Diverse operations feature in awards

From egg production and timber to deer and dairy farming, entrants from the South in this year’s 2022 Ballance Farm Environment Awards run some diverse operations.

The regional awards events, due to start in March, have been postponed until June and July 2022 due to Covid-19.

"We are determined to run in-person functions to celebrate the entrants but will do this when it can be done more safely," New Zealand Farm Environment Trust
chairwoman Joanne van Polanen said.

The Southland function will be held on June 9 and the Otago function on June 10. The entrants are profiled below.

Bridget (left), Brent, Anna, Tim and Jess Craig
Bridget (left), Brent, Anna, Tim and Jess Craig
Brent, Tim and Anna Craig (Otago)

Bowalley Free Range —egg production

The third-generation family behind this free-range poultry farm in North Otago takes a sustainable, circular approach to egg production.

The business has a 420ha arable farm that grows wheat and barley to feed the hens. Egg sales make up about 95% of their income, with the balance coming from selling grain when they have more than the hens need.

Minimising waste and creating efficiencies in their circular system is important for sustainability with hen manure applied to the arable land, proving a natural base fertiliser, while solar panels power the hen houses.

Technology is used for flock management with updates throughout the day on such things as average temperature, and the consumption of feed and water. Sheep graze cereal regrowth on the arable farm to reduce the need for cultivation and sprays.

Victor, Josh (10), Amy and Caitlyn Blaikie (6) and Nicole Andrews.
Victor, Josh (10), Amy and Caitlyn Blaikie (6) and Nicole Andrews.
Victor and Amy Blaikie (Otago)

Ben Annand — sheep, beef and wool

Amy and Victor are now at the helm of this property which has been farmed by Victor’s family since 1960. Sheep and beef are grazed across about two-thirds of Ben Annand, with the rest in native bush and exotic trees.

Last year, just over 7500 stock units were run with 80% of income from sheep, and the remainder from cattle.

Paddocks are planted with a mix of red and white clover, cocksfoot and ryegrasses, while four hill blocks have native tussock and cocksfoot, over-sown with clover.

Production has lifted, due to enhancing lower-producing blocks and using a flexible stock policy that is adapted to the climate and external market conditions.

Gorse control, significant planting, fencing and pest management has resulted in a landscape with rich biodiversity.

Amanda Currie and farm manager Jason Sutherland
Amanda Currie and farm manager Jason Sutherland
Amanda and Adrian Currie (Otago)

Tinwald Farm — Sheep, Beef and Viticulture

The Curries bought Tinwald Farm in 2012, and immediately invested in irrigation, fencing and infrastructure for the beef finishing and sheep grazing farm. In 2015, they planted two vineyards across 20ha.

After being hit hard by Mycoplasma bovis in 2018, they pivoted to create a more diverse operation centred around protecting soil health.

They run 200 cattle and lamb 3000 ewes and have invested in a milking shed and cheesery. About 100 ewes will be milked for cheese production this season.

In addition, they sell the eggs of 100 free-range chickens and are trialling a small pig operation. The vineyards produce pinot noir grapes for supply, although they’re starting to make their own wine.

A science-led approach is used to improve soil ecology and performance. All new buildings have solar panels, effluent is combined with humic acid and sprayed on crops, and the waste product of cheesemaking — whey — will supplement feed for pigs.

Helen and David Vollweiler, Byron Vollweiler and Amanda Snow
Helen and David Vollweiler, Byron Vollweiler and Amanda Snow
Byron Vollweiler and Amanda Snow

Berriedale Ltd — Lamb, Timber and Carbon

The Vollweiler family has owned Berriedale Farm since 1953, during which time it has more than doubled in size to 1100ha. Today, under the guidance of Byron Vollweiler and Amanda Snow, sheep graze across 800ha, while 200ha is planted in productive trees and a further 100ha is regenerating native bush and wetland.

They run a high-performance Romney flock and derive 80% of income from the lambs. The balance comes from forestry.

