Malcolm Cane has always had a DIY attitude, from silage and haymaking to drilling and cultivating. Looking back over 30 years of deer farming, it's probably been a big part of his success.
He and his wife Kathy farm 390ha at Reporoa, of which 146ha is leased to a dairy farmer.
The Canes run about 1000 stags and 500 hinds, plus about 500 mixed-sex weaners at any one time. It's a gentle contour on their part of the volcanic plateau; good, rolling tractor country and well-suited for deer as long as it rains every so often.
You’d be right to recognise the last name – Malcolm and Kathy’s son is All Black captain Sam Cane, who they describe as “a farm boy at heart”. The Canes also have two daughters, Sjaan and Lia.
As a teenager, Malcolm began a hay-carting business and in the off-season he was contract fencing.
He was able to make a down-payment on an 80ha block at age 22.
Bankers were pretty pessimistic about farming and there was little to spare.
"We had fifty grand and 50 deer. And we still had to go to about three banks because interest rates were about 19 per cent."
Even 10 years later, the Canes hadn’t fully stocked those 80ha. They owned their own animals and grazed for others.
"I used to fence off the place, so I could afford to buy fencing gear to fence it up in the weekends. It's a little bit different now, we’ve been able to borrow against the rising property values and keep developing.”
Malcolm says he's as much as stockman as a machinery guy. His dad, Laurie, a Reporoa dairy farmer, only ever had Case Internationals and Malcolm got started with the brand, too.
"I had a small International when I was doing the hay, and 15 years after I bought the farm where I couldn't afford a lot, but then I bought two Case IHs: a 115 and a Puma 165 off Giltrap."
Malcolm does all the cultivation himself and prizes his machines, which have always given him a degree of farming independence.
He makes 1500 baleage wraps a year. Being able to cut hay on demand is priceless for the deer.
"Deer are that fussy that we cut the lucerne every 30 days. If it's left any longer it's not very palatable for them."
They have continued to diversify over the years, with ventures including a hunting block partnership.
"The fluctuations in the deer industry have been pretty significant – you can't really survive unless you diversify.
Malcolm says another challenging year awaits as European restaurant and border closures.
“That excludes probably 30 to 40 per cent of our income which has been from trophy stags in recent years."
On the positive side, interest rates are low "so you just batten down the hatches, be smart and not spend too much money”.