Michael and Tracey Collis may run a dairy farm with big ambitions, but they have managed to achieve a small environmental footprint. To boot, they are in a challenging farming area. Their tenacity and their talents caught the eyes of this year’s judges who credited the couple’s willingness to adapt their farming system to outside influences.
Raising four daughters, with Tracey also active in local politics – she is the Mayor of Tararua – they purchased their property in 2007 and built up the enterprise. Initially buying a 93ha milking platform before leasing an 80ha runoff 7kms away, they have since purchased the latter as well as a neighbouring runoff to give them a total of 252ha.
The Collis’ have a joint ambition to be role models and leaders through their farm practice. By striving to create a farming environment that is healthy, they are providing an opportunity for their business to thrive as well as giving the surrounding community confidence their vision is sustainable.
Running a Kiwi cross herd, with a mating policy to keep cow size down by mating larger cows to a Jersey sire, a key advantage of this approach is that once-a-day milking can be introduced when they move in this direction – a key ambition for the duo, which is readily becoming a reality thanks to their discipline.
The Collis’ key focus is paying off debt to increase equity and they operate a low-input system and keep their farm working expenses to $2.50/KgMS which they achieve without compromising production.
Consented to farm under the Horizons Regional Council One Plan, they have processes in place to mitigate nitrogen leaching.
The Collis’ are aware of the different characteristics of soils on their property – Kopua Silt Loam and Dannevirke Silt Loam. The soils are free-draining with a stoney base but the use of a feed pad is required to protect them in wet periods. Cultivation practices are minimised by only disking and power harrowing to reduce soil damage and weed infestation.
A reflection of their significant – and diverse – potential, the pair has planted 7ha of Manuka with the aim of producing Manuka honey as an alternative source of income.
“We are really pleased about being a finalist,” the Collis’ say of their achievement. “It’s good to benchmark ourselves and receive the judges feedback on what we could do better and the opportunities. Our advice to those thinking about entering would be ‘just have a go’. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.”
Awards Won 2019
DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award
Enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards