Landcare Ambassador Update

(Published on 17th October 2013)

Andrew Hayes could be described as a reluctant hero. He is passionate about his family's 88ha Horsham Downs dairy farm and the impact of his farm management system on the environment, but he prefers not to stand in the spotlight talking about it... lecterns, microphones and powerpoint presentations are not his favoured tools. Andrew is a practical dairy farmer with strong convictions about farming and the environment, who prefers to let his actions do the talking.

However when the time is right, Andrew is able to step-up and spread the word about the benefits of sustainable farm management. While he may be more comfortable sharing his ideas and experiences with a group of fellow farmers in a milking shed, he is also willing to take to the stage and deliver a presentation to a much larger audience, such as the one at NZ Landcare Trust's inaugural Landcare Conference in 2012.

Andrew's combination of innovative thinking, his ability to get things done and a willingness to share the lessons he has learnt with others, has earned considerable respect from members of the farming community, as well as agricultural professionals and advocates for sustainability. In 2007 Andrew and his family won a Green Ribbon Award from the Ministry for the Environment and in 2012 Andrew was recognised as an NZ Landcare Trust 'Landcare Ambassador'.

Looking back on the Landcare conference, Andrew says "I really felt like it was a turning point, as it was spread across the whole country and allowed farmers to learn about what others in different regions are doing."  As an example Andrew states, "Before the conference I didn't know about the work of Doug Avery, Sue Brown or Mike Barton... I've picked up useful ideas from them."

Since the conference, Andrew feels he has a 'bigger picture awareness' of many landcare issues and in typical practical fashion has pressed on and translated this knowledge into action.

The focal point for Andrew, his wife Jenny and their four sons Alastair, Derek, Rodney and Fred has been the restoration of two ecologically valuable shallow peat lakes. The Hayes farm fully encircles Lake Kaituna, while Lake Komakorau borders the farm. Andrew describes how he saw the lakes were dying and his need to do something about it. So that's exactly what he and his family did. A case study is available from NZ Landcare Trust >

The Hayes approach to farming incorporates a range of best practices to maximise production while taking care of the lakes. The farm runs 290 dairy cows which equates to a relatively high stocking rate of 3.4 cows/ha - this has remained the same despite retiring 5ha of land  for wetland regeneration and restoration. The cows are now share-milked by youngest son Fred and are among the top 5% of Waikato herds in terms of milk solids production per hectare and per cow.  Milk solids production was 133,000kg in the 2011-12 season and a very respectable 113,000kg in the 2012-13 drought-affected season.

Recently Andrew has made adjustments to the silt traps on his farm, ensuring all drains entering the lakes have this form of protection to restrict sediment build-up. A slower release of water into the lakes means the pastures uphill dry out more slowly in the summer, and the silt captured from the traps and spread on the farm returns minerals to the soil, that in turn improves fertility.

Andrew is also more aware of applying fertiliser to get the maximum grass growth with the least amount of leaching. Nitrogen fertiliser use has dropped from 150kg/ha N  to 0-30kg/ha. The farm is also among the lowest 10% of Waikato farms in terms of nutrient loss. In addition drought tolerance has also been improved. In summary the Hayes farm is a good working example of optimal profit and minimal footprint.

Andrew remains a strong advocate for Whole Farm Management and Environmental Plans, saying, "Whole Farm Plans should be compulsory and the whole of New Zealand needs to be doing them." Andrew has long maintained "if you're aware, you care." He believes the valuable information contained in these plans provide a broad, holistic way of understanding a farm - taking into account economic, environmental and social factors. This allows farm managers to identify plans that maximise the true potential of the farm.

When asked 'what next?' Andrew answers, "We'll keep on doing what we’re doing and trying to get the message across to others... DairyNZ and Fonterra are now starting to do something which is good." In his open honest style Andrew adds "We’re learning all the time.. we’ve made mistakes and not afraid to talk about it.  The good thing about Landcare Trust is how their approach pulls everyone in and gets them talking.”

 

Further information about the Hayes farm and the work undertaken:

Inaugural Landcare Ambassador Awards >

Andrew Hayes presentation at NZ Landcare Trust Conference >

Hayes farm case study >

Project website - Waikato Lakes Catchment Project >

 

Landcare Ambassador Updates:

Doug Avery >

 

 

 

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