Four Taranaki farms in the running for Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Jane and Damian Roper.

Jane and Damian Roper.

Four finalists in the 2017 Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards have been named.

The supreme winner and merit award winners will be announced in New Plymouth on April 12.

The awards, first held in Taranaki in 2014, promote best-practice land management by showcasing the work of people farming in a way that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. 

John and Roslyn Weir.

John and Roslyn Weir.

Open to all farmers within the Taranaki Regional Council boundaries, the contest is facilitated by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

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This year's finalists are: Peter and Nicola Carver, Ohangai; Layne and Helen Greensill with William Candy and Rebecca Coleman (contract milkers), Okato; John and Roslyn Weir, Toko; 

Peter and Nicola Carver.

Peter and Nicola Carver.

Damian and Jane Roper, Alton.

The Carvers have combined both dairy and drystock farming on Holmleigh, their 515-hectare family property at Ohangai, east of Hawera. 

Operating with consideration for the long-term viability of both their farming business and the environment, the Carvers have a sheep and beef breeding and finishing unit which is complemented by the 95ha dairy platform they developed for milking in the 2014-15 season.

Rebecca Coleman, left, William Candy, Layne Greensill, Helen Greensill.

Rebecca Coleman, left, William Candy, Layne Greensill, Helen Greensill.

By developing the farm into a drystock-dairy unit, they had maximised productivity of the flat to steep land and spread the risk of commodity fluctuations, resulting in better farm efficiency and better economic returns long-term, they said.

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Layne and Helen Greensill milk 250 cows in a year-round operation based on their 82ha milking platform at Okato.  Two-thirds of the herd are spring calving and the balance autumn.

The flat, contoured farm is combined with a long-term 10ha lease area. Along with another smaller dairy farm the Greensills have recently bought, it is supported by four lease blocks totalling 30ha.  Production achieved in this System 2 operation last season was 103,000 kilograms of milksolids.

Layne described his approach to farming as "science-based". They undertook frequent and in-depth herbage testing and aimed to create the right environment to get maximum production, he said.

"We fertilise little and often and test regularly."

John and Roslyn Weir's ​Springmount Farms covers 200ha on mostly flat Central Taranaki land.

This season, 520 cows were peak-milked on the 150ha milking platform at Toko, east of Stratford.

Their dairy shed is a 58-bale rotary built in 1984 but modernised and fitted out by Dairymaster 13 years ago. John currently has Dairymaster working on an idea that would give them a dual system for heat recovery in the shed. Energy efficiency efforts are also obvious in the houses, with solar hot water or fire wetbacks.

The farm is System 4-5. Last season, the production achieved from the mainly friesian herd was 249,500kgMS. 

Damian and Jane Roper's 440-cow South Taranaki dairy business is the result of combining two farms bought in 2006 and 2008, and significant development work.

They are on track for their targeted production of 220,000kgMS from 440 cows in a System 3-4 feeding regime this season.

Since moving to their farm this season they have fenced the steep and marginal areas, retiring some to woodlot and configuring the rest to run up to 25 beef cattle which will be taken through to no older than 15 months.

Strong advocates of minimum tillage cropping on their own land, they also run a small contracting business reseeding and regrassing with their direct drill and roller drill.

Soil protection was also a major consideration in the decision to construct a feed pad with the new dairy shed, a 50-bale rotary, built in 2014.

Consented earth works during the construction gave them an opportunity to turn a steep gully with an overgrown creek into what is now an attractive 2.2ha lake and wetland, fenced and planted by the family.

  • Tickets for the awards dinner, to be held at the Devon Hotel on April 12, are available online at bfea.org.nz or by contacting Claire Hunn on 027 254 9548.

 - Stuff

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