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Agriculture

Record keeping an award-winning habit

Tom O'Leary Oct 10
Record keeping an award-winning habit
Manawatu Share Farmer of the Year winners Jemima and Thomas Bebbington. The couple went on to place third in the national finals.

Having a bad memory was what first led 2019 Manawatu Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winner ,Thomas Bebbington, to develop a habit that has assisted the success of his and wife Jemima’s farm business.

“When I was working on my dad’s farm years ago he expected to come to me at any time with any question about the farm and I would have to know the answer. So I used to carry a yellow note-book around with me,” he says.

This was the start of good record keeping practices around many farm aspects and was a significant factor in them standing out at the competition, which also saw them take home three merit awards: Farm Environment, Pasture Performance and Business Performance.

The Bebbingtons currently 50:50 share-milk 425 cows on a 160ha Ohakune property, owned by Andrew Wightman. This is the couple’s sixth season share-milking.

Since 2005 they have kept detailed records on pasture growth, rotation length etc and it is this wealth of information that assists them in making decisions.

Thomas says he is a believer in basing decisions on a plethora of information rather than one aspect.

Record keeping also helps them to make sure the farm is operating in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The Taonui stream, which feeds into the Mangawhero River, runs through the farm.

Local iwi and tourists often come onto the farm to fish so Thomas and Jemima, working in conjunction with the farm owner, have made sure it is fenced off and planted to ensure healthy water quality.

When spreading effluent with the travelling irrigator good record keeping ensures the effluent is spread responsibly.

Farm decisions around grazing management are also influenced by the desire to mitigate run off.

Nutrient hotspots are regularly monitored in conjunction with local council.

Around 7ha of the farm has been retired to QEII National Trust covenant.

Record keeping has also assisted the financial aspects of their business.

They have built strong relationships with their team – bank manager and accountant – to ensure hey are always in a good position to take advantage of any opportunities that might come their way.

The Bebbingtons have entered the Dairy Industry Awards twice previously and have placed third in the Auckland/Hauraki region.

They say the competition gives them a good chance to examine their business and admit they were surprised to win this year.

“We didn’t win any of the first five awards announced so our hearts were sinking a bit,” says Jemima.

“So we were absolutely gobsmacked to win. To walk away with the top award blew our minds,” says Thomas.

When not working on the farm, the Bebbingtons are active in their local community and enjoy family time with their three children Violet (8), Jack (6) and Charlotte (2).

Next season the Bebbingtons will move to a larger 50:50 sharemilking position on Thomas’ family’s farm in Te Aroha.

They plan to milk 600 cows on the 200ha farm and have purchased 27ha of the original farm land to use as a run off block giving them a start on land ownership.

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