Finding the Best Value!

Harsh Conditions

In Marlborough, on 75 hectares of flat to rolling country you’ll find a family run business with a difference. The challenges and opportunities the local environment presents has seen the development of a business with diversity not often seen on a New Zealand farm.

Ross Ward, his wife Helen and daughter Janelle, have been living on the farm for 10 years. Sheep, cattle, horses and grapes can all be found on the site, which provides plenty of day to day variety for the family run operation. Helen was brought up on farms, whereas Ross started out truck driving, something he still does on the odd occasion, before moving into the farming game. Ross and Helen started farming together when they got married.


Sheep, cattle and horses

When it comes to sheep, Corriedales are the family’s breed of choice. They are renowned for being the breed that best thrives in the area and roughly 80% of sheep farms in the region are running Corriedale sheep. They are a particularly hardy breed and are well suited to the dry, hot climate of the area.

The dry farming conditions allow Ross to produce early lambs, bringing them up to their optimum weight earlier. This means the farm can gain a premium from supplying lambs to the Alliance group in Nelson for their export market, where lamb is required overseas prior to Christmas.

The last 12 months have been challenging for their sheep operation due to drought – the winter was very dry and Ross was pushed for feed on the farm. This saw what Ross describes as an “average” lambing season with an overall lambing percentage of 142% of lambs born to ewes mated. Running alongside the Corriedale sheep are Angus-Hereford cross cattle, a breed also well suited to the dry, hot climate. In total, there are 450 sheep and beef stock units on the farm.


With 13 horses currently on the farm, they are a frequent sight when driving around the property. Janelle is a professional dressage rider/trainer and with the help of sponsors, has competed and trained internationally. Warmblood dressage horses are bred by Janelle and Helen, from a selected band of imported mares which are bred to stallions based in Germany. This produces purpose bred dressage horses previously not available to New Zealand riders and the value of these foals and horses means the Goldpine sheds/stables are vital to provide shelter from the changeable coastal weather.


Diversification into grapes

You would think that sheep, cattle and horses would keep the family of three busy, without the 15 hectares of vineyard added into the mix. Ross is contract growing Sauvignon Blanc grapes – the grape Marlborough is renowned for and which is again well suited to the hot dry conditions. Prior to planting his first grapevine, Ross had to undertake the construction of a substantial dam for the supply of water to the vineyard. Ross had little knowledge on what was required to build the $400,000 dam, so employed the skills of local contractors to ensure the project ran smoothly and the dam was constructed correctly. The dam is 14m at the deepest point and is positioned at the bottom of a valley which keeps the dam topped up. Within the vineyard Ross has used Goldpine’s high density high strength posts.

“I have driven thousands of posts and strainers and think I have broken only about 10”, Ross says, “and most of these have been driven into hard rocky ground that has to be spiked. You need a strong durable post for these conditions and that’s why I only use Goldpine’s product”.


Sheds, sheds and more sheds

With the amount of variety on the farm, it’s no surprise to find that Ross has four farm buildings on the property, all Strongbuilt® Sheds. The sheds are used for hay storage, stables for the horses, workshops and feed rooms. Ross built their first shed in 2005 and has continued to add more over time The property is currently home to 13 horses as they were needed. Why has he chosen Strongbuilt® Sheds? “For their strength.”, states Ross, “We get some pretty strong winds here and the Strongbuilt Sheds stand up to them. They are built with high quality materials and have extra bracing which gives me peace of mind even in the strongest winds.

Always on call

As if he hasn’t got his hands full on the farm, Ross has also been a member of the Ward Volunteer Fire Brigade for the past thirteen years, as his way of giving back to the community. It is a relatively quiet fire station so the volunteering does not get in the way with too many farm activities. Even on the farm, Ross has to drop everything and go when he gets a call which Ross runs Angus-Hereford cross cattle which are suited to the conditions is important in a rural based fire brigade, as other volunteers may not have the same ability to respond when needed. They don’t get too many fire call-outs, because, just as Ross understands the conditions he is farming in and how he has chosen the stock he runs, the fruit he grows, the product he uses, everyone in the area is fully aware of the fire risk that the dry, hot climate produces.


Right across New Zealand our farmers and fruit growers face some extreme conditions that bring additional challenges. Part of running a successful business is dealing with challenges and Ross Ward is proof, by adapting to and taking advantage of your conditions, you can develop a pretty special and successful operation.

See our Farm Buildings Click here for more Best Value stories Date posted: July 21st, 2016