Rural round-up

December 17, 2018

Climate change debate is heating up – Andrew Hoggard:

Science and practicality should underpin the climate change discussion but sometimes that’s de-railed by politics writes Federated Farmers dairy chairperson, Andrew Hoggard.

Debate about how New Zealand will honour the commitments we gave under the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming and climate change is – if you’ll excuse the pun – heating up.

In the last few months a series of weighty reports on options and forecasts have been published, notably from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), the Productivity Commission (a whopper, at 620 pages), and earlier this month from BERG (the Biological Emissions Reference Group). . . 

Tararua dairy farmers out to curb nitrate leaching and negative whispers – Sam Kilmister:

Tararua dairy farmers are turning over a new leaf to reduce their environmental footprint. 

Plantain, a common weed, is being injected into pastures to help reduce nitrogen leaching into the district’s waterways. 

The fibrous plant holds less nitrogen, meaning less passes through a cow’s system after they eat it. It also causes them to pass urine more frequently, resulting in less concentrated urine patches in a paddock.  . . 

 

More stories from on-farm :

For the last edition of Farmers Weekly we went back to some of the farmers featured in On Farm Story this year and asked them to look back on the year that’s been, and ahead to what’s in store for New Zealand agriculture.

Morrison Farming

Will Morrison is looking forward to having time to enjoy the farm scenery and healthy livestock.

What has 2018 been like for your farming business?

Seasonality for Morrison Farming feels like an increasing challenge. The consistent, well spread 1000-1200mm annual rainfall and summer-safe tag for western Rangitikei no longer feel so consistent or safe. However, prices were fantastic and financially 2018 has been one of Morrison Farming’s strongest. . . 

Richard Thompson steps down from Landcare Trust

The long-time chairman of NZ Landcare Trust and Whanganui man, Richard Thompson, has retired after 22 years on the board.

And in his place the trust has chosen its first woman chair in Fiona Gower, who is also Rural Women New Zealand national president.

Landcare Trust is an independent NGO that attempts to bring together various stakeholders to work on sustainable water and land quality. . . 

From dust bowl to productive farmland: Farmers visit Nebraska – Pat Deavoll:

A party of 25 farmers and irrigation experts has returned from Nebraska, United States, with some fresh ideas about how to improve environmental management in New Zealand.

“Nebraska was one of the states which were devastated by the dust bowl storms during the depression and farming families had to leave the land,” outgoing IrrigationNZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said, who was part of the group.

“By 1932, 750,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of farmland had been abandoned in Nebraska due to soil erosion and dust storms. . . 

 

There’s Hope for wool in art show :

Dunedin artist Hope Duncan says a wolf-shaped rug made from crossbred wool is the perfect analogy for the state of the carpet fibre industry.

The Dunedin School of Art graduate loves wool but despairs about the state of the crossbred wool sector so for her end-of-year exhibition she chose a two-piece item with a wool carpet in the shape of a wolf as an eye-catching element in a none too subtle dig at how synthetic carpet manufacturers have laid claim to wool’s natural attributes.

Duncan hopes it will provoke conversation about the attributes of wool and issues with synthetic fibres. . . 

 


Solution needs science not politics

June 15, 2017

Science will provide the answers to lowering dairy farming’s environmental footprint.

Modern, science-based farming is the way to achieve a future for New Zealand where dairy farming has a lower environmental footprint, says DairyNZ’s chief executive, Dr Tim Mackle.

His comment follows today’s announcement of the Dairy Action for Climate Change at National Fieldays 2017.

The Dairy Action for Climate Change lays down the foundation to reduce greenhouse gasses on dairy farms. The plan is spearheaded by DairyNZ, which represents all dairy farmers in New Zealand, and is in partnership with Fonterra. The plan has the support of the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Dr Mackle says dairy farmers, and the scientists working alongside them, are serious about improving the environment.

“This plan lays down the foundation for dairy’s sustained, strategic approach to a lower carbon future. We’re taking the first steps in understanding what dairy can do – in conjunction with the wider agricultural sector, plus industry and urban communities – to help meet New Zealand’s Paris Agreement emissions reduction target.

“Our farmers are already working on lowering emissions – they are used to rising to challenges, and they’re dedicated stewards of their land who want to do the right thing by the environment.”

Dr Mackle says addressing on-farm emissions – methane, which is formed when ruminant animals burp, and nitrous oxide, formed when nitrogen escapes into the atmosphere – is one of the most challenging issues facing the dairy and food producing sectors, globally and in New Zealand.

“Tackling the reduction of on-farm emissions is not going to be easy. It requires our Government and the agricultural sector to work together and, as such, the plan is an important part of a broader work programme underway.”

Fonterra’s Chief Operating Officer Farm Source, Miles Hurrell, says it is crucial to take an integrated approach to all the challenges facing dairy – from climate change and animal welfare, to the protection of waterways – and all the while maintain productivity and the profitability of dairy.

“The plan complements the environmental commitment dairy farmers have voluntarily undertaken through their work under the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord.

“Some of their work – such as tree planting, better soil management and reducing nitrogen leaching, therefore reducing the release of nitrous oxide – is already helping to address emissions. Then there are the other science-based endeavours that are well underway, like the research to breed cows that produce fewer methane emissions, and a methane inhibiting vaccine.”

Dr Mackle adds that the Dairy Action for Climate Change dovetails with the work of the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG), a joint sector and Government reference group. The BERG’s purpose is to build robust and agreed evidence on what the sector can do on-farm to reduce emissions, and to assess the costs and opportunities of doing so. The BERG’s final report in late 2017 will be necessary to inform future policy development on agricultural emissions.

“New Zealand’s agricultural output of greenhouse gas is accentuated because we have a relatively small population, and we are not heavily industrialised. In other countries where there are larger populations the greater contribution is from the transport, manufacturing, construction, and energy sectors.

“Our agricultural sector is a very efficient producer of high-quality food – food that feeds many millions, not only in our country, but also around the world.”

New Zealand is acknowledged as a world-leader for efficiently producing milk on a greenhouse gas per unit of milk basis, as identified in a 2010 report from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Dr Mackle says this position is the result of New Zealand dairy cattle being healthier and largely grass fed, unlike animals in many other agricultural countries which are fed grains and other supplements that are harvested and transported. Added to this, their animals are often housed in barns, sometimes year around, not just over the winter months.

The Dairy Action for Climate Change was launched during the opening of the 49th National Fieldays by Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett.

There is more on the DACC here.

Opposition parties and environmental activists want a substantial reduction to the national dairy herd.

That might lower New Zealand’s emissions but would add to global emissions as less efficient producers in other countries increased production to compensate for less milk from here.

We need a sustainable solution which lowers emissions here without compromising production and increasing emissions elsewhere.

That will  come from science, not politics.


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