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First-time entrants scoop top award

First-time entrants scoop top award
Peter and Nicola Carver (left) celebrate their success in winning the Ballance New Zealand Farm Environmental Award at their first attempt. They say they have tried to suit their farming operation at Ohangai, east of Hawera, to their 515 hectares of land. They have a dairy farm on the flattest part, run beef cattle and sheep on the rolling country, and reserve the steepest hill country for forestry.

First-time Ballance Farm Environment Awards entrants Peter and Nicola Carver admit it has been a shock to go from obscurity to having their faces on the pages of newspapers.

People on the street recognise them and the phone has been ringing non-stop.

They say they were surprised to win the regional title let alone take out the national supreme award: “We entered to benchmark ourselves and see where we could improve,” says Peter.

“It has been reassurance that we are on the right track. It’s very encouraging.”

The Carvers say they have tried to suit their Holmleigh farming operation – on 515 hectares at Ohangai, east of Hawera – to the land.

Their dairy farm is on the flattest part of the farm, the rest of the cattle and sheep run on the rolling country, and the steepest hill country is reserved for forestry.

With support from Taranaki Regional Council schemes, they have 25ha planted in pines and around 5ha of retired land in redwoods to stabilise the land, minimise erosion, and make the farm more aesthetically appealing.

The dairy farm, which peak-milks 260 cows, on 95ha converted around three years ago, is the newest addition to the operation, It is run by a manager and the cows are all wintered on the dairy platform.

Last season the dairy unit produced 125,000 kilograms of milksolids (about 480kg per cow).

The Carvers say that when they converted this land, future proofed this part of the farm by installing larger-than-required infrastructure such as effluent and milk storage.

Peter Carver says the dairy unit has created efficiencies across the whole farm.

For example, all progeny from the dairy cows are kept and the Carvers use their own bulls over the late cows.

These are grown out, rather than buying in store stock as they used to do.

Dry-stock animals migrate to the dairy unit as needed to keep the grass down and pasture quality high.

The dairy unit has also helped them spread the risk of commodity fluctuations by improving farm efficiency and realising better economic returns in the long term.

The couple’s sheep and beef breeding and finishing unit comprises around 4500 stock units with an equal ratio of sheep to beef.

The romney ewes are run in two mobs and average 130 per cent lambing.

Lambs are weaned around 70 day and average 18.5kg finishing weight. Holmleigh runs around 50 angus breeding cows.

All progeny is finished and some bulls are sold for dairy service. All dairy calves are reared.

The Carvers have done a lot of re-grassing on the property and grow around 40ha of crops each year – a combination of chicory, maize and turnips.

Peter’s parents, Gerald and Faye Carver, who the original 390ha in 1990.

Peter and Nicola returned in 2002 from managing a bull and dairy grazing unit in the Waikato.

An adjoining 125ha farm was added in 2004.

It remains a family business. Gerald and Faye live on the farm and Peter’s brother, Mike, helps,
Nicola works as a high-school teacher in Stratford and does the farm books.

Peter and Nicola’s three daughters – Emma, 15, Abby, 13, and Jodi,11, also take an interest, especially horses.

The Carvers hope their children may take farm and carry on the family-farm tradition.

“The competition has shown us that we’re pretty close to where we need to be to future-proof the farm and make it more sustainable,” says Peter.

“Now it’s a matter of trying to do what we do even better. The dairy farm is fully compliant with the regional council riparian plan and we will continue to fence off streams on the dry-stock part.

Because it’s a family farm, we have to make it a viable option for the next generation to carry it on if they want to.”


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