Glen Eden Farms
A glimpse of First Light Wagyu product in a San Francisco supermarket led to Wairarapa farmers Mark and Susannah Guscott joining the First Light family in 2016.
They were there with Atkins Ranch, which supplies New Zealand lamb to the premium US market; Mark’s father was a founding member and Mark is on the board of its farmer group.
“First Light were doing a cooking demo the same way Atkins Ranch do. I had heard of First Light but didn’t know much about Wagyu. Roll on a few years… we sold our first crop of calves as weaners and our second crop will go to processing later in 2020.”
Mark and Susannah have been sheep, beef and arable farmers on 800ha near Martinborough for 16 years. They have three children – Olivia, Annabelle, and Ben.
The farm, Glen Eden, has 180ha of cash cropping, lambs 1500 to 1800 ewes and trades about 10,000 lambs to Atkins Ranch each year. One hundred and thirty Angus beef cows are put to Wagyu bulls.
Mark says the First Light Wagyu was worth more money to the farm and he liked the fact the business was market driven. He says the animals themselves were different to what he was used to, but not too different.
“The growth rates are similar to Angus steers. Like with any change or doing something for the first time, you adjust your management. I was keen to have a go at carrying them through summer and into their second winter; they need to be prioritised and done well. We’ve made the adjustments and they’re going well. We don’t have huge numbers so they’re fed grass only, with some red clover baleage when needed.”
He says walking around the Wagyu in the yards and the paddocks has quietened them and they’re easily shifted and good to work with.
The farm has 20ha of native bush in a QEII National Trust covenant, 3ha of retired wetlands (with more on the plans) and tourism accommodation on a hill overlooking the farm.
Diversification appeals to the couple.
“It is more complex, but everything works together in a big jigsaw puzzle,” Mark says.