For David and Pam Nind, winning the 2021 Plate to Pasture Lower South Island Award for their venison was more than just a proud highlight of the year. It was the recognition of decades of hard work, having started from scratch to now running a successful beef, venison and sheep farm in northern Southland. David and Pam purchased their first farm in 1984 and have since grown their family farming business, East Dome Farms Ltd, to three properties, becoming one of Silver Fern Farms’ largest suppliers of venison in New Zealand. “We started out 30-odd years ago,” recalls David. “Both Pam and I came from town, so we’ve had to build up our business from basically nothing. We’ve done a lot of development over the years and just driving through the farms today, we’ve got great pride in the work we’ve done with our stock and environment.”
Across their 1,400 hectares, the Nind family breed and finish 17,000 deer, sheep and cattle, supplying to Silver Fern Farms’ Angus, 100% Angus, Cervena Venison, and 100% Prime Beef Programmes. Being involved in these programmes means they are meeting strict regulations around animal care and farming practices to ensure the highest quality meat.
ONE IN, ALL IN
It’s very much a family operation on the farm, with their daughter Rachael and her husband Brendan, and son Aaron and his partner Olivia, all involved in the business. Brendan manages one of the properties, with Rachael involved in the financial management, while Aaron manages another property, working alongside Olivia. There’s a new family member, Rachael and Brendan’s six-month old Leo, though he’s yet to take up a role on the farm. “He’s not really pulling his weight at the moment,” jokes David. “He’s more of a distraction to the workforce than an asset.”
While Christmas Day may be a flurry of activity for many families, for the Ninds, it’s a time to wind down and reflect on everything they have accomplished over the year. “Christmas Day is usually that mark in the sand to get all those jobs done. It’s a big relief when it’s arrived,” says Pam, who tends to takes charge in the kitchen. Of course, Silver Fern Farms premium cuts of meat feature prominently, including a fragrant Thai salad made with Silver Fern Farms Venison Steaks. David says over his decades of farming, he’s seen the interest in venison grow significantly. “We’ve seen it change from restaurants in Europe using those top Cervena Venison cuts, to a lot more people in New Zealand eating it and becoming more widely available. It’s an amazing animal and product. It’s easy to cook and fits with people’s health values and lifestyles.”
The landscape across the three farming properties – situated between Queenstown and Te Anau – ranges from expansive flats and pockets of forestry to beautiful hill country. The Ninds also lease the farm at Remarkables Station, a 850-hectare property at the base of the Remarkables Ranges which has recently been gifted to the QEII National Trust. Plans are underway to develop an integrated land use of pastoral farming, conservation, landscape protection and community recreation. “There’s a big environmental push there and we’re working out plans with the QEII Trust at the moment,” says David. Raising different animals across multiple properties takes a lot of care and management and the Nind family have strengthened their farming practices over the years, with a focus on animal welfare. “You’ve got to look after your animals, that’s the crux of the whole business,” says David. Adequate shelter and water is set up on all the paddocks, and the family has a good relationship with the local vets, who visit every year to check on the animals and consult on care.
Technology has been one of the biggest developments in the Ninds’ three decades of farming, helping them uphold the high standard for which Silver Fern Farms suppliers are known. Day-to-day management is made more efficient through software that they can access from the paddock, letting them record updates and completed tasks, while also tracking animal weights and growth rates. David agrees he’s embraced the modern developments that accompany farming these days. “It’s the thing of the future and you’ve got to adapt your technology to do it.”
A FRUITFUL PARTNERSHIP
A keen interest in the consumer is what has always set Silver Fern Farmers apart and the Nind family have cultivated outstanding relationships with customers. Their partnership with Silver Fern Farms goes back 20 years and during that time, they’ve hosted many overseas customers – including team members from Marx Foods and Shanghai Maling – showing them around their properties to give them a deeper insight into their farming story and process that goes into creating a Silver Fern Farms product. “It’s great to hear what interests them in the market, what they want and don’t want,” says David. “We’re very much customer focused. That’s why we’re with Silver Fern Farms, because they look for that added customer value.”
Key to their strong Silver Fern Farms partnership is their relationship with their Silver Fern Farms representative, Barry Brown, whom they consider a part of the family. “We’ve built a great relationship over the years. When Rachael and Brendan got married a few years ago, Barry was one of the first people on the invite list,” says David. “The Silver Fern Farms team are always great at communication. If we voice our opinion, they listen and are very approachable. That’s one of the things we really love about working with Silver Fern Farms.”
Brown agrees: “Their loyalty to Silver Fern Farms is right up there. Over the years I’ve seen the kids grow up and take over. Aaron’s taken ownership of finishing the deer and for a young guy, his management skills in terms of grazing and finishing are very impressive.” In achieving such a high-quality venison product, it is vital to choose the right breeds with high-performing genetics, something the Ninds excel at. “They’ve got an excellent breeding programme and finishing programme. They’re very proactive with the stags they buy and picking the right ones to suit,” says Brown.
As to the future, David and Pam are working on a succession plan for their children to take over the family farm in the next decade. David says he feels confident about handing over his legacy to the next generation, however he’ll still be staying on the farm and doing what he loves.
“We’ve got no great ambitions to leave the farm. We want to still help out with the stock. It wouldn’t be good for me if I stopped completely,” he says. “Our biggest satisfaction is seeing where we’ve come from to where we are today. And imagining what it’s going to look like in another 10 years. We’re looking forward to seeing the business grow into the future.”
If you are yet to try the distinctive yet delicate taste of venison, the Silver Fern Farms Venison & Mushroom Burger with Caramelised Red Onions & Chipotle Mayo is an excellent place to start!