Flexibility, innovation win top award
Assuring profitability doesn’t only come from being bigger or more intensively stocked.
Neil and Lyn Campbell took a different tack on their farm, and it earned them the 2016 South Island Farmer of the Year award.
They moved onto their 520 hectare farm in Middle Valley, among the rolling hills just east of Fairlie, in 1993.
In 2003 they bought an adjoining 240ha, adding to the balance of summer and winter country.
Originally, they had 25 paddocks. Now there are 130 or so. At 650ha effective, 20ha of the rest has been set aside for native regeneration, 60ha is in exotic forest, and wilding pines are being steadily controlled.
Larger trees have been felled to stop seed source, and smaller trees are then poisoned by helicopter It’s a dryland farm.
Irrigation is impossible because of the topography and variation of height from 380 metres above sea level to 580 meters.
The small paddocks enable them to analyse data to determine the best use of land for crops or stock to be produced at the optimum time for maximum profit.
Crops, all for sale, are 80ha of wheat, barley, and oil seed rape. Specific crops are sown at specific times during narrow windows of opportunity to be harvested when feed demand will be short.
For their own use, they grow 60ha of fodder crops of maize, turnips fodder beet and short rotation ryegrass.
Stock consist of 500 hinds committed to venison production, found mostly at higher altitudes.
They fawn in November. Dairy support heifers, and bull beef make up the cattle component.
The bull beef contribute to the farm’s flexibility. Six hundred coopdale ewes put to texel terminal sires supply Alliance Freezing Company. “No two years are the same,” says Neil Campbell.
“We have no fixed rules – we work with the environment rather than against it, and place high emphasis on what can earn us the most cents per kilogram of dry matter.
That’s our starting point, and then we see how it will fit into our operation. We are always looking for opportunities. If we can see a margin in it, we’ll trade it.
“We utilise the grass we grow. We have been focussing on legumes – red and white clover, and plantain. Rye grass is becoming less and less part of our sward.”
His attending the Kellogg Leadership Programme in 2007 allowed them to re-evaluate how to maximise their farming programme.
They now heavily monitor what they do and collect all data so they can meet specific targets they have set, based on that.
Attention to farming business is not their only driver, though.
For instance, as shown by their encouraging of native regeneration and removal of wildings, environmental stewardship is also important to the Campbells.
“We like diversified landscapes, and we enjoy what we do. As a business we think it is important to support local schools and sports clubs.
Even though they are not now for our immediate needs, they are a vibrant part of the community, and ensure we can attract high calibre staff.”