21 November 2007
Participating in the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards gave Andrew Speight the confidence to proceed with some of the ideas that were buzzing around inside his head.
Andrew first entered the awards in 2004, winning two categories, and found the judging process to be an excellent source of high quality advice and inspiration. “I’m always looking for ways to make our farming system more efficient, but sometimes you want someone else to check out your ideas and help you decide if you are on the right track.”
The Branxholme dairy farmer says he had made a number of changes to his farming operation since 2004. So one of the key reasons he entered the awards in 2007 was to get outside advice on the changes he had implemented.
“One of the best things about the Farm Environment Awards is that the judges come from a variety of backgrounds with a range of different experiences. That means you get a much wider perspective than you would if the judges were all dairy farmers.”
Andrew says the feedback he got from judges in the 2007 awards was excellent. “It was awesome. They were very encouraging and they made me feel confident that I was doing things right. Best of all, the advice was free.”
In fact, the judges were so impressed they awarded Andrew and the Branxholme Cow Company Ltd the Gallagher Innovation Award. Andrew says winning the award was a nice pat on the back or “good kudos.” He and wife Jules run a large scale dairy operation on land leased under a unique agreement that pays a monthly rental based on each month’s production. Andrew says the agreement is similar to contracts that are used in many parts of his home country, England. He says farm owner Eamon Cleary is happy with the arrangement which will help the Speights pay off their herd much faster than they would under a traditional sharemilking agreement.
Last season the Branxholme Cow Company milked 1150 cows, producing just under 1600kg milksolids/ha or almost 460kgMS/cow. The company also leases 400ha near Tuatapere and South Hillend and this land is used for growing grain and grazing young stock.
Andrew’s extensive experience of dairy farming in England, New Zealand and South America means his services are in demand as a consultant. He is also in the process of developing an internet site that will provide foreign dairy farm workers with a social forum and information source.
Judges of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards were impressed with the innovative approach Andrew takes to his business. This includes a management flexibility that enables him to achieve production gains while at the same time mitigating the environmental effects of intensive dairying.
Andrew says he would recommend the experience of entering the awards to anyone.
He describes the judging process as informal and painless. “I really enjoyed it, and I made some good friends out of it.”
Entries for the Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards opened on November 1 and close on January 15, 2008