Strong conservation values evident in Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards
Manaia dairy farmers showing sustainable and appreciable biodiversity and conservation values have won the Taranaki
Ballance Farm Environment Awards. Grant, Dinny and Leedom Gibbs from the Gibbs G Trust were announced supreme winners at
the region’s awards dinner at the Devon Hotel in New Plymouth on Thursday night (March 22). They will host a field day
on their Sutherland Road property on Thursday April 5 at 10.30am.
The dairy farm, 3km south of Manaia on the south Taranaki coast, is among those supervised by Leedom Gibbs, one of Grant
and Dinny’s three daughters. Half of the farm is irrigated with two centre-pivots and contains a wetland that was
established as part of the farm’s development. Water for the irrigation system is taken by consent from the Waiokura
Stream and stock water comes from the Waimate West Water Scheme, on which Grant is a trustee.
The irrigation development was in the early 2000s in conjunction with a neighbouring farm and includes meters,
dataloggers and telemetry to the Taranaki Regional Council. The irrigation adds considerable sustainability to a
summer-dry coastal property and is used solely on pasture. The judges said the property contains an abundance of tree
species chosen specifically to reflect their coastal environment.
All rivers, streams and drains have been fenced and riparian zone planting is almost finished. The Gibbs’ dairy farm at
Manaia has a contract milker and milks 435 cows at a stocking rate of 3.56 cows per hectare. The herd produced 166,000kg
milksolids last season with yield figures of 1360kg/ha and 393kg/cow.
Milking switches to once-a-day after Christmas to ensure feed demand matches pasture growth especially in the dry
summers such as the one being experienced this season. OAD also helps the lifestyle for the contractor’s family.
Leedom Gibbs and her contract milker showed good understanding of pasture management with post-grazing residuals of
1,500kgDM/ha while using the three-leaf principle to determine pre-grazing targets. The farm is System 2 dairying, being
approximately 10 percent supplementary feeding, with help from the irrigation for the pasture growth.
The business has eight years of Dairybase records to compare against other System 2 farms. The records show the Gibbs
farm has a strong control of expenses, currently sitting at $2.90/kg MS. Rural professionals such as the farm accountant
and fertiliser representatives are used for information, advice and as sounding boards. The aim is to use 200 units/ha
of nitrogen annually.
The effluent consent is for a three-pond oxidation system to discharge to water but this discharge consent aspect is not
used. Instead contractors are used to periodically spread the effluent slurry to land as it is considered too valuable
to waste. This made good use of the nitrogen and potassium in the effluent and the potassium levels were then reflected
in the good clover content of pastures. The potential for cliff erosion on the sea boundary has been recognised and
plans and plantings made to mitigate it. The judges said the Gibbs farm was an impressive business built on an extremely
tidy and functional property.
Succession was off to a strong start with the plan to build a formal governance structure in the form of potentially a
board involving all three daughters.
As well as the regional supreme award, the Gibbs won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, DairyNZ
Sustainability and Stewardship Award, Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award and
the Taranaki Regional Council Sustainability Award. Stratford dairy farmers Daryl and Karyn Johnson, Dakm Farms, won the
CB Norwood Distributors Ltd Agri-Business Management Award, the Predator Free Farm Award and the Farmlands People in
Agriculture Award. Tarata sheep and beef farmers Hans and Stephanie Michel, Tersana Farm, won the Beef + Lamb New
Zealand Livestock Farm Award, Massey University Innovation Award and the Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards
Committee Farm Stewardship Award.