CAPTION: Mark McKenzie showing a hereford bull at the Maungahina Stud’s 72nd sale last week PHOTO/COUNTRY CALENDAR

By Beckie Wilson

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“It’s in the blood, it’s our passion,” says the men of the McKenzie family who run the oldest hereford stud in New Zealand.

The stud celebrated its 110th year of breeding herefords this year, and its 72nd on-farm bull sale last Thursday.

The sale drew a crowd of more than 300 people – some there to buy quality bulls, some to support the massive achievement.

Bruce McKenzie, the fourth generation, handed over the running of the stud to his son, Mark, in 2006.

Mark and his wife, Melissa, and their children, Jack, 17, and Molly, 15, live on Maungahina Stud which is about 15-minutes’ drive from Masterton along Castlepoint Rd.

He knew from day one that he wanted to help his father on the farm.

“We are all about breeding the best that we can,” Mark said.

“We just do what we have been doing for years and we aren’t going to change our ways.”

“Never breed from a huntaway that doesn’t bark” is the McKenzie family moto.

Living by that, the family are the busiest they have ever been.

Years ago, they were selling about 40 bulls a year, now they up to 140 and counting.

“It always has been herefords that sold well,” Bruce said.

This year, herefords fetched an average of $7073 a bull.

Their willingness to diversify has gone a long way, and has seen the introduction of two more breeds to the stud.

They saw potential in both speckled park and charolais breeds, and they have proven their worth in recent years, with international buyer interest growing.

They were the first in the country to bring in speckled park bulls, Mark said.

At this year’s sale, they fetched an Australasian record price for one of their commercial speckle park heifer cross broad unjoined for $2900.

“That was huge — it just shows what the speckled park can do in the industry,” Mark said.

“We put them out front of the public to show what they can do with cross breeds.”

The stud is becoming well-known for its genetics, and its semen and embryos packages.

“We have some of the best genetic packages in the world, with an embryo selling for $3200,” he said.

The top speckled park bull went for a record $24,000 easily surpassing the average of $9366.

“We only breed from something that works,” Mark said.

Maungahina comprises three properties within the Masterton area and runs 1000 romney ewes and 400 cows.

Recently, they tasted the first drops from their pinot noir and chardonnay crops.

In partnership with Johner Estate, they planted grapes to make use of a dry 1.4 acre plot.

The family have been on an emotional rollercoaster since the passing of Bruce’s wife, Jennie, last June.

She was a huge part of the stud’s success – not to mention 47 years of catering for each on-farm event, which Melissa took on this year.

“Jennie would go around and talk to every single person [at a sale] — she was loved by everyone,” Bruce said.

Once a stud person, always a stud person, said Bruce who has lived and breathed Maungahina Stud all his life.

Now Molly, as a sixth generation, is showing interest in the farm and works her heading dog every night after school.

Both Bruce and Mark are well-known in the hereford judging ring. Bruce is one of the leading international judges, having travelled to England, Canada and Australia for shows.

Mark has judged at many royal and national shows. He was also a Hereford Prime director, but now focuses on his role as Speckled Park International director.