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Couple's Passion and Commitment Rewarded with Supreme Farm Environment Award

1 January 2010

Couple's Passion and Commitment Rewarded with Supreme Farm Environment Award

Aria farmers Ken and Sue Ballantyne are the supreme winners of the 2010 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Ballantynes farm a 550ha (512ha effective) sheep and beef property on the Matiere-Aria Road, north west of Taumarunui.

Their win was announced at a March 19 ceremony in Palmerston North, where the couple also picked up the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust Livestock Award, the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award and the Horizons Regional Council Award (for the integration of trees).

Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges were struck by the Ballantyne's passion for their farm "and the way in which they have carefully developed the property in a very focussed manner".

In their feedback report, judges described the couple as "self-made people who have worked hard throughout their lifetime, stepping into their first farm with moderate means then later acquiring and developing this property to a very high standard".

The farm, which sits on the northern boundary of the Horizons region, runs about 5,500 stock units on contour that ranges from gently rolling to moderately steep. Stock farmed last year included 2550 ewes, 700 hoggets, 156 breeding cows and 220 yearling cattle.

The Ballantynes breed all their own ewe replacements and in a normal season the flock lambs at 140% survival to sale. The breeding herd consists of Angus and Angus-cross cows which are mated to Simmental bulls. In-calf replacements are bought-in and some weaners are purchased in autumn. Heifers are finished local trade and steers are sold store at 15-months.

BFEA judges commented on the considerable commitment and investment the Ballantynes have put into their property over the last 14 years.

Since buying the farm in 1996 they have tripled the number of paddocks to around 88. They have also added 3km of laneway and installed two separate water systems that have increased trough numbers from three to 78.

In conjunction with Horizons Regional Council the Ballantynes have also fenced off waterways and gullies and planted over 8000 trees, including Eucalypts, Acacias, Poplars and Douglas Fir.

The plan is to have shade and water troughs in all paddocks.

BFEA judges said these outstanding tree plantings add great aesthetic appeal to the property as well as protecting the more fragile areas of the farm. They were impressed with how the Ballantynes utilised assistance from the regional council "to fully implement their whole farm plan over and above the recommendations".

A key aim for the couple is to run a low input - low cost farming system that can be easily managed by two people (Ken and Sue) and "gives a satisfactory return on investment while enhancing and protecting the environment".

Judges also noted the excellent condition of stock and pasture, good farm infrastructure and the significant improvements made to soil fertility.

The Ballantynes allow horse trekkers, trampers, and hunters to use the farm, and the couple is involved in a wide range of community activities.

A field day will be held on the Ballantyne's farm in April.

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

Ballance Nutrient Management Award, LIC Dairy Farm Award and Hill Laboratories Harvest Award; Marie, Paul, Shaun and Terrence Olsen.

Massey University Discovery Award; Robert and Suzanne Carter.

For more information on the 2010 Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Horizons BFEA regional coordinator Margaret Matthews, phone (06) 342 7783 or emailhorizons@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.