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'Wow Factor' Farm Wins Supreme Title in Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

12 April 2012

'Wow Factor' Farm Wins Supreme Title in Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Opio farmers Michael and Karen Blomfield, the owners of an “industry-leading” dairy farm, have won the Supreme award in the 2012 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges were lavish in their praise of the couple’s 220ha former sheep and beef farm, describing it as an “impeccable and aesthetically pleasing farm with the wow factor”.

“This dairy business can be highlighted as demonstrating all the disciplines we would have expected of a medium scale operation that epitomises near optimum environmental, social and financial sustainability.”

The Blomfields were announced Supreme winners at a BFEA ceremony on April 11, where they also collected a slew of category awards, including the LIC Dairy Farm Award.

Michael and Karen took over the farm from Michael’s parents John and Joan in 1994, and converted it in 2008. Last season they peak milked 580 cows on a milking platform of 189ha, achieving 233,300kg of milksolids at a cost of just $3.13/kgMS.

BFEA judges said the whole farm conversion had been thoughtfully planned and executed, with the Blomfields utilising their extensive knowledge of the farm’s soils to implement an impressive grazing management programme.

Their strong focus on pasture monitoring and management was enhanced by the use of expert advice and Michael’s extensive knowledge of pasture species to create highly productive pasture mixes.

Crops are kept to a minimum. Swede crops are precision drilled and carefully grazed to improve utilisation while minimising damage to soils.

Though the Blomfields run a low input system, they set high performance targets and are always mindful of environmental impacts.

Judges said they demonstrated a very good understanding of soil nutrients. Fertiliser is carefully placed across different sectors according to a detailed nutrient management plan.

The Blomfields, who run the operation with the help of herd manager Nathan Knight, seek expert advice from a range of sources and are always looking for opportunities to improve their business. Over the last four years they have made a significant effort to reduce farm debt, with farm succession being a key consideration in most decisions.

Judges said the Blomfields’ strong awareness of sustainability is highly evident. All improvements on the Opio property have been “thoughtfully considered and carefully implemented, resulting in many innovative features”.

Examples include the use of solar panels for powering road-crossing lights and the utilisation of native bark chips as a protective layer around drainage pipes. Plastic bale wrap is compacted in an old wool press, and a cardboard shoebox “muffler” is used to silence molasses feeding in the shed.

Judges said a range of water and energy-saving devices and practises are in place. The farm also has a highly effective effluent system which utilises a weeping wall.

Steeper areas and gullies have been planted out and the property features some outstanding riparian zones “that have been created with a real focus on plant species and beautification”.

These plantings have also provided a home for native birds.

Shelterbelts were established on the farm before conversion and these were added to as part of the laneway creation and farm subdivision.

Judges commended the Blomfields’ passion, which has prevailed despite the challenge of learning a whole new mode of farming.
“The huge focus on the creation of both aesthetic and habitat-enhancing environments was industry-leading. Michael is a self-confessed tree man who has taken the contour of the land and enhanced the natural features to create a profitable dairy farm in a park-like setting.”

As well as the Supreme award, the Blomfields also won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Nutrient Management Award, the LIC Dairy Farm Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Massey University Discovery Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.

Riverton farmers Euan and Linda Templeton won the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award and the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award.

A field day will be held on the Blomfield farm on May 9.
For more information on the 2012 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Helen van der Linden, Southland Regional Coordinator, Ballance Farm Environment Awards,southland@bfea.org.nz, phone (03) 204 2015 or 027 276 7616.

For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, phone 07 834 0400, or emaildavid.natzke@nzfeatrust.org.nz.