Five in running for sustainable farming awards

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Five Waikato farms were contenders in the 2020 Ballance Farm Environment Awards that have attracted a line-up of innovative farmers and growers from around Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the awards celebrate good farm practices that promote sustainable land management. The programme is run in 11 regions throughout New Zealand, with almost 50 farms eligible for this year’s awards.

Waikato’s category award winners and supreme regional winner were to be announced at an awards function at Lake Karapiro on March 18.

Mark and Felicity Brough 
Paerua – Aria, Waitomo
SHEEP & BEEF
Native birds have returned and water quality has improved since the Broughs took over Paerua about 20 years ago – reflecting their respect for land, animals, soil and water.

The sheep and beef breeding and store fattening farm runs about 170 weaner bulls and steer calves, and 2150 sheep. They breed sheep replacements to help control animal health, especially eczema tolerance. 

Native birds, fish and invertebrates are flourishing on the property, thanks to extensive planting around streams and ponds, and the fencing of wetlands and drains. There are plans to fence off two large blocks of mature native bush, and two large dams with wetland areas have been created. Poplar poles control erosion, almost all paddocks have water troughs and beehives encourage clover growth.

As they strive to be successful and profitable environmental farmers, the Broughs are very focused on preserving the precious resources that make farming possible: soil and water.

Damien Watson and Joan Barendsen Renown
– Landcorp Farming Pāmu
– Reporoa, Taupo
DAIRY
Significant investment in innovation and sustainability is going into this Landcorp-owned property that is part of a wider dairy farming group.

A dairy farm since 2006, Renown features significant infrastructure, including a rotary dairy, monitored effluent systems and large calf-rearing facilities. It has sophisticated animal health, fertiliser and effluent management systems, and river water is pumped to the farm and reticulated to all paddocks.

Managers Damien and Joan strive hard to ensure Renown performs to its full potential, with beautification and environment equally important to farm performance and profitability. River margins and drains have been planted, along with a significant number of exotic trees. Large riparian buffers contain pockets of existing native vegetation and the farm features a wetland.

Renown has become a top performer in many aspects of pastural farming – from cow and grass, to people, culture, safety and environment.

Chris Irons and Debra Hastie are is getting good results through strategic partnerships. Image courtesy NZ Farm Environment Trust.

Chris Irons and Debra Hastie are is getting good results through strategic partnerships. Image courtesy NZ Farm Environment Trust.

Chris Irons and Debra Hastie
Te Waitere View – Te Kuiti, Waitomo
SHEEP AND BEEF BREEDING AND FINISHING
Te Waitere View is two farms that were merged in 2016, five years after Chris and Debra bought into one of the properties, with them now sole owner-operators.

The sheep and beef farm aims to produce high-quality produce while respecting the environment and is getting good results through strategic partnerships with like-minded meat companies and careful breeding. Certified by Global Animal Partnership, the farm is audited every 15 months for such things as drenching, its farm plan and dog worming. 

Located at the head of their catchment, the farmers are working hard to enhance water quality and most paddocks have water troughs. There is a mix of native scrub in most gullies and they actively
control pests. 

Chris and Debra are aiming to develop the land so it provides a good business opportunity for the next generation.

Bryan Frederick and Stu Morgan 
Waikeria Prison Farm – Otorohanga, Te Awamutu
DAIRY
Owned by the Department of Corrections, Waikeria Prison Farm is striving to become a self-sustaining dairy training farm that operates a class-leading once-a-day milking system.

It trains about 30 prisoners daily, offering them recognised industry qualifications in a commercial-scale operation – enhancing employment opportunities on release. 

Almost 200,000 riparian, wetland and woodland plants have been put in, including thousands of natives. Pest plants and animals are actively managed and biosecurity controls are implemented across the essentially ‘closed’ farming operation. There’s a strong focus on improving animal health and all feed is grown on the property. Enhancing the surrounding environment is a critical part of a new 600-person facility that’s being built, with the project including such things as enhancing wetland and riparian areas, improving water quality and habitats.

The managers are committed to building environmentally sustainable farming practices that better balance the needs of the land, animals and staff.

Tim and Rach Phillips
Waipa Meadow – Otorohanga
DAIRY
Creative thinking and hard work on this property has enabled the owner-operators to make some big improvements on ‘the smell of an oily rag’.

Tim and Rach Phillips have worked together to overcome difficult challenges on the property that runs 280 cows, with most of the day-to-day management done by a contract milker. A unique hurdle was reducing the large amount of groundwater flowing into an underpass. The groundwater is now kept fully separate from underpass effluent and is pumped to waste. 

The property has a 1ha stand of native kahikatea that is protected by a QEII National Trust Covenant, along with 1.5km of native riparian plantings, beehives and possum trapping. There is minimal use of nitrogen fertiliser thanks to some creative thinking – 200 tonnes of goat manure was recently applied.

The Phillips family regards land ownership as a privilege and as current owners they see themselves as stewards of its present and future.

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