11 March 2015
Pictured: John Wilson, Chairman of Fonterra with Devon and Mark Slee
Efficient water use was a hot topic for Canterbury dairy farmers Mark and Devon Slee, National Winners of the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, on their recent tour of the North Island.
During the five-day trip in late February the Slees met with key industry stakeholders to promote good environmental practices and swap ideas on how to improve environmental management.
The tour was organised by the New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust and included a question and answer session with the Primary Production Select Committee and meetings with Primary Industries Minister, the Hon Nathan Guy and Speaker of the House, the Rt Hon David Carter.
Mark says the trip gave them a great opportunity “to tell our story about irrigated agriculture and its benefits to our community”.
He says he and Devon were surprised by the extent of the drought in the North Island.
“Some places were very dry and farmers in these areas were clearly trying to manage their operations very carefully and use whatever water they have as efficiently as possible.”
Increased water storage and the efficient use of irrigation could be hugely beneficial for the east coast of the North Island, says Mark.
The Slee’s business, Melrose Dairy Limited, milks over 2600 cows on three dairy units and utilises new technology to ensure the efficient operation of an extensive centre-pivot irrigation system and other farm infrastructure. Soil moisture levels are carefully monitored to achieve optimal results.
“The efficient use of resources drives how we manage the farm,” says Mark.
“To us, farming is proving that profitability and environmental sustainability go hand in hand, and that’s a key message we tried to get across as we travelled around the North Island.”
During their tour they also enjoyed meeting sponsors of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
“Everyone was very supportive of the Awards. We really appreciated the opportunity to talk to people from a range of different industries and give our personal perspective of some of the issues and opportunities facing farmers.”
Another highlight was visiting the Netherlands Embassy in Wellington. In late March the Slees will travel to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom as ambassadors for New Zealand agriculture.
Mark says a key focus of the trip will be to study intensive dairy farming systems and see how farmers in the UK and Netherlands use technology to improve sustainability.
Facilitated by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the trip will be supported by a range of industry groups.