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Farming Brothers Takes Out BFEA Horizons Region

1 January 2007

Farming Brothers Takes Out BFEA Horizons Region

Brothers Hew and Roger Dalrymple are the Supreme Winners of this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the Horizons region.

The Dalrymples run Waitatapia Station, a large scale arable and drystock farm near Bulls. Situated near the coast, the operation spans 2610ha (2333ha freehold) split into five separate blocks. About 1500ha are in pasture, with 652ha in cropping and 400ha in forestry. The balance comprises lakes, swamps and laneways.

Ballance Farm Environment Award judges say the Dalrymple’s diverse farming operation is now achieving levels of production well ahead of average for soil types and locality.

“We believe their scale, level of innovation and production results are outstanding,” says the judging panel report.

The judges also praised the Dalrymple’s positive and passionate attitudes towards farming and the environment, and noted their excellent understanding of the limitations and potential of various soil types on the farm.

The extreme vulnerability to soil erosion in their area has always provided motivation to tread lightly and seek better systems on Waitatapia, and while Roger and Hew are recognised innovators when it comes to successfully operating in a fragile environment, they say this approach has been used for three generations before them.

During their tenure, Hew and Roger have increased the area planted in pines ten-fold, in recognition of the multi-faceted benefits forestry offers their farming enterprise.

Apart from the obvious advantages of sandy soil stabilisation, shade and shelter, they are aware the presence of the pines has for years ensured “there’s always been a little bit of income available when times are tough”.

Hew and Roger Dalrymple took over from their father John in the mid ‘80s. John Dalrymple’s input is still valued but nowadays it’s the partnership of the brothers that drives the farm.

Hew takes care of the forestry and arable side of the business and Roger’s the livestock man.

“In the beginning, we just headed in those directions,” says Hew. “A lot of people say they haven’t seen anything better as far as a family working together goes, and we’re pretty happy.”

A key factor, they believe, is that they keep their day-to-day operations separate, “though financially, everything goes into one pot”.

And they are working closely together on the future of their family’s legacy. Hew has one son and Roger has three daughters. The focus of the brothers in their succession planning is tied to expanding their business beyond the farm gate to allow a split that they believe will eventually be inevitable “though not while we’re running things, we’re pretty happy how we are”.

They “hugely” appreciate the help their parents gave them to remain on the family land but point out they are also indebted to their two sisters who were “realistic, early on” about what it was going to take for Waitatapia to stay in Dalrymple care. No till drilling, or direct drilling, is standard at Waitatapia because these techniques protect the fragile soils. “But getting the basic stuff right is just as important,” he says. “It’s just that we have had to be pretty smart with our technology because of our fragile environment.”

The Dalrymple’s have a unique arrangement with a nearby large scale poultry operator. In return for feed maize grown on their farm they receive chicken manure. The application of the manure needs to be carefully managed and nutrient levels monitored, says Hew. “But it’s definitely giving the sandy soil more backbone. We’ve got more worms, more grass.”

Lambs thrive on tetraploid annual grasses direct drilled into paddocks once the main crops of squash and maize are harvested, and organic matter is turned over back into the soil.

Six full-time staff are employed at Waitatapia. The award judges noted the low staff turnover and the enthusiasm and input of staff members.

“Staff members are a critical part of our operation,” says Hew. “Being so large, we can’t do it all ourselves.”

A field day will be held on their Dalrymple Road farm in May.

The full list of winners from this year’s Awards is

Supreme Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award: Hew and Roger Dalrymple, “Waitatapia Station”, Bulls.

Gallagher Innovation Award: Hew and Roger Dalrymple, “Waitatapia Station”, Bulls.

PGG Wrightson Habitat Improvement Award Rodney and Colleen O'Neill, “Ohorea Station” (owned by Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation), Wanganui.

PPCS Livestock Farm Award: Rodney and Colleen O'Neill, “Ohorea Station” (owned by Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation), Wanganui.

Ballance Nutrient Management Award: Jeff and Janice Williams, Palmerston North.

LIC Dairy Farm Award: Jeff and Janice Williams, Palmerston North.

Horizons Regional Council Award (for the integration of trees on-farm for the benefit of the environment): The Gorringe Family Partnership, “Manston”, Kawhatau Valley, Mangaweka.