Since 1905, the Hickman family have farmed a 168-ha parcel of land known as Taimate on State Highway 1 just outside of Blenheim.
Renowned for producing high quality Angus cattle stud stock and premium Sauvignon Blanc grapes, a chance meeting with well-known thoroughbred enthusiast, and driving force behind the establishment of the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame, the late-Chris Luoni, saw brothers John, Paul, and David and the ‘Taimate’ brand expand into thoroughbred breeding.
In 2018, Taimate made the first entry in their equine ledger after acquiring in-foal broodmare Mistaar. Since then, the brothers have carefully explored as many aspects of the industry as they could on a small budget to learn and gain the necessary experience to gradually become more commercial.
“We started out in 2018 with a plan to get involved in as many aspects of the industry as we could in a small way, on a shoestring budget, to learn and gain experience,” David Hickman said. “Since then, we’ve bought another mare, continued breeding, syndicated to race, created a brand and racing silks, bought at yearling sales, sold at the yearling sales, sold online, invested in young stock for trading and invested in stallion shares.
“It’s been a rollercoaster journey with some initial tough times, but this year in particular has seen plenty of success.
“All combined, it has given us a huge boost of confidence that we have what it takes to be successful thoroughbred breeders.”
Expanding into thoroughbred breeding has not been without its challenges for the brothers. Their location means they have limited access to expert resources such as equine vets and farriers, and a lack of proximity to other studs creates logistical challenges. However, there are many Marlborough locals with fantastic horsemenship skills and the Taimate Angus staff are all wonderfully skilled horse people which makes these challenges manageable while the scale of the business is small.
“We don’t have any official advisors but every time we’ve reached out to others in the industry for advice or to visit and see how they do things, we have had a fantastic response,” Hickman said. “One of the most enjoyable aspects of getting involved in the thoroughbred industry has been just how good the people are.”
As Taimate Equine expands year on year, John, Paul and David will strategically plan and invest accordingly to fulfil their long-term goal of becoming a highly successful boutique breeding operation that produces champion athletes.
Recent investment in significant local land purchases to increase their land to over 1500-ha has enabled all three Taimate businesses to co-exist. While one third of the operation may seem significantly different to the others, all three are very complimentary of each other.
“The vineyards complement the dry stock operations and provide great business diversification,” Hickman continued. “Significant local land purchases in the last year have relieved the competition between the business units for the best land. Ultimately, we all get on well while having our individual roles which just seems to work.”
Taimate is in one of the driest regions of New Zealand. Prone to drought, it is a tough place to farm consistently. The construction of on-farm dams capturing excess winter river flow allowed diversification into Sauvignon Blanc grape production which has seen Taimate as a business thrive.
That same harsh climate producing outstanding Angus cattle and world class Sauvignon Blanc is also perfect for producing high quality, tough equine athletes. The three units fit the land, the climate and their passions and according to David, “It just makes sense”!
While Taimate isn’t officially open to the public, those keen to visit are welcome to make contact at https://www.taimateangus.co.nz/contact.html.
You can also watch Taimate on Hyundai Country-Calendar airing Sunday May 14th.
An estimated crowd of 350+ travelling from all parts had the enlarged shed heaving. The support of fellow stud breeders got the sale off to a flier and we are very humbled that 6 stud programs chose to get their next sire from Taimate.
Thank you all again so very much, all the best for the season ahead and we look forward to following up as the bulls settle in to their new homes.
So bloody nice to have had a great last 3-4 weeks. Wet and warm, the feed is starting to take off! Bulls certainly have enjoyed the last 2 weeks more than the same paddocks back at the end of March.
Rocking along now doing what they’re bred to do, survive the shit times and explode when the opportunity arises. This is what we call commercial farming. No irrigation, genuine dry land environment.
Burtergill South Devons have arrived and are thoroughly enjoying their first green grass since November, looking bloody fantastic too!!
