Sheep and beef farmers were well represented in this year’s round of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, winning four of the Regional Supreme Awards.
Former Beef + Lamb New Zealand Extension Manager Ian Knowles took home the Supreme Award in Canterbury for what the judges described as a willingness to push boundaries and use new methods of management practice to get the most out of his hill country farm near Waiapara.
They said development is guided by research and on-farm trials, resulting in big changes to the farm’s infrastructure, stocking rate and performance. There’s a focus on increasing production while reducing the farm’s environmental footprint- all through simple systems that enable Ian to farm efficiently.
Peter, John and Karen McErlean of Poplar Partnership won the Supreme Award in the Horizon region with the judges commenting on their commitment to people, livestock, land stewardship, biodiversity and habitat creation. This has all resulted in a highly successful and sustainable business.
The partnership farms 1719ha which incorporates a 200-cow dairy unit. This dairy unit is co-owned by eight of the partnership’s employees as an innovative way to retain staff. Multiple wetlands have been created and extended throughout the farm, including significant investment in the planting of native trees.
Further south, Steven and Kellie Nichol of Auldamor were named Supreme Winners in the Otago region.
Their multi-generational property now covers 1498ha and during their tenure, the Nichols have strived to improve, develop, expand and adapt the farming business.
Managed by Grant Bezett, Auldamor is primarily a sheep breeding and finishing operation with additional cattle grazing and carbon and production forestry.
The property’s biodiversity has been enhanced through the planting of shelterbelts and forestry stands along with significant fencing of native shrubland and waterways.
Brothers Cameron and Robert Grant of Croydon took out the Supreme Award in Southland for what the judges described as exceptional environmental and productivity outcomes. This has been achieved through buffer zones that provide shelter while protecting biodiversity and water quality.
They also commended the farm’s livestock performance, noting that stock is well managed to the challenges of the landscape.
The brothers are the fifth generation to farm the property which now covers 4444ha (4,200ha effective).
Significant work has gone into growing the business through land purchases and sustainable development guided by simple yet effective systems. This approach has seen the Grants achieve exceptional performance for a hill country sheep and beef farm, including consistently lambing close to 150 per cent.
B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor congratulated all Regional Award winners, all of whom demonstrate that environmental excellence does not come at the expense of productivity, profitability or community.
“It was particularly pleasing to see sheep and beef farmers so well represented at this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA). This is a reflection of the extraordinary work sheep and beef farmers are doing throughout the country to protect and enhance their natural resources while running productive and profitable businesses.”
He says through sponsoring the Awards, B+LNZ is giving farmers the opportunity to tell their stories and show their commitment to their land, their livestock and their communities.
“In this increasing regulatory environment, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards are an important mechanism to show that farmers do not need prescriptive regulations to require them to farm in a sustainable manner.”
“All the winners in the awards are driven by their passion for the land, their livestock, produce and people and lead the way in sustainable farming practices.”
The Supreme Winner from each of the eleven regions involved in the awards will go through to be considered for the Gordon Stevenson Trophy at the Trust’s National Showcase at Te Papa in May. The recipients of the Gordon Stevenson Trophy then become 2023’s National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing.