21 September 2012
Environmental sustainability is a hot topic for North Otago farmer Doug Brown.
As a councillor for the Otago Regional Council and a director of a large meat co-operative, he discusses the subject with a wide range of people from both urban and rural backgrounds. He also talks to consumers of NZ products who are demanding increasingly higher standards of environmental management and animal welfare.
He believes most farmers are committed to protecting their land-based resources.
“But we’ve got to keep working on these issues, and keep moving forward at a pace that farmers can handle.”
Doug and Jeannie’s attempts to make their own sheep and beef farming operation as sustainable as possible was recognised in the 2012 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA). They won the Beef+Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award – an award that acknowledges livestock farmers (other than dairy) who are achieving outstanding farm performance and profitability while minimising potential impacts to the environment.
The Browns own two properties south of Oamaru – the 360ha effective homeblock in the Maheno district and a 140ha effective farm to the northeast. They farm beef cattle, winter dairy cows and run commercial sheep and a stud flock.
Doug is passionate about livestock farming and he and Jeannie take pride in looking after their stock as best they can. Good shelter has played a key role in this and they have planted a wide range of shelterbelts over the years.
BFEA judges described the Brown farm as “a top-performing intergenerational dryland property that achieved high per hectare performance over an extended period”.
They said the mix of stock class and type was well managed and integrated, and the Browns had made practical choices to farm for the long term, with the “smart prioritisation of capital expenditure, debt reduction and off-farm investment.”
Judges also noted the couple’s extensive off-farm involvement, which included Doug’s commitment to advancing the sheep industry and service to the community.
Doug has judged the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards previously, but he and Jeannie were first time entrants in 2012.
“I’ve always thought it was a good competition, and it’s become more and more important as the awareness of environmental issues grows.”
He says he and Jeannie entered the awards predominantly to find out if there was anything they could do to improve their farming operation.
“The whole process was very enjoyable, and it gave us a very good picture of where our farm stood in terms of sustainability.”
Having two panels of judges look at the farm made the Browns think hard about what they had achieved and what they wanted to achieve in future.
Doug has plans for more shelterbelts and he was able to ask the judges for their opinions on this. His involvement with the competition also inspired him to undertake several smaller projects that had been in the pipeline for some time.
“We’d like to have another go at the competition. It was a very good experience and we learnt a lot from it.”
He says entrants should be able to show judges they have clear plans for the future of their farm.
“I’d certainly encourage other farmers to have a go at the awards, even if they don’t feel their farm is ready.”
Entries for the 2013 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards are now open and entry forms can be downloaded from the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust website at www.nzfeatrust.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, email@example.com.