Tree planting has been carefully matched to soil type to ensure they get the best from the land.

As well as forestry production, the trees generate social and economic value through carbon sequestration. They also provide stock shelter, enhance biodiversity, improve water quality and reduce erosion.

Soil conservation and management is a strong focus at Berriedale which is progressively moving towards a no-till approach, while planting sensitive, erosion-prone areas in ornamental and productive forestry.

Wendy and Leon Black
Wendy and Leon Black
Leon and Wendy Black (Southland)

Blackdale Stud — Sheep farming

The Blacks have worked this land for almost 100 years, with Leon and Wendy Black now at the helm of one of the biggest family-run stud sheep operations in New Zealand, grazing more than 5000 animals on 370ha.

Blackdale Stud aims to produce the best sheep genetics in the country, and attracts visitors from around the world.

Biosecurity is a major focus, running a closed flock, bringing in just a few sires every year, plus using AI.

Animal welfare is crucial. The farm has wide shelter belts, and there are plenty of shade trees and water in every paddock. Two wintering sheds are used to feed and protect stock and pasture from the winter elements.

Management takes a data-led approach. Data collected includes testing sire groups for methane emissions and continually measuring nutrient loss.

Water quality improvements include water monitoring across the all-grass system, fencing off waterways and the development of a wetland that is a nutrient trap and wonderful for birdlife.

Liz and John Chittock
Liz and John Chittock
John & Liz Chittock (Southland)

The Salvation Army Jeff Farm — Sheep, Beef and Deer

Almost 70 years ago, the late Edmund Jeff gifted his farm to the Salvation Army along with a vision of it being used to teach young people how to farm.

Under the guidance of John and Liz Chittock and their staff, up to five cadets at a time learn farm skills and contribute to Jeff Farm’s profitability and sustainability.

They run about 17,000 sheep, contributing about 70% of the farm’s income. There are also 1100 cattle and 1300 deer.

During the past 20 years, there has been a focus on stock performance and environmental improvements. Increasing profitability has enabled the Salvation Army to spend more money on the farm’s many sustainability initiatives and youth programmes.

Planting has resulted in thriving native areas, along with plenty of shelter belts for stock protection.

More planting is planned, particularly around fenced-off waterways. Sediment catchment ponds have been developed, as have new reserves.

Hamish and Chantal McClean
Hamish and Chantal McClean
Hamish and Chantal McClean (Southland)

Burwood Station — Sheep and Beef

Hamish and Chantal McClean run a total of 28,000 stock units on Burwood Station. They get 75% of their income from sheep, about 20% from beef and the remainder from the 70,000kg of wool they produce each year. They finish all their beef and up to 80% of lambs.

The couple has grown the property over time, gradually adding two more blocks since coming to the station in 2005. The property is well maintained and is free of gorse and broom.

Animal health is a top priority and the McCleans have a number of strategies to keep the stock in good condition, including feeding their ewes silage and grain at mating time, while maintaining production and growing less winter crops.

Soil and pastures are carefully managed to ensure they produce the best possible food for the animals. Many waterways have been fenced off and paddocks have been subdivided to improve management.

Matt and Kate McLaren
Matt and Kate McLaren
Matt and Kate McLaren (Southland)

Camp-Hill Farming — Sheep and Dairy Support

Matt and Kate McLaren established Camp-Hill Farming in 2016 on the property bought by Matt’s great-great-grandfather in 1870.

The McLarens last season mated 3600 ewes and 1000 hoggets, plus grazed 280 dairy heifers and finished trading cattle and lambs.

The business gets about 75% of its income from sheep and about 20% from heifer grazing, with the balance split between wool, rental and beef. They have been consistently lambing at about 150%.

An extensive fencing programme has subdivided paddocks and protected waterways and native riparian borders have been planted along creeks. A large area fronting the Mimihau Stream has been transformed with native plantings, creating a haven for wildlife and recreation.

