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2009 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards

17 April 2009

2009 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Stirling dairy farmers Stephen and Rhonda Korteweg are the Supreme winners of the 2009 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards. At a special ceremony on April 17, the Kortewegs, who farm 180ha south east of Balclutha, also picked up the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Ballance Nutrient Management Award.

Milking 540 cows and consistently producing between 220,000 and 225,000kgMS (or 1300kgMS/ha) on 172ha effective, the Kortewegs drew praise from the judges for their ability to achieve a balance between the drive for production and the careful management of their riverside environment.

They described the couple as innovative thinkers “with a great understanding of the relationship between genetics, animals, feed, soil and the environment”.

The Korteweg’s farm has three distinct soil types and sits on a protected flood plain with the Clutha River running the length of one boundary. Judges noted their considerable attention to detail when managing nutrients and effluent to avoid damage to the soils and the river.

Stephen and Rhonda are always open to ideas and are constantly looking for new ways to increase production, provided the sustainability of the operation is not compromised. An example of this is the installation of a top-of-the-range farm dairy five years ago. This new 50-bail rotary has reduced staffing needs and is equipped with an automatic drafting gate and electronic ear tag identification system.

A ‘herd home’ built last year also enabled the couple to increase the farm’s wintering capacity without risking soil damage. This proved so successful, a second one is being built for this winter.

New technology also extends to a travelling irrigator that can cover up to 100ha and is fitted with a monitor that switches the unit off if any problems are encountered.

The farm’s advanced effluent management system and nutrient plan has reduced fertiliser costs and significantly lowered the risk of nutrient run-off. Stephen and Rhonda soil test annually and follow their nutrient plan very carefully.

“We also do a herbage analysis at the right time and this allows us to compare what the soil and the plants are telling us,” says Stephen. Liver biopsies on a sample of culled cows also help to give a more complete picture of the farm’s trace element status.

Riparian areas and drains are all fenced off and over the years the couple has established shelter in every second fenceline using mainly poplars and alders.

The Kortewegs are currently running the farm with the help of their two sons, Blake and Matthew. They also have two daughters,Justine and Amanda.

Judges were highly impressed with the couple’s intensive dairy operation and the “clear vision and plan in place for the future”. They commended the Kortewegs for their ability to “manage the farm in a sustainable manner that is not impacting on the environment”.

They also noted the Korteweg’s community-mindedness and Stephen’s impressive and ongoing contributions to farmer organisations like TB Free NZ and Federated Farmers.

The Kortewegs entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards because they wanted to support their industry and show that dairy farmers are serious about minimising the effects of their occupation on the environment.

“Sure, dairying does have some impact,” says Stephen “but we are not sitting on our hands doing nothing about it.”

A field day will be held on the Korteweg’s farm on May 14, starting at 10:30am.

Other category award winners in the 2009 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award: Alan and Jean, Richard and Abby Hore, Beaumont Station

Silver Fern Farms Livestock Farm Award: Hamish Erwood and Janet Templeton, Farview

Otago Regional Council Sustainable Resource Management Award and Gallagher Innovation Award: Bruce, Denise and Cara McGill, Te Taunga

NZFEA Trust Habitat Improvement Award and Hills Laboratories Harvest Award: Allan Roulston, Chardale Farm