Sustainable & tech-savvy farmers recognised at Farm Environment Awards

Sustainable & tech-savvy farmers recognised at Farm Environment Awards

Excellent pasture management in a low cost production system are key drivers for Lisa and Paul Charmley on their 106ha (effective) flat contoured 300 cow dairy farm just south of Dannevirke.

The Charmleys were recognised at the 2017 Horizons' Ballance Farm Environment Awards, winning two awards, the LIC Dairy Farm Award and the Massey University Award for Innovation.

The couple began purchasing the farm, on which Paul is fourth generation, from Paul’s parents Max and Gill in 2013. Since then they have, in Lisa’s words, “transitioned from a traditional family farm into a business”.

The award judges praised the couple’s considered approach and noted their success “evident with per cow production now exceeding 400kgMS/cow while concurrently pursuing sustainable farming practices and biodiversity enhancements on farm.”

The judges wrote: “They are constantly pursuing efficiency in their business. Special mention must be made of the many aspects of the farm and business, such as the incorporation of technology, while maintaining a simple farm system.”

Staff development is another focus; a “flat hierarchy” operates for employees Andrew Campbell and Jay Singh whose strengths Paul says complement each other very well.

Lisa says their interest and co-operation is a much appreciated key to the use of technology on the farm. Systems like the EID connected two way drafting system in the cowshed, the MINDA phone app – an extension of LIC’s herd recording computer programme – and the weekly feed of pasture information via Bluetooth from the C-Dax towed meter into their FarmKeeper software are such great tools “we almost feel like we are cheating” says Lisa.

A Phantom 3 drone, in its second season of use, doubles as an interest for Paul and has proved to be an invaluable tool in monitoring the cows and farm. It took just a short time for the cows to be convinced the drone wasn’t a swarm of bees and the Charmleys were pleased to note the first time they put it up in the air this season the herd remembered and were unconcerned.

Since setting up their own native plant nursery, which currently has over 1000 seedlings awaiting winter planting on the farm, Lisa laughs she has developed “an addiction to potting mix”.

Children Reuben (5) and Pippa (3) enjoy involvement and Lisa is exploring supporting Reuben’s new school to connect with the QEII National Trust covenanted bush on the Ruahine school’s boundary.