Govt business what not how

October 30, 2017

The Green Party is sticking to its plan to reduce dairy farming:

Prior to the election, the Green Party said it would pay more than $136 million for farmers to move to more sustainable practices and if it were in government it would invest in a Sustainable Farming Fund.

Green Party leader James Shaw said a priority would be putting together a package to help farmers make the transition from dairy farming.

He said the Greens wouldn’t be pushing for a cap on the number of cows.

But Mr Shaw said dairy farmers would need help to change.

“A lot of dairy farmers are still heavily in debt from the acquisition of the land and also the conversions and also it’s a pretty difficult time when the price of milk is still somewhat depressed.

“So you know the thing we’re going to be pushing hardest on is making sure that there is a package available for farmers to help them make that transition.”

Mr Shaw said dairy farmers needed to make the transition to more sustainable methods of farming.

Setting standards for water quality is the business of government.

Dictating how that is achieved is not.

It might be that dairying isn’t appropriate in some places. But other land uses aren’t necessarily any kinder to the environment and it could be that a change in management could make dairying a better option than any other form of farming.

Dairying has got a bad reputation, some of which might be justified. But some is based on historical practices no longer in use and some on alternative facts not supported by science.

Some of the latter comes from organisations with an anti-dairying agenda.

Jamie McFadden, a member of Federated Farmers North Canterbury executive, rightly asks is our freshwater fishery really in crisis?

Last year Fish & Game sought and received approval from the Department of Conservation (DoC) to place a winter fishing ban on all North Canterbury rivers below State Highway 1.

At the time, Fish & Game claimed the North Canterbury freshwater fishery was in crisis and it was because of farming.

Both DoC and the Rural Advocacy Network have requested the evidence supporting these claims. After 18 months no evidence has been forthcoming. DoC now realise they have been misled and have said they will not renew the fishing ban unless Fish & Game provide evidence.

Earlier this year I attended a public meeting in Rangiora organised by Fish and Game where the fishing ban was discussed. I presented our submission challenging the lack of evidence behind the fishing ban, particularly for the Hurunui and Waiau rivers. A show of hands was taken and the clear majority of the 70 attendees felt the ban should not apply to these rivers. Of those who fished the Hurunui and Waiau the majority thought these were healthy fisheries. . . 

Clearly there are a range of factors affecting our freshwater fishery and increasing fishing pressure, particularly near Christchurch, is one of them.

A local fishing guide has for several years been undertaking the annual trout spawning surveys in the Waimakariri River. This year he reported better numbers than have ever been seen and some superb stream improvements by many farmers – the future is bright.

In late autumn I checked the middle reaches of the Hurunui River catchment and photographed numerous shoals of 10-20 trout. In one pool alone I counted 65 good-sized healthy trout.

A balanced report on the state of our freshwater fishery would acknowledge there are some healthy fisheries, concerns with some other fisheries and a range of factors affecting both. It is disappointing that Fish & Game has made no attempt to correct their misinformation in the media.

Many farming families are Fish & Game licence holders and enjoy the recreational opportunities our rivers provide. Farmers want to know what they need to do to fix any water quality problems they are causing.

There are many examples of farmers actively engaging in improving water quality and undertaking stream enhancements. Farmers want to work with organisations like Fish & Game but the continual attacks on farmers undermine the ability to achieve this.

We would like to see Fish & Game publicly drop the anti-farming broad brush ‘dirty dairy’ campaign, correct their misinformation in the media and develop a more constructive approach to freshwater issues.

Farmers, and others, are working to improve water quality and this report from Seven Sharp showing definite improvements in Taranaki dairy country.

Meanwhile, science is making progress with pasture species:

Research is in progress but plantain-based pastures may be useful for reducing nitrate leaching while maintaining or increasing milksolids production.

The urine patch is the major source of nitrogen loss to the environment on dairy farms and different forages can be used to reduce nitrate leaching, either by lowering the nitrogen loading in urine patches or increasing the nitrogen uptake from the urine patch.

Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL)

Research in Canterbury and Waikato the FRNL programme has found that urine-N concentration of cows grazing plantain was 56% lower than those grazing perennial ryegrass/white clover pastures, and 33% lower for cows grazing 50/50 pasture-plantain.

