Sustainability pays off

A “better” sustainable way, for this Canterbury family farm

A “better” sustainable way, for this Canterbury family farm
A "better" sustainable way, for this Canterbury family farm
<p style="text-align: center;"><i>Image supplied by NZ Dairy Exporter</i></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p>A Canterbury family’s decision to farm more sustainably is paying off.</p> <p>Dairy farmers Rick and Diana Bourke have been commended for their environmental sustainability initiatives on several occasions, since striving to surpass best practice for the past 10 years.</p> <p>The Bourkes own 280ha Ngatimaru Farm at Longbeach, with their daughter Sara Russell and husband Stuart 50/50 sharemilking 760 jersey cows on a 205ha milking platform.</p> <p>The road to sustainability began a few years ago for the Bourkes after a TV show struck a nerve.</p> <p>“Adopting a more sustainable approach to farming had been in the back of my mind since seeing a programme on the introduction of nutrient regulations overseas,” Rick says.</p> <p>“I felt we had started becoming addicted to urea and we weren’t getting as much bang for our buck. I thought we could do things better.”</p> <p>The changes they introduced have paid off.</p> <p>The Bourkes reached Synlait’s Lead with Pride Gold Elite certification in 2017 and won the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Excellence in Environmental Management Award in 2018/19 in the Lead with Pride Awards.</p> <p>The journey began a decade ago when the Bourkes went to ASB to finance the construction of a new effluent storage pond.</p> <p>The low-interest loan meant they were able to build a pond that not only met the minimum requirement of 35-days storage, but surpassed it by almost three times.</p> <p>“It made a huge difference to us,” Rick says. “It enabled us to complete our projects to a high standard. We built a relatively simple system – a weeping wall and greenwash system – but it is extremely effective. Our pond holds 100-days storage, which gives us more flexibility.”</p> <p>Pleased with their sustainability progress, in 2015 the Bourkes returned to ASB to finance their irrigation system upgrade.</p> <p>Installing centre pivot irrigators with Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI), now allows them to vary the rate of water applied across the farm to reduce nutrient leaching and water loss.</p> <p>They are now consented to spread effluent three times a year over 220ha, previously 55ha.</p> <p>With the family making a conscious decision to farm with less synthetic nitrogen, the Bourkes have managed to reduce nitrogen rates to 78 units/ha, which includes nitrogen from effluent. GPS-guided sprayers apply dissolved urea, and the pasture now exhibits three times the response with the same amount of nitrogen.</p> <p>The Bourkes’ next project is to install solar power on their farm - initially to the cowshed, but with plans to supplement or replace irrigation power.</p> <p>“The low-rate loan encouraged us to do the right thing; we were able to build a better type of system, not just the bare minimum to meet requirements,” Rick says.</p> <p>“ASB has been supportive all the way.”</p> <p>Introduced at National Fieldays 2021, a new low-interest ASB Rural Sustainability Loan will support farmers for projects and initiatives that will directly improve their farm’s environmental footprint such as GHG emission reduction, sustainable use and protection of water, sustainable energy use, and animal health and welfare.</p> <p>“Farmers tell us climate change and regulatory pressure are among the issues keeping them up at night,” ASB Rural GM Ben Speedy says.</p> <p>“When speaking to our rural customers it’s clear that the appetite is there for on farm uplift; the drive to be on the right side of history is in Kiwis' DNA. Many farmers and growers are already on this journey, which has inspired us to dig in and do more to support them to make a deeper difference for their farm and ultimately the environment.”</p> <p>Get your farm one step ahead with an ASB Rural Sustainability Loan. Visit <a href="/content/asb/business-loans/en/business-loans/rural-sustainability-loan.html">asb.co.nz/ruralsustainability</a> to learn more.</p> <p><i>Article first published on <a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/agribusiness/126103740/a-better-sustainable-way-for-this-canterbury-family-farm" target="_blank">stuff.co.nz</a></i></p>