1 January 2010
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards proved a highly motivating and rewarding experience for Manawatu dairy farmers Keith and Kim Riley.
The Rileys milk 800 cows on 340ha at Woodville, on the eastern edge of the Manawatu Gorge. Their farm is bounded by the Manawatu River and has two tributaries running through it. The farm's low-lying flood-prone contour and fragile riverside silt soils create a number of management challenges.
Keith and Kim entered the Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the first time in 2009 and won two awards - the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Ballance Nutrient Management Award.
Ballance Farm Environment Award judges commended the way the Rileys managed their operation around the three waterways associated with the farm and noted the extensive efforts the couple had put into protecting these waterways and soils.
Their farm is a good example of a dairy operation that is committed to achieving long-term sustainability.
Keith and Kim entered the Farm Environment Awards because they wanted to find out where their farming operation stood in terms of best practice.
"It also gave us the opportunity to be involved with like-minded people who share similar values," says Keith.
Even though they were very pleased to win two category awards, he believes they still have a long way to go to achieve best practice.
He says the aim is to develop a future-proof business that is environmentally sustainable, profitable and easy to manage.
"We are starting to see some of these things already in what we have done. For example, fencing off the waterways has made stock management a lot easier."
Keith says the preparation they did before the judging sessions was invaluable.
"It was a real challenge to sit down and build a profile of our farming system."
He says the judges offered some very useful and encouraging feedback, particularly in the area of tree planting.
"We'd already done quite a lot of tree planting work but we hadn't really followed up on the release work. The judges gave us some good advice on what trees to plant and how to manage them and that has really motivated us to do the job properly in future."
Keith believes the Farm Environment Awards are good for the dairy industry because they showcase best farming practices and show the wider public that dairy farmers are serious about environmental sustainability.
He urges other farmers to "back themselves" and enter the competition.
"It's great for morale because it gets you alongside people who will motivate you to reach the next level."
Entries for the 2011 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on September 1, 2010. Information on the awards and an entry form can be obtained from www.bfea.org.nz or the Horizons Regional Council.
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.