Fonterra farmers win big at Auckland Farm Environment Awards

Fourth generation dairy farmers Scott and Sue Narbey have won the Supreme Award at the Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

The win was announced at last night's gala dinner at the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport, Mangere.

The Narbeys also won the region’s Waterforce Integrated Management Award and LIC Dairy Farm Award. They have a 155ha milking platform for their 410-cow operation on Mangakura Road, just south of Helensville, and will host a field day on Tuesday May 2 from 10.30am.

The awards judges said the couple’s family farming operation was intensive but still felt “simple and logical”.

A 44-bale rotary cowshed is set up to allow one person to milk through most of the season. This includes automatic cup removal, ProTrac drafting, in-shed feeding and EZheat camera. Water tanks and pumps are monitored using the Water Smart system at the main house, allowing pumps to be turned on and off to minimise water and power use. The judges said the farm made excellent use of water and systems for efficient milk cooling and water heating.

Drains, ponds and a boundary with the Kaipara River are all fenced to exclude stock. In the past four years marginal areas have been retired into wetlands and planting of these is almost completed.

As much of the soil on the farm is clay, they are mindful of pugging. A feed pad and more recently a calving pad have been built to mitigate this. Scott says the calving pad, put in two years ago at one end of the feed pad, is working well.

“It is a lot easier to manage calving. The cows are happier and the staff are happier.”

The judges said the farm’s placement and design of infrastructure gives it a feel of no clutter and easy flow.

“Effluent systems gravity feed to ponds, all effluent is contained easily.  The milking shed and calf shed have innovations and specifications that just make life easier and more efficient.  Races are tidy and functional and the pastures are well maintained.”

Scott and Sue’s children Bella, 6, and Ollie, 5, are the fifth generation of Narbeys to live on the original smaller block cleared from bush to milk cows, by Scott’s great grandfather Thomas. Today, the 245ha business includes a neighbouring 45ha leased block and a 90ha run-off at South Head, Kaipara, where Scott’s parents Murray and Marie live. In addition, Scott manages a nearby 80ha maize and beef block for Sue’s family trust. The couple also have a Helensville physiotherapy business which Sue, a physiotherapist, has operated for 10 years.

The award judges were impressed with the family dynamics and the way Scott and Sue run their business.

“The history of the farm and importance of this to the future shows through in everything they do. Decisions made always keep in mind to keep the family farm together and a place for the family.”