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Strong Farming Partnership Takes Out Wairarapa BFEA

1 January 2007

Strong Farming Partnership Takes Out Wairarapa BFEA

Wairarapa sheep and beef farmers Andrew and Anna Renton are the Supreme winners of this year’s Wellington Region Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The Rentons, who farm “Te Roto” at Bideford, north east of Masterton.  The Rentons moved to the Wairarapa from Hawke’s Bay six years ago and now farm 936ha (800ha effective) of flat to medium hill country.

Last year Te Roto wintered 6650 sheep stock units and 2200 cattle stock units, achieving excellent performance and drawing praise from the Ballance Farm Environment Award judges, who were impressed by the strength of the Renton’s farm operation and their farming partnership.

“Production is excellent,” reads the judge’s report, “with good care and returns being shown in the management of soils and pastures. Stock condition and performance is very high; strong planning is a feature.”

Andrew Renton is firm about his operating policy: “You’ve got to farm with your head, not your heart,” he says.  He and Anna and their children, twins Tom and Ben (aged 8) and Sophie (aged 3), are enjoying life in the Wairarapa and appreciate the community they feel part of.

Two years ago they phased deer out of their farming operation. “They weren’t right for the place,” says Andrew. Around the same time they also took the opportunity to expand their original holding by 200ha when part of an adjoining farm became available.

And currently they are changing the entire focus of Te Roto’s beef policy from breeding to finishing. “I wasn’t happy with the performance we were getting from the breeding cows,” says Andrew. In particular, the Rentons had a problem with magnesium deficiency in the cows after calving. Sticking to younger stock has become the preferred option.

Andrew puts a lot of thought and planning into his farm management decisions, which are completely centred on his keen eye for how the stock and farm look.

The non-effective land on the property includes 35ha of woodlot; 23ha of QEII covenanted native bush and a further 38ha of bush, which the Rentons are working on also protecting.

Forestry expansion and a pole planting programme are a continuation of what the previous owner began. A 10-year soil and water management programme has been drawn up with the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The Taueru River runs through Te Roto, and the Rentons are in the process of fencing this off. Because the property has a reputation for flooding, two-wire electric fencing is used along the riverbanks and this means that only the sheep can get access to the water.

From a business perspective Andrew and Anna deliberately cultivate close relationships with their lawyer, stock agent, accountant and banker. They consider these professionals part of the planning process for their farm. Anna manages the accounts and administration for the business.

A field day is to be held on the Renton’s award-winning farm on May 16.

The complete list of winners in this year’s Awards are:

PPCS Livestock Farm Award: Andrew and Anna Renton, “Te Roto”, Bideford.

LIC Dairy Farm Award: Steve and Kate Pitney, “Westcliffe”, Carrington.

PGG Wrightson Habitat Improvement Award: Steve and Kate Pitney, “Westcliffe”, Carrington.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award: Jim and Lois Reynolds & Paul McGill, “Mayfield”, east Taratahi.

Ballance Nutrient Management Award: Jim and Lois Reynolds & Paul McGill, “Mayfield”, east Taratahi.

Gallagher Innovation Award: Mike and Julia Murray, “Kouratahi”, Gladstone.

Markhams Business Planning Award: Mark and Susannah Guscott, “Glen Eden”, Carterton.

Akura Conservation Centre Lifestyle Farm/Small Block Award: Glenys Hansen, “Tidsfordriv”, Masterton.