Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Exceptional example of dryland farming wins out

Exceptional example of dryland farming wins Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards


Masterton farmers Nathan and Kate Williams have won the Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The win was announced at a gala dinner at the Carterton Events Centre on Tuesday April 11 and they will host a field day on Thursday May 4.

The Williams also won the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and the CB Norwood Distributors Ltd Agri-Business Management Award.

Nathan and Kate’s arable and sheep and beef finishing business spans both sides of a section of the road to Castlepoint, about 4km east of Masterton.

Most years the 335ha farm’s income is split around half and half between their crops and livestock. They are flexible in what they grow, basing their decisions on the market, contracts available and climatic conditions. However, core crops in recent years have been ryegrass and red clover for seed, barley and peas. Around 35ha is cut for silage each year and turnips are an autumn feed crop for lambs.

Each winter they take in hoggets to graze until late spring. Between 3000 and 6000 lambs are continually purchased and finished throughout autumn, winter and spring annually. They buy in between 180 and 240 weaner cattle each autumn which they aim to finish by the following May, thus ensuring soil compaction is avoided with the heavier animals gone before winter.

The awards judges said Otahuao Farm was run by a strong couple whose combined skillset and industry knowledge has developed this “exceptional example of dryland farming”.

The judges also wrote Nathan’s passion for managing the soil resource was abundantly clear and has, combined with good financial decision making, led to the business’ success.

Three generations live on the property. As a Lincoln University graduate, Nathan began farming in partnership with his father and brother in 1998. In 2009 this was dissolved amicably and Nathan and Kate, a Victoria University graduate and former banker, formed their current entity.

The couple have four children – Toby, 11, Sophie, 9, Hugo, 7, and Monty, 3, who have a direct route to their grandparents’ via a road underpass Nathan and Kate have recently installed.

Nathan’s parents, Jim and Jill, who purchased the land in 1968 when it was “several large paddocks containing stumps and rushes”, are on the 100ha mainly hill portion of the farm. Nathan and Kate lease this and own the flat to rolling 235ha of the property and run the whole farm as one unit with the help of valued staff member Phil Clout.

There are established trees and shelter belts on the farm, most of which Nathan recalls planting and caring for with his family as he grew up. He particularly enjoys that family planting is now a three-generation affair.

“Toby even gets to use his great grandfather’s special spade, which my father still has,” Nathan says.

Recently they have been concentrating on getting natives established along the Whangaehu River, which is the western boundary of the farm.
There are limestone springs on the farm’s hill block with water reticulated for stock. There is fencing and native planting around the main springs. Down on the flats, too much water can be a problem with flooding susceptibility in spring. Retaining top soil in these flood events is a priority, mitigated by their no-tillage policy minimising run-off and grazing management that sees stock spread out on the hills in wet weather.

There has been no cultivation on Otahuao for 20 years. The farm was a site for some trialling of the Cross Slot seed and fertiliser drill and this no tillage system has been used exclusively there since the Williams’ purchased a Cross Slot drill in 1998.

“Everything revolves around the soil, it is the essence of our lives. We are pretty proud of our soil structure now,” Nathan says.

The judges said the Williams’ soil conservation practices had resulted in resilient soils enabling frequent and more productive cropping cycles without damaging the soil structure and mitigating the risk of flood damage.

This season the Williams have partnered with their neighbours to buy a Claas Lexion harvester with tracks instead of wheels to minimise soil compaction and damage.

The Williams say they are constantly aware of their carbon levels, natural drainage, organic matter, the quality of the soil structure and worm numbers. A spade is always carried on their farm bikes so soil can be checked, especially in spring.
“We dig a lot of holes,” says Nathan with a grin.

Award winners
As well as the three awards won by the Williams, six other category awards were announced at the dinner – four of them by Mike and Liz McCreary, Kumenga Farm.

The McCrearys annually finish around 30,000 lambs and up to 1500 bulls and crop on their 628ha (540ha effective) property on the south eastern shores of Lake Wairarapa. They bought the farm from Mike’s parents in 2008.

