The East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards gave the Knauf family the perfect opportunity to benchmark their large-scale dairy and beef operation.
But that wasn’t their only reason for entering.
Lewis Knauf, who manages Wairua Farm – an 825ha (656ha effective) property in the Maraekakaho district west of Hastings, says his family wanted to show the wider community they care about the environment.
“There aren’t a huge number of dairy farms in this part of the country, so we wanted to put ourselves out there as a good example to others by showing we are trying to do things right.”
Lewis and wife Mel moved onto Wairua Farm three years ago, originally working alongside
Lewis’ parents Ivan and Sue who converted the former drystock farm in 2001.
Last year the dairy unit milked 1600 mainly Friesian cows, producing almost 700,000kg of milksolids from a split calving system. Around 550 beef calves were also bred and reared for sale as weaners or at 18-months.
Lewis says the beef operation is an important facet of the business, especially given the recent run of low returns in the dairy industry.
“In our experience, when one industry is up, the other is often down. So it’s nice to have a foot in both camps.”
Erosion-prone areas of the farm have been fenced to allow native bush to regenerate and 58ha have been planted in commercial trees. A 42ha wetland area has been set aside as conservation land.
The Knauf family entered the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the first time last year and won four category awards, including the WaterForce Integrated Management Award. This award recognises farmers “who have developed and implemented integrated water management systems and processes for water used within their farming system”.
Judges noted the highly efficient use of water on Wairua Farm, including the recycling of cooling water from the farm dairy and the very careful measuring and monitoring of irrigation.
Lewis says winning the WaterForce award was a great acknowledgement of all the hard work and money that has gone into their water system.
“We still haven’t finished yet, but water is a big issue in this region and we have always strived to use it as efficiently as possible.”
The family enjoyed being involved with the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and winning four category awards proved they were on the right track as far as sustainability goes.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but the whole process was very rewarding,” Lewis says.
“The judging was conducted in quite a relaxed fashion. It was more like a conversation than a question-answer session, and we enjoyed talking to the judges about what we were doing on the farm and what we were trying to achieve.”
Lewis says the judging process highlighted a few areas they could work on in future.
“It really was well worthwhile and any farmer that is considering entering the Awards should just do it. Don’t wait until you’ve got everything sorted on the farm because that is never going to happen. Just use it as a learning exercise to find out how you can improve your business.”
Entries for the 2017 East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on September 23, 2016. It costs nothing to enter and entry forms are available online at www.nzfeatrust.org.nz