15 February 2019
Encouraging people to do the right thing for the environment is one of the reasons Pete Swinburn and Suzanne Hoyt entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
“We know this is important, not just for the environment, but for our agriculture industry, to be ahead of the game internationally,” Pete says.
Suzanne, who works off-farm as a counsellor, agrees. “We also want to bring our children up in a rural setting. We realise how privileged we are to have that opportunity and how we have to take care of environmental health and teach that to our kids.”
They have three children – Patrick, Brigitte and James – and farm 1482 hectares (1271ha effective) at Flemington as part of the Watergreen Tourere Partnership with Bruce Isles and Danelle Dinsdale, who live in Auckland with son William. The partnership is two neighbouring farms that have been run together since 2011 with three full-time workers, including operations manager Blair Rhodes, and one part-timer.
There is 130ha of forestry and a 16ha QEII National Trust covenant, plus fenced riparian areas and native bush. Poplar poles have been planted extensively for erosion control over the past 60 years. Fifteen kilometres of stream edge has been fenced – about 88 per cent of their share of Te Kowhai, Ngahape, Turikeitai and a tributary of the Purimu Streams.
The farm’s primary focus is lamb finishing supported by bull beef – finishing 20,000 to 30,000 lambs a year and selling 1000 to 1500 cattle. The farm produced 262kg per hectare last season.
After realising their strength was in finishing, the breeding flock was reduced until the last ewes were sold last year. A 150-cow breeding herd, mated to Wagyu, now balances pasture management.
About 300ha of forage crops are planted including summer and winter brassicas, fodder beet and plantain. The farm also grazes about 500 hoggets in spring and leases out 30ha for squash.
One of the partnership’s goals is to keep N nutrient losses within the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Plan Change 6 limits (currently 11 versus their allowable limit of 18.6).
Tracmap is used for placement of fertiliser and chemical applications. The farm is a validation property for a precision fertiliser project trial. It has been a B+LNZ Innovation Farm since 2016 and hosts fourth-year vet students from Massey University and agricultural students from Purpan University in France. Pete was chairman of the East Coast drylands forages project, focusing on plantain, clover on hill country and lucerne.
Pete, Suzanne, Bruce and Danelle have a range of community involvement across education, health and agriculture.
Awards Won 2019
Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award
Norwood Agri-Business Management Award