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Peat bog restoration wins major award

Peat bog restoration wins major award
The restored peat bog is now home to many special birds and plants, including Australian bittern and rare orchids.

Graeme and Jan Appleby’s restoration efforts of a 4.4ha peat bog on their Drummond dairy farm were recognised at the 2017 Southland Community Environment Awards with a Councillors’ Special Award.

The couple moved to Southland in 2001, selling their small and difficult to farm Coromandel dairy farm which had reached its maximum production, and looking to make things financially easier for themselves with a bigger farm, better land, and more potential production.

They initially converted a 200ha deer farm to dairy, before leasing an additional 60ha a couple of years later.

At that point they increased cow numbers from 4 80 to 580 mostly friesian cows, with 220ha effective. The Applebys kept the lease for eight years, then finally bought the block five years ago.

In the middle of the land was a large and degraded peat bog, covered in four metre high gorse and weeds.

After consultation with the Department of Consultation, Environment Southland, local iwi, and the QEII National Trust, they came to a consensus that the outer area could be farmed, while the 4.4ha peat bog should be protected by a QEII covenant.

Graeme and Jan set about restoring the peat bog, and it is now home to many special birds and plants, including Australian bittern and rare orchids.

“The weeds were encroaching on to the whole area and if we didn’t restore it, within 10 years it would be covered in weeds,” Graeme says. “We’re not really doing much planting on it now it’s restored, as it is quite a harsh and acidic environment

. “The plants that can grow there are very specific to that environment. We’ve tried to do some plantings before that weren’t very successful! It’s all coming back naturally now. Nature is doing a better job at that than we could do.”

Graeme and Jan do keep on top of the weeds and gorse, annually spraying the small seedlings that pop up. The couple are planting on the rest of the farm, which includes a wetland area where they have planted a lot of native trees and flaxes.

In the riparian areas they have planted eucalyptus cordata, or Australian gum trees, which attract tuis and bellbirds out of the bush.

The Applebys have fenced their 16km of streams on farm, with buffers and riparian tree plantings to ensure run off is kept to a minimum. The cows are wintered at home on baleage, swedes, and fodder beet, all grown on farm.

50/50 sharemilkers have been running the farm for the past three seasons, while Graeme keeps on top of his weeds and does general maintenance and cropping.

The Applebys have recently purchased an additional 50ha right next door which will join the milking platform next season, and allow cow numbers to increase by another 120 for a new sharemilker.

This article was brought to you in association with the following New Zealand businesses… Noel McIntyre Drainage Ltd , Nick Hoogeveen & Associates & Otautau Tractor & Machinery 2013 LTD

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