Cam & Rachel McKelvie are the seventh generation to farm Pukemarama, an expansive farm on the lower end of New Zealand’s North Island. We interviewed them about their farm and their philosophy.
Could you tell us about the history of your farm?
Pukemarama Farm was one the first farms developed in this area for farming 150 years ago when our family first acquired it. Pukemarama started as a sheep and cattle breeding block and over the years has been improved with better pastures, fencing and systems so that it now finishes a large number of cattle and lambs. The homestead, woolshed and original farm buildings were built in about 1900 and are all still in use today.
How long has your family been on this land?
Our four children are the 8th generation of the Mckelvie Family to live and farm here since the 1860’s. [Editor’s Note: yeah, you read that correctly!]
What is rewarding about farming for you?
We take great pride in producing the finest stock we can, and in preserving and continually improving the land we are fortunate to live on. We enjoy the challenges thrown up as the seasons change and vary.
Could you describe the types of land found at Pukemarama?
Pukemarama is [5189 acres] consisting of [371 acres] of Pine tree Plantations, [3954 acres] of flat heavy sand country pasture and [865 acres] of light sand dunes. We are located about [3 miles] from the west Coast of the lower North Island of New Zealand.
What are some key elements of your farming philosophy?
To farm with integrity and sustainability to produce a wholesome product we are proud of.
To care for and act as guardians of this land and ensure that it stays the natural resource it is for future generations.
To maintain a secure and healthy workplace for both the people and the livestock we have here.
What are some of your goals for your farm?
We hope to create a secure and healthy environment in which to raise our family and to leave it in the best possible condition for future generations.
How many animals do you run? Why do you run those kinds of livestock?
At any one time on Pukemarama we will have around 15,000 sheep and 2000 steers on hand. Each year we aim to turn over about 30,000 lambs and 3500 cattle. We run 7000 Composite breeding ewes who produce the first 10,000 lambs and we then buy in the remaining 20,000 to finish each season.
The cattle we run are predominantly Angus steers with about 400 Angus Heifers. We find the balance of cattle to sheep work well to maintain pasture quality and so that we can supply beef and lamb year round.
How are your farm & methods unique?
Pukemarama uses a no tillage direct drilling system for all our cropping and regrassing to prevent soil erosion on our light sand country.
We enjoy the benefits of being a fairly moderate climate due to being close to the sea and subsequently we are able to finish a lot of cattle in our late winter and early spring (August, September & October) which is usually the highest demand period for New Zealand beef. We can also lamb our ewes very early and produce lamb for the Christmas markets.
We draw from generations of knowledge on the best pastures for our climate and the breeds that will thrive on Pukemarama. We have planted pine plantations on our lighter soil to provide shelter and to help create the best possible environment to raise naturally healthy grass fed animals.
What’s your favorite cut of the meat you raise? How do you like it prepared?
We enjoy a wide range of beef and lamb cuts however our favorite would have to be a generous steak cut from the cube roll [whole boneless ribeye], seasoned and BBQ’d to medium rare and enjoyed with friends.
Why do you work with Silver Fern Farms?
We have built up a longstanding relationship with Silver Fern farms and they suit our business well. We like the programs they are running such as the ‘Reserve’ the ‘Angus‘ and the ‘EQ’ [Eating Quality Grading System] that reward farmers who are specializing in consistently producing a top end product year round
How does it make you feel to know that families & chefs in America are enjoying your meat?
It’s great to hear that the end product from our farm is being enjoyed and appreciated around the world.
If you could say one thing to them, what would it be?
We hope that they continue to enjoy our New Zealand raised grass fed beef and we thank them for supporting us.