Lighthouse Station – Manukau Heads, NZ

Rearing 25,000 pheasants and several thousand mallard ducks each year requires a fair bit of feed, and the birds at Lighthouse Station thrive on Sharpes. Their willingness to customise feed to his specific requirements is a huge bonus for general manager, Guy Ralph.

The station is located at Manukau Heads, south of Auckland, and is a unique and diverse operation. Alongside a more traditional sheep and cattle enterprise, Lighthouse Station has a veritable zoo of different animals, from water buffalo to deer, emus and peacocks.

“The business is a collaboration between myself and my friend James, who owns Lighthouse Station. James and I are long term friends and met through a love of hunting,” he says.

Guy’s own business is Driven Shooting Limited. He sells shooting globally, though here in New Zealand they are a sporting club with a syndicate of members.

As well as finishing Friesian bulls and Angus steers, there are Wiltshire sheep (these tend to roam wild but are handy when an Argentinian BBQ is put on for guests) and deer. On the bird side there are peacocks, guinea fowl, turkey, ducks, pheasants and partridges. “I don’t farm rabbits, but it feels like it at the moment,” Guy jokes.

In 2018 James purchased Lighthouse Station, which was a dairy farm at that time, with the aim of turning it into a world class sporting establishment. Since then, they have planted over 300,000 natives and established about six hectares of wetland.

Guy started the first Driven shoots in New Zealand in 1999 and in 2008 he discovered Sharpes, which he’s been using ever since.

“There’s limited choice for pheasant feed here. Sharpes are a miller willing to make specific feeds, and they created a specific diet for me. I formulate my own diets now, that’s how good Sam and Alastair are. They are brilliant. If I want probiotics added to the feed, they do it. No one else would do what they can do for me.

“The willingness to customise, even small batches down to a tonne for the partridges, which have a completely different diet to pheasants – they made me special partridge pellets.”

Guy says it’s all about protein and essential amino acids. “I’m from England. There are more than 50 million pheasants reared in the UK for shooting every year, it’s a massive industry. I look at what the UK game farmers are feeding their birds and Sharpes make that for me, which is pretty cool.”

Getting good feed into the young birds is key to getting good growth rates. Having feed the pheasants actually want to eat is also crucial.

“Pheasants are different to normal poultry in that they’re still a wild bird and haven’t been domesticated. If they don’t get the feed they want to eat they will turn on each other. They are self-feeders from the day they’re born, and have a really high protein diet.”

Lighthouse Station is feeding 100 tonne of Sharpes pellets in the gamebird rearing business annually, and a further 150 tonnes of maize.

“It’s in the efficiencies. Last year we fed 600kg/thousand birds for six weeks – the industry average is about 750kg – and we still get really good birds. It’s about good quality feed and the size of the crumb, which we adjust up incrementally until they go on to the pellet. We just don’t get the wastage or have sick birds.

“The things I look for, in any business or person I deal with, is the quality of product and level of service. Price comes last. You can buy cheaper feed but you pay for it in the long run as you don’t get the same results.

“The Sharpes service is phenomenal. They’re a really awesome company and I’ve dealt with them for a long time.”