At just 25 years old, Katey Craig is already well on the path to farm ownership.
A full-time shearer, she took over the lease of a 200ha sheep and beef farm in Taranaki last year, buying the farm’s existing flock of 1000 Bendal Romney ewes and 400 hoggets. These are run alongside 40 Hereford Friesian R1 calves which she reared and 45 trading steers.
While it sounds like a juggling act keeping everything running, Katey takes it all in her stride, but admits she is very organised as far as the farm and her work is concerned because she has to be.
To add further complexity to her already busy life, Katey is one of two Beef + Lamb New Zealand- sponsored Sheep Industry Ambassadors who will represent New Zealand at this year’s LambEx conference in Perth, Australia in early August.
She will also join with NZ’s other representative David Ingham and sheep industry representatives from Australia and the US on a trip between Melbourne and Brisbane looking at farms, farm management systems and sharing ideas and knowledge.
While Katey says her was surprised – and very happy – at being awarded the ambassadorial role, her credentials are impeccable.
She is passionate about the sheep industry and has been involved with it all her life. She grew up on her family’s sheep and beef farm near Stratford and after leaving school went to Otiwhiti training farm as a cadet. After graduating she was employed on the Station as a shepherd. She describes her time on Otiwhiti as a good training ground, helping her develop the skills she needed to progress through the industry.
These skills won her the top female shepherd title when she represented New Zealand at the World Young Shepherds competition in France in 2014.
After Otiwhiti, Katey worked on a 365ha sheep and bull property, which is part of her grandfather’s farming business, and then went shearing.
The shearing enabled her to build the capital to buy livestock and lease the farm, which she has for a three-year term.
While the ewes she bought were already on the farm, she is very happy with them and says they are a good size, highly fertile, excellent mothers and produce a nice fleece of wool.
“They are very easy-care and very good mothers, the best I have ever come across.”
Last year the ewes lambed 150 per cent (ewes to the ram) and this year the mixed-age ewes scanned 200 per cent and overall – with two-tooths and terminals – the scanning was 191 per cent. There were only three dry ewes and a lot of multiples so the challenge for Katey will be finding room for all the lambs.
This year she used Suftex terminal sires over a proportion of the crop and says she is looking forward to seeing how the resulting lambs perform.
Apart from 130 cull ewe lambs, Katey finished all of last year’s lambs and is hoping to do the same this season. In the near future she would like to grow 8ha of chicory and clover specifically for lamb finishing as she has seen how well lambs do on this specialist forage on other farms.
Fortunately, lambing doesn’t start until she is back from her travels and while family will look after her stock while she is away, she has it all organised with breaks and feed so there won’t be too much for them to do.
Katey says she is particularly looking forward to learning about new technologies and developments on her trip to Australia and gaining an understanding of the factors that will shape the future of the sheep industry both in NZ and overseas.