Quiet, easy-to-handle cattle and surety of price – top reasons why South Canterbury farmers Evan and Clare Chapman love their association with First Light.
In October 2019, the Chapmans marked a century of farming on the rolling downs of Rockburn, near Geraldine – a true milestone. It was also a chance to celebrate Evan and Clare taking full ownership of the 540ha property after farming in partnership with Evan’s parents, Angus and Liz, since 2003. Evan and Angus manage the farm day-to-day, and Clare does the books. Their three daughters, Olivia, Ella and Milly, are the fifth generation to live there.
Rockburn runs 2800 composite breeding ewes, finishes 100 bulls and takes 100 First Light Wagyu calves through to finishing.
“We had breeding cows here for a long time, but it was too hard to take them through the dry summers with calves at foot, so we went to trading steers and heifers, but we were at the mercy of the schedule and the store price,” says Evan. “We didn’t know what the purchase price was going to be and we didn’t know what the sale price was going to be. We pay a premium price for the Wagyu calves, which makes you flinch a bit, but it’s worth it at the other end when the price you get for them at 24-months is so much higher again.”
In winter, the R1s are fed fodder beet and silage and the R2s have fodder beet and meadow hay; pretty much what they were doing anyway, Evan says.
“At night I was fencing off the ring feeders so they had to eat more fodder beet if they were hungry.”
He says the animals are quiet and good to handle.
‘They’re placid, a lot easier than the bulls to handle and easy to work in the paddock and in the yards. Last year the kids were feeding them fodder beet through the fence. There are a few friendly ones you can give a good scratch on the head.”
Evan says the people are great to deal with as well.
“They have hub meetings that keep us informed of what’s going on in the company and any new initiatives coming through. They’re always doing more research to lift the marble score and sharing ideas from other farmers in the supply group to improve what we’re doing.”
Rockburn Farming picked up the prize for First Light Wagyu Finisher of the Year in 2019. Evan says he’s glad he “stumbled across” First Light when he did. “Wagyu cattle are great to work with. You have to be prepared to give them preferential treatment but the benefit of this is a contract with a premium price. We have found First Light a great company to supply to.”