Don't wait until you think you have the perfect farm to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards, 2017 Southland finalists Derek and Bronnie Chamberlain say.

''It's all about work in progress. Set yourselves some goals and go for it. There's always something more you can do,'' Mrs Chamberlain said.

''The more eyes you have on your property, the more advice and suggestions the better.''

The couple and their Western Southland farm, West Range, won the CB Norwood Distributors Ltd Agri-Business Management Award and the Farm Stewardship Award in partnership with QEII National Trust and the NZ Farm Environment Trust at this year's Southland awards.


As first-time entrants, the Chamberlains had earlier set the goal of entering the awards to find out if they were on the right track.

''When it came time for judging, we wanted those extra sets of eyes looking at the farm from a different perspective. For them to say: 'This is what you're doing good, this is what you could do better'. We were prepared for criticism,'' Mrs Chamberlain said.

''We really enjoyed the first lot of judging because it was a beautiful day - that always helps - and we were really proud of the place, which made us push into the corners, and physically took them to blocks we thought we were having trouble with.''

They were surprised how the judging had economic considerations as well as environmental.

''The judges' comments weren't just about the environment but also about the common-sense side that you still have to farm the property and make money out of it,'' she said.

''The finals judging was more serious and business-oriented but at the end of the day, it was another set of eyes across the property. It's easy to get tunnel vision when you work away on your farms. It's good to see what you're doing from someone else's point of view. It was really positive and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.''

Mrs Chamberlain said they would enter again.

Derek and Bronwyn have daughters Jacqui (21) and Alice (18) and son Nic (16).


West Range is a large-scale dairy support and sheep and beef trading operation at Eastern Bush, northwest of Otautau.

The Chamberlains farm 1850ha (effective) and have approximately 288ha in woodlot, native areas and protected wetland.

In tandem with development and riparian fencing, reticulated water has been extended to 90% of the farm, native areas have been retired and extensive shelter has been planted.

A QEII National Trust covenant has been placed on a significant 57ha peat wetland.

The property was bought by Mr Chamberlain's grandfather Wallace in 1944. His parents, Ian and Margaret, followed and he came home to the farm when he was 21. Mrs Chamberlain joined him four years later.

Last year, the couple completed farm succession with Mr Chamberlain's siblings.

The Chamberlains began grazing dairy heifers eight years ago and have gradually moved to their present form, grazing 1900-2100 dairy heifers year-round, with up to 1500 calves in spring/summer and 2400 cows through the winter.

They put in around 250ha of fodder beet and kale for winter crop each year, and make about 5500 bales of baleage.

Some of the cow grazing is managed by the cow owners, who buy crop by the kilogram from West Range.

Early adopters of cloud-based technology, the Chamberlains pay an allowance for staff smartphones.

AgRecord's Cloud Farmer system has multiple uses daily by the whole team.

-Entries are now open for the 2018 Ballance Farm Environment Awards and close in Southland on October 27. For more information, please contact Tracie Donelley at or on 027-291-0702.

Southern Rural Life