A strong focus on pasture and nutrient management has resulted in improved pasture growth and animal health and boosted crop yields. A portable bridge helps connect two of the properties, protecting both stock and waterways.

From left: Julie Gray, Jennifer Taylor, Alan Taylor and Zac Thomas.
From left: Julie Gray, Jennifer Taylor, Alan Taylor and Zac Thomas.
Alan and Jennifer Taylor (Southland)

Oakridge Farm — Sheep, beef and arable

Jennifer and Alan Taylor have been at Oakridge Farm since 1972, and their children and grandchildren have become an integral part of its operation.

Animals at the Mataura property are kept in top condition, thanks to careful stock management.

The Taylors run 2400 Romney ewes with 600 replacements across the 380ha Gore property, along with 50 weaner cattle and 80ha of cereal crops.

Knowledge of soil types is used to guide the rotation of crops and grass across the tidy farm.

Livestock is grazed on 300ha, while 50ha is planted in oats for food production and a further 30ha grows barley for stock feed and seed.

Environmental sustainability is important to the family and they have a strong focus on water management, along with the creation and protection of biodiversity on the property.

Recycling waste and looking after the family’s health and safety are also priorities.

Ben Worker and Jaime McCrostie.
Ben Worker and Jaime McCrostie.
Ben Worker and Jaime McCrostie (Southland)

Eastbourne Dairy Farm — dairy

Eastbourne Dairy Farm has a 164ha milking platform, along with 70ha of runoff and is under the guidance of sharemilkers Ben Worker and Jaime McCrostie who treat it like it’s their own.

Over eight years, much time and effort have been focused on improving the farm’s presentation and functionality, resulting in a tidy, well-organised farm that is achieving good production results.

They milk 470 cows, which produce an average of more than 230,000kg of milk solids each year. By enhancing the quality of pasture, the team is also boosting the health of the herd — an aspect that is a continual focus.

Moving away from winter cropping, they have started on a drainage and re-grassing plan across Eastbourne and are also creating buffers along waterways through riparian planting.

The health and safety of staff is another priority, and their management includes good training and support.

Brooke and Stu Cameron.
Brooke and Stu Cameron.
Stu and Brooke Cameron (Southland)

Valley View — dairy

This property has been transformed from a conservative sheep and beef farm into a high-performing, sustainable, fully self-contained dairy operation.

Valley View now milks just over 1600 cows across a 530ha milking platform, while 100ha is in crops and 275ha is used for runoff.

The Camerons use technologies such as soil moisture probes, mastitis detectors and heat detection tags, resulting in efficiency gains and easier management of such things as animal health and reproductive performance. Staff wellbeing, animal health and environmental management are all carefully monitored.

Effluent is well managed, thanks to a tailored system that fits the environment and uses nutrients efficiently. Biosecurity initiatives include the double fencing of boundaries and meticulous closed herd management.

Riparian buffer zones have been established around waterways, protecting a significant wetland area. The large buffer zones were created as part of the conversion, enhancing biodiversity while ensuring the farm meets regulatory requirements.

Kevin Hall.
Kevin Hall.
Kevin Hall (Southland)

Hollyvale Farms — dairy grazing and beef fattening

Hollyvale Farms winters almost 1000 cows, plus has 270 heifer grazers and fattens 80 beef cattle.

Investment has been made in tunnel houses for about 700 cows, complete with sawdust bedding and silage feeding facilities.

For the heifers being wintered on grass, baleage grazing is carefully managed so soil is protected and the cows enjoy pleasant conditions.

Paddocks have been re-grassed, and the water supply improved. Waterways have been fenced off, natives planted and retainment bunds installed.

In 1982, one of the country’s first QEII National Trust covenants was created across about 60ha of the property.

Effluent is collected and stored, and liquid effluent is analysed for nutrient content and used to replace nutrients removed by silage harvest. When ground conditions are suitable, effluent is applied meticulously to ensure soil retains the nutrients.

Greenhouse gas emissions are monitored to ensure they meet industry reporting targets now and into the future.

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