Southland Farmer Learns From Farm Environment Award Experience


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Southland sheep and deer farmer Dave MacGillivray doesn’t consider himself a “tree hugger”, but that didn’t stop him making the finals of the 2009 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

“I was a bit reluctant to enter,” says Dave who was one of just six BFEA finalists in the Southland region this year. “But I do believe in looking after what you have and where possible enhancing it. I have found these awards are more about sustainability, I have really enjoyed looking at it from that angle and have learnt a lot.”

The award judges liked the way Dave and his wife Sandy were looking after their “outstanding” natural features on their property, and the couple’s approach to improving soil quality.

Showing the judges around their 260ha Merrivale farm in Western Southland was “a really worthwhile experience, something I have realised I’m really proud to do”, says Dave.

Attending a BFEA field day on the property of the 2006 Southland supreme winners Graeme and Dorothy Dodd was a watershed moment for Dave. “That gave me the inspiration when I saw what could be achieved. I made contacts that day, it showed me how to go about doing things and that it’s never too late.”

Dave purchased his first block back in 1991 despite its “bled dry” condition. “It was what I could afford,” he says. “But also, I could see the potential, and I really like hills and the bush, and all the hard work has been worth it.” On the two combined properties three areas totalling six hectares of mature and regenerating native bush, predominantly beech, have been fenced and protected with QEII covenants. Four creeks, a stream on the southern boundary and a four-hectare peat bog are either fenced, or earmarked for fencing, with support from the Waiau Fisheries and Wildlife Enhancement Trust and Solid Energy.

Dave’s farming policy has always been to focus on the most potentially productive areas of the land, addressing soil damage, developing, regrassing and fertilising (though only at times of low risk for phosphate loss).

He has had to prioritise his input; he doesn’t own a tractor. “I’d rather put the money into stock and the land”. He appreciates having a good co-operative relationship with his contractor and neighbours, something he views as especially important, “when you’re tractor-less”.

Last year the farm wintered 1800 ewes, 500 hoggets, 120 breeding hinds and 110 weaner deer. All stock is finished on the property. Dave is proud of the “marked” improvement in stock performance since he began farming there, with lambing percentage up from 110 percent to an average of over 150 percent for the past eight years.

Dave and Sandy see increasing their stock shelter as the key to a further lift in production and are in the process of implementing a farm shelter plan with Environment Southland.

Entries for the 2010 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 1 and close on December 18, 2009.

For information on entering the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, or contact Annabel Radford, Southland Regional Coordinator, Ballance Farm Environment Awards, , phone (03) 248 7246 or 021 762 648.
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust, phone 07 834 0400,  or visit

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