Consistency and simplicity are two things Southland farmers Mike and Kirsty Bodle love about being part of the First Light Wagyu programme.
Mike and Kirsty moved to Southland from Waikato in 2006 and now have a 450-cow dairy farm at Hokonui as well as breeding and rearing (to store) 350 First Light Wagyu cattle. On the dry stock side, they’d been looking for something to spread risk but they were also for something with X factor. First Light offered a guaranteed price contract 12 months out, giving them solid budgets on both sides of the business, Mike says.
“First Light also had the point of difference with the marbling, GM free and antibiotic free, and their markets.”
The Bodles aim to achieve growth rates of 0.7kg a day to store. Weaner calves are wintered in Hawea and then sold to a finisher at 20 months so the farm doesn’t have to carry them through a Southland winter. The couple has adopted a low intensity farming model, dropping the stocking rate to lessen their environmental footprint and improve production per animal.
“They’re happier animals and we have happier staff too with the right stocking rate,” Kirsty says.
The Bodles have recently returned from a trip to the United States with First Light Wagyu. Mike says the Americans are aware of the marbling, but find it has a much stronger flavour than the grain-fed beef they’re used to. “They were amazed the only seasoning we added was salt.”
Mike and Kirsty know they are custodians of their land and treat it accordingly. They’re also proud of it and love visitors coming to stay in their B&B cottage. “They love the green grass and walking up the lane and the stock coming up to them. If they can touch an animal, that’s amazing to them,” Kirsty says.
The couple have loved their time in Southland. They’ve had a long involvement with the Central Southland Swimming Club and also established the Southland Board Riders Club (surfing) in Riverton, where they have a crib for valuable time off farm.
Their two daughters have grown up working on the farm and are still an integral part of the family business.
“We wouldn’t have made it without the girls and that’s what family farming is all about.”
There are a few extras in the family now… a Jersey cow known as Poppie, a premature white-face cow known as Lucky and Miss Wagyu, #319, one of the original hand-reared Wagyu calves.
“She has a cheeky nature and walks around like she’s a supermodel,” Kirsty says, laughing.
“She’s our mascot now. She’ll never go.”