Southland Winners

Redcliff sheep, beef and dairy support farmers Shane Gibbons and Bridget Speight

Southland BFEA Supreme Winners

Shane Gibbons and Bridget Speight


Redcliff sheep, beef and dairy support farmers Shane Gibbons and Bridget Speight are the Supreme Winners of the 2016 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

Shane and Bridget’s appreciation of their environment clearly runs deep. The couple have owned their flat to moderate hill property since 2000, however, this is where Bridget grew up and is part of what was once Redcliff Station, purchased by her great-grandfather Charles Speight from 1918.

The couple left Central Otago where Shane was shepherding and Bridget woolclassing in 1993 to manage Redcliff Station for Bridget’s parents Bill and Hilda. In 1996 the Redcliff hill country was sold; Shane and Bridget now farm the remainder, along with 120ha of long term lease adjacent. They have two children, Jack (18) and Janey (13). Says Bridget: “With family support we were given a wonderful opportunity.”

Continuing to steward the land entrusted to them is obviously a high priority. The award judges noted this, writing, “Whare Creek is a very tidy and productive unit while at the same time particular care has been taken not to encroach on areas of environmental importance.”

Last year they wintered 14,578su at a ratio of 72 percent sheep, 20 percent beef and 8 percent of their own young dairy stock. These ratios do not include the 200 dairy cows they winter for six weeks from their 183ha South Otago dairy unit, ‘Tablelands’.

The Manapouri hydro dam project in the 1970s “sowed the seed” for environmental awareness for Bill says Bridget. “He fought hard to save Lake Manapouri.” Remarkably Bill sold 110ha of wetland to Fish and Game New Zealand for 10 cents in 1977. This was covenanted in 1984. Between 2000 and 2006 Shane and Bridget worked with the Waiau Trust swapping wetland for farmland to enable the creation of the 278ha Rakatu Wetlands. The couple have also excluded stock from a 17ha hill face which contains natural springs.

Two staff are employed and both Shane and Bridget have a hands-on involvement with the farm and development. Collaboration with local pig hunters to put a hot wire at snout level on the boundary fence has been successful in keeping wild pigs in the forestry next door, and off the farm pasture. The judges were impressed with this, and that fencing of riparian areas was now 95 percent complete.

The 8,700 ewes are Romney; their rams come from Rawahi Stud. Lambing over the last three years averaged 147 percent. Traditionally Whare Creek had an annual on-farm lamb sale, however, encouraged by the maturation of the development work undertaken, the introduction of cocksfoot and fescue to combat grass grub pasture damage and the establishment of lucerne, the couple had their first season last year finishing all lambs.

They run 300 beef cows and 90 heifers. Their bulls are Earnscleugh Station ‘Stabiliser’. A composite described by Shane as “crossbreeding with simplicity” for them. “The growth rates are really good. We keep all our calves through winter and use our steers as trading stock, giving us flexibility if it gets dry in the summer.”

Shane and Bridget use Ruddenklau Consultancy to guide them through soil fertility and nutrient management decisions, following the Albrecht system. This was a decision they made seven years ago following in-depth soil nutrient analysis prompted by a desire for healthy balance and more informed spending of their fertiliser budget.

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