Glenfern Farm owners work towards sustainability

Agribusiness consultant Deane Carson and Waikawa Valley farmer Allan Marshall at Glenfern farm during the Beef+Lamb New ...
BRITTANY PICKETT/FAIRFAX NZ

Agribusiness consultant Deane Carson and Waikawa Valley farmer Allan Marshall at Glenfern farm during the Beef+Lamb New Zealand Land and environment planning and beef system analysis field day.

Sustainable farming is at the forefront of Allan and Kathryn Marshall's minds.

The pair own Glenfern Farm, a 940 hectare sheep and beef farm in the Waikawa Valley, which has been a family farm for more than 100 years.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand hosted a land and environment planning and beef system analysis field day at the farm last week.

Allan was brought into the partnership when he was 18, which he admits is a young age, but by 2003 he and Kathryn were in a position to buy the farm themselves.

But it hasn't been an easy ride. He says the farm was plagued by bearings and one year 11 per cent of the ewes were affected.

"The past three years we've focussed on maintaining ewe condition all through winter."

Allan's wairere romney's lambing percentage is at 154 per cent and he works hard to ensure that lamb survival remains high.

"I've found over the years that dead lambs don't balance the accounts so once they're in the sheep it's our responsibility to look after them."

Glenfern Farm has 42 kilometres of waterways through the farm, with an average annual waterfall of 1350mm. 

Allan was shocked to find out just how much water was running through his property, when Environment Southland measured the waterway.

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He says he would have guessed less than half of that.

But on-farm the water could pose a lot of problems. Before thinking about land sustainability, Allan found himself putting up electric fences near waterways to "keep ewes from lambing near the river".

But soon he found himself putting permanent fencing up and riparian planting throughout the farm to protect the water from stock interference.

Allan first tried to maintain full stock exclusion from the buffers between the fencing and the waterways, but he soon found the banks began to erode.

Instead, he allows sheep to graze on the banks but only once the planted willows have established. Letting the sheep graze maintains the condition of the banks, he says.

"Our waterway management is not up to the desired standard yet but it's a long way ahead of where we were 20 years ago."

Glenfern Farm has 37-40ha of brassica crops planted each year, with paddocks on a one or two year rotation from brassica crops to grass, depending on the pasture condition, Allan says.

This year he's planted his crop in a paddock parallel to the Waikawa River, so he put in a buffer zone of grass around it to capture nutrients running off the crop.

Growing a decent brassica crop has been a struggle throughout the years, he says.

Allan wants his farm to remain sustainable in the future, and continues to work on new ways to ensure its viability while using good environmental practices.

Glenfern Farm uses a B+LNZ Land Environment Plan 2 (LEP2).

Agribusiness Consultants consultant Deane Carson helped Allan set up his plan.

The farm is made up of steep hills, flats and low lying flats with significant waterways running through. 

"It really staggered me how many waterways are on this farm," Carson says.

Carson assessed the farm's land management units and split the farm into: heavy land - floodable, cattle exclusion, no cattle wintering, sediment loss risk and floodable ground.

From there, the LEP2 plan was formed.

The water scheme was costed at $2000 for the first year and then $20,000 every year after. 

Waterway exclusion would be done on three paddocks a year, at a cost of $7500, with riparian planting in two or three paddocks a year for an additional $6000.

Other management on the farm would include building a bridge, mole plough subsoil, sediment trapping and porina monitoring.

B+LNZ South Island environment extension manager Turi McFarlane says farmers who have environmental management plans in place will ensure a sustainable future for farming in New Zealand.

The plans are about matching management to land capacity, riparian management, crop management and nutrient budgeting, he says.

 

Glenfern at a glance:

Ewes - 5350

Hoggets - 1450

Rams - 50

R1 year steers - 100

R1 year heifers - 100

R2 year steers - 15

R2 year heifers - 30

Mixed age cows and in calf heifers - 85

Bulls - 28

 - Stuff

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