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Environmental Stewardship Earns Couple Supreme Title

Excellent Environmental Stewardship Earns Couple Supreme Title In 2016 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Redcliff farmers Shane Gibbons and Bridget Speight are Supreme winners of the 2016 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

At a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on April 14 (2016), the couple also collected the Farm Stewardship Award in partnership with the QEII National Trust and New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the Environment Southland Water Quality and Biodiversity Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.

Shane and Bridget own 1880ha Whare Creek, a sheep, beef and dairy support farm at the southern end of the Te Anau basin.

BFEA judges noted the impressive history of environmental stewardship on the property, which shares a boundary with Fiordland National Park.

“Whare Creek is a very tidy and productive unit while at the same time particular care has been taken not to encroach on areas of environmental importance.”

Natural features on the farm have been preserved and enhanced, with significant areas of wetland and native bush fenced off. Between 2000 and 2006 Shane and Bridget worked with the Waiau Trust to swap wetland for farmland, enabling the creation of the 278ha Rakatu Wetlands.

Riparian fencing on the farm is now 95% complete.

The flat to moderate-hill farm is part of the former Redcliff Station, purchased by Bridget’s great grandfather Charles Speight from 1918. Shane and Bridget, who have two children and employ two-full-time staff, originally managed Redcliff for Bridget’s parents Bill and Hilda. Redcliff’s hill-country was sold in 1996 and the couple now farm the remainder, along with 120ha of adjacent lease land.

Last year Whare Creek wintered over 14,500 stock units, including young dairy grazers, 8,700 Romney ewes, 300 Stabiliser beef cows and 90 heifers. In addition, 200 dairy cows from the couple’s South Otago dairy unit were also wintered for six weeks.

Lambing over the last three years averaged 147 percent and all lambs were finished last season. The composite beef calves achieve good growth rates and are carried through winter, with steers used as trading stock.

BFEA judges said stock is healthy and animal performance is good. The farm’s diverse soil types and contour provides balance, and production is optimised through careful matching of stock to land class and the appropriate use of pastures and crops.

Shane and Bridget employ a consultant to help them with soil fertility and nutrient management decisions. They also utilise interactive cloud-based farm mapping and data storage technology to diarise farm activities for the whole team.

Judges commended the adoption of this innovation and said it is put to good use on the farm.

Whare Creek will host a BFEA field day on April 28, 2016.

Winners in the 2016 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards were:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, PGG Wrightson People in Agriculture Award;Vince and Bella Aynsley, Bushy Park, Gore.

Massey University Innovation Award; Des and Lynda Ford, Deer Improvement Ltd, Gore.

Ballance Agri-nutrients Soil Management Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, LIC Dairy Farm Award; Geoff and Sarah Baldwin, Riverton.

CB Norwood Distributors Agri-Business Management Award; Geoff and David Lindsay, Gladvale Farms, Otautau.

Southland Recognition Award; Nathan and Marilyn Parris, Tuatapere.

ENDS

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