Slow and steady wins farm race

By Annette Lambly

A simple but effective stocking policy has earned Paparoa farmers Janine and Ken Hames recognition in this year's Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The couple, who own Ewenny Farms, a 351ha (256ha effective) beef-only farm on Paparoa-Oakleigh Rd, achieve meat production of 277kg CW/ha (three-year average).

This is well above average for this class of land (Waiotira clay loam) in Northland and is accomplished with all-grass feeding, with no hay or silage.

Janine, a veterinarian, has a comprehensive animal health plan for the cattle, and does regular drench checks and faecal egg counts.

Sustained production is achieved by carefully timing livestock purchases and sales, along with matching age and weight to the capacity of the land to avoid pugging.

Their practices earned them the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award, the Ballance Nutrient Management Award and the Waterforce Integrated Management Award in the Northland finals of the competition.

The Hames demonstrate careful financial control by obeying a fundamental principle: don't spend more than you earn. All farm improvements have been accomplished over time and while operating within the cash flow.

Winter grazing management is a priority - to avoid pugging, cattle are shifted every wet day if required - and livestock sales are timed to ensure only lighter cattle are farmed during the wetter months.

Ken has a clear understanding of the farm's nutrient budget, nutrient requirements and soil-testing results, and a nutrient-management plan is used. Fertiliser applications are aimed at maintaining optimum soil-fertility levels, with nitrogen applied as needed. All fertiliser use is recorded.

Water samples from around the farm are analysed to monitor water quality. A large livestock water-storage system was expanded after the 2009/10 drought. Water meters pinpoint daily use and also help quickly identify water leaks.

About 63ha of native bush has been retained in eight blocks, one of which has been covenanted with the QEII National Trust. Four of these bush areas have been fenced, with the remainder on a "to do" list. Pests such as possums, goats and magpies have been targeted for eradication.

A 22ha block of pines has been established as a joint venture, as a retirement fund and for sustainable land use.

The property also has an arboretum, and erosion-prone areas have been planted in poplars.

The Hames plan to be debt-free in seven years to focus on other interests, such as long-term investments in dairy farming and forestry.

Janine is on the Matakohe School board of trustees and is chairwoman of Plunket, and Ken is a director of Northpower.

- Hamilton News

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