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Farmer profile: Jules Adams – an inquiring mind

Jules Adams has an “inquiring mind” so when most members of his farming discussion group decided to become involved in The Omega Lamb Project, he was keen to find out more.

Jules, who is now preparing for his first season as a finishing farmer for the project, farms 600 hectares just South of Lumsden in Northern Southland, with wife Carrie and two boys Milo {8} and Oscar {6}. The farm is run as mixed farming – mainly sheep but with some cropping, and deer and dairy grazing. He has one full-time employee, Steve Wilson.

“You hear a lot about farmers needing to ‘niche’ a product and I believe that is what the project is achieving,” says Jules. “Importantly, they have done it with both a strong story and good science.

“Often you find there is just the story without the substance. But this has real substance. There was a lot of discussion with Aimee Charteris and farm consultant Mark Everest over winter and it was firmed up in August that we would be involved. Amongst other things I had to see that a budget would work but the decision for me is more non-financial, it’s a new project which involves me with interesting intelligent people. The timing was perfect, to plan and get the chicory in. It was a good lead in, with no major stress.”

The fourth generation of his family to farm in the area, Jules grew up on the family farm before gaining a degree in accounting and finance.  After two years with a major accounting firm, and a year on OE mainly working on a farm in Scandinavia, Jules came back to the farm, in 1997, aged 26, keen to settle down, without any risk of feeling the grass is greener on the other side.

“My father had leased the farm out and the lease came up, he was going to lease it out again for three to five years, so I put my hand up…really high.”

Jules is putting 30 hectares over to chicory, with the first of the 2,000 lambs due to arrive in mid-December once the first crops are ready for grazing.

“The first 25 hectares went in mid-October, the remaining five hectares at the beginning of November. It wasn’t complicated, just like putting in grass. “

However, Jules says he recognises there is a learning curve ahead.

“The complexity is in understanding the most efficient finishing system, the technology, the weighing and how best to achieve the required outcomes, but there is good support around that. We had a meeting in Fairlie, with new and existing Headwaters farmers, on 6 November, to discuss those aspects.

“One surprise for me was that, traditionally, farmers try to fatten lambs as fast as they can. But with the Headwaters lambs, too fast and they don’t put on the intramuscular fat optimally. So that’s one fundamental change in mindset.”

Jules is aiming to put in a centre pivot irrigator next year. “It will provide good security over dry summers, particularly when you’re trying to fatten lambs to order – Northern Southland is traditionally an area where its farmers ‘stock down’ heading into summer. It’s essentially the only part of Southland that can get dry.

“If all goes well I will consider switching my sheep over to the Headwaters breed – because there are real synergies to having your own lambs going into the fattening system, particularly trying to utilise that high-quality, high-volume spring feed best, with options such as lambing earlier and bringing ewes with lambs at foot into the system. If I’m happy and Headwaters are happy, then I’ll look at doing that.”