Taking a strategic approach that plays to their strengths is paying off for this Omakau couple as they diversify and grow their beef and dairy grazing business. Highly conscious of the farm’s environmental impact, they’re anticipating future regulatory changes by taking action now.
The Gillespies felt ready to re-enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards after fulfilling most of the recommendations they received the first time around. They’re keen to see how they’ve progressed and to identify new areas for improvement.
Over the past two years, Anna and Ben have diversified into beef finishing to complement the original dairy grazing business on the 360ha effective farm. Around 700 weaned dairy calves arrive in December. These calves are carried through two winters and returned to the owner, in-calf, 15 months later. They also finish about 500 beef cattle through winter and spring. Their team approach plays to their individual strengths and the result is a highly productive business that looks to the future, while still achieving a work-life balance with family at its core.
The judges were impressed with Ben and Anna’s awareness of the farm’s environmental effects and how they are anticipating future regulatory changes. They said irrigation management was a stand-out feature, with it including a variable rate application and use of a wetland filter system.
There is a strong focus on improving the environment, including the establishment of two new wetlands and the fencing of riparian margins. Riparian planting will start soon, using native plants grown in the newly established, on-site nursery, and there is a long-term shelter belt planting plan, with 4,500 shelter trees planted over the past two years.
In response to the threat of Mycoplasma bovis, the farm’s stocking policy and layout has been changed – part of a comprehensive business plan. The judges commended the Gillespies for matching their farm system to the business’s growth curve.
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