Waikato deer farmers win top environmental award

Steve Borland's deer farm in western Waikato has won the Elworthy Award for environmental management.
Gerald Piddock

Steve Borland's deer farm in western Waikato has won the Elworthy Award for environmental management.

Waikato deer farmers Steve and Chris Borland and Bob Sharp have been awarded the deer industry's top environmental prize.

The trio have won the Elworthy Award for their environmental stewardship at Shabor Farms at Oparau in western Waikato.

The 982 hectare farm is a rugged hill country property, producing deer, sheep and beef. Velveting stags are bred for a second farm that operates as a commercial velveting operation which last season produced 50 tonnes of velvet. 

Steve and Chris Borland's deer farm focuses on velvet production.
Gerald Piddock

Steve and Chris Borland's deer farm focuses on velvet production.

The trio were presented the award at Deer Industry New Zealand's recent annual conference in Wellington.

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The award is presented to the property which best demonstrates a sustainable farming system where there is long-term protection of the environment, sustainable production and best farming practice.

Shabor's owners also won the Landcare Trust Award for excellence in sustainable deer farming through action on the ground.

Steve Borland said he was surprised to win the award because they were only into their third year developing the farm.

He said they got the Landcare Trust involved with the farm's development from the beginning in 2015 and took on a lot of the trust's advice.

"We have done a hell of a lot since then. We have done about 35 kilometres of deer fencing and it's all running pretty smart."

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The farm runs about 1150 stags consisting of a mix of two-year-olds, spikers and mixed age stags as well as breeding hinds.

A farm environmental plan is used to help guide his future farm actions, including reducing cattle numbers and lifting sheep numbers.

The deer herd is geared around velvet production, breeding replacement stags for their velveting farm in Whakamaru, run by Sharp.

A challenge is that 54 of the farm's 56 paddocks contain natural water bodies.

Borland feared what could happen if the farm was ever incorporated into the Waikato Regional Council's Healthy Rivers Plan Change 1.

The farm is located in the West Coast region, outside the plan change's three priority catchment zones and the council would look at the West Coast once rules were in place for the Waikato and Waipa river and Waihou-Piako and Coromandel catchments.

Borland said the farm would no longer be economically viable if the Healthy Rivers plan change rules were adopted for his region.

"It's a real nightmare if you look at Healthy Rivers, if it goes to total stock exclusion, we'll be thrown out of farming."

The farm has three main waterways, one of which ran along the farm boundary. He immediately fenced off access along1.5km of this stream.

"That stream is a very clean stream and when it rains, it stays clean."

He is about to begin construction of a double fenceline running from his deer shed, back to one of the farm's native bush stands. This will protect the stream on both sides running out of that bush and help protect Aotea Harbour because the catchment area begun from that block.

"We have started that, the posts are in the ground and we have got a grant from the council - they have come on board and helped us to do that."

He hoped to have the $142,000, one kilometre long project completed by the end of winter.

Borland said the award process was similar to the Farm Environment Awards where judges visited each farm and assessed it on different categories.

Winners of other deer awards included Hamish and Julia Mackenzie from Tekapo, David and Hilary Ward of Ashburton, Lyndon and Millie Matthews from Waikari and Claire Parkes and Simon Vincent of Wakefield.

Borland will be holding an open day at his farm on a date yet to be announced.

 

 

 - Stuff

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