Hard yards pay off

Hard work, opportunities taken and a little bit of luck have seen a Taranaki couple achieve their goal of farm ownership while putting a 100-year old family land jigsaw back together.

 

Clint Bellamy left school the day he turned 15 and began a journey that would see him shear in woolsheds all over the world before returning home to Taranaki to farm. The pattern was similar to his father and grandfather before him. This history has encouraged Clint and his family to act today, to secure their future.

The Bellamy family can be linked to the Stratford area from 1914 when Clint's great-great grandfather, William Bellamy first arrived in the district and bought the property that Clint's Dad, Wally is now on.

William Bellamy sold and bought a number of farms, however there was no particular property  hat stayed within the family.

He had 12 children, with first wife Hetty Maria (who died during the birth of their sixth child  around 1925) then his second wife, Georgina.

One of William's sons, Sam (Clint's grandfather) started his journey to farm ownership by  hearing. In 1938 Sam and his wife Dolly bought 160ha in Strathmore, 30 minutes inland from  Stratford on the Forgotten World Highway. They kept adding to it, resulting in a 323ha (800 acre) property known as Valley View.

Sam and Dolly's son Wally (Clint's father) also went shearing and contract fencing for about 15 years. In 1970, he and his wife Nancy bought back the property that had originally lured William Bellamy to the Makahu community, another 5 minutes inland from Strathmore.

Clint says the farm, also around 323ha, is next door to Valley View and while it had originally been William Bellamy's holding there were two other owners, unrelated to the Bellamy family, in between William Bellamy owning it and Wally Bellamy's purchase.

"Back in the day the Bellamy family milled forestry and had properties in Taranaki – even before 1914 – but it was William who started the ball rolling in our branch of the family by moving to the rural community of Makahu," Clint says. T

he father-and-son team of Sam and Wally farmed separately but next door to each other for around 10 years. Clint laughs that his grandfather Sam was a "bit of a character" who enjoyed a good western and named Wally's farm Ponderosa – after the 1970s hit television show, 'Bonanza'. In 1977, after Sam Bellamy retired, Clint's Uncle Les bought the block.

 

From the shearing board to capital gain

By the age of 19 Clint was contract shearing, including working overseas, and in his early twenties was running three shearing gangs. It was during the 1980s and the Labour Government's radical social and economic reforms, dubbed 'Rogernomics' after Finance Minister Roger Douglas.

"Farmers couldn't afford fencing or scrubcutting so through shearing I was able to head overseas and get work."

In the early '90s Clint met his wife, Phillippa – affectionately known as 'Red' – while he was shearing in Central Otago and she was woolhandling.

The couple decided it was time to settle down and their link with the Bellamy family land began when they bought a 6.5ha block and house from Clint's family, which was originally part of his grandfather's block.

As well as shearing Clint set up a local scanning run, which he still operates, and a dipping run which he sold around 8 years ago. The revenue streams allowed Clint and Phillippa to purchase a nearby 80ha rough block in Makahu. "The banks didn't look at us that favourably but we had a good relationship with them, and had cash flow because of the shearing, scanning and dipping businesses, so we were able to buy the property."

Opportunities to lease further blocks were taken and "between what we owned and what we leased we started building our capital," he says.

"The timing was right; we had sold stock on high markets and bees and forestry pushed the price up so we made a good capital gain on the block we bought, farmed and later sold."

Last year, grandfather Sam's block came on the market. Clint and Phillipa's tender was successful and the couple purchased 242ha of the farm from Les Bellamy, with 80ha having been sold off.

"We were thrilled to have the opportunity to keep the land in the family."

 

Ties to land run deep

Wally turns 79 this month and they now farm side by side on the land where he was born, working the farms together.

"Dad is still very active on the farm and is involved in all the regular events like mustering, shearing, docking, scanning and weaning. He has just bought a new bulldozer and can't wait to get started on the Valley View tracks.

"Mum doesn't miss anything either and is always there with a bag full of food."

Clint admits it is hard to believe that they started with 6.5ha and now farm 566ha. The two farms have a 40ha bush block which joins them. The remainder of the blocks comprise around 40ha of rolling country and the rest, hill country.

Clint says his side-by-side gets over most it with a team of dogs doing the leg work. He still gets on a handpiece now and then and while he loves it, says his body aches a bit now.

