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Sound Management of Steep Land Earns Top Farm Environment Award

1 January 2010

Sound Management of Steep Land Earns Top Farm Environment Award

Kaitaia dairy farmers Brian and Gaye Simms have been named Supreme winners of the 2010 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Simms received their award at a Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony in Waitangi on April 21.

They milk a small dairy herd of up to 112 cows on 111ha farm, west of Kaitaia, but will convert to beef production at the end of this season.

Northland BFEA judges were impressed with the couple's sound management of a challenging class of land and the excellent long-term values they held for the sustainability of their farm.

The Simms were praised for the hard work they had put into creating an attractive and diverse landscape while protecting soils and water "both now and into the future".

While this dairy season has been heavily affected by the drought, production over the previous three seasons has averaged 320kg milksolids/cow.

Judges said this was commendable given the steep nature of the farm.

Cows, dairy replacements and some dairy beef cattle are farmed on 70ha of grazing country. The farm also grows about 18ha of pines and 2.5ha of other exotic tree species. About 9.5ha of native bush has been fenced and preserved.

Brian has been on the farm for 45 years and in that time he has developed it from a bracken-covered block into a small but low-cost dairy and forestry operation.

After fencing off the native bush, he started fencing streams to reduce stock losses and soil erosion and make farm management easier. Some trees have been planted every year and these plantings have been mainly exotic species with a smaller number of natives.

The farm is drained by one main stream which bisects the property and enters the Kaitaia River. This stream is mostly fenced and Brian intends to complete the final stretch in future.

Stock crossings have been constructed to ensure cattle do not have to enter waterways. Drinking water is reticulated to all paddocks and the cattle have ample shade.

Most of the farm's steeper faces have now been retired from grazing and planted. A conscious effort has been made to choose exotic species that blend in with the surrounding native bush.

On steep slopes Brian has fenced off small strips across the slope using two-wire electric fencing to exclude cattle. Trees are planted within these strips to protect the slopes. Judges said this, along with the wide range of species planted, created an interesting and diverse multiple-use landscape with an abundance of birdlife.

Careful consideration had also been given to the location of commercial timber species "where they are most likely to do well and produce good timber".

Judges said the effort and commitment the Simms had put into leaving the farm a better place was a real credit to them.

Both Brian and Gaye are involved in a range of community activities and have a number of off-farm interests.

As well as the Supreme award they also won the Northland Regional Council Water Quality Enhancement Award.

A field day will be held on their Snelgar Road farm on May 26.

Other category winners in the 2010 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Massey University Discovery Award: Grant and Kate McCallum, Maungaturoto

Ballance Nutrient Management Award: Ken and Janine Hames, Paparoa
PGG Wrightson Land and Life: jointly awarded to Ken and Janine Hames, Paparoa, and John and Christine Pedersen, Mangakahia
Hill Laboratories Harvest Award: Juken New Zealand, Kaitaia
New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust Livestock Farm Award: Sandy and Sharyn Moore, Wairere Farms, Pipiwai
LIC Dairy Farm Merit Award: Stephen and Ann Kearney, Kerikeri

For more information on the 2010 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact BFEA regional coordinator Gayle Farrell, phone (09)433 1576, email northland@bfea.org.nz 
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust, phone 07 834 0400, emaildavid.natzke@nzfeatrust.org.nz or visit www.bfea.org.nz