Monday, 30 March 2015 10:24

High-country Station big winners at BFEA

Written by 
Annabelle and Richard Subtil. Annabelle and Richard Subtil.

A Mackenzie Country farming couple were the big winners at last week’s 2015 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA), taking home the supreme winner and four other awards.

 Richard and Annabelle Subtil, who run the family-owned Omarama Station, also collected the Massey University Innovation Award, WaterForce Integrated Management Award, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, and the Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award.

The property, previously farmed by Annabelle’s parents Dick and Beth Wardell, is situated south of Omarama Village where it winters 23,000 stock units, including 7500 Merino ewes and 310 Angus-Hereford cows.   The diverse operation also grows a range of crops, produces high quality wool, and finishes around 10,000 lambs and 700 steers and heifers annually. A homestay and hydro electricity generation produce additional income.

BFEA judges describe Omarama Station as a “proven farm business demonstrating excellence in financial, environmental and social sustainability”.

The operation is run by an “exceptional team” that includes both family and staff, and its production and financial performance are “industry leading”.

Production has risen significantly since the installation of a centre pivot irrigation system that now covers 560ha. Water is utilised for irrigation and hydro generation in an “integrated way that results in improved water quality outcomes”.

As early adopters of animal EID (electronic identification), the Subtils have worked with industry organisations to refine the use of this technology.

“A willingness to try things first is clearly stimulating and rewarding for the Subtils,” say BFEA judges.

“This makes their business ground-breaking and an outstanding example of innovation in sheep and beef production.”

The judges also highlighted the Subtil’s regular soil and water quality testing saying that they have an excellent understanding of nutrient budgeting.

“The consideration for both the environment and community when making management decisions is proof that the Subtils are excellent stewards of the land.”

For the past 11 years, the Subtils have worked with local iwi and the Department of Conservation to promote the regeneration of the native longfin eel population. As part of the tenure review process for the station, a 120ha flood plain, incorporating the Omarama stream, has been designated scientific reserve. 

A QEII National Trust covenant now covers over 2500ha of the property, including unique high-country bog wetland containing rare native species.  The covenant allows for managed grazing ensuring invasive weeds like hieracium (hawkweed) are controlled.

“Richard and Annabelle have continued the visionary thinking of Annabelle’s parents by continuously challenging the status quo.  Their motivation and openness to new ideas will ensure a challenging property remains a sustainable farming operation in perpetuity,” say judges.

Judges also commended the Subtils for their staff management, industry leadership, and community involvement.

Omarama Station will hold a BFEA field day later in the year with the date to be advised.

Other winners on the night were: Mike and Ruth Williams, who picked up the Donaghys Farm Stewardship Award, Stuart and Sara Russell with the LIC Dairy Farm Award and Hamish and Annabel, Alastair and Sue Craw who took home the PGG Wrightson Land and Life Award, Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award.

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