Keeping it simple better all round

Dairy farmers are being criticised for using palm oil kernel expeller.

Environmentalists are concerned about the effects of felling tropical rain forests which have been replaced by palm plantations.

There is another side to that debate.  Andrei at NZ Conservative points out the hypocrisy of criticising developing nations for doing what developed nations did for years.

However, I have some sympathy for the criticism, albeit for different reasons.

New Zealand’s natural advantage is the climate which enables us to have low cost, free range farming systems. Feed supplements like PKE increase production but they do so at a cost. That might be justified at last year’s record payout but now that the forecast payout for this season is well back it probably isn’t.

The payout goes up and down and there’s very little farmers can do about that. But we do have a fair bit of control about inputs. Keeping the cost of them down with simple systems, based on grass feeding, helps maximise profits in the good years and minimises the damage in the bad ones.

What farmers feed their cows is a business one. But sometimes what’s good for the environment is also good for business and I think less PKE might be better for both.

2 Responses to Keeping it simple better all round

  1. andrei says:

    What farmers feed their cows is a business one.

    Absolutely

    But sometimes what’s good for the environment is also good for business and I think less PKE might be better for both.

    Are you sure?

    In Indonesia and Malaysia – the source of the PKE a relatively common form of agriculture is slash and burn where a clearing is made in the jungle and crops are grown which deplete the soil. In fact the soil is depleted after only one or two years. This land is then abandoned and a new tract cleared.

    The abandoned land does not regenerate as before and may not be usable again for decades or in the worst cases hundreds of years – to use a current buzz word this is “unsustainable agriculture” writ large. Nor does it provide a good living for its practitioners.

    Realize too that soil depletion is a feature of our agriculture – mitigated by crop rotation and fertilizers.

    The way I see it is that if PKE is a good supplemental feed for cattle and if it is cheap enough to be economic then it is a win for everybody, Indonesians and New Zealanders alike.

    And that is what any debate should be about – not hysterical headlines such as:“Rainforest dies for your cattle feed, NZ farmers warned”

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  2. homepaddock says:

    I bow to your better knowledge of what goes on in Malaysia and Indonesia but stick to my doubts about adding to costs.

    Increasing production with extra supplements might make short term business sense when the payout is high, longterm we need low cost systems. I don’t think PKE is cheap enough to be economic at the current payout which is around the long term average.

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