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Ballance Farm Environment Awards Help Equity Managers Build Knowledge

12 August 2013

Ballance Farm Environment Awards Help Equity Managers Build Knowledge

Otago dairy farmers Terry and Jacqui Carr are always looking for ways to increase their farming knowledge.

Equity managers for the Argyll Dairy Farm Partnership, the Carrs regard farming competitions as a good way to benchmark themselves against other dairy farmers while also gaining valuable farm management information.

The Ballance Farm Environment Awards helped them do just that.

“We entered because we wanted to improve our knowledge of environmental issues and to pick up information that would help us grow our business in a sustainable way,” says Jacqui.

Sustainability has always been a key focus for the Clydevale operation, which milks 1200 cows on 332ha (effective) northwest of Balclutha.

“It’s not just about ticking the boxes, it’s about making sure that we look after our staff, our land and our industry.”

With dairy farming subject to increasingly strict regulations and scrutiny, the Carrs have taken a proactive approach to addressing environmental issues.

This includes fencing off a buffer zone to keep stock away from the Clutha River, which borders the farm. Riparian planting to enhance this zone has been included in the annual budget.

Fertiliser is applied carefully to avoid nutrient loss and the farm’s effluent systems have been designed to “go above and beyond” council requirements.

The Carrs won the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Meridian Energy Excellence Award in the 2013 Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

Judges were impressed with their passion for technology and energy efficiency and their dedication to staff management, health and safety, recording and maintenance. They also noted the “exceptional relationship” between the Carrs and their contract milkers, Chris and Sandra Campbell.

The Meridian Energy Excellence Award recognises farmers who are “driving excellence in utilising on-farm opportunities to generate or maximise energy efficiently”.

Argyll Farm has two farm dairies, but only one is used during the early and latter parts of the season to reduce labour and energy costs.

Both dairies utilise heat exchange units to increase energy efficiency, and the newest dairy features a lightweight, composite rotary platform that requires less power to operate.

All houses on the farm are well insulated and fitted with modern and efficient heating systems.

Jacqui says their experience in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards provided reassurance that the business was addressing environmental issues in the correct manner.

“Being involved in the awards confirmed that we were doing the right thing,” she says.

“Getting our entry together was a good exercise for us and the actual judging process was done in a very relaxed manner. It wasn’t just the judges asking us questions, we were also able to ask them questions and so we picked up a lot of information from them.”

Jacqui says the expert judges made a number of good recommendations.

“One judge even suggested we put a ladder in our effluent ponds, just in case someone falls in.”

Jacqui says the feedback received from the judges was excellent.

“We felt it was a very worthwhile experience and we would certainly encourage other farmers to enter the competition. It’s a great opportunity to increase your knowledge.”

Entries for the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards are now open. Entry forms are available at www.bfea.org.nz

More information on the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards, including regional closing dates, can be found on the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust website.

For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, phone 07 834 0400, emaildavid.natzke@nzfeatrust.org.nz.