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Family Farming Operation Announced Supreme Winner Of Otago BFEA

1 January 2007

Family Farming Operation Announced Supreme Winner Of Otago BFEA

Good stock performance and a strong focus on farm productivity and sustainability earned the McAtamney family the Supreme title in this year’s Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The McAtamneys, who run a 485ha (445ha effective) sheep and beef unit at Waitahuna, near Balclutha. Purchased in 1954 their rolling to steep contoured property is run as a sheep breeding and finishing unit, with some cattle trading. It is operated as a family 50-50 partnership between Terry and Pat McAtamney and their son Simon and his wife Camille.

Ballance Farm Environment Award judges were impressed by the consistent stock performance achieved on the farm, the family’s use of benchmarking and monitoring and their focus on keeping the farm both environmentally and economically sustainable.

Costs are closely scrutinised, debt levels are kept under control, and changes to inputs are made where practical.

A ryegrass-clover system is the basis of the grazing regime, with up to 28ha direct drilled into winter crop annually and then sown out into perennial pasture the following year. To achieve cost savings, no winter feed is made. However, small quantities of barley have been fed in the past two winters and there are reserves of silage and barley on hand to meet summer or winter feed shortages.

The McAtamneys original Coopworth flock has been crossed with some Finn and Texel and latterly stabilised with Kelso genetics. Other terminal sire options may be considered in the next year to achieve faster lamb growth rates. Their short-term objective is to achieve 160 percent lambing, when a further review of the genetic gain possibilities will be made.

The soil type is relatively free draining and compaction problems are minimised by avoiding overgrazing in wet periods. The natural lie of the land assists soil drainage and there are some tile and mole drains on the flatter paddocks.

Soil fertility is good across the property and nutrient levels are monitored annually. Some nitrogen in the form of urea is used to boost growth on first and second year pastures. The Overseer programme helps keep a check on nutrient levels and assists in determining fertiliser type and rates.

Gullies have been planted in pine and macrocarpa. These plantings provide shelter for the neighbouring paddocks and help keep stock out of waterways. Several of the steeper gullies that contain kanuka, manuka and other native scrub species are well managed with minimal grazing. The regenerating scrub, like the forest areas, also provides good shelter and this is especially valuable for the ewes after winter shearing.

The McAtamney family has an impressive involvement in their community through Lions, indoor and outdoor bowls, rugby, Plunket, netball, school and the Clutha Sheep Council.

Between 1996 and 1999, the property was a monitor farm. This experience exposed Simon and Terry to new ideas - such as the value of monitoring, better record keeping and benchmarking - and resulted in management changes and new challenges.

They also won the PPCS Livestock Farm Award

Other award winners were:

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Rippon Vineyard and Winery - Nick Mills & family

PGG Wrightson Habitat Improvement Award, Howard, Elizabeth, Liz and Brian McGrouther

Gallagher Innovation Award and Ballance Nutrient Management Award, Craigs Poultry Ltd - Brent and Bridget Craig

Otago Regional Council Sustainable Resource Management Award, Ross and Sonia Lyders

A field day will be held on the McAtamney farm, Tattenham, R D 4, Balclutha, on May 14 from 11.45am.