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How to know if your farm is thriving

Often when we have a headache, it's our body's way of indicating that we need to drink more water.

In the same way our bodies reflect our overall health, nature shows us what's working in our environment, and what's not.

The ecosystem of the land around us reflects what's going on in our wider environment.

- It's in the health of the soil

- The type of plants that naturally grow

- The type of insects you see

- The wildlife that live nearby...

Nature always shows us signs of how healthy and in balance it is. The key is knowing what to look for...

Of course there's no one-size-fits-all, no one indicator to rule them all - Every country, climate and farm is different. In the Otago region of New Zealand, in the South Island, ZQ growers Sarah and Willy Scurr from Tuohy's Gully know what to look for.

One sign of a healthy, balanced environment (one that's perfect for raising the best sheep and crops!) is the kārearea, New Zealand's native falcon. When the kārearea are flying high above, the Scurr's know they're on the right track.

In regenerative farming, kārearea are known as an 'indicator species'. When kārearea live on your property, it shows the land, animals and people are all working together as one.

Kārearea thrive when they have plenty of native trees to rest in, an abundance of small birds and bugs to feed on, a lack of predators like stoats and rats that might steal their eggs from their nest on the ground.

The magnificent kārearea

There's limited scientific understanding of kārearea in the alpine environment. The Parker Conservation is on the case, developing a science-backed conservation approach to learn more about how to protect them. The area where Tuohy's Gully is situated has a small population of kārearea and presents an opportunity to measure and monitor the birds and understand the ecosystem they thrive in.

Targeted observations of breeding pairs, using humans and wildlife cameras, along with leg-banding and tracking of individuals help the team gain insight into the bird's habitat and territory size; information that's critical to conservation management.

ZQ merino growers, Sarah and Willy Scurr from Tuohy's Gully

"A muster's mate and house wife's companion, the kārearea residing in the trees surrounding the Waiorau / Tuohy's Gully homesteads have been faithful friends for many Lee and Scurr generations. Often we see them high in the mountains during an Autumn muster. Dynamic, spectacular hunters, they are welcome entertainment when waiting for our sheep to mob. At the end of a Spring day while bent over preparing the working dog's tucker, a swoop from an overhead tree alerts us of their return to the lower country. The farm chooks know who's boss and take shelter in a well formed dug out. High in the Sycamore tree the kārearea pair sit, fluffed up feathers, all too familiar with the ongoings below. A passing tractor, a yard full of sheep, the barking of dogs, the shouting of children, they are as comfortable in their mountain-farm home as we are"

- ZQ Grower Sarah Scurr, Tuohy's Gully

ZQ growers are continuously learning about new ways to boost biodiversity in context to their own farm. Just like the Scurr's, growers partner with local conservation projects to help protect native species and regenerate the land for a better tomorrow. One with less headaches...

Thanks to Graham Parker and The Parker Conservation team, and Sarah and Willy at Tuohy's Gully.

Written by Rhiannon James


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