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Early Focus Reaps Reward

Early Focus Reaps Reward

Canterbury couple Russell and Leanne Clearwater demanded high standards from the beginning of their dairy farm operation near Dunsandel.

That focus has resulted in their win in the Farm Business Award section in the Upper South Island Regional final of the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards.

Their 330ha spray irrigated Canlac farm near Dunsandel, about 50km south of Christchurch, is a dry-land conversion. But, in setting up the conversion, the couple insisted on high standards up front to immediately maximise returns from the business.

"We wanted the farm to perform to its full potential from the first season and we've seen that in our previous three seasons as well as in the current year," say the couple. "We annually set productivity goals that are in the top 5% of farm performance and as managers look to maximise pasture production and utilisation as well as maintaining a very strong focus on the basics.

"We also employ equity managers as we believe that having equity in the business will follow through to performance."

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 Clearwaters match those objectives by consistently aiming for and reaching high standards of production from their 1300 Friesian cross cows.

In the past two seasons their milksolids per hectare target of 1500kg has been exceeded with the 2001/02 figure reaching 1610kgms/ha. Similarly their milksolids per cow target of 400kg has also been matched or beaten in each of the past two seasons reaching 420kgms/cow in the most recently completed year.

Canlac Holdings also has a 160ha joint venture farm, about 9km from the dairy unit, that provides winter grazing and additional feed.

The Clearwaters come from farming backgrounds in Northland with Leanne's family dairy farming west of Whangarei for three generations while Russell was brought up on a hill country sheep and beef farm south west of Whangarei. Both are qualified Artificial Breeding technicians with Leanne's interest in breeding extending to chocolate Labradors, a small flock of sheep and a first cross of Scottish Highland cattle.

Russell is constantly seeking information that will improve any aspect of farming, makes all the Crusaders home games and indulges an interest in fly-fishing.

The couple worked extensively in the Waikato dairying heartland as farm assistants, contract milkers and 50:50 sharemilkers before moving south to their own property in 1999.

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 Northern South Island award winners were: * Farm Business - Russell and Leanne Clearwater * Business Growth - Russell and Leanne Clearwater * Quality Management - Russell and Leanne Clearwater * Environment - Doug, Marg, David and Helen Turner * Farm Manager - Darin Bradley * Lifetime Achievement - John Roadley

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