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Castlerock Rules Supreme in BoP Ballance Farm Environment Awards

22 February 2012

Castlerock Rules Supreme in BoP Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Left to right - Jim and Barbara Hitchcock, Rhys and Kim Meredith and children, Max and Libby.

Mamaku farm owners Jim and Barbara Hitchcock and their sharemilkers, Rhys and Kim Meredith, have been named Supreme Winners of the 2012 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

At a Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on February 21, the Hitchcock and Meredith farming partnership also collected the Ballance Nutrient Management Award and the LIC Dairy Farm Award.

The Hitchcocks own Castlerock Farm, a 190ha dairy unit in the Mamaku Ranges near Rotorua. Castlerock milks about 510 cows, achieving production of around 360kgMilksolids/cow.

BFEA judges described Castlerock as “an extremely well-planned farming structure”.

“Jim and Barbara, through hard work and taking their opportunities over the last 17 years, have created a successful, profitable and sustainable business.”

The Hitchcocks, who live off-farm, share a good relationship with the Merediths, allowing their long-time sharemilkers considerable control.

Both parties are committed to farming practices that are environmentally sustainable. Animal welfare has a high priority within this profitable business and staff relations are very important. Castlerock utilises a low-input, low-cost system, with no purchased feed. The farm also has an excellent milk quality record.

Situated in a high rainfall area, Castlerock’s location in the Rotorua Lakes catchment means it is subject to regional council rules that restrict most means of increasing farm production.

But the Hitchcocks and the Merediths are happy to work within these rules. They use the Overseer programme to monitor and minimise nutrient loss from the farm. Dairy effluent is carefully managed and the Hitchcocks recently invested an extra $150,000 in their effluent system, even though the previous system already met council requirements.

Two large stand-off pads are used in winter to minimise pasture damage and reduce run-off.

BFEA judges said the Hitchcocks have a sound understanding of nutrient loss management.

They described the farm as very tidy, well-fenced and well-raced with very good pastures.

Hillocks and rock features dominate the farm’s topography along with a large area of mature native bush that includes a wetland of sphagnum moss.

The Merediths are in their last season of a six-year contract but judges noted that the Hitchcocks are keen to “keep the excellent relationship going” and discussions regarding the possibility of an equity partnership have begun.

The Hitchcocks and the Merediths enjoy a range of recreational and community interests. Jim Hitchcock has been involved with a number of dairy related organisations and is currently the local LIC Customer Relationship Manager.

A field day will be held on Castlerock Farm on March 27, 2012.

Other award winners in the 2012 BoP Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:
Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and Beef + Lamb NZ Livestock Award; Rangitaiki Station.
PGG Land and Life Award and ZESPRI Kiwifruit Orchard Award; Mark Mayston, Bruntwood Farms Ltd.
Massey University Discovery Award; Harry and Anne Frost, Mamaku Blue.
WaterForce Integrated Management Award; Bruce and Judy Woods, Dreamfields Farm Ltd.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Environmental Award; Whakaue Farming Limited, Tihiotonga.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Environmental Award; Douglas and Catherine Bull, Lake Farm.

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