Understanding how to grow grass is the key to farming well, according to this year's Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards regional supreme winners, Jeff Martin and Helen Linssen.
The Kaeo bull farmers, of Te Karoa Farms, run Friesian bulls across three properties in the Far North.
Martin says farming is all about growing the right quantity and quality of grass for the animals to harvest for each year.
"If you get it right, you'll see your animals flourishing and thriving,'' he said.
Martin says the type of soils in a property can vary widely and the seasons influence the type of grass that will dominate.
"Farming kikuyu properly is always a bit of a challenge. It's important to keep it trimmed so that it is shooting lush growth. If it's left to be stalky there is less energy available and the cattle will go backwards.
"For us in the summer the kikuyu is what gets us through. By September and October the clover and ryegrass will be dominant."
The soil and terrain has influenced how they farm. In the past they had trouble with pugging from heavier cattle.
Now they take Friesian bull calves from three months old and sell them a year later, which lessens the damage to pasture and allows them to farm in high numbers in a sustainable way.
And with 950 animals on the three farms, they have to be well organised.
The couple, who have been married for 22 years, both grew up in the Far North but actually met at Massey University. Martin was doing an agricultural economics degree and Linssen was doing business studies with a double major in marketing and agricultural policy.
They started out with their first farm in the Kaeo area 19 years ago. They added half of the Linssen family farm 15 years ago and the Foster block nearby three years ago.
One of the first development projects was to give water security by building a reticulation system featuring a 5.5 million-litre dam. The dam, built by Kim Lilly of Lilly Contractors, also features solar panels installed by Darren Hill of the Watt Shop.
The pump is capable of sending 20,000 litres of water per day over 1km to two tanks on a 90m high point on the Foster block to be gravity fed to the many portable farm troughs supplying each grazing cell.
With the help of farm worker Matthew McGregor, they farm 307ha effective with the balance in native bush and fenced-off gullies and waterways.
The properties have all been divided into grazing cells according to topography, which allows them to run a rotation system where the cattle are moved every two days.
Martin and Linssen have been using the same calf rearers in the Waikato for many years and this long association and strict protocols have enabled them to avoid any M.bovis infections on their farms.
"We have built up a great friendship with our calf rearers and they have come to visit their babies up on the farm,'' Martin said.
The calves are all hand-reared, high-quality Friesians that the couple pays a premium for as Martin knows how important it is to have good stock.
"In a way they are quite delicate and we have to treat them well. Once they settle in they are a bit like a sports car. They will really perform well with the right feed in them,'' he said.
Te Karoa Farms produces two unit loads of animals each week which are sold on a liveweight basis.
"As part of our marketing focus, we pick the animals to be in a really tight weight range so they are all the same size. Our buyers know that each mob will be ready for the works at the same time which is good for their business.
"We're always trying to be conscious of what our clients want,'' he said.
He said truck drivers are the unsung heroes of the farming industry.
"They are responsible for thousands of dollars worth of animals in each load and they take the care of the cattle during their journey incredibly seriously.''
The couple are heavily involved in farm mentoring organisations and enjoy the chance to share experiences and ideas with others.
"Everyone is so supportive and we learn so much sitting at the feet of the masters.''
They employ Cloud Farmer technology in their farming enterprise, which Martin said was especially invaluable during the Covid-19 lockdown when they had to split their farming team between farms.
"Matthew managed one farm for lockdown and we looked after the others and we were all able to keep up with tasks through Cloud Farmer on our phones. It is a huge help and links us all together.''
The farm environment awards programme aims to champion sustainable farming and regional winners are chosen from the 11 regions involved. All regional Supreme Winners are in the running for a national award, with a national ceremony to be held early next year.