Intensive Beef Farmers Win Supreme In Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards


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Taipa sheep and beef farmers Dennis and Rachelle O’Callaghan have been named Supreme winners of the 2016 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Dennis and Rachelle, who own 610ha Temataa Station in Doubtless Bay, received the prestigious award at a Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on March 16. They were also presented with the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award. 

BFEA judges said the O’Callaghans balance impressive production and exceptional financial performance with an in-depth understanding of the environmental challenges faced by their farm.

They run an intensive beef system that covers 400ha and utilises both Technosystem laneways and cellular systems stocked with breeding cows, young bulls and two-year bulls. The balance of the property is set-stocked with sheep and cattle.

Stock performance has increased significantly since the introduction of the intensive system, which is likely to be expanded again in future. Total annual meat production from 550ha (effective) averages 303kg of carcaseweight/ha.   

BFEA judges said the O’Callaghans demonstrate a strong understanding of the limitations and challenges of soils on Temataa Station. Cattle are run in small mobs and stock classes are carefully matched to soil type and land class.

Because the farm is located within the Doubtless Bay catchment, limiting nutrient run-off is a key focus.  Laneways in the intensive beef system run across the hills to help slow water movement, and mobs are shifted every second day to avoid damage to pasture while minimising pugging and eliminating sediment loss. If conditions get wet, cattle go on to daily shifts, with some of the more vulnerable areas skipped if necessary.

Judges said the O’Callaghans are fully aware that water supply is a key risk to their business. They have invested heavily in an efficient and highly flexible reticulation system that is “simple and fool proof”.

The property has four spring-fed dams with a large storage capacity for the summer dry coastal location. Water is pumped to tanks on the farm and gravity fed through an interlinked system that allows for any dam to feed any part of the water scheme. Water levels and flows are monitored remotely, allowing for the rapid identification of leaks.

Judges said the O’Callaghans, who are former Beef + Lamb New Zealand monitor farmers, are very open about what they have achieved and are keen for other Northland farmers to learn from their experiences.

They demonstrate the highest standards of industry best-practice, including health and safety, mentoring of young staff and farm succession

They also show the importance of a good work-life balance, contributing to their local and farming community through rodeo and horse sports or by opening the farm up for field days.

A BFEA Supreme-winner field day will be held on Temataa Station on May 5, 2016. 

Winners in the 2016 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Supreme award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award: Dennis and Rachelle O’Callaghan, Temaata Station, Taipa.

LIC Dairy Farm Award, CB Norwood Distributors Agri-Business Award: Craig and Suzanne Johnsen, Johnsen Farms Ltd, Okaihau.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Massey University Innovation Award: Dr Jason Smith, Greenhill Stud Ltd, Matakohe.

PGG Wrightson People in Agriculture Award: Heath Worsfold and Eden Worsfold, Rural Design 1984 Ltd – Worsfold Farm, Kaiwaka.

Farm Stewardship Award in partnership with QE II National Trust and New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, Northland Regional Council Water Quality Enhancement Award: John Craig, Anne Stewart and Suzan Craig, Green Inc and Tahi Estate Ltd, Pataua North, Whangarei.

For more information on the 2016 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Chris Mason, Northland BFEA regional coordinator, phone 09 438 3109 or email

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