14 April 2020
2020 finalists: Mark Johnston & Rebecca Jeffery of Ruahine Range View - Dairy.
After three years of hard work, this couple has completely transformed their property – creating a tribute to their passion for farming and their commitment to environmental excellence. As their vision for the property takes shape, substantial improvements have been made in the short time they have owned the farm.
Mark and Rebecca entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards as a way of celebrating their achievements that are the result of many long days.
As well as owning a 306ha dry stock farm, they purchased two dairy farms in the 2016/17 season. The dairy farms have been merged into one self-contained unit and now farm 350 dairy cows over 131ha, with a further 80ha adjacent to boost the summer milking platform.
The judges said Mark and Rebecca should be proud of their achievements since their first milking season in 2017. Since then, they have increased the size of the milking platform and cow numbers, and are already milking their own replacement heifers.
The farm has a low stock rate and high production – about 1.7 cows per hectare – and the judges noted that milk production per cow is well above average for the area. Equally important is the fact that the cows are happy and healthy.
Significant time and investment has gone into improving infrastructure and water provisions – all with future environmental requirements in mind. For example, the new effluent storage system has more capacity than required, and the infrastructure has enabled significant expansion of the effluent irrigation area. Other improvements include a new cowshed, underpass, fertiliser bunker and silage pit.
The biodiversity of the property has also undergone a transformation, including the planting of 5,000 pines and 700 natives over the past two years, the creation of four wetlands, monthly possum control and the installation of kilometres of fencing along creeks. The judges said the couple’s hard work was easy to see on the property, including water races that are in good condition, excellent grazing management and the fencing of waterways.