Finding opportunity in the face of challenge

Site visit: Ellis Creek Farm, Golden Bay

Ellis Creek Farm, a fourth-generation cultivator of beef and lamb, is doing things differently. Prompted by challenges presented through COVID-19, managers Andy and Rose Williams have introduced an on-site abattoir facility, and are planning to establish an adjoining retail shop for selling their home-grown meat, eggs, and other produce, which are currently available online.

The initiatives provide the local community with easy access to ethically raised, high-quality meat, as well as job opportunities in Golden Bay. They also help to reduce farm-to-table carbon miles for local buyers.

The need for fundamental change first became apparent during the pandemic. “We struggled to find trucks to transport our small loads of animals for slaughter outside the region,” Andy explains. The solution seemed simple: build an on-site abattoir for in-house processing. In practice, however, this proved to be a rather complex task.

The farmers had to navigate the challenges of building and permitting a mobile abattoir, the first and only one of its kind in the South Island, and managing its ongoing operations.

On-site processing involves stringent safety and hygiene checks. Vets inspect animals 24 hours before and a few hours after each kill. Processing takes around one hour per animal, including clean-up. For the benefit of the animal and the quality of the meat the Williams’ go to great lengths to make the experience as stress- and adrenaline-free for the animal as possible. This means processing just one animal at a time and cleaning thoroughly between each kill.

Once killed, parts are carefully separated and labelled ­– edible parts being chilled for sale, while inedible parts are composted, contributing to garden fertility after about 12 months. Andy is exploring ways to turn bones into bone char to ensure nothing goes to waste.

The farm raises Lowline Angus and Lowline Cross cattle for their high meat yield and is open to buyers for the animals’ unique black skin and fur. Recently, the Williams’ introduced 150 chickens to their stock list, primarily for egg production, with the intention of keeping each flock for two years under the expectation of an annual yield of around 290 eggs per chicken. They intend to increase their number of chickens to around 600 in time.

The farm also sells home grown avocados and other seasonal fruit and vegetables, and is looking to expand its holiday rental operation, which currently consists of one small, but popular self-contained sea-facing cabin.

Ellis Creek Farm stands as a model of resilience and innovation in the face of adversity. By expanding their operations the owners have created a self-sustaining facility that can better withstand the uncertainties of farming life. As they continue to refine their processes and explore new opportunities, Ellis Creek Farm is poised to thrive, demonstrating that adaptability and dedication can turn challenges into opportunities for growth and improvement in alliance with nature.

Goods produced by Ellis Creek Farm are available for purchase via its online shop:

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