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Dairy Tops Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Top Dairy Performers Win Supreme in Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Large-scale dairy farmers Mark and Devon Slee have won the Supreme Award in the 2014 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

At a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on March 20 the Slees were also presented with the LIC Dairy Farm Award, the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.

Their business, Melrose Dairy Limited, is based on 1014ha in the Ealing district, south of Ashburton. With a milking platform of 660ha, Melrose Dairy milks over 2600 cows on three dairy units. Last year the operation produced 1834kg Milksolids/ha, which is well above the region’s average.

BFEA judges said the Slees are top industry performers who have “demonstrated the ability to run a highly profitable dairy business while ensuring excellent environmental management”.

They described Melrose Dairy as a proven family operation that has achieved long-term growth and success through innovation, discipline and sound business management.

Melrose Dairy is an industry leader in profitability. It is one of four top privately-run Canterbury farms against which Lincoln University measures the performance of its dairying operations. During the 2012-13 season, Lincoln achieved a profitability margin of more than $4600/ha compared with $5200/ha for Melrose Dairy, which was top of this benchmark group. Public benchmarking is a brave move by the Slees and their performance in the group reflects their outstanding management.

Mark’s parents Syd and Morrell converted the original 365ha sheep and beef farm in 1987 and Mark and Devon, who have two young sons, started managing the property in 1991. They later bought the home farm, adding two neighbouring properties and a run-off.

The operation now runs two 60-bale farm dairies and one 50-bale unit. Irrigation is provided via a centre-pivot system and herd size is kept under 1000 to place less pressure on the cows and staff.

Melrose Dairy employs 13 fulltime employees and two part-time. Two of the dairy units are run by managers, with a contract milker on the other.

BFEA judges praised the Slees’ outstanding staff management and their high “level of awareness and consideration” towards staff. This has resulted in low staff turnover.

They also noted the “full use of technology” to ensure the efficient operation of the farm dairies and the irrigation system.

The careful management of resources is another key focus. For example, the Slees recognised the benefits of spray irrigation many years ago, making an early switch from flood irrigation to a much more efficient centre-pivot system.

Existing shelterbelts have been retained where possible, but in areas where trees have been removed to accommodate the irrigation system, these trees have been replaced with low-growing native species.

Judges said the couple’s management of land, labour and capital was exceptional.

They also noted the Slees’ strong community and industry involvement.

A field day will be held on the Supreme Award-winning farm, with the date to be advised.

Winners in the 2014 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards were;

Supreme award, LIC Dairy Farm Award, PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award; Mark and Devon Slee, Melrose Farm, Ealing.

Beef+Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award; Mike and Nicky Salvesen, Wakare Ltd, Surrey Hills, Ashburton.

Meridian Energy Excellence Award, Hills Laboratories Harvest Award, Massey University Innovation Award; Paul and Lyn Loader (and family), K&L Nurseries, Springston, Selwyn.

Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award; Jeff and Kelly Gould, Wyvern and Beth Jones, Aberystwyth Dairies Ltd, Ealing, Ashburton.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award;Phil Columbus, Shaun and Jo Back and Andrew Clayton, Ngai Tahu Farming - Dairy Farm One, Oxford.

For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact David Natzke, General Manager, New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, visit web www.bfea.org.nz

ENDS

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