Three standout farmers have been picked as finalists for the coveted 2014 NSW Farmer of the Year Award.
NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, today announced a beef and potato farmer from Dorrigo, a Goulburn turkey grower and a beef cattle producing couple from Quirindi as the finalists in the award.
“These finalists are leaders in their fields – pushing the boundaries through innovation and vision in regards to all aspects of their enterprise including production, supply chains and marketing,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
President of NSW Farmers Fiona Simson said this year’s applications highlighted the impressive range in the scale of operations and the different industries represented across agriculture in NSW. Winners will be announced at a
presentation in Sydney before the end of the year.
Derek and Kirrily Blomfield
DEREK and Kirrily Blomfield operate “Colorado”, a 980-hectare beef cattle grazing farm on the Liverpool Plains.
The Blomfields produce steers and heifers grass-fed on perennial pastures, and processed and sold direct to consumers.
The farm has been sub-divided into 65 paddocks with provision for further temporary sub-division as required.
They run up to 500 head of cattle depending on conditions and are increasing their breeder numbers but in the meantime, have agistment cattle to their carrying capacity.
The Blomfields believe to sustain their farm landscape is not enough – they want to regenerate it.
“Colorado” is managed with the aim of improving and regenerating soils, pastures and biodiversity while optimising beef production and profitability. To achieve this, paddocks are rotationally grazed – ensuring perennial pastures are “recovered” before re-grazing them again.
The full leaf recovery of plant species before re-grazing means that the root systems of the plants have also recovered and pushed down equally deep into the soil.
Grazing like this has resulted in more than 90 per cent ground cover. This level of ground cover ensures virtually no erosion (no loss of asset), as well as a lack of annual weeds.
The Blomfields have created a brand for their farm business products, The Conscious Farmer, to direct market grass-fed beef to the end consumer, value adding the product to remove market fluctuations and create more profit from each animal sold.
The marketing for the product has been directed at consumers who are seeking a sustainably and ethically produced product with a strong focus on the health benefits of the grass-fed product too. They market the animals in packs with the full selection of cuts.
The Conscious Farmer brand is also applied within the business to a subscription/paid blog (web-log) about regenerative agricultural practices and their practical application for both broadacre and small scale farming and grazing.
Everybody working with animals on the farm has attended Low Stress Stock Handling training for safer handling in open paddocks and when handling animals confined in yards.
Derek is a board member of Liverpool Plains Land Management Inc, a community-based organisation focused on sustainable agricultural land management; a branch member of NSW Farmer’s Association; and NSW RFS brigade captain (Caroona).
Kirrily is a former president and current member of SOS Liverpool Plains, a women’s group concerned with raising awareness of the impacts of coal and coal seam gas on agricultural land and water resources.
SCOTT Beaumont runs a 635-hectare diversified enterprise, spread across three properties
near Dorrigo on the Mid North Coast.
The farm enterprise involves producing Woolworths yearling cattle from a 400 cow breeding herd; a potato growing business, producing 700 tonnes of crisping potatoes per annum, grown under contract to a major company, and a contract planting business, providing services to north coast and Dorrigo plateau farmers.
The business is a partnership with Scott’s father Neville, and Scott’s role is to both manage the day-to-day activities and make decisions for the business in-line with a succession plan.
The cattle enterprise uses European, British and Bos Indicus cross cattle to produce calves weighing 220 kilograms to 280kg with five millimetres to 17mm of fat cover at 15 months of age.
Calves are finished in an on-farm feedlot, with the maize silage feed ration also grown on-farm under centre pivot irrigation.
The potato business is conducted on 25 hectares and produces crisping potatoes for Smiths crisps.
The crisping production system suits the business model of a high value, low labour production system, helping to keep costs down.
Growing and selling under contract helps provide certainty in the budgeting process, and avoids fluctuations that can occur in the marketplace.
Scott’s aim is to balance profitability and sustainability by ensuring the latest production techniques are used to maximise productivity, while staying within the production capacity of the land.
To achieve this, cropping activities are only carried out on areas with suitable soils and slope for the crop.
Areas not suitable for crop production are used for grazing, while timbered areas are retained for stock shelter, conservation and aesthetic values.
Scott uses the NLIS system to monitor animal performance with regular three weekly weighing for animals in the feedlot.
Scott is part of the organisation team for the Dorrigo Potato festival, president of the Dorrigo Campdraft committee and involved in Dorrigo pony club.
JAMES Mifsud’s main business is intensive turkey farming on “Trilla”, Goulburn.
This involves growing turkeys from day-old poults to market age birds of about 18 weeks. The turkeys are raised in open sheds where they are free to roam.
The sheds are naturally ventilated with computer-controlled shutters and curtains to control temperature. The turkeys are grown under contract for Inghams Enterprises.
Apart from successfully producing turkeys for more than 16 years, James also runs a small herd of 60 Angus breeders turning off calves at about 350 kilograms to 400kg. The cattle are grass-fed on improved pastures fertilised with the manure produced from the turkey operation.
A series of dams and rubble drains mitigate any issues related to runoff entering the water catchment.
James is constantly researching the latest trends in turkey production across the globe and tries to attend as many industry talks as possible to keep up-to-date.
He is also a 2015 Nuffield scholarship recipient and will undertake 16 weeks of travel to the European Union and North America where he’ll look at poultry welfare systems and turkey production.
The turkeys at “Trilla” achieve excellent feed conversion rates along with growth rates comparable with, and at times exceeding, world’s best practice.
The latest genetics are imported to help the farm stay competitive.
An example of production methods adopted recently is the introduction of hens and toms in the same shed, separated with a partition.
This led to an increase in production of 20 per cent without the need for extra shedding.
The farm also adheres to strict animal welfare guidelines.
Reinvesting profits in newer and more efficient technologies is a key part of the business plan. A 10 kilowatt solar power electricity generating system has been installed to help reduce reliance on mains power.
The farm area is located well away from boundaries to minimise the impact of the farming system on neighbours.
James believes he has a duty to be a good corporate citizen, and a good neighbour.
James has represented the Inghams turkey growers for more than 13 years at company level and has been a member of NSW farmers for 14 years and for the past six years as a Contract Poultry Committee member, where he was vice chairman for two years and chairman for the past three years.
James is currently vice president of the Australian Chicken Growers Council and an active member of the Goulburn Mulwaree Rotary Club, were he holds the position of youth director.