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.