Great Farming Stories

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Michael Bashford - NIAGARA DOWNS LTD

15 February 2019

Michael Bashford - NIAGARA DOWNS LTD

Michael Bashford is a farmer with conscience and credibility. He lives by the motto “look after the sheep, and they will look after you”.

Bashford is committed to ensuring the welfare of his animals in a way that is simple, effective and efficient, and the judges were rightfully impressed by what has been created on his 528ha sheep and beef farm.

Eastern Southland is an area that holds a lot of history for Michael, and his extended family, with the property being the original site for the Progress Valley Sawmill.

Michael became a silent partner of the property in 1984, invested in it in 1992, and took the helm in 2003 with the establishment of Niagara Downs Ltd. He has since enjoyed a long and varied journey and his experiences and efforts have culminated in some stunning results, particularly with the farm’s flora and fauna. 
A 51.7ha native bush block is about to mark its 30th anniversary in a QEII covenant - an achievement that impressed the judges. They were also excited by the role of the family homestead’s garden, which represents the beginning of a beautiful regeneration cycle. Dedicated to growing natives, cuttings are taken from this purposeful place of life and used for new areas of development.
Looking after the land and water, and improving the farm, are clearly core values for Michael, and central to the decisions made about land use or future development. Similarly, all other elements behind the farm gate that fall under Michael’s management - cost structures, productivity, compliance and stock performance - continue to go from strength-to-strength under his watchful and educated eye. 

On the production front, cattle numbers were high during land development years, but today sheep are the dominant stock type farmed with 2500 ewes - predominantly Romney, 620 hoggets, 30 rams and 22 beef steers. A passion for genetics, as well as his stock, has seen Michael enjoying the opportunity to improve stock performance over the last few decades.

As a steward of the land, with his heart in today and his eyes on tomorrow, Michael is emphatic that he is only a guardian of what he has played a fundamental hand in creating. He is determined to imbue the business with all of the hallmarks of a great operation so that the next generation can take the helm and help it to fulfil its potential.  

Of his experience entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards Michael says, “The 30th anniversary is coming up for our farm land being committed to a QEII covenant, and I have since committed more to covenants - 20% of our farm is in covenants. I certainly loved sharing the story of our development with the judging group. It’s a lovely area and pretty special.”  

Awards Won

Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award