1 January 2009
Visitors to Allan Roulston's South Otago farm are often advised to wrap up warm.
"Some days it's like the South Pole up here," jokes Allan, who farms 400ha of rolling hill country between Milton and Balclutha.
Despite its often chilly aspect, he takes great pride in 'Chardale Farm' and entering the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards - not just once, but three times - gave him the opportunity to show others how much he cares about the place.
Allan says each time has proved an interesting and worthwhile experience. He has listened carefully to the judges and accepted much of the advice they have offered.
After winning a merit award in 2004 his desire to improve the farm helped him secure two category awards in 2009 - the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and the NZ Farm Environment Award Trust Habitat Improvement Award.
The Habitat Improvement Award was earned for waterway protection work that has so far seen about 80% of the farm's creeks and streams fenced off, with surrounding areas planted in native species to stabilise river banks and provide a habitat for birdlife.
Allan says the programme has had many benefits. Stock losses in these areas have been eliminated, and the plantings provide good shelter from the strong winds that can buffet the farm.
The fencing of waterways has also improved stock management, with the double fencing of creeks providing an important buffer zone between bulls and heifers. Flooding damage to fences has been reduced and the fresh water crayfish that once inhabited the creeks are now returning. "And I can't get over how many ducks there are around here now."
With the help of long-time employee Robert Wilson, Allan farms Perendale sheep, breeds Charolais cattle and runs an outdoor piggery. He also grows barley and operates a small contracting business.
The innovative use of an aerator and liquid fertiliser regime for growing barley earned him the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award. He says the regular use of the aerator helped increase barley yields while reducing soil compaction.
"In the past I used to leave these paddocks to re-seed once the crop had come off, then I'd use them as a winter crop. But one of the Ballance Farm Environment Award judges suggested I plant a crop of oats, so I did this and it worked well because it provided better value feed for young bulls and cows."
Allan regards participation in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards as a valuable learning experience and he's happy to encourage other farmers to enter the competition.
"It's very worthwhile."
He says he enjoyed the feedback provided by the judging process. "One of the good things is that you get to ask questions of the judges. Its amazing how many things you can pick up."
He says the Ballance Farm Environment Awards have excellent credibility and are great for the agricultural sector.
"The farming industry has a lot of awards, but this one is the most valuable because it focuses on sustainable farming and emphasises how important it is to look after land and stock."
Allan says he will certainly enter the awards again in future. "I've got some things I want to work on and once I've got them right, I will definitely be going back in." Entries for the 2010 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards open on October 1 and close on December 14, 2009. For more information or an entry form, visit www.bfea.org.nz or contact Beatrice Lee, BFEA Otago regional coordinator, phone (03) 473 9566, 027 2088 305 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Award Trust, phone 07 834 0400, email@example.com or visit www.bfea.org.nz