Less than 2 weeks til sale. Let's hope for more good weather.
By Paul Hickman. May 2021.
It wouldn’t be hard to dwell on the negatives of the past 12 months. Dry, dry, dry and constant dry (and a fair bit of bloody wind too). Yes, for many of us the past 18 months has been a real grind. But, I believe when we take a step back and really look at things, yip things have been bloody tough, but in reality, it could’ve been so much worse. With every restaurant in the world closed, we could’ve had a complete disaster for red meat consumption, but prices remained pretty good. And now because of global lockdowns the world has learnt to cook from home, that meaning that when all the world’s restaurants do open up again demand for our beautiful red meat will be through the roof.
The recently released contracts for winter lamb at $8 are a great indication of what is to come. Talk of lamb being much higher again late Winter/early Spring and beef following suit is growing louder. Record low levels of beef killed across the globe- meaning inventories are low, should give great confidence about beef in the very near term and going forward for some time. The more you deeply analyse it, the outlook for red meat is extremely positive. Yip, we’ve got these clowns in office for now making things a bit tougher, but their time will come, we as farmers have always been here and always will be, lets push through this tough time, the positive future is almost here and it’s going to be very bright indeed!
We’ve never had a team of bulls go through such a prolonged tough run as this. After weaning well, things went pear shaped pretty quickly. Many of these bulls have been out grazing for the best part of the last 12 months, after a disastrous Autumn last year where virtually all our Winter crops failed, a poor Spring followed by another shit Autumn, these boys have had it average at best. It is remarkable how well they look and the condition they are in. We are the only genuine 100% dry land herd selling a number of bulls. We don’t live anywhere near dairy farms, and there are no sprinklers. Genuine cattle, bred and run on genuine DRY LAND.
Our new sire in the line up this year is Taimate L38. L38 was bred the same year as Lazarus and sold to Piko-Burn Stud, where he bred an outstanding line up of sons last year. Unfortunately he dropped dead suddenly as a 3yo and we were the only ones to get any semen. When I saw L38 as a 3yo I rated him better than Laz. His consistency of breeding is superb, genuine quality. We have some very special embryo calves weaned this year that will be for sale next year. L38 is one hell of a bull.
All those that have been through looking at the bulls already have remarked how good they are, and when they look around and see what they’re running on, people are genuinely impressed with the bulls and their do-ability and most of all temperament. Complete strangers standing out on a block and bulls wandering up to them as if they were pets. At the recent Marlborough High Country Calf Sale there was much talk about just how quiet the yarding of nearly 2000 calves were compared to years ago. I take great pride in the fact that the vast majority of the calves were sired by Taimate bulls. Docility I firmly believe is the most important trait. “Without a good temperament, the animal is worthless” How this rings true. It doesn’t matter how good they look or how amazing their EBV’s are, if they’re toey, they’re not worth jack!!
We are well known at Taimate for our hospitality. Last year after the sale I challenged all those in attendance to “drink the place dry”, which you certainly did, 150 dozen polished off by 10pm! Luckily we had plenty of spirits on hand. This year’s order has increased, so do come along and enjoy our hospitality. You don’t have to be purchasing to come along, it is a community event. In these tough times the more we can all get together and socialise, the better. ALL Welcome, please come along, it’ll be great to catch up.
Cows having done what they’re supposed to do. Another block tidied up, onto the next.
Here’s hoping for some forecast rain this week and we get some quality come away.
We feel fortunate at Taimate to have trough water in most blocks as many throughout our district don’t and they’re now struggling for any kind of stock water. Come on a downpour!!
Dam getting lower but with harvesting today not much more water needed for the grapes now.
New block for this mob of cows.
Out taking photos with the help of the kids, can’t get better temperament than these fellas.
We’d love to post some photos/videos of bulls on lush green grass but that isn’t happening this year! Here’s what the Taimate boys are on. Baleage twice a week on native hill country.
Genuine dry land cattle.