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Happy, Profitable, Sustainable Dairy Business Wins Top Prize in Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards

4 April 2013

Happy, Profitable, Sustainable Dairy Business Wins Top Prize in Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Walton farmers Grant Wills and Karen Preston have scooped a string of awards in the 2013 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards, including the highly coveted Supreme title.

Judges said decision making on the couple’s 244ha (215ha effective) dairy farm ‘Tremeer’ focuses on profitability while caring for the people, the cows and the environment.

Grant and Karen were announced winners of the Supreme Award at a Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on April 3. They also collected the Ballance Agri-Nutrients - Nutrient Management Award, the LIC Dairy Farm Award, the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, the Massey University Discovery Award and the Meridian Energy Excellence Award.

With the help of sharemilker Steve Ironmonger they run a 650-cow operation that consistently achieves production above the regional average.

BFEA judges said the excellent condition of the farm and the herd was positive reflection of the couple’s commitment “to balance a profitable and sustainable dairy business with being an enjoyable place to work”.

Tremeer was originally a sheep farm but Grant and his father started converting it in 1988. Grant and Karen initially sharemilked with Grant’s parents, Derek and Audrey, before buying the farm in 1997. In 2003 they purchased a neighbouring farm that was also previously owned by the family.

Cow numbers have steadily increased over the years and this season the farm is targeting production of 280,000kg Milksolids (MS).

BFEA judges were impressed with the couple’s extensive use of monitoring and record keeping to constantly analyse the business and the environment.

Feed efficiency is a key driver and Farm Working Expenses are carefully monitored. A strong focus on energy efficiency helps the business minimise costs and reduce wastage.

Three herd homes are utilised on the farm, with BFEA judges noting the positive impact this has had in creating a good working environment for staff, enhancing animal health and increasing pasture production and utilisation. Feed bunkers are located near the herd homes to reduce machinery requirements.

Water quality is a high priority on Tremeer. Waterways have been fenced since 2002 and an ongoing riparian planting programme is in place. Thousands of native plants have been established in the last ten years and this has led to a significant improvement in birdlife.

BFEA judges said Grant and Karen keep up to date with technology and research advances. The couple have strong links to rural professionals and this helps add value to their business.

Judges also noted the excellent mapping and recording of effluent areas, with major efficiencies gained by testing each paddock for fertiliser requirements.

They praised the couple’s ‘shared responsibility’ approach to staff management, and their commitment to balancing their business careers with community and family life.

Karen has taught new entrants at Walton School for 16 years and she and Grant have three adult children – Zeb, Beau and Kelsie.

Grant is a Fonterra Shareholders’ Councillor for the Matamata ward, chairing the co-operative development committee of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council.

Judges said Grant and Karen’s business success has helped facilitate their involvement in community activities “and this is highly commended”.

A BFEA field day will be held on Tremeer on Wednesday, May 15, 2013.

Award winners in the 2013 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards were;

Supreme Award, Ballance AGRI Nutrient - Nutrient Management Award, LIC Dairy Farm Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Massey University Discovery Award, Meridian Energy Excellence Award: Grant Wills and Karen Preston (Preston Wills Ltd), Tremeer, Walton.

Waikato Regional Council Water Protection Award: Graham and Tess Smith, Miraka, Te Awamutu.

Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award, PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award: James and Ella, Pamela and the late Richard Bailey, Momoma, Tirau.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award:Hamish McMullin and Selina Rutherford, Kereru Farm, Cambridge.

Waikato River Authority Catchment Improvement Award: Graham and Rosemary Davison, Pinewoods, Otorohanga.

For more information on the 2013 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Tracy Brown, BFEA Waikato Regional Coordinator, ph 07 888 5949, 027 291 1716 or email waikato@bfea.org.nz

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.