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Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards: Dairy Operation

Sustainable, High-Performing Dairy Operation Collects Supreme Award In 2014 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Okaihau dairy farmers Roger and Jane Hutchings are the Supreme winners of the 2014 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Judges described the Hutchings’ 680-cow business in the Bay Of Islands, Lodore Farm Ltd, as a very sustainable high-input system which is profitable across all aspects of the operation.

“There is a clear balance between the financial performance of the operation and the environmental and social aspects.”

Roger and Jane were presented with the Supreme Award at a Ballance Farm Environment Awards ceremony on April 2. They also won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Meridian Energy Excellence Award.

Judges said the 270ha (effective) dairy farm with two support blocks (totalling 160ha effective) is overall a very aesthetically pleasing property that was extremely well presented.

The original farm was bought by Roger’s parents, Malcolm and Marilyn, who still remain involved in the business.

Lodore Farm’s mainly pedigree Ayrshire cows are milked in two herds. One herd consists of the older cows on twice-a-day milking and the other comprises the heifers which are milked once a day.

This year’s production target is 240,000kg milksolids (MS), equating to 353kgMS/cow or 888kgMS/ha.

Judges said the Hutchings showed good awareness of a wide range of financial key performance indicators and had farm working expenses consistently below the Northland benchmark.

The couple demonstrated a strong passion for their livestock, maximising the performance of their cows through attention to detail, genetic gain from the elite Ayrshire herd and utilisation of a successful embryo transfer programme.

A moderate stocking rate of 2.5cows/ha and the use of supplements, including meal, helps to maintain the condition of the cows while extending lactation into June.

Judges noted the couple’s very good knowledge of the soils on their farm and their excellent utilisation of a nutrient management plan as a tool to ensure optimum results.

They also praised the Hutchings’ sound business practises and their strong focus on sustainable staffing and bringing young people into the business.

Staff members Brad Stewart and Sam Rapuna are both entrusted with considerable responsibilities, and the Hutchings like to ensure they have weekends rostered off and regular time away.

Lodore Farm’s long-term biodiversity planning and execution is impressive, judges said. This includes bush and waterway fencing, weed and pest management, kiwi listening and fostering and a deliberate no-dog policy. The property has one of Northland’s top 150 wetlands, fenced with generous margins and planted with regionally-suitable native trees and plants.

The farm sits within the Puketotara (River) Community Pest Control Area (CPCA). This has resulted in a considerable drop in the numbers of pests and an increase in bird life and canopy cover in protected bush areas.

The efficient use of energy has been another focus for the Hutchings. Judges said the couple have demonstrated “a conscientious desire to use sustainable energy” through a significant financial investment in solar panels on the roof of the farm dairy.

Judges also commented on the couple’s community involvement and work-life balance.

A field day will be held on the Supreme-award winning property on Thursday May 8, starting at 10:30am.

Winners in the 2014 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were;
Supreme award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, Meridian Energy Excellence Award;Roger and Jane Hutchings, Lodore Farm Ltd, Okaihau.
Beef+Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award; Andrew Kirk, Kapiro Station, Landcorp Farming Ltd, Kerikeri.
Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award, Northland Regional Council Water Quality Enhancement Award; Ann and Stephen Kearney, Puketotara Trust, Kerikeri.
Massey University Discovery Award, PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award; Rebecca and Patrick Malley, Onyx Capital Ltd, Maungatapere.

For more information on the Ballance Farm Environment Awards visit www.bfea.org.nz

ENDS

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