NZ Dairy Autumn 2022

| 19 nzdairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Bruce & Christine Maechler Bruce and Christine Maechler’s organic Taranaki farm is used as dairy grazing country for some 120 young stock, grazed in two herds (Friesians and Jerseys). Last year the couple planted 1050 plants and completed 1.5km of fencing, using BioGro certified posts made from recycled plastic. Leaders in environmental stewardship Kim Newth A strong commitment to taking care of their land has been a positive for biodiversity, soil health and animal welfare on Bruce and Christine Maechler’s organic farm operation at Rahotu, north of Opunake. Last year, the couple won an environmental leadership award in the Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Awards. They have long been enthusiastic participants in the council’s award-winning Riparian Management Programme that contracts nurseries to supply native plants to farmers at cost. “Between the plants from there and the ones we have bought and propagated ourselves, I’d say we’ve put in over 5000 riparian plants here,” says Bruce, who has worked this land for some 30 years. “Last year alone we did 1050 plants and 1.5km of fencing, using BioGro certified posts made from recycled plastic. It has been really nice to have that acknowledgement from Taranaki Regional Council of all the work we’ve put into this.” A river and a stream run through the couple’s 49ha drystock farm, with nearly 5.5km of banks and drains now protected with riparian plants. Coupled with fencing to keep stock out of waterways, the planting serves to reduce runoff and has resulted in a big boost to native biodiversity. “We’ve noticed a real increase in birdlife in particular and are seeing kereru (New Zealand pigeon) and tui quite often now,” he says. “The added bonus is that there’s now also shelter for stock in both summer and winter, so it has been good for the animals too.” Bruce says his parents farmed the property for seven and a half years, before moving into town when he was at primary school. He later returned to the farm on a 50/50 basis with his parents but not before gaining experience in the agricultural sector. After leaving school, he trained at Flock House, near Bulls, then went contract fencing for 18 months. The next step saw him land a farming job for two years that proved excellent preparation for his return to the home farm. After he and Christine were married, they bought the farm from Bruce’s parents. Bruce and Christine worked hard milking cows for some 20 years, but then had a switch of focus to dairy grazing. Selling the herd meant they were able freehold the farm and focus more strongly on environmental improvement. They worked towards becoming an organic operation over several years before gaining BioGro certification in 2007. Their land is put to use as dairy grazing country for some 120 young stock, grazed in two herds (Friesians and Jerseys). “Having good pasture is a priority for us. We have been going down the regenerative grazing track for the past two or three years and can see the benefits of that. For us, it’s all about feeding the biology in the soil. We also find that having a good length of rotation is quite beneficial.” A no spraying and no tillage approach has led to a natural evolution towards multi-species pastures, with plenty of plantain and red clover coming through. Biological Agriculture | Integrated, Holistic + Regenerative Proudly supporting Christine and Bruce Maechler