‘Enthusiasm’ wins award for family

Waipahi sheep farmers Logan, Alexa and Ross Wallace at home on the farm. Photo: Supplied
Waipahi sheep farmers Logan, Alexa and Ross Wallace at home on the farm. Photo: Supplied
Waipahi sheep farmers Ross, Alexa and Logan Wallace are  this year’s Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards winners.

Their win was announced at a dinner at the Lake Wanaka Centre on Friday night. Judges described the family as a supportive, close family unit with clear vision, great goal-setting and financial discipline.

"They have incredible enthusiasm and a passion to learn — taking on ideas, good use of external advice and analysing data for the best outcomes.

"They have a strong environmental focus; land and environment plan, nutrient budgeting, wetland construction, retention of biodiversity and water quality emphasis, as well as an outstanding commitment to community and industry."

Ross and Alexa Wallace started farming the original part of Beacon Hill in 1988, adding to it several times over the years and setting up a family trust in the 1990s.

The land was leased out from 2009 to 2013 until son Logan returned after study and travel.

Beacon Hill Farming Ltd was set up with equal shareholding between Logan and his parents. The company bought the stock and plant and leased the farm from the family trust that owned the land, paving the way for  farm succession. Logan (28) is now in the process of buying his parents’ shares. The 290ha property is an intensive sheep breeding/finishing farm with 240ha of cultivated pasture and 30ha of tussock carrying 2300 Romney Texel ewes,  670 breeding hoggets and 400 grazing stock units.

Logan, an executive member of the Pomahaka Water Care Group, was aiming for 160% with a fifth of lambs gone at 90 days at a target weight of 18kg. His goal is  to be in the top 10% for production for the area.

"It’s a personal goal but it also makes economic sense. We’re making progress through improving genetics and developing the tussock block — getting better feed quality while maintaining the tussock cover," he said.

Judges said the family had an excellent understanding of the land use issues on the farm and the effects on water quality, both on and off the farm.

"They have a strong desire to be ahead of the field in trialling various techniques and new systems to ensure the water quality meets Otago Regional Council’s Schedule 15 and 16 rules."

A 0.5ha wetland had been fenced while two more were planned. A variety of shelterbelt trees had been established by Ross and Alexa so emphasis was turning  more to riparian planting.

An exciting venture was the propagation of a large variety of mainly native shrubs and trees, which were started off as cuttings or seedlings in a purpose built, "mist and grow" shade/warm house.

Existing subsurface drainage required upgrading, including replacing broken mole drains, and Logan had a plan to improve that over time as he was conscious of the impact of nutrient movement and the potential impact on local surface water. All new tile drains would be GPS-mapped.

Winter grazing was done in  four-day shifts, as more intensive grazing increased the risk of soil compaction. No cattle older than 18 months were carried in the winter because of  pugging risk. There was a good use of external advice and a strong focus on achievement of goals  meant the planned five-year business transition was reduced to three years, the judges said.

The Wallace family also won the Massey University innovation award and the Beef + Lamb New Zealand livestock farm award.

AgResearch’s Invermay farming operation, managed by Kevin Knowler, won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients soil management award and Hill Laboratories agri-science award.

James and Bridget McNally (North Otago) won the CB Norwood Distributions agri-business management award and WaterForce integrated management award.

Cody and Nicola Hartvigsen (South Otago) won the DairyNZ sustainability and stewardship award and the Otago Regional Council sustainable resource management award.

John and Shona Chapman, who farm near Mihiwaka, above Port Chalmers, won the Predator Free farm award. 

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