Narbeys number one on the environment
Taking out line honours in this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Award has been a very positive experience for Scott and Sue Narbey, who are equity partners with Scott’s parents, Murray and Marie, on their 155-hectare, intensively farmed dairy unit on Mangakura Rd, south of Helensville.
After completing a Certificate in Agriculture from Telford Polytechnic in South Otago, Scott returned to the family farm.
He is the fourth generation on the system-five property.
Scott and Sue acknowledge the hard work of Scott’s parents on the farm, and say their support has been vital to allow the couple to build equity.
A third of the farm is one-third flat, with the remainder rolling; there is alluvial soil on the flat and Waitemata clay on the hills, which is prone to pugging.
“We have a nil-pugging policy on the farm,” says Scott.
“When it’s wet, we stand the cows off on our feedpad between the milking shed and the effluent storage. We’ve had the feedpad for 15 years now.”
As well as winning the supreme award, they won the dairy farm and integrated management awards.
The judges acknowledged that while the Narbeys’ farming system was intense, every aspect of its management seemed simple and logical.
The engine-horse for milk production is a 44-bail rotary designed for one person to operate for the bulk of the season.
This is achieved by automatic cup removers, in-shed feeding, ProTrack drafting and an EZheat camera.
The shed’s water-tanks and pumps are monitored by a Water Smart system which is directed from the couple’s home.
“It means we can monitor tank levels from the house or the cowshed, and be alerted to any water leaks,” says Scott.
Last season the Narbeys’ herd of 405 friesian/ friesian-cross cows produced 176,000 kilograms of milksolids.
Their breeding aim is to reduce the size of the cow: “Yes, we’re after a smaller cow, mainly for environmental reasons,” says Scott. “I’d say we’re about halfway there” The Kaipara River runs along one boundary, which has been fenced for more than 40 years.
The the couple have recently retired further marginal land and completed planting and fencing of four significant wetland areas.
Life in the Narbey household is busy.
Not only do they run the family farm, but they also own a 90ha grazing and beef property at South Head, which is managed by Scott’s father, Murray.
Scott also manages an 80ha beef-and-maize property for Sue’s family trust. Sue and Scott also own a physiotherapy business in Helensville; they started it 11 years ago and it now employs 10 staff.
Sue, a qualified physio, works at the practice full-time overseeing the whole operation.
The couple have two children, seven-year-old Bella and five-year-old Ollie, who are the fifth generation to live on the farm which was originally cleared from bush to dairying by Scott’s greatgrandfather, Thomas Narbey.
This season a significant shift will take place in the farm’s organisation with the promotion of Matt Sneddon to a contract-milking role.
“It’s a way of acknowledging a valued employee and to give him a hand up in his own farming journey,” says Sue.
Before the children arrived, she did the weekend milking along with Scott.
These days, while she has her busy “other life” off the farm, she continues to rear the calves.
After a couple of tricky low payout years, the Narbeys say it was a positive thing to decide to enter the awards this year.
“The dairying industry has had a hard time in the press and we wanted very much to showcase just what we have been doing for the environment,” says Scott. ”
From my experience the majority of dairy farmers really care about the quality of the environment.”