1 January 2010
Bay of Plenty dairy farmers Jens and Min Wulff take huge pride in their Ngawaro farm, but they had no idea what the Ballance Farm Environment Award judges would think of “Bush View”.
The couple had entered the 2010 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards and Jens admits they felt nervous about the judging panel’s initial visit.
“It was our first time in the competition, so we didn’t know what to expect,” he says.
But the nerves quickly disappeared when the judges arrived.
“It wasn’t nearly as daunting as I first thought. The judges were very friendly and they just asked genuine questions about what we were doing and why we were doing it. They made us feel very relaxed.”
The judges were apparently impressed with what they saw on Bush View and the Wulffs were later named winners of the LIC Dairy Farm Award. Their 360-cow operation, north of Rotorua, produces around 1100kgMilksolids/ha and was recognised as an excellent example of sustainable dairy farming.
Jens says the award came as a huge surprise.
“We didn’t really enter to win anything. We just wanted to hear what the judges had to say about what we have been doing and see if we were on the right track.”
Bush View, a 217ha farm, sits at 430metres above sea level with views to the east coast. About 115ha of the farm is in grass, another 15ha is in pines and the balance is native bush.
Jens bought the farm eight years ago and knew instantly it was the right place.
“It’s a pretty farm,” he says, “and when I drove up the track the sun was shining and the cows were up to their knees in grass.”
Much of the bush had been covenanted by the previous owner, but the Wulffs have put a lot of time, effort and money into fencing and underplanting the remaining stands.
Possum control has been another priority and Jens says there is now little evidence of possum damage to trees, and bird life in the area is booming.
The farm’s altitude and position exposes it to southerly winds, but he expects the new plantings will provide good shelter for stock in a few years time.
He says the judging feedback from the judges was extremely valuable and provided confirmation they were doing things correctly.
It also encouraged the couple to continue planting and fencing and they have a plan in place to have most of the work completed within five years.
Jens says sustainability is a big issue for the dairy industry.
“It’s definitely something we have to address if we want customers to keep buying our products.”
He says the Ballance Farm Environment Awards are good for the industry because they show that a lot of farmers are doing a good job of improving sustainability.
His advice to farmers considering entering the 2011 competition is to go for it.
“The feedback alone makes it well worthwhile.”
Entries for the 2011 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards close on October 15.
For more information on entering the awards, contact Bay of Plenty BFEA Regional Coordinator Kirsten Winter, phone (07) 573 5238, (0275) 721 244 or email email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.