Whakatane dairy farmers Fraser and Katherine McGougan have won the 2019 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards Supreme Award.
Fraser and Katherine took over the family farm at Taneatua, Willowvale Farms, from Fraser's parents in 2011.
This season they are milking 431 cows on 150 hectares (134ha effective). Matching the stocking rate to what the land can carry is important.
"If you look after your pasture and soils, you look after your cows," said Fraser McGougan.
All waterways have been fenced and the family is now fencing off small areas of native bush featuring stands of large kahikatea.
"We're also rejuvenating these bush areas with our three young children helping to do additional planting."
A land management officer from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has helped with planting, as well as weed and pest advice.
McGougan said he'd had some success using Cinnabar moth to control ragwort and they were considering the use of biological control to manage Californian thistles.
Efficient use of fertiliser is managed using a GPS mapping system.
Soil testing is undertaken biannually on every paddock with a block test in alternate years.
"This means we're getting the right type and rate of fertiliser applied to where it's needed."
Minimising waste and recycling are everyday activities. BaIlage wrap and scrap metal are recycled.
A heat recovery system is used on the refrigeration unit providing free hot water to 52 degrees. Fresh water is reused up to three times in the cow shed before entering the effluent pond.
McGougan is a climate change ambassador for DairyNZ. This role involves keeping up-to-date with the latest science feeding this back to other farmers.
The McGougans say they are planning an eco-tourism operation and are renovating an old cottage that will be located in a patch of bush so visitors can help with replanting.
"We see this as a great way to open the farm gate so people can experience first-hand the positive things that are happening on dairy farms."
The judges said: "Fraser and Katherine are a great team with complementary skills covering planning, key metrics and cost control, as well as excellent HR practices and policies – evidenced by the ongoing success achieved by their employees.
"A passion for the future of the dairy industry also motivates the couple to be involved outside the farm gate."
As well as Bay of Plenty Supreme Award winners, Fraser and Katherine were recipients of four other awards:
• The Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award focusing on the excellent management of soil as well as the appropriate use of nutrients.
• The DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, recognising dairy farmers who demonstrate a strong commitment to managing, protecting and enhancing their environment
• The Norwood Agri-Business Management Award recognising the approach farmers take to accomplish the important management practices of operating a successful farm business (includes development and use of a business plan, benchmarking and succession planning).
• The Bay of Plenty Regional Council Environment Award, which focuses on good environmental practices that are sustainable and beneficial for the environment of the whole farm.
Run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust, the awards champion sustainable farming and growing through an awards programme that sees one regional supreme winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved.
These 11 winners will be profiled at the Awards' National Sustainability Showcase in Hamilton, on Thursday, June 6, with each in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.
Each year, the Ballance Farm Environment Awards ceremonies, the National Sustainability Showcase, and winners' field days offer a unique, pan-sector forum for networking and the sharing of ideas and information among farming/growing peers, agribusiness professionals and the wider community.