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Dairy farmers win NZ’s top environmental farming award

27 June 2014

Dairy farmers win NZ’s top environmental farming award

Federated Farmers is praising the significant achievement of Mark and Devon Slee who were named last night the 2014 winners of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy: New Zealand’s most prestigious award for environmental farming.

“As a judge and as President of Federated Farmers I am extremely proud of Mark and Devon and all 2014 entrants in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards,” says the President of Federated Farmers, Bruce Wills.

“I am equally proud of all regional supreme award winners because they are increasingly first among equals since farming and the environment are flipsides of the same coin.

“The Slee’s lifting of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy is a significant breakthrough for dairy farming and especially dairy farming on the Canterbury plans. It is one, I hope, that will get many people to reconsider everything they think they know about dairy farming.

“If you’ve got a New Zealand Listener around the house from the beginning of this month, dig it out and read about the Slee’s under ‘Rivers of Gold.’

“They run a truly impressive precision farming operation and follow-on from Canterbury arable farmers, Craige and Roz Mackenzie, who won last year for their pioneering development of precision technologies.

“Being the second consecutive win for Canterbury you could say it is a win for precision agriculture highlighting the increasing role technology plays in our farm system.

“Instead of using an offal pit they compost deceased livestock instead. Instead of applying water willy nilly, they use GPS and ground sensors to apply just the right amount.

“That extends to the recycling of farm wastewater as liquid fertiliser.

“Today, their farm leaches no more nutrients than it did in the mid-1990’s despite them now carrying 70 percent more cattle per hectare. Back in the mid 1990’s they used 800mm of irrigation water per hectare but have halved that amount thanks to technology.

“While exotic trees have been sacrificed to deploy modern irrigation they have compensated that with kilometres of native hedgerows to create an ecological corridor.

“Having been to their farm they are ambassadors for how we are farming in the 21st century.

“They also happen to be gracious smart New Zealanders who know that farmers must do better and by example and by actions, are.
“After a busy season they are using the farmers ‘winter holiday’ period to take a well deserved break before calving in late winter.

“While we will not be able to recognise the Slee’s in person, it will not stop us from honouring their achievement at the Vodafone Cream of the Crop next Thursday evening in Palmerston North,” Mr Wills concluded.

Finalists for the 2014 Gordon Stephenson trophy were:

Mark and Devon Slee (Canterbury, winners)
Roger and Jane Hutchings (Northland)
Rick Burke and Jan Loney (Bay of Plenty)
Mike and Sharon Barton (Waikato)
Rob and Sandra Faulkner & Bruce and Jo Graham (East Coast)
Gavin and Oliver Faull and Tony and Loie Penwarden (Taranaki)
Justin and Mary Vennell (Horizons)
Matt and Lynley Wyeth (Greater Wellington)
Wayne McIntosh (Otago)
Andrew and Heather Tripp (Southland).

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