Monday, 16 March 2020 08:20

Couple scoop Canterbury farm environment awards

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Tony Coltman and Dana Carver. Tony Coltman and Dana Carver.

A dairy farming couple who have achieved a 48% reduction in nitrogen leaching have been named the Canterbury Supreme Winners in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Tony Coltman and Dana Carver farm as Canlac Holdings under an equity partnership, on two farms near Dunsandel being run as one business. Canlac Dairy has 1,000 cows and Quantum Dairy, a short distance down the road runs 1,150 cows.

Being early adopters of research and methods to reduce their environmental footprint was one of the key reasons for the award. The judges said Tony and Dana were farming sustainably in terms of the environment, people and economically.

“They show a great commitment and knowledge of reducing nitrate leaching,” the judges said.

The couple also had clear goals for themselves and the health and wellbeing of staff, plus are heavily involved in off-farm activities.

“They demonstrate excellent leadership and motivation to connect with the wider community.”

Stock health was a priority, along with a strong focus on maximising the high-genetic herd through strategic breeding and the retention of first calvers. 

They also have an ongoing planting programme underway that includes shelter and native plants. The farm’s effluent area has been significantly increased, while they’re continually improving the sophisticated irrigation system and maintaining soil fertility. 

The Judges noted that Canlac was already a high-performing farm when Coltman and Carver took over in 2013 but their focus on good management practice had lifted it to another level. 

“At the same time, there has been an impressive reduction in the farm’s environmental footprint – including cutting nitrogen leaching by about 50%.” 

Farmers getting ahead of regulatory requirements was a theme of the awards dinner.

For Canlac, that meant getting ahead of the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan (LWRP) requirement for Selwyn farmers to reduce N losses by 30 percent by 2022 with further reductions by 2035.

Coltman said they did it by applying research, theory, and knowledge of what had worked for others.

"We've done that through investing in irrigation. we've changed our feeding and feed types, we've reduced our fertilizer nitrogen inputs. We've increased production in that time as well.

“Also we've changed our grazing management to allow us to put less applications on - grow more grass on less applications.”

Coltman said other farmers would have their own challenges but he was fortunate to have very supportive shareholders who gave them the backing and confidence to do what they wanted to do.

"We've just done little and often. We haven't done big steps, we've just done a little bit each time and it's just got gradually got better and better.

“Just taking little bites at a time it wasn't going to tip the business over by a change if it didn't go right.”

Saying he was surprised to win, Coltman said there were some really good entries, with everybody being innovative on their own farms.

"Whether we won we didn't win, we thought we had a something to showcase and we'll continue to do what we're doing anyway."

In addition to the 2020 Supreme Regional Award, Coltman and Carver also received the:

    • Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award

    • DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award

    • Synlait Climate Stewardship Award

    • WaterForce Wise with Water Award 

Other 2020 Award Winners:

Robin Oakley, Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables – Southbridge

    • Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award

    • Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award

    • Massey University Innovation Award

Mike & Nicky Salvesen, Wakare – Mount Somers

    • Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award

    • Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Farm Award

Richard & Chrissie Wright, Tamar Farm – Mount Somers

    • Norwood Agri-Business Management Award

The 11 Regional Supreme Winners will be profiled at the Awards’ National Sustainability Showcase in Wellington on June 4, with each in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy. 

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