Sustainability equals longevity and balance across the physical environment, business and people, say Dannevirke dairy farmers Andrew Hardie and Helen Long. The couple won the Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards on Thursday night (15 March) at the Silks Lounge at the Awapuni Racecourse, Palmerston North.
Andrew and Helen have farmed Te Maunga since 1999 and say sustainability equals longevity and balance across the physical environment, business and people. “We feel we are the custodians of this little patch of New Zealand and whether we hold it for our own children or someone else’s children, it is our responsibility to value it and enhance it,” Helen says.
The 428ha property is bounded by the Manawatu and Mangatewainui Rivers and is made up of a 240ha dairy platform, 83ha runoff, 41ha managed pine plantations, 35ha fenced riparian margins and 29ha native bush. They have milked once a day since 2008. Contract milkers Liam and Margot Richardson milk 720 friesian jersey cows, once a day in a 50-bale rotary shed, producing 235,000 to 245,000 kilograms of milk solids on a pasture-based system.
The judges commended Andrew and Helen on their willingness to embrace new technology and systems including a varivac milk plant vacuum controller, which lowers power use by not producing extra air flow, and culturing mastitis samples in an incubator. They have made a recent investment in a C-Dax tow-behind pasture meter, use a NIWA virtual climate monitoring station to follow evapotranspiration and keep a water-balance profile based on soil type and contour to help manage their irrigation efficiency.
Water is taken from the Mangatewainui river on the farms boundary. About 130ha is irrigated using a centre pivot and laterals. The property is extensively artificially drained with tiles and moles and there is a new lined standoff area to minimise soil pugging in winter that can also capture and store liquid. There is a lined storage pond for effluent, which is applied to 35-50ha via a travelling irrigator. The farm’s fertiliser programme is based on annual soil tests and recommendations and a nutrient budget has been done using Overseer. Nitrogen fertiliser use has halved.
Biodiversity is evident throughout the farm. They have a continuous focus on planting trees and Helen grows a small number of extra natives from seedlings each year. “We have fenced off significant areas every year. We planted 1000 trees from Horizons as well as another 2500 pine trees this year. We fenced off riparian areas years ago and now we have more time and more money we can enhance these areas with plantings,” Andrew says. There is an existing wetland with another in planning stages.
The couple have a long history in the dairy industry – Andrew is the Fonterra shareholder councillor for Hawke’s Bay and they are members of DairyNZ discussion groups. The judges said Andrew and Helen were generous people within the local community and had demonstrated their responsibility was beyond the farm gate. Andrew says that’s incredibly important to them. “We’re at the stage of our lives where we can give back a lot of the assistance we were given when we were young. We want to share our experience and help people and their communities.”
As well as the supreme award, Andrew and Helen also won the DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award and WaterForce Integrated Management Award.
The Farm Stewardship Award was won by Ohotu Station manager Dean Francois for the Atihau Incorporation, Ohakune. The managers of Whanganui’s Morikau Station, Hamish and Katrina Thompson, won the People in Agriculture Award, the Predator Free Farm Award and the Horizons Regional Council Award for the integration of trees. Pongaroa sheep and beef farmers Alistair Timothy and Rachel Joblin, who also have forestry on their property, Arklow, won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, CB Norwood Distributors Agri-Business Management Award and Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award.
Apiti dairy farmers Lance and Katherine Gillespie, Table Flat Holdings Ltd, won the Massey University Innovation Award.
The Margaret Matthews Trophy for Commitment to Sustainability went to Marton dairy farmers Logan Bowler and Kathy Craw from Kagan Ltd. This award recognises an entrant who has shown promise, commitment or determination to improve the sustainability of their farm in line with the ethos of the Farm Environment Awards.
Enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards