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Young Winners Set To Capitalise On Niche Market

Young Winners Set To Capitalise On Niche Market Opportunities

The winners of the Hauraki Piako Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards are focusing on supplying milk out of season to capitalise on any premiums they may be able to attain.

Adrian and Pauline Ball, of Tirau, were announced the winners of the Farm Business category of the awards at a function in Matamata last night. They have won a study trip for two to Fonterra's markets and the right to compete in the national final in Hamilton on June 27.

The Balls skills in human resources and farm productivity were also recognised, as they picked up the two specialist performance awards for those areas.

Awards Chairman and Fonterra Director Jim van der Poel says the awards aim to assist Fonterra's 17,000-farmer supply base to maintain their on-farm efficiencies and position as the world's most cost-effective milk producers in the world.

"This underpins our ability to prosper in the global market," he says.

Westpac General Manager Business Banking Bruce McLachlan says another aim of the awards is to profile dairy industry excellence and promote information exchange, through benchmarking and best practice.

"We believe recognising the best the dairy industry has to offer encourages innovation and sets the benchmark for this country's drive into global markets."

The Balls own and operate an 115ha effective farm and 32ha run-off milking 370 cows. The herd is split in two with 150 cows calving from March 1 and 220 cows calving from July 5. They have a winter milk premium quota and plan to use this to their advantage.

"We believe our focus is to supply milk out of season to create more opportunity for us and more efficient manufacturing for the dairy company. Hopefully it also enables the dairy company to produce milk products of the highest value and market them accordingly," they say.

"We have set up the farm as a flexible base to capture any industry changes, such as seasonal pricing or milk quality premiums."

The Balls entered the dairy industry boldly in 1994, when they converted their farm to dairying with no dairy farming experience. But they're young and have been quick learners. Adrian Ball is aged 31 and Pauline Ball just 29, and they have two young children.

Their main objective has been to achieve high pasture utilisation and to incorporate forage supplements to boost pasture quality. About 35ha of their property is planted in forage crops of maize silage and Lucerne silage.

Their plan is being executed well, with per cow production averaging 512kg milksolids, or 1650kg milksolids per hectare.

Feeding their herd well to produce high milksolids production has also benefited their breeding programme, with two bulls selected in the Livestock Improvement Premier Sires team to date.

"Our key farming objective is to utilise the farm to the best of our ability - using the skill of our staff, ourselves and industry people. At the same time we want to maintain a sustainable farming method of operation that ensures ongoing profitability and growth."

The Balls say they aim for a return on capital of greater than 11% annually, business growth and productivity targets of 8 to 10% annually and for their net worth to increase 10 to 15% annually.

Morrinsville dairy farmers George and Glenda Howie won the special environment performance award, recognising their efforts in undertaking sustainable environmental practices while ensuring profitable outcomes on their 131ha property.

"Being the third generation of Howies to farm this land our primary goals may be somewhat different to those of others and, although production is important, sustainability is our major thrust," they say.

"This focus sees us farming our property in a holistic way where stocking rates, pasture growth, production and environmental issues are all considered in a balanced way."

The Howies milk 330 cows throughout the season, aiming to produce 350kg milksolids per cow or 1000kg milksolids per ha.

"We use common sense and industry guidelines to formulate our farming policies. Research conducted on this property by NIWA, AgResearch and others - with regard to soil, water and effluent management - has confirmed that we are on the right track, with our productivity continuing to improve over time," the Howies say.

The Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards are being run in seven regions, with the winner of each region progressing to the national final. Tickets to the regional dinners can be purchased by phoning 0800 273 759 or online at , where information on the awards can also be obtained.

Other Hauraki Piako award recipients:

* Business Growth - David and Raewyn Bennett

* Quality Management - Ben and Justine Cameron

* Farm Manager - Robert Short and Alice Rae

* Lifetime Achievement - Sir Dryden Spring

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