NZ Dairy Spring 2021

12 | nz dairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Ben & Justine Cameron Conversion way forward for Braemar Richard Loader M uch has changed from when Scottish settler Charles Cameron purchased his block of unbroken land a few kilometres from the small township of Morrinsville in 1903, establishing a farm that would become home to five generations of Camerons. Aged 30, Charles purchased 432 acres/174 hectares, paying £1512 and 12 shillings, or £35 an acre, and named his block Braemar Farm. In pioneering spirit and Scottish determina- tion and with the help of heavy horses Charles hand cleared the land that was heavily carpeted in scrub, introducing beef and sheep along with crops. At some stage in those early days Charles sold off a hundred acres to fund the purchase of two farms for two of his sons. Those hundred acres now form the Morrinsville Golf Course and the source of golf balls and pocket money for Cameron children. Angus, the sixth child, continued to farm sheep and beef on Braemar, improving the land with subdivisions, fencing and drainage. In due course Angus farmed with his son Douglas, continuing the beef and sheep tradition, and introducing bit more cropping and some dairy grazing to the operation. An innovative man who loved tinkering with machinery Douglas also started an agricultural contracting business with the goal of supporting two generations on the farm – his own family and his fathers. Sadly, Douglas passed away at the age of 39, leaving behind his widow Marjorie and three young children, including his eleven-year-old son Ben. For the next ten years the farm was leased to Douglas’ best friend and the farm was run as a drystock block, home to bulls and dairy grazing. Ben inherited his father’s passion for farming and his natural affinity for machinery. Upon leav- ing school Ben worked on farms for a couple of years before completing a Diploma of Agriculture, specialising in dairy, at Massey University. And at nineteen years of age he had a 50/50 sharemilking contract on a 100-cow farm. Nearing the end of the ten-year lease agree- ment, when Ben was 21, the family considered how the farm could continue to support two generations. Converting to dairy seemed the best option. “It was the late ‘80s and the beginning of the conversion era.” Says Ben. “Dairy companies were scrambling for our sup- ply at that stage and so we were strongly encour- aged to go that way and the numbers stacked up. • to page 14 I was already 50/50 sharemilking on another farm and so had a foot in the game. If I wanted to step onto a bigger sharemilking job, Breamar was here and it made sense. “At that stage the farm was 118 hectares. I project managed that process, while still milking cows off farm, and then moved here as 50/50 sharemilkers when the process was complete. At that stage we were milking 250 cows, with some drystock. The full conversion took two years to do and the second year we went up to 320 cows.” In 2001 Ben and his wife Justine took own- ership of Braemar. Adding to the original 118 hectares, the couple purchased a 26-hectare block that had originally been part of Braemar but sold off in the ‘60s. A further 71 hectares has been leased adjacent to the farm. “The whole lot forms part of the dairy platform, but part of the 71 hectare block is where we grow our maize silage and crops and provides some support land for the young stock as well.” Photos: Herd homes at Braemar, on the outskirts of Morrinsville, with the town moving closer in background. Recently remodelled cowshed (above) and James and Izaac Cameron milking in the ‘double up 26 aside cowshed’.