17 Jul 2015

Clayton Station

From Country Life, 9:30 pm on 17 July 2015

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There is no such thing as a dull day for Hamish Orbell at Clayton Station; a diverse, high county farming operation near Fox Peak ski field at the head of the Fairlie basin.

Whether he's moving ewes off the snow covered hills or getting red deer stags ready for velveting , Hamish is passionate about farming the land that's been in the Orbell family for more than 50 years.

Along with sheep, deer and cattle, the station supports cash crops of barley, oats and wheat, and a small amount of dairy grazing.

The deer velvet that comes off Hamish's stags goes into the lucrative Asian market. The stags produce between 5 and 6 kilos per year and the antlers are sold by PGG Wrightson. New Zealand produces about 450 tons of velvet antler annually.

"It is one of the fastest growing tissues known to man. It can, in a perfect day, grow at an inch a day so in 70 odd days from when they drop their buttons we're cutting them."

The Romney Texel cross sheep at Clayton Station are dual purpose but Hamish's focus is firmly on meat production. In the 1970's and 80's half of their income used to come from wool but nowadays the wool clip barely covers the cost of shearing.

"The merino boys have captured a brilliant market with Icebreaker with merino wool. It's a pity that we can't use crossbred wool in a similar sort of way for something else, and get paid what I believe is essentially what it's worth".

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Arthur and Hamish Orbell in front of a herd of velvet stags. (Below) A view from a hilltop at Clayton Station.