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Innovative Dairy Farming Couple Wins Supreme in 2015 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

19 March 2015

Innovative Dairy Farming Couple Wins Supreme in 2015 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Pakotai dairy farmers Rachel and Greig Alexander are the Supreme winners of the 2015 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

At a special BFEA ceremony on March 18, the Alexanders were also presented with the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, LIC Dairy Farm Award, Massey University Innovation Award, and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.

Their business, Waikopani Holdings Ltd, farms a total of 486ha on two farms (one dairy and the other beef) in the Mangakahia River Valley, about 50km northwest of Whangarei.

Greig and Rachel have farmed the family dairy farm since the mid-1990s and have continued to improve the property and build a very sustainable business.

The couple’s innovation and constant willingness to think outside the square won praise from BFEA judges, who were particularly impressed by the land use decisions applied to the 126ha milking platform.

They said the Alexanders have carefully matched land uses to the capability of the various land types for sustainable production. Steeper areas have been retired from grazing and planted with a range of production forestry species, and extensive riparian and wetland areas have been re-established in the valley systems.

Judges also commented on the careful attention to detail shown towards grazing, financial and nutrient management.

Last season the operation milked 350 cows, achieving production of 1452kgMS/ha in a drought-affected year. The herd has a very high genetic potential with a BW of 149, which puts it in the top 5% of herds nationally.

The high-input system makes good use of home-grown feed, with imported supplements used to fill feed gaps.

On-off grazing is practised to minimise pugging and soil damage while reducing fine sediment loss in heavy rainfall. Sediment and nutrient run-off from paddocks is captured in protected wetland traps that have become a feature of the property.

All waterways have been fenced, along with bush and wetland areas, and BFEA judges commented on the “impressive, active, long-term biodiversity and biosecurity management practices”.

Water levels in reservoirs and water use are electronically monitored with data on display in the farm dairy

Health and safety aspects were proactively addressed on the farm, said judges, and farm infrastructure is “well-constructed and maintained”.

Off-farm, the Alexander family is involved in sports clubs, calf clubs, and school hostel management, and has established a scholarship fund to support their local primary school.

A BFEA field day will be held on the Supreme-award winning property on Thursday May 7.

Winners in the 2015 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Supreme award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, LIC Dairy Farm Award, Massey University Innovation Award, and WaterForce Integrated Management Award: Rachel and Greig Alexander, Waikopani Holdings Ltd, Pakotai.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award: Laurie Copland and Copland Family Trust, Broadwood, Kaitaia.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award: Angela and Tony Payton, Whispering Pines, Kaitaia.

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award, Northland Regional Council Water Quality Enhancement Award: Sandy and Ian Page, Tahere Farm, Pataua North, Whangarei.

For more information on the 2015 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Chris Mason, Northland BFEA regional coordinator, phone 09 438 3109 or email northland@bfea.org.nz