They won the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award, Massey University Innovation Award, Waterforce Integrated Management Award and the Farm Stewardship Award in partnership with QEII National Trust and New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

The LIC Dairy Farm Award went to Kevin and Alison Hull and Johnny Hull and Aimee Peck from Awakare Farm, a 99ha dairy farm north west of Carterton.

The Greater Wellington Akura Conservation Centre Lifestyle-Small Block Award went to Julian Bateson and Sue Shore. They bought their 18ha hillside property, Kintyre, near the Tararua Forest Park northwest of Masterton in 2010.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Auckland Transport: Successful Bridge Repair Opens Two Additional Lanes To Traffic

The opening of two additional lanes on the Auckland Harbour Bridge this morning will help relieve some motorway congestion for motorists heading home to the North Shore tonight. More>>


Statistics New Zealand: COVID-19 Sees Record 12.2 Percent Fall In New Zealand’s Economy

Gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 12.2 percent in the June 2020 quarter, the largest quarterly fall recorded since the current series began in 1987, as the COVID-19 restrictions in place through the quarter impacted economic activity, Stats NZ said ... More>>


Climate: Scientists Release ‘Blueprint’ To Save Critical Ecosystems And Stabilize The Earth’s Climate

A group of scientists and experts produced the first comprehensive global-scale analysis of terrestrial areas essential for biodiversity and climate resilience, totaling 50.4% of the Earth's land. The report was published in Science Advances ... More>>


MPI: Independent Review Launched Into Assurances For Safe Transport Of Livestock By Sea

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has launched an independent review of the assurances it receives for the safe transport of livestock by sea. MPI Director-General Ray Smith says Mike Heron QC has been appointed to lead the review, which is expected ... More>>


Computers: New Zealand PC Market Grows Nearly 40% Due To Work From Home Demand

COVID-19 had large impacts on demand for PCs as businesses prepared for lockdowns by purchasing notebooks to mobilise their workforce. In the second quarter of 2020, New Zealand's Traditional PC market experienced a 39.7% year-on-year (YoY) growth ... More>>


University Of Auckland: Whale-Watching By Satellite – Follow Their Travels Online

Scientists have successfully attached satellite tracking tags to six New Zealand southern right whales, or tohorā, and are inviting the public to follow the whales’ travels online. Part of a major research project involving the University of Auckland ... More>>

Commerce Commission: Kiwibank Admits System Failures And Agrees To Pay Customers $5.2 Million

Kiwibank has entered into a settlement agreement with the Commerce Commission after reporting that it failed to have in place robust home loan variation disclosure policies, procedures and systems. In a settlement dated 27 August 2020, Kiwibank admitted that ... More>>

Ministry of Health: Public Transport Distancing Requirements Relaxed

Physical distancing requirements on public transport have been reviewed by the Ministry of Health to determine whether they are still required at Alert Level 2 (or below). The Ministry’s assessment is that mandatory face covering and individuals tracking ... More>>


NZHIA: New Zealand Hemp Industry Set To Generate $2 Billion Per Annum And Create 20,000 Jobs

A new report says a fully enabled hemp industry could generate $2 billion in income for New Zealand by 2030, while also creating thousands of new jobs. Written by industry strategist Dr Nick Marsh, the report has prompted calls from the New Zealand Hemp ... More>>


Stats NZ: One In 14 Employed People Report High Risk Of Losing Jobs

About one in 14 workers say they expect to lose their job or business by mid-2021, Stats NZ said today. A survey of employed people in the June 2020 quarter showed 7 percent felt there was a high or almost certain chance of losing their job or business ... More>>

ASB Quarterly Economic Forecast: NZ Economy Doing Better Than Expected, But Challenges Remain

August lockdown estimated to have shaved 8% off NZ’s weekly GDP, and 0.5% off annual GDP Economy now expected to shrink 5% (year-on-year) by end of 2020 Unemployment rate now expected to peak at 7.2% The latest ASB Quarterly Economic Forecast is less ... More>>