Stanley Brothers Farms

April 2021

Stanley Brothers’ piggery, cropping and cattle-fattening operation in Taranaki.

Stanley Brothers run a highly productive piggery, cropping and cattle-fattening operation at Oaonui, on the coast near Opunake. Over the past 30 years, the family-owned operation has invested heavily in on-farm infrastructure and environmental protection measures to ‘future-proof’ the operation.


45% of pork consumed in New Zealand is grown domestically, to increasingly high regulatory standards. The Stanley family has owned their 133ha Taranaki farm for over 70 years, and in that time they have made adjustments to farming management and operations with a view to position the business well for a ‘best-practice’, sustainable future. The family involved are Noel and Susie Stanley, Ron and Kathy Stanley, and Karl (son of Noel) and Nicola Stanley. In addition, a piggery manager and three additional staff work in the year-round operation.


Pork production provides the main income on the closed unit with its ‘high health’ herd. Over the past 30 years, sow numbers have grown from 100 to around 410, producing about 28 pigs per sow each year. At any one time there are up to 3,800 pigs at various stages in the farm system. 


Stanley Brothers supplies meat wholesaler Wilson Hellaby, that run a specialty pork processing plant at Ruakura in Waikato. Noel says they have a long-standing, good relationship with Wilson Hellaby, maintained through their pork procuring rep.


Farm improvements were undertaken to comply with (at the time) new regulations that were coming into force in 2015, with the aim of producing pork humanely to the highest standards. Noel says it had a positive effect on productivity, so it was a ‘win-win’. For their part, the Stanley’s invested over $3 million dollars to re-develop the piggery. It included the use of farrowing crates to prevent piglets being crushed, and pens that can house groups of up to 10 sows. Work is ongoing with new farrowing crates currently under construction.


From farrowing rooms, to mating (using PIC genetics), the nursery, weaning unit and grower/finishing sheds, it is a highly consistent and well-structured operation. Noel explains it has to be, to remain sustainable, so ‘whatever happens this week, will happen next week, and the week after that, all year-round’. 


It takes 139 days from producing a piglet to sending to Wilson Hellaby. Piglets are weaned at 21 days then relocated to various staged nursery and grower sheds. Replacement F1 PIC breeding stock is brought in. Every 6 months an external vet consultant visits the piggery to do a farm walk and pick up any potential issues.


Feed is a combination of grains (wheat barley, maize soya meal), proteins (meat meal, fish meal, milk powder), and vitamin premixes, milled and mixed on the property. It is sourced from New Zealand and the world market.


Cropping provides additional income. In October 2018 an In Milk sale was held and their 270-cow dairy herd was sold. Land that was subsequently freed up now produces maize and hay silage for supply to surrounding dairy farms. This season they are putting in 38ha of maize (although it has been hard to find a window in the weather to get seed in the ground). 


Beef fattening is another income stream, with cattle finished to about 600 kg live weight. There are 45 two-year old and 100 autumn-born beef cattle on farm.


The business has also been part of the Oaonui Water Scheme. It has been operating for about 102 years, with previous family generations involved. Currently Ron is chair of the Scheme, and Karl has recently been voted to the board. The water is a non-potable supply for stock only. A well-constructed dam located at the upper reaches of the Oaonui River delivers gravity fed water (by pipe) to the property and surrounding 45 shareholder farms.

The onshore Oaonui Maui Oil and Gas Production is a shareholder that receives water.


There is a significant wetland area (about 20ha) bounded by sand dunes on the property. Conservation activities here, along with riparian planting elsewhere on the property, have been part of investing in the future of the operation.


Succession planning has also played a big part in future-proofing the business. With Ron and Noel now playing a slightly reduced role in the business, Noel’s son Karl has taken on the management role.


The BFEA judges praised not only the ‘immaculate’ property but also the operation’s commitment to adopting new technologies to address potential environmental impacts created by their farming activities. These technologies and systems have also paid off in improvements in animal welfare and productivity. The Stanley Brothers Trust were awarded the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, and the Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award in the Taranaki 2020 Ballance Farm Environments Awards.


Showdown Productions Ltd.   Rural Delivery Series 16 2021