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Farming with Nature: Horses for Mustering

On the western shores of Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu, Kate Cocks runs 29,000 merino sheep on 40,000 hectares.

The property includes 14 kilometres of lakefront and then runs 30 kilometres inland through three ranges of mountains. “The way we work, we’re trying to really work with nature rather than overcoming it,” Kate says.

Horse Mustering at Mt Nicholas

“This sort of mountain environment is really well suited to Merinos because they love roaming over large tracts of land and having lots of space and wide open places.” Around 86% of the station remains in its indigenous state, covered in native pasture.

The sheep move into the high-country over summer, giving the lower pasture time to re-grow. Each spring, before the snow comes, they bring the sheep down to graze the lower pastures over winter.

This annual “muster” is done over about 10 days. “All of our stock work is either done on horses or on foot. We haven’t got any motorbikes on the property at all,” Kate says. “It’s been a conscious choice to use horses rather than motorbikes.”

One reason is the family wanted to avoid the obvious scars on the landscape that motorbike tracks leave behind.

Dogs and Horses

“Horses are fantastic. Dogs can follow them at a nice, comfortable speed, as opposed to chasing after a motorbike - and you don’t need to fill them up with fuel. You don’t even really need to look where you’re going.

You can be looking around at what the stock’s doing and your horse drives itself.”


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