Central North Island dairy company Miraka’s focus on sustainable farming practices is showing results, after a record number of farms received honours in the recent Te Ara Miraka farming excellence awards.
Miraka’s general manager of milk supply Grant Jackson says since establishing the awards more than four years ago, they’ve started to see significant change in on-farm practices by their suppliers.
“It’s not just about meeting the regulations – that’s a mandatory for us. It’s all about how to go over and above, to achieve absolute excellence in areas like animal welfare, sustainable land management, looking after employees, and premium quality milk,” says Grant.
In this year’s awards 17 of the 104 participating farms achieved a score of 90 per cent or more, and Te Raparahi Lands Trust took out the top prize with a score of 100 per cent.
Grant says only 10 farms achieved a score above 90 per cent when the awards began four years ago.
The Farming Excellence Programme provides farmers with tools, resources and expert advice to drive profitability, improve land stewardship, produce world-class quality milk and build stronger communities.
Farms are assessed annually and scores contribute to the final milk price. The programme includes five pou: Nga Tangata – People; Te Taiao – Environment; Taurikura – Prosperity; Nga Kau – Cows; and Miraka – Milk.
The excellence standards include a mix of mandatory and optional criteria. Optional criteria are allocated points, and results are financially incentivised over and above a market competitive base milk price.
“When Miraka first bought the standards out, I thought they looked pretty challenging,” says top award winner Tracey Simpson of Te Raparahi Lands Trust.
“I was worried it was too much pressure for farmers, and that we would never be able to meet all of them. But there has been a real change in the farming community recently. We know that strong environmental practices are good for the land, and they also make financial sense,” says Tracey.
The team at Te Raparahi Lands Trust has been working on a holistic farming approach for more than 10 years.
“For us, it’s about having shared goals and pushing ourselves to do more,” says Te Raparahi Lands Trust chairperson Phillip Samuels.
“Last year we used our incentive payment to purchase a new Halo monitoring system for our farms, which has been a great investment. Miraka’s approach is helping create a paradigm shift within NZ farming, to encourage farmers to start making positive changes,” says Phillip.
Each year Miraka is seeing more of its farmers grow and accelerate change within the programme.
“At Miraka we value kaitiakitanga – we support decisions with a long-term view,” says Miraka’s kaitiaki and general manager of environmental leadership Murray Hemi.
“It’s about building resilience into our business and living our values, while creating top quality dairy products. Our farmers are really starting to see the value in our approach.
“It’s pretty exceptional to have so many of our farms hitting really high targets,” says Murray.
Located 30km northwest of Taupo, Miraka uses renewable geothermal energy to generate more than 300 million litres of premium milk products each year. The company is owned by a group of Maori trusts and sources milk from more than 100 farms in the Central North Island region.