Future-proofing Moutere Downs

// B+LNZ

Moutere Downs is one of the few remaining sheep and beef farms in Upper Moutere. A field trip to the farm will be amongst the highlights of Beef + lamb New Zealand’s Annual Meeting and Showcase.

image of the Moore family


Surrounded by vineyards, hop gardens, orchards and lifestyle blocks, Moutere Downs stands as one of the last bastions of sheep and beef farming in Upper Moutere near Nelson.

At the last count, the Moore family had 35 neighbours on their boundary fence and many more across the road.

Farming in such a diverse district has clear advantages and disadvantages and Peter and Cathy Moore, their son Reuben and his wife Morgan have geared their farm system to take advantage of the free or minimal cost grazing offered by surrounding vineyards and hop gardens.

“We can potentially have 2000 sheep off-farm in autumn after the hops and grapes have been harvested. This grazing is critical to help us build pasture covers for winter,” says Peter.

The 480ha (460ha effective) rolling hill country farm carries 3000 Romney Poll Dorset commercial ewes, 800 hoggets (which are mated) 45 mixed-age breeding cows and between 250 and 300 trading cattle.

They also run two sheep studs. A Romney stud which Peter’s father started in 1978 and a Poll Dorset stud which Peter established in 2001.

Addressing animal health issues

The family has been breeding for worm resistance, Facial Eczema tolerance and survivability for decades now and it was their use of off-farm grazing that was the initial catalyst for wanting worm resistant sheep.

Peter says the vineyards and hop gardens they use for grazing don’t have sheep yards, so routine drenching was difficult.

Initially sourcing genetics from long-time breeder of worm resistant sheep, Gordon Levet, they now have worm resistance well established within their stud and commercial flocks.

Facial Eczema (FE) was particularly bad in the region in the 1970s, and Peter remembers losing hundreds of sheep to the disease in the wake of rain following a prolonged dry period.

 FE tolerance was a real focus in the family’s breeding objectives in the early 80s. During the early 2000s, while still buying rams from FE tolerant flocks, the focus switched more towards worm resistance. In 2019, Reuben and Morgan artificially inseminated ewes in a bid to top up the genetics.

An outbreak in the region last year meant some farmers had up to a 15 percent drop in scanning percentages but the Moores were unaffected.

FE and internal parasite management will be up for discussion at the Annual Meeting field day, as representatives from B+LNZ’s science and research team will be talking about work underway to help farmers tackle these production-limiting diseases.  

nProve proves its worth

Scanning percentages in their commercial ewes sits at about 145-155 percent, but their survivability is extremely high as they are lambing 135 per cent. The Moutere Downs stud rams are consistently sitting in the top 10 percent of nProve rams for survivability.

Reuben Moore is an avid user of nProve and says he uses the genetic tool daily.

“It gives me access to the raw data next to the indexes and this correlates to what we’re seeing in the paddock.”

He really appreciates the wealth of data that is instantly available, and this allows him to make informed decisions when selecting genetics to meet their breeding objectives.

Farming for dry summers

Grass on Moutere Downs grows throughout the region’s mild winters and this allows the Moores to run an all-grass wintering system and lamb early from the end of July.

Ewes are set-stocked at lambing, but Peter and Reuben get them onto a pasture rotation, in mobs of 200-300 ewes and lambs, either just before or immediately after tailing.  They will typically carry out two or three pre-weaning drafts.

Being in a summer dry area, the family has established 30ha of drought tolerant lucerne and grows 20ha of Raphno brassica and chicory crops (direct drilled at a sowing rate of 7kg Raphno and 2kg of chicory) to finish lambs and grow out replacement ewe lambs over summer.

 Lambs are usually finished to 19kgCW, but the extremely dry conditions this year has meant that they are finishing to 16.8kgCW. They have also been selling some lambs as store which is not usually their policy.

All of their 800 hoggets are mated and dries, identified at scanning, are sold to a repeat buyer for breeding as two-tooths.

Over summer, water can be a challenge for the family. Well water is solar pumped to the top of a hill and gravity fed back over the farm and this is supplemented with water from the Dovedale community water scheme.

Initially set up to provide stock water for the district’s farmers, the Dovedale water scheme, which was once the Moores sole source of stock water, has now become a semi-urban scheme with significant costs associated with it.

Peter says the scheme was costing them $700 per 1000 litres per day and they were using up to 40,000 litres daily.

This necessitated the installation of their own water system and the cost of this was paid back within 12 months.

This season is on par with record dry seasons, and the family may be forced to cart water as well water levels fall.

Planting programme

The family is part of Moutere Catchment Group and funding sourced through the group has enabled them to carry out extensive riparian and native planting over the farm. Over the past four years they have planted over 30,000 plants and carried out 14-15kms of fencing. 

Peter says they are one of the few farms in the Group and they have benefited from the Shovel Ready funding that was available post-covid to augment the native plants that were already on their property.

B+LNZ’s Annual Meeting and Showcase is on Tuesday, 19 March starting at 9.30 am. For more information and to register go to the official B+LNZ Annual Meeting & Showcase 2024 webpage.