Water Quality Enhancement Award Winner 2011

Neville Rule has made an extraordinary personal and financial commitment to ensure that no effluent and storm water discharges occur from his dairy farm.

He has a massive seven-pond storage system on the 285ha (260ha effective) dairy farm at Waimate North in the Bay of Islands. It has been proven these ponds will cope with the incoming water during deluges common to Northland.

Treated effluent is spread over 80ha of the property, with close monitoring of pumps and travelling irrigators.

In case of power failure Neville has a back-up tractor pump to move liquids around in the pond and irrigation system.

Neville has not sought a discharge to water consent, so that he and his staff members must make absolutely sure there are no breaches by way of leaks or ponding from the self-contained farm system.

Concerned with the image of the dairy industry, Neville suggests the first step to dealing with effluent problems is to not produce it in the first place, for example by maximising the time that cows spend on grass.

This is a medium input dairy system where animals are well fed but not pushed, Neville believing that more is not always better. He therefore has leeway in extreme weather events.

As well as planting many trees to enhance the local environment, Neville is a strong supporter of the Waimate North Landcare Trust. Another example of his community care is setting up recycling bins at his sheds which also contain a state of the art fuel/chemical storage facility.

All streams on the property have been fenced off with generous margins. Considerable effort has gone into establishing natives to increase bird life and Neville is aesthetically sensitive to how his property looks from the road and to his neighbours.

The Waimate North farm has flexible back-up from 1450ha of non-dairy land, which runs 1800 sheep, grows maize and silage and grows out the young dairy stock. Neville also leases a small farm at Pakaraka which produces 35,000kg milk solids. 

The home farm runs two herds of 300 cows, one spring calving and the other autumn-calving for winter milk production.

Milk production is around 250,000kg annually, which is 961kg/ha averaged over three years, excluding drought, or 416kg/cow average, plus milk for 700 calves. Productivity dropped by only 6% during the 2009-10 drought.

Cows and young stock are grazed off and the judges commented they could find little evidence of pugging or damage to soil structure.

The judges commented: “The good profitability of the farm stems from Neville’s amazing organisational skills, backed up by a history of servicing debt by extremely long hours of work”.

“Neville has an easy and inclusive relationship with his staff members who are treated like an extended family and he does everything he expects staff to do. Staff are assisted with up-skilling and provided with quality homes.”

Judges comments

  • Excellent pastures and well fed cows
  • Skilled grazing management with little pugging damage
  • Easy and inclusive relationship with staff
  • Profitability stems from amazing organisational skills
  • All streams fenced off with generous planted margins
  • Committed to nil discharge effluent system
  • State of the art fuel/chemical storage facility
  • Nitrogen leaching minimised.