Te Maunga farm takes centre stage
From their 428ha Te Maunga dairy farm, tucked in between the swimmable Manawatu and Mangatewainui rivers, Andrew Hardie and Helen Long are running a profitable yet sustainable business which has been recognised this year with the supreme award at the Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
As well as the supreme award, Andrew and Helen picked up the DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, the Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award, and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.
Andrew and Helen say that the Ballance Farm Environment Awards experience is very positive and they would like to encourage any farmers considering entering to give it a go.
“The opportunity to have the judges look over our enterprise and offer feedback was invaluable, as was meeting with enthusiastic farmer finalists at local and national level.”
And rew and Helen bought their Tararua farm in 1999, and right from day one, say they realised fencing stock out of the waterways was vital. “We did all the stock exclusion from the waterways way back then,” Andrew says.
As well as the 130ha of irrigated land, all of the family’s drinking water is taken from the Mangatewainui River.
Horizons Regional Council has been testing the water quality in both rivers every month for at least 10 years. “We are already achieving national standards at A class or better,” Andrew says.
Andrew, Helen, and their contract milkers Liam and Margot Richardson model their farming operation on the Overseer software programme, and in using the programme have reduced their nitrate leaching from 44kg N/ha/year to 28kg N/ha/year.
“We’ve changed from feeding out turnips in summer to chicory, so instead of the nitrogen from the urine patches going on to bare land, it goes towards growing more chicory.
“We’ve also built a standoff pad which is lined, and all the effluent from the lined standoff pad goes to the settling pond.”
The 720 cow herd at Te Maunga has been milked once a day for the past 10 years. The change to once a day was fuelled by a desire to reduce staff turnover, and improve animal health and reproductive performance.
The empty rate, which although always good thanks to Helen completing the AI, was creeping up to 10% to 12%. The empty rate is down to 4% to 8% and achieved with a much tighter calving spread.
Te Maunga has a low stocking rate, with the 428ha farm comprising a 240ha dairy platform, an 83ha run off, 41ha managed pine plantation, 35ha fenced riparian margins, and 29ha of native bush.
“Retiring the land has given us a lot of natural regeneration,” Andrew says.
“We’ve been strong on pest control and reduced the amount of possums, rabbits, and stoats so we get really good bird life.”
The farm uses very little imported feed, with chicory, plantain, and fodder beet all grown at home, and some strategic use of a bit of palm kernel the only thing in the way of the farm being 100% self contained.
“This keeps our costs down, means our biosecurity is very good, and gives us complete control of our cows. We’ve got them at home where we can keep an eye on them,” Helen says.
She and Andrew are early adopters of technology, saying the early adopters get the most advantage.
“We use technology to save us time and money, and to help us make more informed decisions,” Andrew says.
“We’ve got devices in the shed that save electricity, we’ve recently bought a C-Dax tow behind pasture meter, we use a NIWA virtual climate monitoring station, and a lot of apps on our phones which keeps everyone in touch and informed.”
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