14 April 2020
2020 finalists: Andrew & Vanessa Wilkinson of Calsi Farms - Dairy.
Over the past 10 years, Andrew and Vanessa have gone from strength-to-strength on this Southland dairy farm, successfully balancing environmental achievements with profitability. As shareholders and contract milkers, they are actively involved in any decisions and enjoy bringing creative ideas to the table.
Calsi Farms was entered into the Ballance Farm Environment Awards because the Wilkinsons felt that dairy sector representation was important when celebrating sustainability. It was also a good opportunity to potentially make improvements by having their practices reviewed.
Farmed over two Dacre properties, the business runs 1,200 dairy cows and 660 replacement stock under an equity partnership. With the support of six staff, Andrew and Vanessa run all farm operations on the 446ha farm, and the judges commended their inclusive approach that embraces new ideas and technology. For example, cows are monitored via tracking collars, and homeopathic remedies complement other treatments. The judges commended the farm’s low empty rate and six-week calving rate of about 92%.
A stand-out feature is the focus on consistently trying to improve soils, pastures and animal health. Nutrient application is closely managed, while a plan for effluent management is also followed.
Enhancing the environment is another focus and the judges were impressed with how the Wilkinsons have fenced areas of wetland and are implementing a wetland planting plan. Bird- and bee-friendly shelterbelts have been planted and, along waterways, gorse and broom is actively controlled without the use of herbicides. To help reduce their environmental footprint further, a heat-recovery system has been installed and investment has been made in genetics, recycling and fuel efficiency.
The Wilkinsons are great employers, with judges saying this was demonstrated by potential staff contacting them from overseas. Staff are encouraged to access training, while the Wilkinsons also like to create learning opportunities for community groups and students.