Tuatapere sheep farmers Roger and Alison Thomas aim to
sustainably increase production, while also increasing the
biodiversity of the land. Photo by Leeana Tamati.
Sustainability and environmental issues are at the
forefront of the Thomas family's farming practices, as they try
to preserve, for generations to come, their slice of land on
the border of Fiordland.
Tuatapere sheep farmers Roger and Alison Thomas won the 2014
Golden Lamb Award Best of Breed (Crossbreed) for their
Perendale Texels, processed at Silver Fern Farms Waitane.
They were also finalists in the Southland Ballance Farm
Environment Awards this month.
The 236 property, which holds 2200 ewes, 580 ewe hoggets and
30 rams, has pockets of land where native plants have been
planted and protected.
Over the past 12 years, the Thomases have registered a QEII
National Trust covenant, which gives the area of native bush
more protection, and hope to register even more land with the
''We value biodiversity and try to protect and look after the
bush and waterways,'' Mrs Thomas said.
''We chose the stock type we have because it has less damage
to the soil. We often buy a couple of calves in the spring,
but we never have dairy cows in the winter.
"We chose to stay away from deer farming because of the
damage they cause to the environment.''
Mr Thomas said the remnants of native bush on the farm were
home to native birds, such as falcons, tui, and bellbirds,
and made the farm a nicer place to work on.
''It's a real thrill to have those kinds of rare birds in our
farm. The working environment in our farm is enhanced because
we have got native trees planted and the birdlife around.
''A flat farm is easy to run, but it is not as nice.''
The pair had owned the Tuatapere property for 12 years, and
bred Perendale Texels for eight of those, switching to the
breed because of its easy-care nature.
While scanning percentages had decreased since changing to
the breed, lambing percentages had increased, with an average
of about 150% per season, he said.
It was not just passion for the farm which kept them in
Tuatapere, but the small Western Southland community, which
they have been very much a part of for more than two decades.
Mr Thomas is in the local Lions Club and has served on the
Board of Trustees for local schools, while Mrs Thomas is a
volunteer ambulance driver, spent 13 years on the Waiau
Health Trust, and volunteers for the Rural Women's Network.
While their three children have grown up and moved out of
home, Mr and Mrs Thomas hope to continue living in Western
Southland for as long as possible.
''The lifestyle out here is the best thing about being a
sheep farmer,'' Mr Thomas said.
''It's been an amazing place to bring our children up -
there's not many lifestyles where you can work as a family
and everyone can work together.
''Our goal for the future is to sustainably increase
production, while also increasing the biodiversity of the