Manaia dairy farmers showing sustainable and appreciable biodiversity and conservation values have won the Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
Grant, Dinny and Leedom Gibbs from the Gibbs G Trust were announced supreme winners at the region's awards dinner at the Devon Hotel in New Plymouth on Thursday night last week. They will host a field day on their Sutherland Rd property in April.
The dairy farm, 3km south of Manaia on the south Taranaki coast, is supervised by Leedom Gibbs, one of Grant and Dinny's three daughters.
Half of the farm is irrigated with two centre-pivots and contains a wetland that was established as part of the farm's development. Water for the irrigation system is taken by consent from the Waiokura Stream and stock water comes from the Waimate West Water Scheme, on which Grant is a trustee.
The irrigation development was in the early 2000s in conjunction with a neighbouring farm and includes meters, dataloggers and telemetry to the Taranaki Regional Council.
The irrigation adds considerable sustainability to a summer-dry coastal property and is used solely on pasture. The judges said the property contains an abundance of tree species chosen specifically to reflect their environment.
All rivers, streams and drains have been fenced and riparian zone planting is almost finished. The Gibbs' dairy farm at Manaia has a contract milker and milks 435 cows at a stocking rate of 3.56 cows per hectare. The herd produced 166,000kg milksolids last season with yield figures of 1360kg/ha and 393kg/cow.
Milking switches to once-a-day after Christmas to ensure feed demand matches pasture growth especially in the dry summers. OAD also helps the lifestyle for the contractor's family.
Leedom Gibbs and her contract milker showed good understanding of pasture management with post-grazing residuals of 1500kgDM/ha while using the three-leaf principle to determine pre-grazing targets. The farm is System 2 dairying, being approximately 10 per cent supplementary feeding, with help from the irrigation for the pasture growth.
The business has eight years of Dairybase records to compare against other System 2 farms. The records show the Gibbs farm has a strong control of expenses, currently sitting at $2.90/kg MS.
Rural professionals such as the farm accountant and fertiliser representatives are used for information, advice and as sounding boards. The aim is to use 200 units/ha of nitrogen annually.
The effluent consent is for a three-pond oxidation system to discharge to water but this discharge consent aspect is not used. Instead contractors are used to periodically spread the effluent slurry to land as it is considered too valuable to waste. This made good use of the nitrogen and potassium in the effluent and the potassium levels were reflected in the clover content of pastures.
The judges said the Gibbs farm was an impressive business built on an extremely tidy and functional property. Succession was off to a strong start with the plan to build a formal governance structure involving all three daughters.