Bal­anc­ing profit and en­vi­ron­ment

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Land use and wa­ter qual­ity are likely to be the two most sig­nif­i­cant is­sues fac­ing New Zealand farm­ers over the com­ing years, par­tic­u­larly for those seek­ing to ex­pand their farm­ing op­er­a­tions.

In re­sponse, many farm­ers are ex­plor­ing al­ter­na­tive win­ter­ing sys­tem op­tions such as hous­ing sys­tems in an ef­fort to re­duce their ni­tro­gen lev­els in ground wa­ter and wa­ter­ways, and the re­sult­ing im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

But the chal­lenge, ac­cord­ing to Farm­Wise con­sul­tant Jon Ni­cholls, is bal­anc­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns while re­tain­ing prof­itabil­ity.

“Farm­ers are com­ing un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to re­duce their ni­tro­gen lev­els, but the re­al­ity is that for many this will be a strug­gle and will re­quire sig­nif­i­cant changes in man­age­ment prac­tices and sys­tems which can be costly and must be care­fully con­sid­ered be­fore any great in­vest­ment,’’ Mr Ni­cholls said.

“New Zealand farm­ers should be aware that UK and Ire­land farm­ers have come un­der sim­i­lar pres­sures in re­cent years, so we can learn from them.

“Their use of al­ter­na­tive win­ter­ing sys­tems that cap­ture all ef­flu­ent and spread it onto land are start­ing to spark in­ter­est here but it’s im­por­tant that farm­ers un­der­stand all their op­tions be­fore in­vest­ing in one of these sys­tems which have the po­ten­tial to in­crease cost of pro­duc­tion, re­duce prof­itabil­ity as well as adding com­plex­ity to a farm­ing sys­tem.”

Farm­Wise, Livestock Im­prove­ment’s (LIC’s) user-pays team of na­tion­wide farm­ing con­sul­tants, have or­gan­ised a trip to Bri­tain and Ire­land in Jan­uary 2013 to visit farms and in­ves­ti­gate al­ter­na­tive win­ter­ing sys­tems that are in use.

They’ve is­sued an in­vi­ta­tion to all dairy farm­ers who are con­sid­er­ing one of these sys­tems to join them.

“We’ve or­gan­ised a trip that will al­low farm­ers to get onto these farms and dis­cuss the pros and cons of the dif­fer­ent op­tions over there, and eval­u­ate how they could work over here.

“We’re con­fi­dent the tour will arm them with the knowl­edge they need to make more in­formed de­ci­sions for their own op­er­a­tion.”

With ex­pe­ri­enced Farm­Wise con­sul­tants Ge­orge Reve­ley and Ge­off Camp­bell as guides, the tour will ex­plore a range of pads, hous­ing, and farm­ing sys­tem set-ups and how they re­late to man­age­ment, run­ning costs, an­i­mal wel­fare, ef­flu­ent, and long-term prof­itabil­ity.

The tour in­cludes 11 farm vis­its in Birm­ing­ham, Lon­don, Dorset, Bris­tol, Cheshire, Wilt­shire and Ox­ford­shire, plus a visit to the Ir­ish Dairy Re­search Cen­tre Moorepark in Cork.

Mr Ni­cholls said meals, travel within the Bri­tain and Ire­land, and ac­com­mo­da­tion had all been or­gan­ised for the trip, and farm­ers needed only to or­gan­ise their own travel to and from Bri­tain.

He said spa­ces were lim­ited and book­ing was re­quired by the of Septem­ber.

Of­fer­ing ex­pe­ri­ence: Farm­Wise con­sul­tant Jon Ni­cholls says the chal­lenge is bal­anc­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns while re­tain­ing prof­itabil­ity.

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