Environmental Best Practice Recognised at Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Environmental Best Practice Recognised at Ballance Farm Environment Awards

Tony and Margo_1Tony and his wife Margo own a 250 ha dairy farm on Oturoa Rd which has been in the family for 62 years. Being in the Lake Rotorua catchment, Tony and Margo have had several years of working towards the nitrogen limits in the Regional Council’s draft rules. The changes and innovations they’ve introduced were recently recognized at the 2015 Bay of Plenty Ballance Environmental Awards (BFEA).

The awards objective is to promote sustainable land management on New Zealand farms and to show farmers that profitability need not be compromised by pursuing environmental values.


This award is for an entrant who shows a particular enthusiasm or knowledge and expertise, and success in one or more aspects of environmental management and technology.  For example, the successful and extensive use of:

  • Bio-control to manage plant pests
  • or have established an advanced effluent management system
  • or have installed soil moisture probes
  • or have highly managed forest/trees etc.

The focus is on the successful implementation and a high level of expertise.  The aim is to showcase this success or expertise to others through the awards and this is where a farm may not be applicable but the entrant and a technique they are implementing might be.

The decision to enter the awards was not taken lightly for Tony and Margo. Tony says “We felt it was important to show New Zealand we are not dirty dairy farmers and to share their ideas and expertise with the wider community”. As farmers who have been in the community for some time they felt farmers in the catchment have been stigmatized as ‘dirty dairy farmers’ with respect to the lakes issue.

Their commitment to implementing on-farm nutrient management solutions is why they won the BFEA BOP Regional Council Award category. This award was for showing a particular enthusiasm or knowledge and expertise and success in one or more aspects of environmental management and technology.
The future for Tony and Margo is to continue with making their farm as efficient as practical. “It is often a belief that nitrogen applied by dairy farmers is what has caused problems with the lake water quality, but that’s only a small part of the picture. All farm inputs and outputs have to be considered” says Tony.

Tony and Margo have carried out the following actions to ensure their farm is profitable and environmentally sustainable:

1. Reduced cow numbers
2. Wintered off 76% of the herd
3. Cross breeding a smaller cow & now lease all bulls
4. Introduced an earlier culling program
5. Constructed:

  • Four stand-off pads
  • Nine retention dams
  • Four detainment bunds with funding assistance from the BOPRC.
  • Silt traps

6. Upgraded effluent systems

  • From 1 to 3 travelling irrigators, and from 0 to 8 irrigator pods
  • Increased irrigation area from 10 to 60 ha with 9 hydrants & underground pipes
  • Constructed a 20,000 litre sand trap & sump
  • Constructed a 90 day effluent storage pond (37m x 37m x 6m)

7. Eliminated summer cropping with introduction of an in-shed feeding system
8. Direct drill 50% of the winter crop, with 100% of the winter crop outside the catchment.
9. Decreased the amount of nitrogen fertiliser applied
10. Continued to fence off patches of bush to exclude stock
11. Continued riparian planting program
12. Fenced off all major waterways with ephemeral waterways fenced off as required.