Three finalists have been selected for the East Coast Ballance Farm Environment Awards — one each from Wairoa, Central Hawke's Bay and Hastings district.

They are Patoka dairy farmers Nick and Nicky Dawson, Frasertown sheep and beef farmers Dave Read and Judy Bogaard, and Flemington lamb and beef finishers Watergreen Tourere Partnership, owned by Pete Swinburn and Suzanne Hoyt, and Bruce Isles and Danelle Dinsdale.

The three finalists will be profiled at an annual awards dinner at the Napier Conference Centre on Marine Parade on March 20.

As well as a supreme winner, category awards will be announced. These are the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management, Bayleys People in Primary Sector, Beef + Lamb NZ Livestock, DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship, Hill Laboratories Agri-Science, Massey University Innovation, Norwood Agri-Business Management, Predator Free Farm, and WaterForce Integrated Management awards. A regional award called Farming for the Future is sponsored by the Gisborne District Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

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The supreme winner will host a field day in April.

Run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the awards champion sustainable farming and growing across 11 regions.

The 11 regional winners are profiled at the National Sustainability Showcase in Hamilton in June, with each in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.

Pete Swinburn and Suzanne Hoyt of the Watergreen Tourere Partnership
Pete Swinburn and Suzanne Hoyt of the Watergreen Tourere Partnership

Watergreen Tourere

This partnership includes two farms totalling 1482ha (1271ha effective) carrying 14,000 stock units. The two properties have been run together since 2011 with Pete Swinburn and Suzanne Hoyt living on farm.

Their primary focus is lamb finishing supported by bull beef, finishing 20,000 to 30,000 lambs a year and selling 1000 to 1500 cattle. There are 130ha of forestry, a 16ha QEII National Trust covenant, fenced riparian areas and native bush. Poplar poles have been planted extensively for erosion control for 60 years, and 15km of stream edge has been fenced.

One of the partnership's goals is to keep N nutrient losses within the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's Plan Change 6 limits (currently 11 versus their allowable limit of 18.6). The farm is a validation property for a precision fertiliser project trial and is a B+LNZ Innovation Farm. Pete was chairman of the East Coast drylands forages project, focusing on plantain, clover on hill country and lucerne.

Dave Read and Judy Bogaard.
Dave Read and Judy Bogaard.

Read/Bogaard

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Dave Read and Judy Bogaard have been farming Waiau Station near Frasertown since 1996. The 1213ha property is steep East Coast hill country and is run in conjunction with 592ha Allington Farm at Kotemaori. Together, the business is a breeding and finishing operation carrying 12,604 stock units. Dave is breeding his own bare breech, low input sheep (no docking, fewer dags) and his cows are bred for parasite resilience.

The business has 4450 ewes, 1100 hoggets (mated), 590 cows and 170 replacement heifers.

The farm has a 20ha QEII National Trust covenant as well as 38ha fenced bush, 15ha wood lots, 20ha regenerating manuka and 120ha unfenced bush. The farm has about 4000 poplars and willows for erosion control, shade and shelter, and fodder when needed.

Nick and Nicky Dawson
Nick and Nicky Dawson

Dawsons

Nick and Nicky Dawson have been farming 186ha dairy farm Glenelg at Patoka since moving there as 50:50 sharemilkers in 2001. They went into a 75:25 equity partnership with Opiki dairy farmers Stuart and Ann McPhail, trading as Great Glen Farming Ltd, in 2004. It is now a 50:50 partnership. The number of Friesian-cross cows on Glenelg dropped from 500 to 360 five years ago and the operation moves to once-a-day milking before Christmas.

Production is 514kg of milksolids per cow and 1234kg per hectare — well ahead of district and national averages. Daily water use is 27 litres of water per cow in the shed; the industry average is 70. One-fifth of the farm is retired from grazing and stock are excluded from all waterways. A consistently low nitrogen-leaching rate is monitored through a working Farm Environment Plan.