15 November 2007
John and Liz Chittock found their first experience as entrants in the 2005 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards such an enjoyable challenge, they decided to give it another go two years later.
Their enthusiasm was rewarded when the property they manage, Jeff Farm, won the PPCS Livestock Farm Award this year, following on from the Gallagher Innovation Award they won in 2005.
Owned by the Salvation Army, Jeff Farm is a well-known large-scale sheep, cattle and deer operation that spans 1939 hectares of flat to rolling/steep country at Kaiwera, east of Gore. Last season the farm wintered over 23,000 stock units, including 8400 Romney ewes, 3600 two-tooths, 360 breeding cows, 480 steers and bulls, 156 red breeding hinds, 152 yearling hinds and 245 yearling stags.
The Chittocks have managed the farm for six years and in that time they have made a significant contribution to its productivity and development. They work closely with the Jeff Farm Board to help the farm achieve goals that include encouraging and training young people towards a career in agriculture.
In their 2007 judging report, Ballance Farm Environment Award judges said a continued focus on improving livestock genetics was helping the farm to achieve high stock performance in often challenging climatic conditions.
They also noted the farm’s excellent shelter and riparian planting policies, and the use of monitoring programmes for fertiliser usage and stock performance and health.
BFEA judges were also impressed with the farm’s efficient cattle and deer wintering systems which utilise self-feed silage pads and sacrifice areas to protect winter pastures. A special grazing policy was also in place to encourage tussock regrowth on the hill blocks.
Liz Chittock says they were persuaded to enter the 2005 Ballance Farm Environment Awards by competition organisers. She says the judging process was very positive, with the judges offering “excellent and encouraging” feedback.
The judging panel provided a string of recommendations designed to help the Chittocks improve the sustainability of the operation even further.
“Two years later we decided to enter again because we wanted to see exactly what we’d learnt the first time around,” says Liz. “We were keen to see if the judges recognised the improvements that were made after we’d taken their suggestions on board.” The 2007 judges were clearly impressed by the changes the Chittocks had made over the two year period.
But they also presented the couple with another detailed list of recommendations, which, as Liz says, “shows that there are always things that can be learned and improved”. She says the competition was well run and she and John would certainly encourage farmers to enter the 2008 awards.
“It’s a good experience, and I think the awards are very important because they encourage and recognise farmers who take pride in caring for their land and protecting their environment.
“This must also benefit NZ agriculture hugely as the profile of the awards continues to increase and people become more aware of how important this is for future generations.”