Shawn England’s property is a standout example of the work being done by farmers throughout Taranaki to protect and enhance the environment they operate in.
“It’s a no-brainer, really, it’s just part of what you do,” says the dairy farmer. “You want to feel like you’re doing the best thing for the environment – you don’t want to see cows in waterways anymore.”
Shawn may downplay it, but the environmental protection he, wife Joanne, and his parents Paul and Susan have carried out on their award-winning South Taranaki dairy farm is substantial.
Shawn and Joanne milk 400 cows on 130 hectares across two properties at Manutahi, about 15km south of Hāwera.
Paul and Susan bought the first property more than 20 years ago, and Shawn grew up on the farm before moving away and spending eight years as a builder. He returned to take up a farming career and, in 2018, the couples formed Streamline Limited Partnership, buying the neighbouring property.
Throughout their time on the land, the family has worked to fence off and riparian plant the waterways that run through and around the properties.
“All up, we’ve now put in about 6km of fencing and fenced off about 25 hectares of land around the waterways,” Shawn says.
“We started riparian planting in 2009, initially planting about 200 native plants a year, which has now grown to 400. We are still finishing off the second property with about another 1000 plants.”
The Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) has been a key enabler of the work through its long-running Riparian Management Programme, whereby the council contracts nurseries to supply native plants to Taranaki farmers at cost price.
The Englands have also gone above and beyond, in some places riparian planting a 20m deep margin, far larger than the required 3m.
The farm’s environmental practices don’t end there, either. Dairy effluent is spread to land, reducing nitrogen usage, they bring in very little supplement feed, are conscious of keeping stock numbers at a level the land can sustain, and are focused on recycling as much farm waste as possible.
In 2019, their hard work was rewarded, when Streamline Limited Partnership received the Environmental Leadership in Dairy Farming award at the annual TRC Environmental Awards.
The farm was described as a “showcase for farming practices to protect waterways on terrace country”.
Shawn is proud of the family’s achievements, saying they are an example of the progressive mindset now prevalent across farming in the region.
“Twenty years ago people didn’t know a lot about this stuff, but I think we’re now thinking differently. Farmers are changing the way they do things and improving."
“Being clean and tidy shows you care and are passionate about what you’re doing. It also indicates your farm is running well.”
Therefore, he hopes dairy farming can continue to be a key contributor to the Taranaki economy.
“We’re well suited for dairy farming in Taranaki – it has a good climate and rainfall to grow plenty of grass.
The lifestyle here is also great for families, who really contribute to the rural communities .