Farming on the station

Mark is the kind of guy who has the capacity to cope with things as they come; he has an innate assurance and self-containment. He himself admits that you need to have a ‘thick skin’ to farm in the Mackenzie; and like farmers everywhere you need to be able to cope with frustration.

With ownership of the land comes responsibility and this is no easy undertaking as margins tighten and the balance between care-taking the land and being able to earn an income come under pressure. Like all farmers, Mark is exposed to the random swings in the market. Producing a good quality product is no guarantee of reward.

Together with random swings in the market, a further major problem says Mark is not so much the weather because to some degree this is predictable. You know the winters are going to be extremely cold and the summers extremely hot. Pests, on the other hand, are more unpredictable. Since the Mackenzie was first settled by Europeans, one of the most virulent, uncontrollable problems has been infestation by rabbits. Rabbits continue to be a problem today. At Grays Hills Station there is a storehouse of history, illustrating across the generations, measures that have tried and inventions put in place in an attempt to control the rabbit population. The station has one of the most elaborate poison sheds in the district. Geese can be pests as well, when they come in by the thousands and take over crops. The main weeds are sweet briar, a kind of rose which gets caught in the sheep’s wool; and heiracium, a flat growing weed which makes ground barren.

Grays Hills is a family run farm with the work being shared jointly by Mark and his wife Sherie and supported with a staff of four: cook, tractor driver, stock manager and shepherd. Mark and Sherie have three children: Georgia, William and Jock.

When not working Mark enjoys hunting. The family go skiing over the winter and boating and camping over the summer. They love the high country and rarely go beyond it for their holidays.


Stud Principals: Sherie & Mark Urquhart
Gray’s Hills Station, New Zealand

Established: 1962 from Flock 116 (est 1938)
Stud Classer: A D Paterson
Ewe Numbers: 550 MA ewes, 100 2ths
Sale Method: Private. End Feb/Mar


Area: 22,000 hectares 
Rainfall: 400mm<
Stock Numbers: 6,200 ewes, 4,500 MA wethers, 1,000 wether hoggets, 2,000 ewe hoggets, 300 Angus cows, 50 replacement heifers


Runs 5500 commercial ewes under dryland conditions. 1200 are mated to terminal sires (Suffolk & Border Leicester). 3000 replacement hoggets and 4500 MA wethers are run on areas less suitable for lambing. Lucerne hay and grain are fed for long cold winters.