Historic property traces 150 years of Otago peninsula dairy farming
March 2024

Historic property traces 150 years of Otago peninsula dairy farming

A 96 hectare Highcliff property, with panoramic harbour and ocean views, and 150 years of the history of local dairy farming is for sale for the first time since 1867.

Craig Bates and Paul Thomson of PGG Wrightson Real Estate, Otago are selling the property on behalf of the Cadzow family, who emigrated from Lanarkshire south of Glasgow to Otago in the mid 1860s.

Stuart Cadzow, now dairy farming in Gippsland, Victoria, is the fifth generation with his siblings, and the fourth generation of children brought up in the farm’s four bedroom stone house.

“Robert and Janet Cadzow were the family’s founding couple in Otago. They had one son born in Scotland, then seven daughters born in New Zealand. They purchased the existing farm in 1867, hired builders to build the house, leased the farm out, then went back to Scotland by clipper ship to finish up there, moving back two years later, by which time the house was finished. 

“Built from abundantly available local field stone, it is a grand and stately Victorian era pocket mansion, small though opulent, built to the period’s highest standards, including a roof of Welsh blue-grey slate, two foot thick exterior walls, and fireplaces in four rooms sharing two chimneys. The Cadzows chose the Peninsula’s best spot and planned a dairy farming life from the start. However, that took a few years, and Robert also worked as a carter, including for William Larnach, who he assisted further down the peninsula to build the well-known landmark known as Larnach Castle,” says Stuart.

PE Aut 24 - Blog Cadzow - Janet

Janet Cadzow

PE Aut 24 - Blog Cadzow - Robert

Robert Cadzow

Once established, the farm changed minimally. As a boy in the 1930s, Stuart’s father Jack would have seen little difference from his great-grandfather’s time.

“They started milking in 1877, and only stopped in 2019. They housed the cows in byres, putting them out in the daytime and bringing them in at night. A cut and carry operation, they cropped oats, swedes, turnips and fallowed with pasture, storing feed and bedding in lofts and haystacks. Beginning with a small number, the herd increased to 20 cows around the 1940s, mainly British Friesians, plus some Ayrshires and Shorthorns.

“When Dad was young, they had three carts, one for tipping the manure, one was the milk cart, and the other a dray, all three handed down from his grandfather. When a cart broke you didn’t replace it: you took it for the blacksmith or wheelwright to fix, and the same with the ploughs, and the horse-drawn farm equipment. They always had three or four draft horses, plus a couple of hacks. One horse was shod to take the milk to the gate. Horses lasted 15 to 20 years, and in his later years Dad could still tell you the names of all the horses.

"His draft horses were Jimmy, Prince and Belle, and the half hacks were Kate and Meg. They bought their first Fergie tractor in 1957, shortly after Dad took over the farm,” says Stuart.

PE Aut 24 - Blog Cadzow - Founding Family

For the first few generations milking was by hand, supplying milk to the city six days a week. 

“They built a new style milking barn in the 1920s. Cows entered along a central concrete laneway, still intact today. They were put in stalls of two cows each in the barn, with water and feed troughs set in each stall and head chains used for milking. The milk was put into cans and taken to the gate for collection. Initially vendor-contractors delivered milk to our customers, although through the decades a combination of vendors and family did the deliveries.

“Once electricity was connected in the 1920s, milking was by two overhead railing supported milking plants, powered by a cable in a tray each side of the central lane. At first customers protested against motorised milking. They reckoned the milk didn’t taste the same, so the family turned off the milking plant and went back to hand milking for a while. 

“In the end the customers accepted it. Before electric power was connected a single cylinder ex-fishing boat engine also did some horsepower work operating the turnip and swede pulper, making that feed easier to eat and safer for the cows,” says Stuart.

From the early 1950s the Cadzows supplied their milk to Cadbury’s famed Dunedin factory.

PE Aut 24 - Blog Cadzow - black and white photo

After World War Two, the government mandated pasteurisation. A wooden-wheeled Dennis truck took their milk to Dunedin to be pasteurised. Milk collection went from cans to a vat. Cadbury was the last to go to stainless steel, then in the 1990s Cadbury stopped taking milk from individual farms and Jack Cadzow became a Kiwi Cooperative Dairies shareholder-supplier, a few years before the merger that created Fonterra.

“There were many other pioneer established farms on the Otago Peninsula operating the same as us, though they didn’t last into the 1970s, while our farm grew over the years, taking on additional land from neighbours.

“Later on Dad described his life growing up as a form of slavery. After the war the world had changed quickly and people wanted modern careers rather than manual farm work. Attracting farm staff became much more difficult. Mechanisation hadn’t arrived, so he spent hours mucking out the cow pens, all with a fork and shovel, into the wheelbarrow, making a huge manure pile. There was no hosing out. Breaking in land bought from the neighbours was tough. They had a small bulldozer to push gorse out of the sheep farms they’d purchased. When they acquired that land it was soil between the rocks. They had to move the rocks and gorse to make a paddock.

“Milk kept the farm. Our family established in an era when the Scots middle class brought their wealth here and spent it on buildings in Dunedin. Our ancestors saw the potential to supply milk to a growing city, a vision that lasted almost 150 years, sustaining five generations,” says Stuart.

Craig Bates says the property is unique.

“This farm is a fascinating example of local heritage, with a house and buildings that vividly illustrate bygone days. In new ownership these assets are well set for a second life as boutique accommodation, while the views and proximity to Dunedin mean the rest of the property is ideally located for high end subdivision,” Craig says.

Cadzow Farm is offered to the market by deadline sale closing Thursday 14 March, under three options:

Option 1: the total farm of 96 hectares in multiple titles.

Option 2: the main homestead block of 67 hectares in multiple tiles.

Option 3: the bare land run off block of 19 hectares in one title. 

Explore similar articles in our most recent edition of the Property Express.

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