NZ Dairy Spring 2021

34 | nz dairy DAIRY PEOPLE » Dennley Farms: Adrian & Pauline Ball ‘Looking forward Replacement dairy heifers (above) and dairy beef cattle at Dennley Farms, Tirau. Karen Phelps A drian and Pauline Ball, owners and operators of Dennley Farms Ltd, have recently com- pleted two years as the National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing. They’ve had the title for twice as long as usual due to Covid-19 preventing the competition being held in 2020 and say entering the competition has helped them really understand the environmental aspect of their farm- ing operation. “At the recent awards in Wellington we were heartened to hear all the other regional finalists in our year also say the same and that they are farm- ing better as a result.” The Balls farm 196ha across two blocks in Tirau. Their farming operation comprises a dairy farm milking 270-280 Holstien Fresian cows and a beef finishing unit where each year they fatten around 150 animals obtained from their own dairy herd in a closed system. Adrian says the beef farm should be certi- fied carbon zero sometime this year. It has a low stocking rate of three animals per hectare and is 100% off the grid using solar power, a deep well water supply, and solar electric fencing. The land runs along the side of the Waihou River and fencing setbacks are 20m plus to allow for revegetation of the river banks. The Balls operate a high weight gain model with bulls fattened to 550kgs at 14 months so genetics play an important role in their farming system. “Because we don’t keep them for too long that’s good for the environmental footprint as there is less methane released per kilogram of meat produced,” explains Adrian. “To achieve this we’ve been play- ing around with different genetics for years and Charolais and Belgium blue cross have proven to be very good at putting on weight fast.” Because they source all the beef from their dairy system there is no wastage fitting in with their phi- losophy of creating value from every aspect of their business and converting what is typically viewed as a by-product into a high value commodity. It means their dairy cows are a little heavier than the norm. They focus on fully feeding their animals at all times and every day from birth they typically put on around one kilogram plus of liveweight every day of the year. They extract additional value from their dairy operation by autumn calving and winter milking to obtain a premium. Growing their own high quality forage crops allows them to reduce imported feed and keep control of quality. A covered feedpad performs the double function of controlling nutrient loss and helping them obtain the maximum from supplement. High animal welfare values see them proactive rather than reactive. Their business’ tagline is ‘creating value inside the farm gate’ spanning environmental, social and economic respects: “It’s about getting in a value mindset and not a volume mindset,” says Adrian. “Fear is probably what we’re seeing in our farming sector at the moment rather than looking forward and seeing the opportunity. On our farm we’re seeing how we can get the best out of our genetics, technology, forage etc. Traceability of food is increasingly important for consumers so by getting on board with environ- mental changes early we see real value for our product. Everything we do is about looking forward. We’ll keep on improving our farm with good sci- ence, which drives efficiency. We have a vision of where we want to be, which aligns with consumer and social expectations.”