Strict hygiene standards on dairy farms will be an important part of long-term export market protection, say award-winning Waikato farmers Adrian and Pauline Ball.
Richard says the experience was well worthwhile and recommends other first-time entrants not to leave it as long as they did.
"It's a very well-run competition and it makes you take a 'big picture' look at the sustainability of your operation," he says.
"We put up our hand this year because we felt our farm was ready, but my advice to other farmers would be to get in as soon as you can because that way you will get the benefits earlier."
Richard says it is important that entrants keep an open mind going into the competition.
"You should listen to what the judges say and then put your plans in place from there."
The Frances, who run a commercial sheep and beef operation and Hazeldale Perendale Stud on 568ha Longview Farm at Moa Flat, were pleased to pick up two category awards in the 2015 Otago event, including the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award.
This award recognises excellent crop, pasture, and soil management while taking into consideration the effects farming has on land resources now and in the long term.
Richard and Kerry grow a wide range of feed crops to support their livestock system, and BFEA judges say the attention to detail and careful timing shown in the cropping operation is reflected in the "excellent husbandry, clean crops, and good yields".
Judges also noted the successful use of Lucerne to generate high quality finishing feed and supplements for dry periods.
Lucerne is not traditionally grown in the area but Richard says he likes to experiment by trying new crops and new techniques. Winning the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award was a nice pat on the back for his management of the cropping system.
"I've always been passionate about growing good crops. The judges gave us some great feedback and they also pointed out a couple of areas where we could improve, and that is something we will work on in future."
Fiona Calvert, senior client service manager for the Ag Division at Hill Laboratories, says, "We are very pleased to have had such worthy winners of the Harvest Award in Richard and Kerry. The careful management of their diverse growing system has no doubt been key to their successful production. They are to be congratulated on their 'big-picture' approach."
Richard was also thrilled to win the Alliance Quality Livestock Award and he regards this as a great endorsement of his livestock management and the stud breeding enterprise.
He says winning the award is good exposure for the stud.
"Being involved in the competition has definitely been beneficial for our business. It's a great feeling to get recognised in front of your farming colleagues. The awards evening was one of the best farming events I've been to in a long time, and we really enjoyed talking to other farmers about what they are doing to improve sustainability."
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are open to all farming types. Entries for the 2016 Otago BFEA close on 31 October 2015. Entry is free and entry forms are available online at www.bfea.org.nz