Steven and Kellie Nichol of Auldamor have been announced as Regional Supreme Winners at the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards in Dunedin this evening.
Steven and Kellie are constantly evolving their farming business though diversification and adapting production systems, all while considering environmental impact. Their 1,498ha property is located at Clarks Junction, Otago. The Nichol family has been farming in the area since 1871, meaning they have a strong connection to the land and consider improvements and guardianship a priority.
In 2007, Steven leased 976ha from his parents and purchased it outright in 2010. In 2019, the farming operation was extended with an additional 522ha neighbouring lease block. During his tenure, Steven has continually strived to improve, develop, expand and adapt the farming business.
Managed by Grant Bezett, Auldamor is primarily a sheep breeding and finishing operation, with additional cattle grazing, and carbon and production forestry.
The team runs 4,500 ewes, 1,500 hoggets and 80 rams, while each year they graze an average of 290 mixed-age beef cows. Stock performance and profitability has been continually improved by adapting farming systems and emphasising on-farm measuring and monitoring.
Steven has focused on improving the farm’s subdivision and infrastructure, with several initiatives to improve soil health, including a no-till drilling programme. This has led to improved pasture resilience, better yields, and improved stock performance and animal health.
The property’s biodiversity has been enhanced through the planting of shelterbelts and forestry stands, along with significant fencing of native shrubland and waterways.
Steven is extensively involved with the local community catchment group and is one of several local farmers participating in a greenhouse gas mitigation project that is primarily focused on reducing gross methane emissions.
In awarding the Regional Supreme Award, the judges commended the Nichols’ high level of knowledge about all aspects of their farm, their farming business and their guardianship of it, noting that – along with farm manager Grant Bezett – they make a great team, with many complementary skillsets.
Steven and Kellie Nichol also won the following awards:
· Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award
· Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award
· NZFET Biodiversity Award
· Otago Regional Council Quality Water Enhancement Award
Other Otago Ballance Farm Environment Award winners include:
Justin Pigou and Matt Hamilton — Landsdown Dairy Unit – Pāmu, Romahapa
· Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award
· DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award
· Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award
· Norwood Farming Efficiency Award
James Edgar and Ethan Wilson — Wilden View, Moa Flat
· Rabobank Agri-Business Management Award
The awards also served to showcase the Otago Catchment Community, which works to enable a collaborative network of catchment groups and provide support for groups at all stages of their journey. With two full-time coordinators and the backing of an experienced steering committee, the OCC assists with the formation and direction of new and existing catchment groups, providing administrative and communication support, helping set and review strategies, identifying funding sources, and empowering groups with the connections and tools needed to drive environmental change.
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are run by the NZ Farm Environment Trust and champion sustainable farming and growing. The Supreme Winner from each of the eleven regions involved in the awards will go through to be considered for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy at the Trust’s National Showcase at Te Papa in May. The recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy then become 2023’s National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing.