1 January 2010
Despite collecting several category awards in the 2010 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, Southland dairy farmers Jack and Julie Ballam believe they still have a long way to go to achieve the perfect farm.
Situated north-west of Invercargill, the Ballam’s 500-cow operation was named winner of the LIC Dairy Farm Award, the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and the Ballance Nutrient Management Award.
Ballance Farm Environment Award judges described the business as “a very efficient and functional dairy farm” and noted the Ballam’s excellent planning, monitoring documenting and analysis.
But Jack Ballam says they run a very simple system.
“We don’t do anything special. We just try to do the basics as best we can.”
The Ballams were persuaded to enter the annual competition by a previous award winner and while they were initially hesitant, Jack says they found the experience very beneficial.
“Julie and I both work off-farm and so entering the competition provided the catalyst for us to sit down and do a major review of the operation.”
Jack, a FarmWise consultant, says this made them take a hard look at what they were trying to achieve and highlighted some of the areas they could improve on.
He says the interactive judging process was rewarding because it enabled them to get independent feedback on their operation.
“It was really good to get an outside perspective on what we were doing.”
Jack says a key strength of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards competition is that it focuses on the sustainability of an operation from an environmental, social and business perspective.
He believes many Southland dairy farmers are too production driven, focussing on complex high-input systems that may deliver more milk production but are ultimately no more profitable than less sophisticated systems.
“I see a lot of farmers who are data rich but information poor,” he says.
“Their systems are not sustainable in the long term and many would be better off if they concentrated on keeping things simple and doing the basics right.
“In my view, simplicity, sustainability and profitability go hand in hand.”
He says the Ballance Farm Environment Awards are beneficial to the dairy industry because they show that dairy operations can be both environmentally and economically sustainable.
“Our dairy industry still has a lot to improve on, but I think a good starting point is for farmers to take a harder look at what more sustainable farming operations are doing.”
He says he and Julie were inspired by what they saw at the awards ceremony for the 2010 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
“We were very impressed with the audio-visual presentations and what other contestants had achieved. The whole awards process was a great learning experience and I’d encourage other dairy farmers to go for it.”
Entries for the 2011 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on December 17, 2010. For more information or an entry form, contact Annabel Radford, Southland Regional Coordinator, Ballance Farm Environment Awards, firstname.lastname@example.org, phone (03) 248 7246 or 021 762 648.
For more information on the New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust or the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust, phone 07 834 0400, or email email@example.com.