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Family Farming Operation Announced Supreme Winner

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Family Farming Operation Announced Supreme Winner Of Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards

The McAtamney family, Supreme winners of the 2007 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards

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, were also presented with the PPCS Livestock Farm Award at an awards ceremony on May 13.

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.

They farm 5200 stock units, including 3990 ewes, 1135 hoggets, 60 rams and 70 cattle. Their ewes have averaged 153% lambing over the last three years and lambs are finished at 16.5kg carcase weight.

About 25ha of the property is planted in forestry - 90 percent in pines and 10 percent in macrocarpa.

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.

Other points noted by the judges include:

• Consciousness of debt levels and need to keep under control
• Close scrutiny of costs and flexibility to make changes as and when necessary
• Well laid out property with great integration of shelter belts and woodlots
• Change to direct drilling
• Understanding the importance of monitoring and benchmarking and the benefits such practices can bring
• Well thought out succession plans
• High levels of stock performance with a focus on continuing to make gains through genetics and feeding policies

Judges also noted how the ownership structure of the farm is designed to provide the ability to transfer ownership between the parties.

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.

No major waterways flow across the farm, although several small creeks have their origin on the property. There are also numerous small watercourses from natural drainage which channel down the many gullies.

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.

Average gross farm income over the past two years has equated to $94/stock unit or $1101/ha, with a surplus of $593/ha.

Other award winners in the 2007 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

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

LIC Dairy Farm Award, No entrants this year

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

Now run in eight regions throughout New Zealand, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards are sponsored by Ballance Agri-Nutrients, along with LIC, PPCS, PGG Wrightson, Gallagher and Hill Laboratories. The Otago BFEA awards are also supported by the Otago Regional Council.

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

The full list of finalists for the 2007 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards comprises:

Ross and Sonia Lyders, Lawrence

Walter and Sandra Dalziel, Lawrence

Simon, Camille and Terry and Pat McAtamney, Balclutha

Rippon Vineyard and Winery, Lake Wanaka

Craigs Poultry Ltd, Herbert


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