Philip and Julia Leaf of Brierly Hill


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2024 Northland Finalist: Philip and Julia Leaf of Brierly Hill – Beef

Fifthgeneration farmer Philip Leaf is constantly striving to improve Brierly Hill’s farming system – in terms of both land management and ensuring the wellbeing of stock. 
The 600ha (472ha effective) Matakohe property has been in Philip’s family since l862, and he has worked there since leaving school at the age of 16. He and his wife Julia have raised their family on the beef farm which today runs up to 900 trading cattle. 
Philip observes the mobs at least every two days, with weight gain closely monitored as a way of assessing stock health. This is no easy task, given that Philip has established his own cell grazing grid which features up to 32 mobs at any one time. The judges were impressed with the high level of organisation this requires.  
The beef business is complemented by income derived from harvesting radiata pine which has been gradually planted across 77ha since 1980.  
There has been a strong focus on reducing weeds, along with extensive planting and fencing of waterways. Today, the beautiful property features 46ha of native bush parcels that thrive alongside the relatively intensive beef system.  
The judges were impressed with the coherent, well-organised and effective farming operation that is characterised by high standards. Philip’s knowledge spans sediment capture, mitigating erosion, and soil health. 
Philip has a long history of building strong relationships with the wider industry and local authorities, which has helped him stay ahead of environmental regulations.  
There’s a strong emphasis on the wellbeing of both family and staff, with Philip and Julia keen for everyone to enjoy the benefits of a farming lifestyle.  
This couple is dedicated to farming the land and animals while being the best stewards they can. They’re well on track to achieve their overarching goal of leaving Brierly Hill in a better condition than when they began their journey.  

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