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2009 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

15 April 2009

2009 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Otaitai Bush dairy farmers Vaughan and Megan Templeton are the Supreme winners of the 2009 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
The Templetons, who farm a 425ha property east of Riverton, were described by Award judges as fourth generation farmers “who are safeguarding the land for future generations by running a productive and sustainable farming operation”.

Judges also praised the couple’s excellent knowledge of the challenges they face farming in a sensitive environment and their desire “to make a difference to the dairy industry and their community”.

As well as the Supreme Award, the Templetons also collected the LIC Dairy Farm Award, the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, the Southland BFEA Water Quality Award and the Ballance Nutrient Management Award.

Their operation, Otaitai Dairys, consists of a 320ha milking platform, a 50ha wintering block, a 26ha calf and silage block and 16ha of pine trees.

The property was converted from sheep and beef to dairy in 2002 and runs a low-input system milking about 780 Friesian-Jersey cross cows through a 60 bail rotary dairy. Production for 2008 was 333,174kgMS.

Situated on the Riverton coastline, the farm has a range of soil types with varying depth of top soil and sand. Stocking rate is kept deliberately low to avoid damage to these soils.

Judges said the Templetons see themselves as custodians of the family farm and show a lot of pride in the heritage of their property.

“They have a personal objective to develop a long-term sustainable farm. Vaughan and Megan have a four-legged stool theory to represent their objective; the four legs of their stool are profitability, environmental integrity, human resource and heritage/future.”

The Templetons employ lower order sharemilkers Warren and Leanne Calder to operate the dairy farm and this successful working relationship with the Calders has evolved to the point where they are now in an equity share partnership on another property.

Vaughan and Megan are very clear about their role on the farm, ensuring they keep up with all their responsibilities so that Warren Calder and his two staff “can concentrate on the cows and day-to-day operation”.

They are extremely conscious of water quality and nutrient management, aiming to ensure nutrients are kept in the plant rooting zone and out of waterways. Prior to converting to dairy, the farm had a network of ditches used for stock water. A reticulated water system was established and all the ditches were fenced off as part of the conversion.

Trees planted along the coast provide a buffer from the famous southerly winds that frequently batter the area.

In 2006 Vaughan was accepted for a Nuffield Scholarship and his chosen subject was nutrient losses. He has since replaced the farm’s effluent system and his well thought out design impressed the judges.

Solids are separated with a ‘weeping wall’ and the system incorporates a pond with 90 days of liquid storage. Effluent is applied around the farm at a low rate using K-line pods

Restoration efforts this decade by Vaughan’s father Des means the farm is home to the only working flax mill in the country on its original site. Vaughan and Megan donated the building to the trust that now administers the Templeton Flaxmill Museum, of which Vaughan is the chairman. Fibre produced by the mill is sold to floral artists and, increasingly, to Maori craftspeople.

The mill draws in about 1000 visitors a year.

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

Gallgher Innovation Award: Bruce and Catherine Winter

NZFEA Trsur Habitat Improvement Award: Landcorp – Eweburn Station, Manager Ray Tibbles

PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award: The Miller Family; Chris and Gaynor, Jason and Jocelyn, Quentin & Eleanor – Roslyn Downs Partnership

Silver Fern Farms Livestock Award: Leon and Wendy Black, Peter and Marion Black – Blackdale Stud

A field day will be held on the Templeton’s farm on May 7.