15 February 2019
Katherine and Fraser McGougan, of Willowvale Farms Ltd, had a pinch-me-moment when they were announced the 2019 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards Regional Supreme Award Winners In 2011, the McGougans took over their family’s Taneatua dairy farm Willowvale Farms which currently milks 431 cows on 150 hectares. All of their hard work has culminated in this well-deserved major award.
“We’re excited to see the recognition that our environmental planning and business is going in the right direction. The award has opened up many doors and enabled us to meet with others. Through our fielday and speaking opportunities that have arisen, we feel proud to be able to inspire others.”
‘Inspiring’ is certainly the right word to describe the McGougans efforts - their environmental initiatives on-farm are significant.
“We’ve fenced off all waterways and are now fencing off small areas of native bush, featuring stands of large Kahikatea. We’re also rejuvenating these bush areas with our three young children helping to do additional planting. A Land Manager Officer from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has helped with planting as well as weed and pest advice.”
Fraser has enjoyed some success using Cinnabar moth to control ragwort. “We’re also thinking about introducing biological control to manage Californian thistles in the future.”
Efficient use of fertiliser is managed using a GPS mapping system attached to the spreader, and soil testing is undertaken biannually on every paddock with a block test in alternate years. “Timeliness and accuracy of fertiliser application are really important to us, and our approach means we’re getting the right type and rate of fertiliser applied to where it’s needed.”
A neighbouring lease block was recently purchased and its cowshed, and soakage system have been decommissioned. “We recontoured the pond and brought it back to the standard it should have been.”
Fraser is currently a Climate Change Ambassador for DairyNZ. This role involves keeping up-to-date with the latest science and feeding this back to other farmers. “We recently had the Government Climate Change Authority visit, and they are asking farmers where they should be heading with climate change legislation. It’s really good to see that they’re trying to find a fair solution for both the environment and farmers.”
At Willowvale Farms, matching the stocking rate to what the land can carry is important and helps ensures the cows are well fed. “If you look after your pasture and soils, you look after your cows.”
Minimising waste and recycling are everyday activities. Bailage wrap and scrap metal are recycled. A heat recovery system is used on the refrigeration unit providing free hot water to 52 degrees. Fresh water is reused up to three times in the cow shed before entering the effluent pond.
Fraser and Katherine are planning an eco-tourism operation and are currently renovating an old cottage that will be located in a patch of the bush so that visitors can help out with replanting. “We see this as a great way to open the farm-gate so people can experience first-hand the positive things that are happening on dairy farms.”
In the future, the pair will look to act on extensive plans they have been mapping out. “For the future, we have mapped out some big changes for our farm system such as getting the best effluent disposal system and sharper nutrient management.”
Most importantly, Fraser has started the sustainable Nutrient Management Course from Massey University, so he can build on his knowledge in this area and continues to share it with others.
Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award
DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award
Norwood Agri-Business Management Award
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Environmental Award Two
2019 Bay of Plenty Regional Supreme Winner