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Southland First-Timers Surprised by Farm Environment Awards Win

1 January 2010

Southland First-Timers Surprised by Farm Environment Awards Win

Winning the supreme award in their first time in the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards came as a "real shock" to Waimea Valley farmers Elliot and Janine King.

Now they are encouraging other farmers to enter the 2011 competition.

The Kings, who farm near Balfour in Northern Southland, run a sheep and beef property on the lower flanks of the Hokonui Hills. Farmed by Elliot's family for four generations, ‘Pahiwi' totals around 300ha effective and features mainly river flat or rolling to undulating contour.

Livestock on the farm includes around 3200 ewes along with 50 Murray Grey cows which are bred to produce service bulls for the dairy industry.

Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges described Pahiwi as "a magnificently presented farm with park-like shelter and habitat".

They were impressed with the Kings' excellent livestock management and outstanding stock performance. Lambing has ranged from 165% to 170% over the last three years, with lamb carcase weights averaging 18.7kg last year.

The Kings have also done extensive riparian fencing work and continued a shelterbelt planting programme that was started by Elliot's parents.

While they are passionate about this work, Elliot says everything is done with the bottom line in mind and every dollar spent has to result in either more profit or reduced costs. This is especially important in a climate of low sheep and beef returns.

"It's all very good to do the environmental work, but at the end of the day your business has to be financially sustainable."

Elliot says they were first asked to enter the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards four years ago, but, due to various projects and the pressures of bringing up three young children, were too busy.

But last year they decided to enter and they were amazed when their operation was named supreme winner.

"Like many farmers we'd been working away for years and hoping we were doing the right thing as far as sustainability goes," says Elliot.

"It was a huge surprise to win and while we still have a lot of work to do, being involved with the competition has given us the confidence that we are on the right track."

Elliot says a highlight of the win was meeting other supreme winners from around the country at the Sustainability Showcase in June.

As a result of participating in the awards, the Kings met a lot of highly skilled and motivated people who offered considerable expertise and support.

The initial judging process was conducted in a very relaxed and friendly manner and Elliot says they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

"We didn't feel under pressure to bang out figures all the time. It was basically a yarn around the coffee table and then a drive around the farm."

Elliot says the judges were outstanding and they offered a lot of useful feedback.

He says farmers who are considering entering the 2011 competition should "just go for it".

His advice to first-time entrants is to think carefully about their planning.

"It doesn't really matter if you are only 2-3 years through a ten year plan. The important thing is that you can show what you are aiming to do in future."

Entries for the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 1, 2010.

For more information on the 2011 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Annabel Radford, Southland Regional Coordinator, Ballance Farm Environment Awards,southland@bfea.org.nz, 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 david.natzke@nzfeatrust.org.nz.