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Team-Focused Dairy Business Takes Top Title in Taranaki

Team-Focused Dairy Business Takes Top Title in Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Eltham dairy farmers Mark and Jacqui Muller and their manager Conrad Maeke are the Supreme Winners of the 2015 Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

They received the award at a BFEA ceremony on March 19. Mark, Jacqui and Conrad also collected the LIC Dairy Farm Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Massey University Innovation Award and the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award.

The Muller’s business, Gardiner Partnership, is based on 212ha of family land west of Eltham in the Mangatoki district. The operation milks up to 618 cows on a 167ha milking platform, achieving production well ahead of the district average.

With the help of 2IC Michael Stratton and Bradley Wilson, the “cohesive farm team” produced almost 294,000kg of MS last season.

BFEA judges said good planning, an excellent team culture and “a long-term passion for the farm” were key factors in this success.

“This is a very well developed farm which is immaculately presented.”

Judges were particularly impressed with the “outstanding” team approach to pasture management. A pasture management programme, which has been developed with the help of consultant Greg O’Bryne, makes good use of new grass species and crops.

“Pasture management is a feature of this property, farm walks are regular and grazing rounds are determined by the number of days it takes from grazing to the third leaf stage” judges said.

Crops are well planned and utilised, and there is a “good practical understanding of the impact of cows on soil and resources”.

Cows are run in two herds according to age and condition. About 200 cows are wintered on a 35ha run-off and the rest stay on the farm.

Judges said the Mullers have an excellent understanding of their business systems and profitability, and a very good relationship with external professionals.

They also noted the couple’s desire to keep the farm in family ownership, which already spans 100 years.

All waterways have been fenced and planted, and shelterbelts have been established for protection against the prevailing westerly wind.

Mark is a stalwart of the local rugby club and a former Taranaki representative. He and Jacqui have two daughters and a son. Conrad Maeke is in his fourth season with the Mullers. He and partner Natalie Rupapera have a daughter and twin sons.

A BFEA field-day will be held on the Supreme award-winning farm on Thursday, April 16.

Winners in the 2015 Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Supreme award, LIC Dairy Farm Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Massey University Innovation Award and PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award: Mark and Jacqui Muller, Gardiner Partnership, and Conrad Maeke, Eltham.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, Beef and Lamb NZ Livestock Award and WaterForce Integrated Management Award: Sami and Laura Werder, Awatea Farm, Huiroa.

Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award and Taranaki Regional Council Sustainability Award: Scott and Julayne Thompson, Ngamatapouri Land Company Ltd, Waitotara.

For more information on the 2015 Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards, contact Claire Hunn, BFEA regional co-ordinator, phone 027 254 9548 or email


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