Couple win environmental farming awards

GERALD PIDDOCK
Last updated 09:17 04/03/2014

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Katikati sheep and beef farmers Rick Burke and Jan Loney's focus on protecting marginal areas of their farm while lifting productivity of grazeable land has seen them win the Bay of Plenty Farm Environment Awards Supreme title.

The couple, who farm 350ha Pukekauri Farms in the foothills of the Kaimai Ranges, also picked up a string of category awards at the awards ceremony on on Friday.

The judges praised the couple's teamwork and excellent people skills, noting the outstanding plantings on riparian areas and marginal land that "look stunning and greatly enhance biodiversity". They were also impressed with the excellent production being achieved on the rest of the farm.

Pukekauri is made up of 250ha owned by the Seddon Family Trust, a 50ha joint venture between the Seddon Family Trust and Burke, plus a further 50ha owned by Burke. The combined properties are farmed as one unit. There is 212ha of grazing land, 110ha in covenanted mature native bush, wetlands and riparian planting and 28ha in plantation pines, redwoods and Cyprus lusitanica.

The retirement of weed and erosion- prone land has simplified management and resulted in an increase in production and profitability. Protecting and planting streams has also reduced flooding and erosion.

The couple run sheep, bull beef and dairy grazers and have the goal of obtaining the best possible return per kilogram of drymatter from an all-grass system. Stock health was excellent and the farm was achieving above average production for the region.

Pastures were well maintained and there is real "synergy between environmental planning and the excellent production of the farmed area". The judges also noted the sound financial management, good nutrient management and a "very strong community engagement".

"The focus is always back to people and people skills. There is strong teamwork between Rick and Jan."

Burke and Loney also won category awards for livestock, integrated management, farm stewardship and one of two environment awards.

A field day will be held on Pukekauri Farms, with the date yet to be finalised.

Other award winners were:

Harvest award, life and land award, environment award: Trevor and Harriet Hamilton, Rere Lake Ltd, Rotorua.

Soil management award, dairy farm award, energy excellence award: RL and HS McKenzie Ltd, Lachlan and Heather McKenzie, Sherwood Farm, Rotorua.

Innovation award: Dreamfields Farm Ltd, Bruce and Judy Woods, Whakatane.

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- Waikato Times

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