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Ohangai farmers win Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Award


Ohangai sheep, beef and dairy farmers Peter and Nicola Carver have won the Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The win was announced at a gala dinner at the Devon Hotel, New Plymouth, on Wednesday April 12.

The Carvers will host a field day at their Meremere Road property on April 27.

Operating as Holmleigh Trust Partnership, the couple also took home the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award, Waterforce Integrated Management Award, Taranaki Regional Council Sustainability Award and the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award.

The Carvers utilise their range of flat to steep South Taranaki country by combining both dairy and dry stock farming on Holmleigh, their 515ha family property at Ohangai, east of Hawera.

Operating with obvious consideration for the long-term viability of both their farming business and the environment, Peter and Nicola have a sheep and beef breeding and finishing unit complemented by a 95ha dairy platform they developed to start milking in the 2014/15 season. They milked 260 cows at the peak of this season. Around 4500 stock units of dry stock are wintered with a 50:50 sheep to beef ratio.

The awards judges described Holmleigh as a tidy, functional farm and highlighted excellent thinking and execution of environmental planning throughout the farm for the long-term sustainability of the land. They said it was an impressive system giving huge flexibility while helping to ensure a sustainable business.

Peter and Nicola say they are proud of the farm’s progress.

“The farm has been re-grassed extensively, there is new water reticulation to most paddocks, access tracks and laneways have been created, fences have been improved and some areas of the farm that have been vulnerable to erosion and weed infestation have been retired and planted.”

Tyler Judd has been dairy manager since 2014. Milking commenced in the new 40-bale rotary cowshed in the spring of that year. Next season Tyler and his wife Rachel are stepping up to contract milking on the property. From the outset Peter has worked as an extra labour unit and regularly milks to cover Tyler’s time off.

Production has been steadily lifting on the System 1-2 dairy unit. This year they are on track for 125,000kg of milk solids (480kg per cow). There is 8ha of chicory and 2ha of turnip as well as grass cut for silage on the milking platform. In addition 5.5ha of maize is grown on the dry-stock area of the farm. The cows are all wintered on the dairy platform.

When doing the conversion the Carvers future proofed their work by installing larger than required infrastructure such as effluent and milk storage.

“But as it’s turned out what we have in dairy is a good size. We could convert more but don’t plan to in the near future as we still want to be able to finish the stock we breed.”

Romney ewes are run in two mobs. Early weaning ensures ewes retain condition and can go on their own pasture rotation for the summer and into tupping. Finishing weight for the lambs averages 18.5kg. There are 50 Angus breeding cows with Angus bulls used for both the beef and young and late cycling dairy cows.

All progeny are finished and some bulls are sold for dairy service. All dairy calves are reared.

Peter graduated with a Diploma in Farm Management from Lincoln University. He tracks his environmental and soil awareness back to that study time. Peter and Nicola are strong advocates for no tillage and use a cross slot drill for most of their cropping.

“The one pass system is very efficient and we see it as very important to keep the soil structure intact,” Peter says.

Soil tests are carried out before crops go in and nutrients are applied both by broadcast and direct drilled at planting. Soil protection is a primary consideration for them in grazing management.

“We have a high rainfall so we have to be careful, especially with cattle on the hills in winter.”

The Carvers are progressively retiring erosion prone land. Working with the Taranaki Regional Council Waitotara Stress Scheme they have planted 25ha of pines and 5ha of redwood in woodlots. The planting of poplar for erosion mitigation and stock shelter is ongoing. There are numerous natural springs in the farm’s hills. The largest one has been fenced and runs two water rams that form part of the reticulated stock water system with troughs in every paddock.

Peter’s parents Gerald and Faye bought the original 390ha of Holmleigh – including 142ha of West Coast lease – in 1990. Peter and Nicola returned from managing a bull and dairy grazing unit in Waikato in 2002 and the Carver family partnership added a 125ha farm adjoining Holmleigh in 2004.

Peter and Nicola have three daughters – Emma, 15, Abby, 13 and Jodi, 11. In addition to managing the farm books, Nicola is a high school teacher in Stratford.

Gerald is still active on the farm and shares his passion for horses with his three granddaughters. “They spend much of their leisure time riding. Our children have a keen interest in farming and it is hoped that it (Holmleigh) will be kept for the next generation,” Nicola says.

Award winners

As well as the five awards won by the Carvers, five other category awards were announced at the dinner.

The LIC Dairy Farm Award and CB Norwood Distributors Agri-Business Award were won by John and Roslyn Weir. Springmount Farms is 200ha with 520 cows peak milked this season on the 150ha milking platform at Toko, east of Stratford.

The Massey University Innovation Award went to Layne and Helen Greensill with contract milkers William Candy and Rebecca Coleman from Okato. The Greensills are milking 250 cows in a year-round operation based on their West Taranaki 82ha milking platform. Two thirds of the herd are spring calving and the balance autumn.

The Farm Stewardship Award with the QEII National Trust in partnership with the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust was won by Damian and Jane Roper, who have a 440-cow dairy farm at Alton in South Taranaki.

The local BFEA Taranaki Committee Award for Commitment to the Environment went to Chris Jury and Daniela Krumm, Green Acres, at Waitara.

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