to build a cellar door. “The dream is that someday someone can come here, order a plate with a beautifully marbled medium-rare cut of meat from our herd of Shorthorns and delicious fresh vegetables picked straight from our gardens, and have that paired next to one of the wines from the farm”. Ph: 09 401 1774 Mobile: 027 522 6248 55 Station Road Kaikohe BAY OF ISLANDS VETERINARY SERVICES Proud to be supporting Shane and Dot Dromgool Kaikohe 401 1536 Kerikeri 407 7354 Waipapa 401 6654 Kawakawa 404 0842 38 Rewa Rewa Rd, Whangarei / Ph: 09 438 1319 / / PIAKO TRACTORS NORTHLAND LTD PROUD TO SUPPORT SHANE AND DOT DROMGOOL (Formerly Bryant Tractors) Sales / Service / Spares Tractors, Machinery & Spray Equipment