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Reconverted Dairy Farm Wins Top Prize in Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

22 March 2012

Reconverted Dairy Farm Wins Top Prize in Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Left to right: Liz, Jorja, Clive and Murray Walden with Tazman and Cooper.

Described by judges as a potential model dairy farm, Walden Farms Oruaiti Ltd has been named Supreme winner of the 2012 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Walden Farms Oruaiti is owned by Murray and Liz Walden and sharemilked by their son Clive and his wife Jorja.

The Waldens were announced supreme winners at a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on March 21. They also collected the LIC Dairy Farm Award.

Their 420ha property, near Mangonui, is milking 425 cows and achieving excellent production while also providing a role model for environmental management in the Doubtless Bay catchment.

The farm had been a dairy unit in the past, but when the Waldens bought it in 2005 it was running an intensive beef production system. They began converting it back to dairying in 2008.

BFEA judges described the farm as a well-planned developing property and noted the strategic use of “well-spent” capital to re-engineer the farm dairy, upgrade the effluent system install a feed pad, stand-off pad, feed bunkers and good stock handling facilities.

Since taking over the farm, the Waldens have put a significant amount of work into environmental enhancement and protection. This includes fencing streams, native bush and wetlands. Half the farm borders the Oruaiti Stream, which flows into Doubtless Bay, and the protection of this waterway has been a top priority.

Soil structure is carefully maintained and plantings on the Mangonui clay hills minimise the risk of erosion. Any potential loss is captured by the fenced-off and retired areas.

Judges noted the time, effort and cost that has gone into this work.

Considerable thought also went into planning the farm conversion. The Waldens made good use of rural professionals during this period and they have compiled a comprehensive farm manual to assist with farm management.

“Any weaknesses in the business have been identified and measures put in place to reduce risk.”

The Waldens place great emphasis on staff training and improvement. Judges also noted their sound understanding of pasture management and their strong focus on health and safety.
 They were also impressed with the family’s desire to learn.

“Enthusiasm, energy and hunger for knowledge was evident and has gone a long way in the development to date.”

Judges said the Waldens are a cohesive family unit with the three generations on the farm providing mutual business and social support.

As well as being 50:50 sharemilkers, Clive and Jorja are also equity partners in the business.

A succession plan is in place and, said judges, “this family has the potential to showcase dairying and become leaders in the industry”.

A field day will be held on the Walden farm on Wednesday, May 2.

Award-winners in the 2012 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were;

Supreme winners and LIC Dairy Farm Award; Clive and Jorja Walden/Murray and Liz Walden - Walden Farms Oruaiti Ltd.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients: Nutrient Management Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and Massey University Discovery Award; Kevin and Christine Strawbridge - Northland Forestry Nursery Ltd.

PGG Land and Life Award; Alister, Lyn and Christine Candy, Plateau View Ltd.

WaterForce Integrated Management Award and Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award; John, Lurline and Peter Blackwell.

Northland Regional Council Water Quality Enhancement Award; Hancock Forest Management (NZ) Ltd.

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