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Papatotara Farmers Win Supreme Award

19 April 2006

Papatotara Farmers Win Supreme Award

The 2006 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Supreme Award has gone to Papatotara livestock farmers Graeme and Dorothy Dodd, announced at an awards function in Invercargill tonight.

The Dodds also won the Southland BFEA Water Quality Award.

In just six years since settling on their Papatotara livestock property, Graeme and Dorothy Dodd have developed the former dairy farm into a top producing, well presented unit through well thought out and environmentally responsible management.

Coming into the coastal area which is exposed to the full force of southerly storms, the couple early on recognised the importance of the bush and shelter for good livestock health and performance, especially at lambing, calving and after shearing.

They are continually questioning everything they do. With the south coast just a paddock away, they have used plastic-coated fence netting to protect against corrosion from salt spray.

The Dodds have worked closely with both the QEII National Trust and the Waiau Fisheries and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Trust to protect their waterways and native bush. Graeme says they had considered protecting the bush themselves but decided to covenant the bush to prevent any future owner clearing it.

Their search for the best genetics was rewarded just two years after taking over the property when a line of Simmental-Charolais bulls set a new South Island record for weaners calves which recorded an average of $903 dollars at the annual Tuatapere sale. The top line of six bulls with an average liveweight of 412kg made $970. Eight heifers that year averaging 378kg made $710.

At the time Graeme said: “The calves are never hungry from the day they’re born and that’s why they do so well.”

The couple repeated that success again in 2004 with top prices of $540 for a line of steer calves and $515 for a line of top heifers.

And last year they again topped the Tuatapere sale selling a line of steers for $690.

The provision of a gravity-fed stock water scheme to paddock troughs has contributed to the health and good performance of both the sheep and cattle.

Ten hectares of kale and swedes provide winter feed for the ewes with the breeding cows wintered on a sacrificed paddock where they are fed baleage and silage.
Graeme says when they moved to the property they discovered a former silage pit had been sited on the banks of one of the streams. The leachate had turned the stream black and destroyed all aquatic life. Now the stream runs clear and the fishery has recovered with whitebait and trout common.

By fencing the streams the couple also no longer has to rescue stock or drag out lambs that had drowned each year.

In the push to find alternatives to solid fertilisers the couple has tried fish-based products and RPR as well as lime and have recorded a noticeable lift in pasture growth and quality as well as increased soil biological activity.

Now that development is all but completed the goal is to reduce debt.
We enjoy what we’re doing,” Graeme says. To which Dorothy added: “We plan to leave the land in a better condition than we found it and continue to improve the health and performance of our stock.”

The Dodds will join with Supreme Award winners from Otago, Canterbury, Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Horizons region and the Greater Wellington Region at a Sustainability Showcase to be held in Rotorua on June 30.

The awards have attracted strong sponsorship from rural product and service providers who share the Trust’s commitment and vision. Principal sponsor Ballance Agri-Nutrients is joined in supporting the Farm Environment Awards by Rabobank, PPCS, PGG Wrightson, Livestock Improvement Corporation, Gallagher Group and Hill Laboratories.

A field day will be held on the Dodds’ farm at Kowhai Creek Farm, 692 Papatotara, RD 1, Tuapere on 10 May 2006 starting at 1pm.

Other Southland results were:

Livestock Improvement Dairy Award and
Ballance Nutrient Management Award--Rod, Paddy-Ann and Jonathon Pemberton

The Pemberton’s moved to Southland from South Canterbury seven years ago and converted the former sheep property to dairying.

In a very short time they recognised the limitations of the property’s compaction-prone soils and immediately took steps to minimise the problem through aeration. This has been highly successful, opening up the soils, drying out problem wet spots and resulting in measurable increases in worm activity and pasture root growth.

PGG Wrightson Habitat Improvement Award- Allan Fox

“I enjoy pulling on my boots every morning,” emphasises Fortification finalist Allan Fox’s passion for farming. “I still want to be actively farming when I’m 60.”
He, together with his father and two other brothers purchased the hill property in 1971 and operated it as a family partnership for many years, beginning a development programme that Allan has continued with, that has turned “gorse infested” land into a highly productive, well maintained unit.
The family was one of the pioneers of the specialty carpet wool Drysdale breed.

Hill Laboratories Harvest Award-Mike and Margaret Solari

Mike and Margaret Solari are long-time cropping farmers in the Otama district where they have gained a reputation for doing things right and striving for perfection.

They are innovative and always looking for new opportunities for their crops. Recently Mike began investigating once again growing oil seed rape (canola) for fuel oil production. While this was trialled successfully about 20 years ago, Mike is looking at sowing the canola in the autumn rather than the spring.
Mike has adopted a preventative crop spraying programme to control pests and diseases before they become established, but with careful timing the chemicals are controlled so that only what is actually needed is used.

Rabobank Land and Life Award—Trevor, Karen ,Bill and Wilma Humphries

The Humphries family’s aim of growing their business interests to ensure increased financial security, while maintaining their enjoyment and quality of life, plus their community involvement and the responsible manner in which they farm what can often be a difficult environment, earned them the Rabobank Land and Life Award.

The Five Rivers property has been run as a family farm since 1950 and since then and also since buying an adjoining block in 2004, there has been a major focus on developing the land and lifting production as well as planting extensive shelter belts and tree blocks.

PPCS Livestock Award--Allan and Coral Clarke

The obvious respect and pride that Allan and Coral Clarke have for their property and stock earned high praise from the judging panel and gained them the PPCS Livestock Award.

Managing five different classes of stock is never an easy matter, but the Clarke’s attention to detail and the ability to match feed demand of the various classes with supply ensures the stock are in top condition 12 months of the year.

Since taking over the property in 1969, the property’s original 13 paddocks have been increased to 23. The property is farmed intensively producing a net income $775/ha.

The Clarkes are members of the Deer South bench-marking group and are a past winner of the group’s fawn growth competition.

Allan says it is important that farmers look after the environment in which they farm, especially intensive downland farms and ensure they are farmed sustainably and responsibly.

“Awards make you sharpen your thoughts on what you’re doing.”


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