Delegates raise many issues during summit
About 400 international dairy farmers converged on the Waikato to discuss environmental issues and look at how New Zealand farmers are managing them.
Delegates from the World Dairy Summit, visited Environment Waikato chairman Peter Buckley’s 103-hectare dairy unit and DairyNZ’s Scott Farm.
Analysts have predicted growth in New Zealand dairy production will slow to less than two per cent a year heading towards 2019 as water and environmental issues hit the industry.
Topics debated included New Zealand’s stocking ratios per hectare and regulations determining nutrient management, waterways management, subsidies and factory farming.
Delegates were interested in how Mr Buckley balanced being a regulator, in his role with the council, and being a farmer.
He said a decision to move from milking 3.5 cows a hectare to milking 2.4 while still increasing production, was an illustration of how good environmental management of farms could yield results.
‘‘We went from 268 cows to 180 and we still lifted production.’’
Some delegates, particularly from Europe, believed their environmental standards were higher and more stringent.
‘‘In Holland, one farmer said he couldn’t milk any more than a certain number of cows per hectare or he had to get new resource consent and export the additional waste off his farm,’’ Mr Buckley said.
He said many of the Europeans were interested in how New Zealand farmers stayed profitable without subsidies.
There was also a feeling that factory farming practices adopted overseas, where animals were farmed indoors, had more environmental benefits than the New Zealand system, he said.
‘‘Some felt it was a better way to control waste and manage the animals but I’m looking at our herd here and I think we have happier cows,’’ Mr Buckley said. DairyNZ chief scientist Eric Hillerton said it was a great opportunity to show the delegates the issues New Zealand dairy farmers faced and what was being done to deal with them.
Mr Buckley’s farm borders wetlands of international significance. ‘‘It’s about how sustainable farming can be productive, increasing milk production and reducing greenhouse gases,’’ he said.