29 May 2020

Laura's Dairy grows into Beck's Beef

From Country Life, 9:34 pm on 29 May 2020
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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Charteris Bay farmer Laura Beck hung up the milking cups in the dairy shed in 2018 and now she is raising cattle on 22 hectares of farmland she leases from the Orton Bradley Park Trust on Banks Peninsula.

Laura's Dairy was producing fresh, raw milk but after strict regulations around the sale and distribution of raw milk were introduced in 2015, Laura says the venture ended up being uneconomic.

"I lost 50 percent of my income ... our compliance costs went up and I got really tired so I stopped" she says.

Now she has a small herd of happy beef cattle who all have names and are getting used to human contact as a public walkway passes through the farm.

For two years they graze and gaze across the scenic bay, but when they need to be butchered it's the worst day on the farm for Laura. She prefers to use a home-kill service rather than sending animals to the freezing works.

"It's so important for me to honour and respect them and to reduce stress in their life and when you can kill them on the paddock, they haven't had to hang out for a day and then go to the abattoir."

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

When an animal is killed Laura uses as much of the carcass as possible and what is left is buried on the farm. A memorial tree is planted at the site. Planting trees is also a way of mitigating the build-up of methane they produced when they were alive.

Revenue from the beef cattle covers the costs of running the farm while Laura develops a part of the land for a community-focused food project which she hopes to get up and running by the end of the year.

"I love the idea of a village farm where we grow food for ourselves and I love the social and cultural structures that it could enable," she says.