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Magnificently Presented Farm Earns Top Farm Environment Award

1 January 2010

Magnificently Presented Farm Earns Top Farm Environment Award

Waimea Valley farmers Elliot and Janine King are the Supreme winners of the 2010 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Kings, who farm near Balfour in Northern Southland, learnt of their win at a Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony in Invercargill on April 14.

They run a sheep, beef and deer property, "Pahiwi" on the lower flanks of the Hokonui Hills. Farmed by the King family for four generations, Pahiwi totals around 300ha effective and features mainly river flat or rolling to undulating contour.

BFEA judges described Pahiwi as "a magnificently presented farm with park-like shelter and habitat".

Livestock on the farm includes around 2650 mainly Coopworth ewes, 1200 ewe hoggets, 200 weaner deer and 30 Murray Grey cows, which are bred to produce service bulls for the dairy industry. Deer are soon to be dropped from the system and hogget numbers have been increased to compensate for this.

BFEA judges were impressed with the Kings' excellent livestock management, exceptional stocking rate and outstanding stock performance. Lambing has exceeded 160% over the last three years, with lamb carcase weights averaging 18.7kg last year. The average kill date is January 25 and judges noted that this requires a lamb growth rate in excess of 300grams/day from birth.

Considerable thought has gone into ensuring stock policies are sustainable and profitable. The farm's infrastructure (laneways, subdivision etc) is constantly improved to streamline stock management. A wintering pad has also been constructed to reduce the cow herd's impact on soils and pasture.

Judges noted the Kings' "startling" pasture quality and their sound understanding of the farm's various soil types.

As the bulk of the soils are prone to waterlogging during wet periods, a well planned subsurface drainage system is used to maintain pasture quality and soil health. Grazing is carefully managed to avoid damage to the soil structure, and nutrient testing is carried out on a regular basis.

Shelter is another highlight of the property. Continuing a shelter planting programme started by their forebears, Elliot and Janine are adding new shelterbelts while also replacing existing belts that are past their best. They use a wide variety of both evergreen and deciduous species, including cypresses, eucalypts, poplar, willow and natives. A pinus radiata woodlot has also been successfully used for wintering cattle.

"Species selection, establishment techniques and attention to detail are all of a high standard," said judges.

Significant riparian protection work has also been conducted on the farm, with the eventual aim of having all streams fenced off to exclude stock. A water reticulation system installed seven years ago is also reducing the farm's reliance on natural water.

EID (electronic identification) will be used as a future tool to improve sheep performance.

Elliot and Janine employ one fulltime staff member, Jamie McGinn, and BFEA judges said it "is evident that there is an exceptional relationship between employers and employee".

The Kings, who have three young children, are both heavily involved in their local community, particularly the local primary school and playcentre. Elliot is also involved with the local rugby club and the South Suffolk Breeders club.

Judges described the Kings as "a busy young couple putting time and effort back into their community".

In their final feedback report, judges said Pahiwi was a very well managed farming operation and the Kings have a good understanding of the physical parameters of the farm and a desire to constantly improve both the infrastructure and the amenity/biodiversity values of the property.

"Stock production is outstanding. Animal welfare issues are well catered for by way of excellent farm shelter, water supplies and stock handling facilities."

A field day will be held on Pahiwi in early May.

Other winners in the 2010 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Ballance Nutrient Management Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and LIC Dairy Farm Award:

Jack and Julie Ballam, Otahuti

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award and New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust Livestock Award: Kerry and Kit Dunlop, South Hillend

Massey University Discovery Award and Southland BFEA Water Quality Award: Landcorp's Mararoa Station - Tim & Trish Smith, Te Anau

For more information on the 2010 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 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