A dairy farm milking 720 Friesian/Jersey cross cows once a day has been named the supreme winner in this year's Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

It's Andrew Hardie and Helen Long's Te Maunga Farm, 428ha east of Dannevirke. The two went to once-a-day milking 10 years ago. Initially production dropped, but it has recovered and other aspects such as cow lameness have improved.

Judges liked their efficient use of resources, their understanding of differing water needs across land types and crops, their land drainage and their use of a stand-off pad to limit soil compaction in winter.

Their cows produce 235,000 to 245,000kg of milk solids a year, and are fed mainly on pasture.

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The awards evening was a stylish affair with a three-course dinner and many mayors, MPs and councillors. The awards are part of New Zealand Agri-Food Week, March 12-17.

Several speakers said the media was unduly negative in its covering of farming, and it was important to get good stories out there.

New Zealand farmers have an opportunity to differentiate themselves by farming within limits, Ballance Agri-Nutrients representative Jason Minkhorst said. He added that more challenge is to come, with nitrous oxide from dairy farming and greenhouse gases the next environmental issues to be seized on.

"Alternative proteins" are another challenge, Mangamahu farmer Tim Matthews said. He said he didn't mind who ate them, as long as those eating "real meat" were willing to pay good prices for it.

There were nine entrants and five finalists in the awards.

Marton dairy farmers Logan Bowler and Kathy Craw, both former Horizons staffers, won the Margaret Matthews Trophy for Commitment to Sustainability.

As well as being supreme winners, Helen Long and Andrew Hardie won awards for stewardship, agri-science and water use.

Morikau Station, near Ranana on the Whanganui River, won awards for care of trees, predator culling and looking after people. About 4000 goats were culled off the 5217ha station, with the help of Ngā Whenua Rahui.

Manager Hamish Thompson said Horizons' Courtney Haywood had been extremely helpful in station development, and the river's people were important to him.

"It's very very important to us on the awa to make sure we are looking after our local people, who are our shareholders."

Alistair Timothy and Rachel Joblin's Arklow farm near Pongaroa won awards for soil management, agri-business management and livestock.

It has made extensive use of a Horizons Whole Farm Plan and has a joint venture mānuka plantation with the regional council.

Ohotu Station, run by Dean Francois for the Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation, won an award for farm stewardship. It has protected historic Māori pa and battle sites and the health of its waterways is monitored by Ruapehu iwi Ngāti Rangi.

Lance and Katherine Gillespie won the innovation award for their dairy farm near Apiti. They use a whole range of new technology and Mr Gillespie has ideas for more.

They released dung beetles on their property and have been using biological farming practices since 2008.

"It was a new world of new options and possibilities," Mr Gillespie said.