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Energetic Dairy Pioneers Win Supreme in Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

11 April 2013

Energetic Dairy Pioneers Win Supreme in Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Dairy conversion pioneers Abe and Anita de Wolde have been named Supreme winners of the 2013 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges were “impressed and inspired” by the couple’s 2800-cow business ‘Woldwide Farming Group’, praising their “boundless energy towards finding a better way and doing the right thing”.

While the de Woldes are heavily focussed on their production goals of 650kg/MS per cow and 2000kg/MS per ha, judges said they are just as committed to reducing their environmental footprint.

At a BFEA ceremony on April 10 the de Woldes also collected the Ballance Agri-Nutrients - Nutrient Management Award, the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, the Massey University Discovery Award, the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Meridian Energy Excellence Award.

Originally from the Netherlands the couple and their children came to New Zealand in 1990 and purchased a 240ha sheep and beef farm at Heddon Bush in 1991, immediately converting it to dairying. They now farm around 1700ha in the area, owning three dairy units with a major equity share in a fourth.

With the intention of combining the best farming practises from around the world, the couple aimed to prove farming can be both highly productive and sustainable.

In 2006 they built the first of three barns that are used to overnight cows during winter. The use of these barns has enabled lactation length to be extended to 305 days. Other benefits include reduced feed requirements, lower fertiliser costs and the ability to store nitrogen and avoid leaching.

Specialist crops are grown and harvested for feeding in the barns. Silage stacks next to the barns are filled each year with a mix of tetraploid grass and barley. Manure is spread back out on the paddocks.

BFEA judges noted the de Woldes’ sound knowledge of nutrient cycles and fertility transfer.

They said the close proximity of the dairy units to each other is a key strength of the business, and the operation is achieving “excellent production” of 513kgMS/cow and 1610kg/MS/ha.

Accuracy is another key driver, and the de Woldes strive for excellence and efficiency over the entire farming enterprise.

Judges said the de Woldes were “at the forefront of challenging the status quo through research and trialling innovative technologies”. Examples include the adaptation of a low water-use effluent scraper system, and the importation of a slurry tanker and injector that achieves a low application rate of effluent while mitigating smell issues.

Judges also commended the de Woldes’ focus on motivating employees to be efficient and effective.

They said the de Woldes are clearly committed to their community, region and industry, with an entrepreneurial business practise ethos that revolves around “people, planet, profit and passion”.

A BFEA field day will be held on the Supreme Award-winning farm on Tuesday, May 30, starting at 10am, with a farm tour beginning on Bayswater Road, South Hillend (signposted from Otautau).

Winners in the 2013 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Supreme Award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients-Nutrient Management Award, PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, Massey University Discovery Award, LIC Dairy Farm Award, Meridian Energy Excellence Award: Abe and Anita de Wolde, Woldwide Farming Group, Heddon Bush.

WaterForce Integrated Management Award, Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award: South Coast Dairy Ltd, Chris and Lynsey Stratford (equity managers), Curio Bay.

Beef+Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award: Frew Farming Ltd, Dan and Brett Frew, Highfield, Otapiri Gorge.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Alliance Quality Livestock Award: Paul and Tracey Ruddenklau (managers), Kilbrannan, The Key, Te Anau.

For more information on the 2013 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Helen van der Linden, Southland Regional Coordinator, Ballance Farm Environment Awards,southland@bfea.org.nz, phone (03) 2048 261 or 027 276 7616.

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.