While only in the first season of their 630 cow job, they bring a history of environmental wins with them from their previous job at Normanby, Taranaki where they sharemilked for a Maori trust.
There, they were heavily involved in planting hundreds of native plants, including organising a planting group with the local kapa haka pupils.
“We have tended to work with a number of small initiatives, rather than just having one grand project, and have continued that where we are today,” says Ruth.
She says a big part of why the couple were keen to take on the Southland job was the alignment of environmental values they share with the owners Graeme and Jan Appleby.
“They had already fenced off their waterways years ago with riparian strips 15 years ago when they converted from deer. Our aim is to work with them to plant these out over time.”
The couple also bring some capable planning skills to the farm and are working with the Applebys to establish a clearer, systematic plan on what environmental improvements will be undertaken, and in what order.
“We are essentially putting together a farm environment plan which we intend to run past Fonterra and Environment Southland.”
Ruth is conscious of her need to “do the right thing” as an area manager in Southland for Fonterra, and that her work can provide a useful template for other farmers wanting to improve their farm’s environmental footprint.
The couple intend to map the farm’s tile drain system, taking Graeme’s knowledge of the intricate network of drains and tile systems, and formally recording it.
“It’s even more important here because we winter on the farm and are conscious of the number of animals on the farm for the entire winter. We want to better understand nutrient flows so when we are engaged in activities like applying nitrogen, we know where drains are and what areas to avoid over the wet season.”
Farm has low footprint
The property already has a relatively low environmental footprint, aided by a 2.8 cows per hectare stocking rate and having some land in a Queen Elizabeth II covenanted trust.
Environment Southland standards require no greater than 15 percent of farm land area be wintered on.
“We come in with less than that, due to the covenant and the stocking rate.”
Ruth believes they will not have to make any significant changes to comply with new land management rules coming out. She is looking forward to any future improvements to the farm’s environmental management, thanks to likeminded owners and a good level of communication with them.
Ruth appreciates that the Southland land and water plan is very much at the forefront for the region’s dairy farmers.
She has been impressed by the efforts to understand the plan and the number of submissions farmers have personally made to the plan.
“The next step for catchments and communities is to unite and get catchment groups up and running – our owners here are keen and so are we.”