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8 February 2024
Over the Farm Gate

Dispersal sale for renowned inter-generational Manawatu studstock business

Angus breed champions bowing out. 

Alan, Michele, Colin and Louise Dalziell, owners of renowned Manawatu beef stud Atahua Angus, are bringing the curtain down on their business with a dispersal sale on 8 April.

Atahua Angus was established by Alan and Colin’s parents Elsie and Verdun Dalziell in 1961, and has been in the hands of the current generation since the early 1980s. Michelle says they have always stuck by a simple breeding philosophy.

“We aim to keep a balance of traits, focusing on good phenotypes, while improving the data of our bulls. 

“We stay true to the basics: structure, fertility and temperament. EBVs are an excellent tool, though when purchasing and making mating decisions, they need to be used alongside eye appraisal. We have used EBVs and technology to ensure a balanced product for our clients, taking pride in breeding bulls able to flourish anywhere in the country,” she says.

Atahua has regularly brought in bloodlines from Australia and Canada, and since the early 2000s has morphology tested sperm, aiming for results of more than 70 per cent normal sperm to guarantee their clients fit for purpose bulls.

A firm supporter of the Beef Expo, formerly known as the National Angus Show and Sale, Atahua Angus amassed a total of 10 Supreme Champion Angus titles and six Champion of Champion titles over the decades.

One particular highlight was at the 1992 event where one of their bulls Atahua Legacy sold for $155,000, bought by a syndicate of Kaharau Angus and Rangatira Angus at a record price for a New Zealand bull, although in 1994 another of their bulls, Atahua Westpoint, also sold exceptionally well, for $132,000. In the same era, and subsequently, the Dalziells have traded in Australia. One of their live export in-calf cows Atahua Alice 115 went to Banquet Angus. After she calved a heifer calf, the Atahua bred pair subsequently went on to win Banquet Angus the senior and grand champion titles at the 1992 Melbourne Royal Show.

With private sales in the early years, since the mid 1970s Atahua Angus has held an on farm bull sale every June. While predominantly local, regular Atahua Angus bull customers, both stud breeders and commercial clients, range far and wide, including from Taihape, Hawke’s Bay, Taurmarunui, Tokomaru Bay and Wairarapa, and into the South Island from Blenheim and Central Otago. One well known client during the era of Elsie and Verdun Dalziell was American Senator Al Gore Senior, the father of the 45th United States Vice President, who visited Atahua while in New Zealand in the 1960s and was so impressed that he purchased six heifers.

Atahua stud runs on the Kiwitea home block of 240 hectares. For 25 years that was run in conjunction with an Āpiti hill country block of 290 hectares, which was sold in May 2023. 

At the 8 April dispersal sale Atahua Angus will put up all their breeding females, comprising 40 mixed age cows, 26 first-time calvers and 30 rising two year old heifers, plus all the associated calves.

While ending Atahua Angus was an emotional decision, the Dalziells say the time has come.

“Alan and I have worked alongside each other ever since we were married 43 years ago, after I met Alan, literally over the fence when I came from Australia to work with the Polled Herefords on the neighbouring farm, Craigston Stud. We have always shared that same passion and drive to produce good cattle, and work well as a team, as previously Elsie and Verdun did before us.

“We will miss dealing with the farmers who have put their faith in our bulls. However, we’ve reached the stage where we are ready to make life easier for ourselves,” says Michele.

PGG Wrightson Livestock National Genetics Manager Callum Stewart has been a regular with Atahua Angus since he was a young boy when his father HR (Bill) Stewart served as studstock representative to Elsie and Verdun Dalziell, a relationship that has endured through to the present generation with Callum now working alongside the Dalziells in the same role, while his brother Maurice Stewart handles all the Dalziells’ commercial sheep and cattle.

“Although their dispersal sale marks the end of an era, Atahua won’t disappear. No matter where the breeding focus goes in future, I know the bloodlines the Dalziells have built up over more than 60 years will continue to provide value in Angus herds across New Zealand for generations to come.

“While they will be missed, I look forward to celebrating their achievements at the dispersal sale, which will hand on their legacy for others in the Angus fraternity to continue to enhance in future,” says Callum.

Although they are dispersing the stud herd, the Dalziells will continue their commercial farming business.

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