Farm Mapping

May 2009

Robert Carter creates a whole farm plan with "One Plan"

Active in his sector Robert Carter has tackled issues facing the sustainability - both economic, environmental and social aspects of his farm business.

Presently farming 333ha Sheep and Beef farm at Kirikau, Taumarunui.

He runs 3500 SU unit, high performance sheep, and breeding / finishing cattle unit.

He comments that the property: .is a typical steep King Country Sheep and Beef farm but we do a few extra things such as performance recording the sheep and concentrating more on getting better performance out of the better parts of the farm.

He also has recently ventured in timber installing a mill on the farm.

Robert has been quite deeply involved in representation of his sector. He has been National Chairman of the Meat and Wool NZ Ltd (M&WNZ) Sheep&Beef Council, member of the Ovita Consortia Industry Issues Working Group, Wool Industry Network (WIN) focus group coordinator, WIN Science Innovation Advisory group, Member Wool Grower Holdings Ltd Grower Advisory Panel, Owner/operator of Electrical and project supervision company, Chairman of Taumarunui Sustainable Land Management group.

Hes run a tourist venture on the Whanganui river, was a company director for Robert Carter Electrical services, a property developer , director of King Country Lamb Ltd ( now Crusader Meats ). Hes also had long term involvement on school boards and Community boards.

Robert comments that hes stepped back on his off farm involvement Ive seen the light to a degree and dropped some of the involvements off farm to concentrate on the really important things I want to do. Such as looking after grandkids and being on hand for others in the family who need support right now.

This is a programme introduced by the Horizon Regional council to give farmers an opportunity to have their farm mapped and the business being run on various parts of the property - dissected and analysed. This involved a fair bit of work from a farm consultant in consultation with the farmer. The outcome was a whole farm plan.

Robert says he has a loose group of whole farm planners and they compare how they are all progressing implementing the plans under the Horizons Regional Council Sustainable Land Management initiative.

Robert also chaired the local Taumarunui Sustainable Land Management group, (TSLM) for the first five years. It was set up four years ago by a team of interested parties including farmers, farm consultants and AgResearch scientists to be a farmer friendly introduction to the issues surrounding sustainability.

The group believed farmers rather than regional local authorities should drive the development of more sustainable farming businesses.

The group grew to about 10 core farmers and included input from various technical and support agencies including AgResearch, Department of Conservation and Horizons Regional Council.

The rewarding aspect of being involved in the group for Robert was seeing some of the stigma attached to sustainability become less frightening for farmers. In most cases it is just the expression of what is already occurring.

The main output there was to develop a template for farm sustainability assessment and we also carried out a social project to determine measures of Social Sustainability. The latter he comments is a very woolly subject.

The two projects were funded by MAF under the SFF.( Sustainable Farming Fund )

TSLM is now off on a journey of discovery with Tony Rhodes, a large project looking at how Sheep and Beef farms can envelope the carbon question into daily operation.

As well as all the normal farm operations, Robert has developed a timber business from the ground up. We have grown the trees, now we are on a voyage of how do we extract value from these trees in a continuously sustainable manner?

Robert was at Meat & Wool when they funded a project aimed at raising ewe efficiency and production.

FlockMaster is a Meat & Wool New Zealand initiative which AgResearch and PGG Wrightson will deliver as a learning and support programme designed to help sheep farmers improve productivity and lambing percentages.

The idea was that there wasnt a single recipe for best practice but instead the best idea was to do analysis for each farm, recognising the practical experience of the farmers present and drawing on that.

Based around a half-day workshop, farmers come away with FlockMaster computer software that can be used to gauge flock performance based on a few simple inputs like scanning percentage, ewe live weight and estimated number of dries. Participants were to reflect on where they are now, and identify opportunities and the appropriate action for their farm.

The idea was that while there have been huge gains in ewe efficiency over the last 15 years, farmers need to become more efficient in order to meet the challenges of the international market-place.