Farmers and growers need to rattle their dags for this year’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA), with entries closing on October 31.
Leo and Rebecca Vollebregt milk 580 cows south-east of Featherston, working to create “an attractive, productive and profitable farm that everyone enjoys working on”.
The BFEA judges say the Vollebregts are leaders “setting the bar for performance in all aspects of their business”. The farm is efficient, well-structured and impeccably tidy, with excellent profitability.
The 289ha farm includes a 154ha effective home block divided by Pahautea Road and partially bounded by the Ruamahanga River stop banks. The main milking platform is supported by four run-off blocks (totalling 118ha) located within 17km of the home farm.
Contract milker Emma Moffitt and her two staff milk two herds through a 40-aside herringbone dairy; they produced 203,000kgMS last season.
Seven years ago the Vollebregts decided to switch to once-a-day milking. While per cow production has decreased slightly, per hectare production has risen, the calving period has shortened and the empty rate has reduced markedly.
The judges say the farm is achieving top production at a lower cost. The Vollebregts are good at growing grass for high production and “great care is taken not to damage the pasture”.
The couple have excellent knowledge of soil types and requirements, the judges say. Land has been improved as it’s brought into the operation. About 60% is artificially drained and the milking platform is irrigated via K-Line, with soil moisture sensors installed.
Pockets of native bush have been fenced to regenerate, and a lagoon next to one bush area is fenced. Riverbanks were fenced and planted 14 years ago.
The farm has excellent infrastructure, weed and effluent management and pasture renewal, the judges say. And it has an “impeccable capital structure well-planned and executed, allowing financial choices for themselves and family”.
Leo Vollebregt oversees the farm and looks after the young stock and run-offs. Rebecca works as a nurse in Carterton.
The Vollebregts, who have six children aged 17 to 25, are active in the community. He chairs the Wairarapa Water Users Group.
A BFEA field day will be held on the Vollebregt farm on April 22.