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Successful Family Partnership Wins Top Farm Environment Award

1 January 2010

Successful Family Partnership Wins Top Farm Environment Award

A dairy farming operation described as "a real family affair" is the supreme winner of the 2010 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Tiroroa Farms Ltd is an equity partnership between Wynn and Tracy Brown and Tony and Coby Brown who sharemilk around 700 cows on 350ha near Matamata. The farm is owned by a family trust that also involves Wynn and Tony's parents, Tom and Barb.

The Brown family learnt of their win at a special Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards ceremony on March 24 where they also picked up the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award.

BFEA judges said the Brown's business is a good example of family members working well together towards a common goal."

Long term sustainability has been achieved because there are good systems and planning in the area of succession, environment, financial and community. It is a beautifully maintained property and a well functioning family system."

Tom and Barb Brown purchased the original farm, a 177ha drystock block, in 1970. The family converted to dairying in the mid-1990s, adding more land in the early 2000s.

Today the farmed area includes a 240ha milking platform and a 100ha dairy support block (30ha of which is leased from a neighbour). Another 10ha has been fenced off and retired.

Along with the milking herd, the farm also grows 15-20ha of maize annually and carries 140 heifer replacements and 116 heifer calves.

Judges said the farm had very respectable production levels, achieving 232,000kg Milksolids last season. The Browns are aiming to increase this to 260,000kg MS within five years.

Recent improvements include the installation of a new 55-bail rotary dairy which has many high-tech features for the efficient monitoring of animal health, feeding and performance, while also reducing labour requirements and power usage.

The Browns, who are past winners of the BFEA Habitat Improvement Award, have continued to work on habitat restoration and water quality management. Almost all streams are fenced and there are several large native plantings on the farm, mainly around ponds and watercourses. Some forestry is also grown and the family is continuing to plant sidling areas.

A nutrient budget is used to ensure the optimal use of fertiliser inputs. Nutrients from effluent are well utilised and the Browns have been involved with trials involving the application of effluent to maize cropping ground

Judges noted that the partners were always asking questions and looking at low cost 'new' ideas. They said decisions are well thought-out with all family members involved in the decision making process.

The equity partnership also capitalises on the individual strengths of each partner: Tony is skilled in mechanics and Wynn in pasture management. Coby rears the heifer calves and Tracy handles the bobby calves, bulls and financials.

"They are good at keeping staff and they all work to have time with family and balance in their work." Tiroroa means 'extensive view' and judges said this was a good description of the Brown's farming perspective. They regard themselves as servants of the land and they believe they owe it to future generations to ensure the farm is sustainable.

Wynn Brown says this sustainability is viewed in a very broad sense. "It's not just about the land alone, but man and beast as well."

Along with excellent animal, crop and pasture health, judges also noted the family's proactive succession planning and their extensive community involvement.

A field day will be held on the Brown farm in late April.

Other winners of the 2010 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards are:

Ballance Nutrient Management Award, NZ Farm Environment Award Trust Livestock Award and Massey University Discovery Award; John and Anne Brier.

Waikato Farm Environment Trust Habitat Award; Geoff and Johanna Fitzgerald.

LIC Dairy Farm Award and Environment Waikato Water Protection Award; Warwick and Joyce Brown.

For more information on the 2010 Waikato Ballance Farm Environment Awards and upcoming field day, contact Gerry Glover, Waikato Regional Coordinator, phone (07) 829 8815 or emailwaikato@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