Ohangai farmers win Ballance Farm Environment Award

Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards winners Peter and Nicola Carver.

Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards winners Peter and Nicola Carver.

A combined sheep, beef and dairy farm is the supreme winner of the Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The award was presented to Ohangai farmers Peter and Nicola Carver in New Plymouth on Wednesday. The couple also took home awards for soil management, livestock, integrated management, sustainability and harvesting. 

By running both dairy and dry stock operations, the Carvers make the most of a mix of flat to steep land on their 515 hectare family property, Homeleigh, east of Hawera.

A sheep and beef breeding and finishing unit is complemented by a 95ha dairy platform that began milking in the 2014-15 season. At the peak of this season 260 cows were milked and the farm is on track to produce 125,000kg of milksolids (480kg per cow). 

When carrying out the dairy conversion, the Carvers future-proofed their work by installing larger than required infrastructure such as effluent and milk storage.

"But as it's turned out what we have in dairy is a good size. We could convert more but don't plan to in the near future as we still want to be able to finish the stock we breed," the couple say.

The dry stock operation winters 4500 stock units with a 50:50 sheep to beef ratio.

The couple run two mobs of romney ewes, with early weaning ensuring the animals retain condition and can go on their own pasture rotation for the summer and into tupping.

The beef operation includes 50 angus breeding cows with angus bulls used for both the beef and young and late-cycling dairy cows.  All progeny are finished and some bulls are sold for dairy service. All dairy calves are reared.

The competition judges described the farm as tidy and functional, saying it highlighted excellent thinking and execution of environmental planning for the long-term sustainability of the land. It was an impressive system giving huge flexibility while helping to ensure a sustainable business, they said.

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The Carvers are proud of the farm's progress.

"The farm has been re-grassed extensively, there is new water reticulation to most paddocks, access tracks and laneways have been created, fences have been improved and some areas of the farm that have been vulnerable to erosion and weed infestation have been retired and planted," they said.

Having graduated with a Diploma in Farm Management from Lincoln University, Peter tracks his environmental and soil awareness back to that study time. The couple are strong advocates for no-tillage and use a Cross Slot drill for most of their cropping. 

"The one-pass system is very efficient and we see it as very important to keep the soil structure intact," he said.

Soil tests are carried out before crops go in and nutrients are applied both by broadcast and direct-drilled at planting. Soil protection was a primary consideration in grazing management, they said.

"We have a high rainfall so we have to be careful, especially with cattle on the hills in winter."

The couple are progressively retiring erosion-prone land and have planted 25ha of pines and 5ha of redwood through the Taranaki Regional Council's Waitotara Stress Scheme. The planting of poplar poles for erosion mitigation and stock shelter is ongoing.

There are numerous natural springs in the farm's hills. The largest has been fenced and runs two water rams that form part of the reticulated stock water system with troughs in every paddock.

The Carvers will host a field day at their Meremere Road property on April 27.

 - Stuff

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