Castlerock Farm, owned by Jim and Barbara Hitchcock is a recognised leader within the dairy industry. Their business goals combine best environmental practice, productive capacity and profitability.
The 206 hectare farm is managed by 50/50 sharemilkers Rhys and Kim Meredith. This successful partnership between the Hitchcock’s and the Meredith’s has been in place since 2005. They won the BOP Supreme Ballance Farm Environment Award in 2012. Recognising their collective strengths and abilities the team also won the Ballance Nutrient Management Award and the LIC Dairy Farm Award.
Jim continues his involvement with the Ballance Farm Environment Awards. He is the current Chair of the BOP Awards Committee, and was elected as Trustee to the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust in October 2014. Fellow committee members have a lot of respect for him both as a Chairman and a person. “He has good ideas, is straight up with his thoughts and has a very nice way of being firm” says John Mackintosh.
Being situated in a high rainfall area of the catchment Jim and Barbara are very aware of the impact the nutrient loss from their farm has on the lake. This prompted them in 2010 to further improve their entire effluent management and infrastructure, even though they were fully compliant and had resource consents in place well into the future.
So, how are Jim and Barbara, along with sharemilkers Rhys and Kim feeling now about their farming business with the impending nutrient rules?
“Since winning the awards and the benchmark years, we have dropped cow numbers by 13%. The farm policy of no imported feed still stands, plus 250 cows wintered off”.
Jim and three other catchment farmers have had several meetings with individual Regional Councillors to voice their concerns over the impending environmental rules to be placed on the catchment farms. Following their latest meeting, Jim got his provisional NDA from the Regional Council. “This has been a bit of a fright, and different options are being drawn up on how to reach these targets”. Jim and his mini-group will present these options to as many Councillors as possible.
Early advice seems to be grow less grass, no summer crop and buy palm kernel and maize which is completely against the current farm model that works well and is profitable.
As 50/50 sharemilkers Rhys and Kim say they have somewhat taken a “backseat” interest to the catchment negotiations. “We have however continued to make small adjustments with our on farm management in an effort to improve our profitability, which has also had a positive result towards reducing the farms overall nutrient loss. These include; frequent fertilizer applications spread at reduced rates and lower stocking while maintaining production objectives. This is achieved predominately through herd genetics and retaining only cows with high production potential and minimal animal health issues, coupled with a closely monitored pasture management system. “As sharemilkers within the catchment we are not against change as long as the rules are applied fairly”.
Click on the video link below to hear more about Jim and Barb’s farm.