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Top Tier Dairy Operation Collects Supreme Title in 2015 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards

2 April 2015

Top Tier Dairy Operation Collects Supreme Title in 2015 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Wairarapa dairy farmers Leo and Rebecca Vollebregt are the Supreme Winners of the 2015 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

At a BFEA ceremony on April 1, the Vollebregts also received the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award.

Leo and Rebecca, who run a 580-cow operation south east of Featherston, have focused on creating “an attractive, productive and profitable farm that everyone enjoys working on”.

BFEA judges said the Vollebregts are leaders in the industry “setting the bar for performance in all aspects of their business”.

They described the Vollebregt farm as efficient, well-structured and impeccably tidy, with excellent profitability that puts the operation in the top tier of dairy businesses.

The Vollebregts farm a total of 289ha, including the 154ha effective home block which is divided by Pahautea Road and partially bounded by the Ruamahanga River stop banks.  The main milking platform is supported by four run-off blocks (totalling 118ha) located within 17km of the home farm. 

Contract milker Emma Moffitt and her two staff milk two herds through a 40-aside herringbone dairy, achieving production of over 203,000kgMS last season.

Seven years ago the Vollebregts made the carefully considered decision to switch to once-a-day milking. This has proved very successful. While per cow production has decreased slightly, per hectare production has risen, the calving period has shortened and the empty rate has reduced markedly.

BFEA judges said the farm is achieving top production at a lower cost.  The Vollebregts are very good at growing grass to support their high production and “great care is taken not to damage the pasture”.

Judges also commented on the couple’s excellent knowledge of soil types and soil requirements.

Land has been systematically improved as it’s incorporated into the operation.  About 60 percent is artificially drained and the milking platform is irrigated via K line, with soil moisture sensors installed.

Pockets of native bush have been fenced to regenerate, and a lagoon next to one bush area is also fenced. Riverbanks were fenced and planted 14 years ago.

Judges also noted the farm’s excellent infrastructure, weed and effluent management and pasture renewal.

They said the business has an “impeccable capital structure that has been well-planned and executed, allowing financial choices for themselves and family”.

Leo Vollebregt oversees the farm and looks after the young stock and run-offs. Rebecca works as a nurse in Carterton.

The Vollebregts, who have six children aged between 17 and 25, are actively involved in the community. Leo’s off-farm commitments include chairing the Wairarapa Water Users Group.

A BFEA field day will be held on the Vollebregt farm on Wednesday April 22.

Winners in the 2015 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Supreme award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, LIC Dairy Farm Award and PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award: Leo and Rebecca Vollebregt, Featherston.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award: Vaughan and Jenny Marfell, Mahoe, Masterton.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award and Massey University Innovation Award: John (JR) Van Vliet and Jaimee Burns, JR’s Orchard, Greytown.

Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award: Charlie and Karla Matthews, Waiorongomai, Featherston.

Akura Lifestyle Award: Dennis and Helen Ordish, Masterton.

For more information on the 2015 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact BFEA regional coordinator Georgie Cranswick, ph 06 379 9360, 021 0235 6192 or email wellington@bfea.org.nz