Within FRNL, diverse pastures that include plantain were identified as a promising tool for reducing N leaching. Modelling estimated that, at commercial scale, N leaching could be reduced by 10 and 20% when the area of the farm sown in diverse pastures was 20 and 50%, respectively. This was because of lower total urinary N excretion and lower urinary N concentration (Beukes et al. 2014; Romera et al. 2016).

Sustainability balances economic, environmental and social concerns.

Dairying generally gets ticks for its economic and social contributions and farmers and industry bodies like DairyNZ, are making good progress to address environmental concerns .

DairyNZ acting chair Barry Harris said last season saw dairy export earnings reach $13.4 billion, which is on par with the five-year average, and illustrates how well farmers have responded to the low milk prices of previous seasons.

“I see the decade ahead of us to be transformational for our sector. Never before have we had a stronger mandate for the dairy sector to concentrate on productivity – to produce more from less, and to do so sustainably,” says Barry.

“We support initiatives that incentivise farmers to use the best environmental practices. While the 2010s have been about dairy positioning itself for the changes ahead, I see the 2020s as heavily focused on making those changes.

“New Zealand’s environmental reputation, the reputation that gives us an advantage on the global market, relies on us upholding and improving our sustainability.” . . 

Thanks to good science, herd numbers can decrease while production increases.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said in 2016/17 national cow numbers fell to 4.86 million from 5 million previously, with the average herd size dropping five cows to 414.

“Yet production per cow set a new record – increasing by 9kg per cow (381kg MS/cow).” . . 

 

The government and its partners needs to stick to the what, not the how.

Good progress is being made and it will continue to be made not by political dictates but by good practice based on sound research.


Rural round-up

July 28, 2013

Macraes project praised – Dene Mackenzie:

Hopes are high the review of Oceana Gold’s operations – particularly of its Macraes gold project – will not cut deeply into the Otago economy.

Otago Chamber of Commerce president Peter McIntyre said yesterday many people in Otago were not aware that such a constructive mining sector operated within the region.

Macraes was estimated to be worth around $100 million annually to the regional economy. . .

Water collectives recommended – Sally Brooker:

Farmers need to continue with collective ventures for better water quality, Federated Farmers says.

The theme of partnership for water progress was discussed by a panel at the federation’s national conference in Ashburton on July 4. Speaking first, former Rotorua-Taupo federation president Neil Heather said collaboration produced ”powerful action”.

He outlined the gains made in cleaning up Lake Rotorua’s water pollution, saying farmers needed to become informed. . .

Fewer cows can mean better profits – Sally Brooker:

The traditional approach to determining stocking rates needs to change, DairyNZ representative Chris Glassey says.

Presenting a paper at the recent South Island Dairy Event at Lincoln University, he said incoming nitrogen limits would force change.

”The optimum stocking rate is never a constant. This paper challenges the belief that more cows means more profit.” . .

Kiwi shearers fleece British opposition in test series – Ruth Grundy:

The two-man New Zealand shearing team has won the British leg of its northern hemisphere series.

Rowland Smith, of Hastings, and Tony Coster, of Rakaia, beat Ulster at the Rickamore Shears in Ireland on July 13,notching up the third win on their four-event 2013 Elders Primary Wool United Kingdom Tour.

The pair opened the UK series a fortnight earlier with a loss to Scotland at Lochearnhead Shears but quickly bounced back with two wins over England. . .

Bee numbers on the rise – Tim Cronshaw:

Commercial bee numbers are on the rise in spite of the varroa mite disease which has plundered wild bee stocks.

Bees in managed hives were hit hard by varroa, but hive treatment has allowed them to withstand the disease and their numbers have grown as demand for honey production and pollinating crops has increased.

Registered beehives are up about 7 per cent to 450,000 from last year and rising since 2005 along with increasing numbers of registered beekeepers.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury chairman Barry Hantz said good prices for manuka honey had encouraged beekeepers to put in more hives, particularly in the North Island. . .

Didymo find ‘gutting’ – Rebecca Fox:

The battle to keep Fiordland didymo-free has been lost.

The invasive algae has been discovered in the remote Large Burn valley.

Western Fiordland was one of the ”last frontiers” to remain free of didymo in the South Island, despite it being originally discovered in the nearby Waiau River in 2004, Department of Conservation freshwater ranger Lyndsay Murray said yesterday.

”It’s pretty gutting really. It’s the first confirmed positive sample of a waterway west of the divide.” . . .


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