Del­e­gates raise many is­sues dur­ing sum­mit

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

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.

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