Wednesday, 29 April 2015 16:56

Self-contained farm takes top prize

Written by 
Robert and Anna Kempthorne. Robert and Anna Kempthorne.

A self-contained sheep and dairy farm has won the 2015 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) supreme winner award.

Robert and Anna Kempthorne, Te Anau, run Mavora Farms Ltd, a self-contained dairy and sheep operation spread over 613ha.

In partnership with Robert’s parents Bruce and Linda, the Kempthornes converted the family drystock farm and a neighbouring property in 2007, creating the first dairy farm in the district. The dairy operation now milks 550 cows on 235ha of mainly river-terrace contour, the crossbred herd producing 231,000kgMS last year.

The balance of the farm winters 3300 stock units, including 1550 Romney ewes. It also runs Jersey bulls reared for sale or lease.

At a BFEA ceremony on April 16 the Kempthornes also received the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, the LIC Dairy Farm Award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.

BFEA judges described the Kempthornes as “worthy entrants farming in a challenging environment” and commended their “willingness to challenge and improve on industry best practice”. 

The Kempthornes use the strengths of their property and are mindful of their environment in management decisions, the judges said.

“They are focused on planning and monitoring and run a simple low-input system achieving good results.”     

Robert and Anna manage the business with the help of Rodney Jefferis and Brad Houghton. Bruce Kempthorne is semi-retired but still involved.

Contour on the non-dairying area is rolling to steep, and the hill-country is a mix of developed land and native tussock and matagouri. Poplar poles are used to stabilise some hills, and woodlots have been planted to complement tree lanes planted by Bruce and Linda.

An extensive new gravity-fed water system has been created by tapping into spring water high up the farm.  This has allowed 12 ponds to become sediment traps and the perimeters of these ponds have been fenced and planted.

The farm achieves excellent production: cows produce over 95% of their body weight in milksolids, and have a six week in-calf rate of 81%.

Livestock classes are carefully considered to fit the climate, soil and topography, judges said. The Kempthornes also demonstrate an exceptional awareness and understanding of the strengths and limitations of the farm’s soil types.

A Lincoln graduate and 2003 winner of the Young Farmer of the Year contest, Robert’s previous work experience includes rural banking and agribusiness consultancy. After graduating with a degree in applied science (agriculture) from Massey University, Anna worked as a consulting officer for Livestock Improvement and DairyNZ.  She still works part-time for DairyNZ.

Judges said Robert and Anna have formed a cohesive partnership and their “individual but complementary skills aid the decision-making process”. They are dedicated to staff support and development, and to continued family custodianship.

The Kempthornes, who have two young children, have a number of community and industry commitments. Robert is a trustee for the Southland Dairy Development Trust and Anna is a director of the DairyNZ subsidiary New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited. 

A BFEA field day will be held on Mavora Farms on Thursday May 7.

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