14 April 2020
2020 finalists: Ben & Karen Herrick of Kowhai Bush Organics - Dairy.
Over the past three years, the Herricks have transformed their 85ha once-a-day dairy operation into a low-cost business that is Fully Certified Organic. It’s an excellent example of how farm succession can be managed and how the new generation can start farming in a way that future-proofs the property.
The Carterton owner-operators felt ready to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards after converting to organic farming three years ago.
Ben had been 50/50 sharemilking on two farms for six years before the couple moved to operating under an equity partnership. They run 235 milking cows and 82 replacement stock, and the judges were impressed with the good returns from this low-input farm. Farm working expenses were under $2/kg last season – providing a high profit per hectare.
The judges commended the Herricks for both outstanding stock health and diverse, multi-species pasture that’s in excellent condition. No chemical fertilisers are used on the property that is based on a sustainable biological and organic system, while stock only receive homeopathic remedies.
Kowhai Bush Organics has an impressive amount of wetland that was recently planted, fenced and retired, while about 1ha of native bush is fenced off. There is plenty of shade and shelter on the property, including numerous kowhai and plum trees, and rats are managed with traps and bait. Dung beetles were introduced last season to drive cow manure down – improving soil fertility.
The judges said the succession plan for the farm is an excellent example of how this can be managed. Ben’s parents Melvin and Helen Herrick are on board with changes, enabling Ben and Karen to farm in a way that will future-proof the property.
Ben and Karen are striving to implement a simple farming system that creates a good work-life balance for fulltime staff member Alan Brady and for themselves.