15 February 2019
Sustainability is realised through so many different avenues. At Cameron and Jo Shepherds’ dairy farm, sustainability - in their words - “is all about the soils”.
Cameron hails from a sheep farming background and has dedicated his life to the primary sector. Certainly in his element, sharing his love of farming with Jo, and their three children, Cameron is rightfully proud of the work undertaken on the farm to date. The judges were equally impressed.
The Shepherds operate a carefully-planned high-input, closed farm system designed around the farm’s unique and somewhat challenging pipe clay soils. Their system optimises the use of all the water that falls on their land, which is even more significant because it is the only source of water on the property.
Two substantial, covered feed pads precede their cow shed, which the team can flood-wash using green water. All effluent from the shed and feed pads is then channeled through a very substantial weeping wall. This drains slowly though to a higher, and then lower pond system, which can finally be diluted by rain water stored in a separate pond before being used to irrigate over 35ha. There is no feeding out in the paddocks at all, as the Shepherds’ feed pad provides a great facility the cows can access before milking.
The result of the Shepherds lateral thinking is improved levels of production and a better work/life balance for the couple and their children. Family is everything to the Shepherds, and a structured family partnership has given rise to a comprehensive farm succession plan implemented by Cameron’s father, Paul, and his late mother, Ruth.
Of entering the awards Cameron says, “It is good to challenge ourselves and have a yard stick of where we sit environmentally in relation to other farms. You may be doing things on your own farm you think are right, but you don’t always get a lot of people off-farm offering insight because it’s a bit of an independent sport.
“We’re quite proud to be finalists and found it interesting to have the judges on-site because of the different things they were able to highlight to us. It’s not the type of feedback you always have access to.”
Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award
DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award
Auckland Council Water Quality Enhancement Award