Feds & Fonterra on intensive dairy plans

Federated Farmers has made a very measured response to the news farmers in the Mackenzie Basin are seeking resource consent for intensive dairy operations under which cows will be housed inside from March to October.

Feds president Don Nicolson says the farmers have the right to apply for consent and warns that tighter local authority rules may lead other farmers to look at similar operations:

“I think we need to take a deep breath here.  These are only applications and as such, they have to go through the full resource consent process.  I think it’s safe to say we’re going to have a very helpful debate,” . . . 

“From what I see, it’s a European style of agriculture being applied to a European style of climate.  The MacKenzie Basin supports rapid grass growth over summer but also has harsh winters.

“Yet it’s the right of every single landowner to make an application and let due process test the validity of that application.  Listening to some of the comments, especially from the Greens, makes me wonder when did we become a dictatorship?

“The Greens can’t have it both ways.  They wish to see pastoral free-range farming controlled, yet oppose applications that are fairly much as controlled as you can get.

“Also, given the increasing trend towards council micro management of farming we are seeing in Horizons’ proposed One Plan, a lot of farmers will be following these applications with interest. 

It is possible that what the applicants are proposing will have a lesser impact on the environment than free range dairying because they’ll have much greater control of the effluent.

. . . “This style of closed cycle farming means effluent can, for example, be put into bio-digesters with the resulting biogas used to power the farm offsetting farm animal emissions.  Surplus energy could be sold into the national grid and all the while, nutrient loss is minimised.  

“This is what the emissions trading scheme is meant to encourage, isn’t it?

“Diluted cow effluent also contains vital nutrients that can be recycled back into pasture over the summer months to support grass growth, which further reduces the need for fertiliser. 

That doesn’t get around concerns about what the proposed operations might do for New Zealand’s free-range branding.

Fonterra milk supply manager Tim Deane said the company had “real concerns” about the environmental sustainability of stall-based farming.

New Zealand had been showcased as an example of a country using free-range systems by the World SPCA, he said.

“We will be watching carefully to see if the farms are able to comply with the regulations governing animal welfare and sustainable land use.”

Deane said Fonterra was comfortable with dairy-farming techniques that supported pasture-based farming, such as feed pads and supplementary feeding.

“We don’t believe stall-based farming of this type is consistent with New Zealand’s reputation as a source of dairy products from substantially grass-fed cows.”

As I said in yesterday’s post, the ability to graze stock outside is our natural advantage and it’s the cheapest way to convert grass to protein.

Concerns over animal welfare have also been raised but I don’t think they have any foundation.

Federated Farmers dairy vice-chairman Willy Leferink said  . . . “For these cubicles to work, the cows need to perform at the top end of their ability and they only do that if they’re given a very desirable environment.

“They just shut up shop otherwise.”

Quite, happy cows feed well and produce lots of milk, unhappy cows don’t.

5 Responses to Feds & Fonterra on intensive dairy plans

  1. Andrei says:

    Very good – in the old days Governments and Councils would have encouraged such developments – they might fail but again they might not.

    Logically there is no risk to the people in general just the the people putting up the money. Conversely if successful all benefit if the proposal is a winner.

    However in todays world the naysayers and pessimists rule and Governments, Local and National are obstacles to any development the noisy minority disapprove.

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  2. If Fonterra is really worried about effects on the brand, does anything force them to buy milk from the new outfit? Surely Fonterra could then continue advertising that it buys only pastoral milk.

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  3. StephenR says:

    Eric, from a commenter at frogblog:

    Tim Deane from Fonterra was on the radio this morning. Apparently Fonterra cannot legally refuse to collect milk produced in their collection area. It was one of the conditions of them having monopoly power.

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  4. @StephenR: But surely now that Fonterra isn’t a monopoly, that reg wouldn’t still apply. Would it? Horrible reg if still in place: Fonterra would then have no reasonable way of disciplining folks like Crafar.

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  5. Richard Peacocke says:

    Fonterra utilise this farming system in China and believe it to be appropriate there, 75% of dairy farmers in Europe and USA utilise this farming system. If it is environmentally sustainable in these countries why not in that part of NZ that most closely replicates these continental climates. Having travelled widely I encounter reference only to sheep when NZ is mentioned. There is total surprise when it is advised that NZ is one of the largest exporters of dairy products in the world. This farming model works. It reduces feed requirement (30% less in winter). There is total control of effluent discharge. Wet ground, no grass growth, no spreading of effluent on ground. No urine patching (the biggest cause of nitrate leaching, methane can be collected economically and re-utilised on farm to drive plant, equipment (tractors and trucks, surplus power can be fed into the National grid, research is being undertaken to collect CO2 and Nitrous Oxide in the barns, scrub it and store it in the effluent management system. Self sustainability in emissions is potentially achievable and this system should be encouraged. The financial model works at $4.50 per kg of milk solids as cows can be milked during winter to capitalise on winter milk premium, production is 25-30% higher due to less energy expended walking to and fro and the capital cost of the stables are paid for largely by not having to send cows off farm during the 10 week winter period ($300-350 per cow including freight).
    The Greens have focused on negative by attacking this farming system as a way to get some oxygen (albeit that it answers all their environmental concerns), people are encouraged to think that free stall stables similar to pigs in crates (nonsense), 3000 submissions have been lodged against the applications on the back of the Greens generated hysteria but Environment Canterbury advise that of those who have submitted only 130 have bothered to view the applicants submissions to understand just what is proposed. I know these things because I am the project director for Southdown Holdings Ltd and Williamson Holdings Ltd, 2 of the applicants.

    I encourage all those with genuine interest to view the ECan website and in particular the Farm Environmental Management Plans of SHL, WHL and 5 Rivers prepared by Melissa Robson of GHD. Informed submissions in support are welcome

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