Hawke’s Bay deer farmers M&S sustainability champions

Hawke’s Bay deer farmers and Federated Farmers members, Tim Aitken and Lucy Robertshawe, are Marks & Spencer 2012 Farming for the Future Champion of Champions.

“Marks & Spencer is a globally recognised brand which epitomises quality and environmental sustainability. This is huge for us, for the FirstLight Foods group which sells our product to Marks & Spencer, our industry and for New Zealand agriculture.

“Having been judged by the company and its customers as the most sustainable farm of five finalists, representing Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England is a huge endorsement of the farming systems and philosophies we have developed over the years.

“Our on-farm environmental activities started in 1995 when we fenced off and covenanted a seven hectare block of native trees. Since then we have fenced off around five percent of our farm, including protecting and enhancing three wetland areas, planting thousands of native plants and trees along the way.

“The judges were impressed with our animal health management, which uses nutrition where possible to minimise drench and vaccine use.

“The Aitken Weaning Technique is a development we are especially proud of, which has been taken up throughout the deer industry.

“This works with the animals’ instincts to wait for their mother, allowing them to process the separation quietly rather than injuring themselves and cutting up pasture. Since we discovered this, the industry is estimated to have saved about $1.2 million a year in losses and damage at weaning time.

“Lucy and I were already very proud of what we have achieved on our farm, but receiving this level of recognition from British consumers is a huge confidence boost,” Mr Aitken concluded.

Federated Farmers President Bruce Wills said Tim and Lucy were excellent examples of Kiwi farmers leading the way on sustainable farming.

“The Marks & Spencer Farming for the Future award recognises farmers for how well they treat their livestock, their technical excellence as farmers and their overall environmental performance. Winning the overall award ahead of the four British finalists is a huge endorsement of Tim and Lucy’s farming systems and of the esteem New Zealand agriculture is held in internationally,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

“Tim and Lucy had already won the title of Marks & Spencer’s best international supplier against more than 50 entries.

“Having the technical aspects of their business being judged was one thing, but winning the champion of champions award showed these people and their business really won the hearts and minds of a discerning British public who supported them in the popular vote.

“Federated Farmers is proud to have this couple as members and we encourage all New Zealand farmers to follow their example, lead the world in innovative animal welfare and environmental management and to enter into awards to let the world see the great work we are doing,” Mr Wills concluded.

To win the international category in competition with more than 50 suppliers from all around the world was an achievement in itself.

To win the overall champion’s title when competing against UK section winners English farmer Bill Cowperthwaite, Scottish farmer Gary Jamieson, Nigel McMullen from Ireland and Welsh farmer David Phillips; in a popular vote is even more notable.

Jon Morgan writes about the win here.

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