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Farm Environment Award Winners Ready to Spread the Word

National Ballance Farm Environment Award Winners Ready to Spread the Word

Mark and Devon Slee celebrating their success with their family

Winning the 2014 Ballance Farm Environment Awards gives Canterbury dairy farmers Mark and Devon Slee the opportunity to tell some ‘good news’ stories about their industry and New Zealand agriculture in general.

The Slees were presented with the Gordon Stephenson trophy at the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust’s National Sustainability Showcase in Christchurch on June 26.

The couple was surprised and delighted to receive the award, accepting it on behalf of the entire dairy industry.

Mark Slee says he and Devon are proud to be dairy farmers.

“Winning the National Winner title is a huge privilege, he says.

“We see it as welcome recognition for our industry, and for the teamwork, passion and commitment we have made to our business.”

Devon Slee says the ambassadorial role that comes with the National Winner title provides the perfect opportunity “to tell our story about irrigated agriculture and its benefits to our community”.

The Slee’s 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.

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 Melrose Dairy achieved a profitability margin of $5200/ha, putting it at the top of the benchmark group.

Ballance Farm Environment Award (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.

Mark and Devon believe the dairy industry has a great future, but they are also mindful of the challenges the industry faces when it comes to environmental management.

Mark says their large scale business is based on a triple bottom-line philosophy that focuses on economic, social and environmental performance.

He says the efficient use of resources drives environmental sustainability on farm.

“To us, farming is proving that profitability and environmental sustainability can go hand in hand.”

The Slees were among ten regional Supreme winners vying for the 2014 BFEA National Winner title. Devon says spending time with the other Supreme winners before the National Showcase was a highlight for her and Mark.

“Meeting the others was an inspirational experience. They are all great farming leaders.”

She says being involved with the Ballance Farm Environment Awards has been a hugely rewarding experience. With entries for the 2015 competition set to open soon, she and Mark would urge other farmers to enter.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn, network and receive feedback on your farming operations,” she says.

“The Awards showcase what is best about New Zealand farming.”


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