Phillippa is active on the farm as well as keeping the administration side of the business running.

Over the two properties they run 1,150 Romney ewes which Clint describes as "easy-care" sheep which suit the land; all the lambs are fattened.

On the cattle front, Angus cows are run on one block and on the other, Angus Friesian cows over a short horn bull, and now a Canadian Speckle Park over that progeny. The latter is a trial run to see if they can get a better yield.

This year they have 100 cows to calve and between Clint and Wally, have another 250 trading cattle.

Clint usually takes the cattle through but this year due to COVID-19, they have sold off 25 weaners to provide cashflow.

 

Hard work for great reward

The couple describe their farming style as reasonably traditional, saying they "try to do things as best we can."

"It's ok to have a nibble at other opportunities but I believe the key is to stick to the core rules of farming and you will do alright.

"In New Zealand today, we have way less ewes than we used to, yet we are still producing more lambs. I shore through the skinny sheep scheme and we have come a long way – we now know it is essential to feed the ewes well so they will produce."

Another 242ha hill country block the couple leases (having been owned by other Bellamys, Rowan and his uncle George before that) is registered for carbon credits so only has a couple of hundred acres of effective grazing.

"It is certainly a great feeling to see the Bellamy initials carved on the walls of the woolshed and know that I am carrying on the family farming legacy," Clint reflects.

"We have always just battled away and done our own thing. We used to scan over 100,000 sheep a year and dip 280,000 sheep. Plus, we were running the three shearing gangs of nine shearers plus pressers and wool handlers – we had a big clientele.

"I loved it, every time the phone rang it was a job, it was great. I was constantly dealing with farmers – we would be shearing across three or four farms and dipping at another five or six, it was full on but there was never a dull moment."

The Bellamys never gave up, working 7 days a week.

"I used to watch friends who were going farming and I knew I couldn't, so I just had to keep going and work harder to achieve what I wanted."

 

Shear support

Clint has friends all over the world from shearing in England, America, Canada, Scotland, Australia and Italy. "I liked shearing sheep, we were paid well, had good food, and I enjoyed the travelling and made friends for life. I know so many people in New Zealand it is quite unreal."

"Shearing is addictive. You are racing against your mate all day, and when you finish it doesn't matter who shore more sheep, it's just the competition that keeps you going and you are still mates at the end of the day."

A recent highlight for the Bellamys was supporting Megan Whitehead during her successful four stand women's shearing record attempt.

"When I first started shearing I teamed up with Megan's Dad, Quintin and also shore with Megan's Mum, Tina. I shore all over the world with them, so it was great to be involved withtheir daughter's record attempt."

"It was an awesome experience working with Quintin again, washing sheep, crutching, filling up pens."

"Megan shore 608 lambs in 9 hours, about 53.3 seconds a lamb caught, shorn and dispatched! Hopefully she will have a crack at an individual record later in the year," he says.

 

Two for the future

The Bellamys are very future focused and hope their sons will both return to the farm.

Oldest son Brent is 25 and has followed Clint's shearing lifestyle, working in New Zealand and Australia.

"Sean is 22 and is more into the machinery and contracting side but also enjoys cattle."

"The goal is to have both boys back on the farm so I can take it easier; I'm starting to wear out a bit!" Clint says.

"The plan is for Brent to buy the house we are in, the same one we bought all those years ago, and we will build on the new block."

The Bellamys are very much about their community with Clint a former President of the Taranaki Shears and always keen to help out at the local dog trials, motorbike rides and school fundraisers.

 

Keeping informed

"I think a lot of success has to do with making the right decisions. In times like COVID-19 some people will make money, others won't," Clint says.

"Before the lock down I was following the world news and did a lot of preparation early in March because I was aware of what was going on and it was inevitable that we would have to close up the country. We had a busy March. We shore the ewes and did a lot of preparation but I'm glad we did."

"Despite the difficult times we have experienced as a result of COVID-19, people still have to eat, and we are food producers, so hopefully we come out of this alright."

Clint says he always wanted to go farming and to make that happen he had to "get in" and work hard.

"It hasn't always been easy but I have enjoyed it and if I had my time again, I would still go shearing. It's in my blood."