Since he could walk Hamish de Lautour worked at Te Whangai, the property that has been owned by the de Lautours for three generations. The first twenty years were part time investments with the last 33 a full time adventure.
Hamish and Wynne de Lautour farm 15,000 Romneys in south Hawke’s Bay. The climate is generally mild with hot dry summers but the occasional snowfall in winter.
Wynne helps with the administration and provides the essential backup required to make things run smoothly behind the scenes. Their son Harry has just returned to work full time at home and Hamish shares he is fit and keen and full of ideas.
On Farming and Wool
de Lautour gives us a glimpse of his everyday life when he shares some of his favourite moments on the farm. “Early morning mustering when the dogs are behaving and the dawn chorus of native birds is in full cry. It is hard to beat experiencing the sun rise while healthy contented livestock drift away out of the paddock,” he says. He goes on to list, “watching healthy fat sheep being shorn, when the wool almost melts off them revealing the clean pink look of being freshly shorn. And occasionally being in the right place at the right time to see a ewe give birth to a pair of healthy offspring and having a few minutes to marvel at how quickly they get to their feet.”
However, it is not just the act of farming that inspires him. It is the product his sheep produce.
Passionate is not a strong enough word to describe how this Primary Wool Co-operative director feels about wool. “It said to be the most complex natural fibre, capable of a multitude of miraculous feats,” he says. “When faced with the choice of using oil sucked from the earth to make products that can be nothing short of deadly in a fire and freezing when wet or a 100% natural fibre that will grow over and over again on the same animal, keep you naturally warm even when wet and totally protect you in case of fire, the answer is so simple….it has to be wool.”
On Primary Wool Co-operative
de Lautour believes Primary Wool’s greatest achievement in recent times has been its ability to stay viable for its members through the very dark days of rock bottom wool prices and the political fallout following the disestablishment of the wool board, and all the while investing heavily in what the Co-op has always believed will lift returns, that is getting closer to our consumers, doing this with our joint venture partners in Just Shorn.
He also believes by remaining 100% grower owned and profitable, Primary Wool has slowly begun to be recognised and to grow it’s shareholder member base by 15% in 2013. He is proud of that growth in addition to being to paying a 5% dividend in 2012 and 10% in 2013.
de Lautour is proud of what the co-operative is doing to improve the industry with they wool pack initiative – providing members with brand new packs at a huge discount. “This is true Cooperative behaviour, providing something that is not available to any New Zealand wool grower outside the Co-op and at the same time lifting the quality of wool packs in circulation for the benefit of all growers,” he says.
Adding to the achievements include initiating and largely funding the premier feature on wool at the Mystery Creek Fieldays in 2011 and providing the industry-good funding to ensure the Campaign For Wool in NZ has been able to function well is an essential achievement on behalf of all NZ wool growers.
“Our hope for the NZ wool industry is that it can be returned to being the respected and cherished industry it once was. By being a profitable land use sheep numbers will grow therefore creating much needed employment in the provinces and with grower to retailer relationship building we would see manufacturing being competitive in New Zealand again and therefore even more jobs.”