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.