Is NZ’S cow population at maximum?
As the rural community’s heartbeat pulsed at Fieldays 2017, calls to cull cow numbers fell on deaf ears.
The nation’s herd has doubled in the past two decades. Statistics New Zealand counted 6.49 million cows in 2015.
A recent report has propped up those who want our animal stock shrunk for environmental concerns, though a method of doing so is unclear.
Both sides of the fence largely agree we don’t need another million cows.
Greens co-leader James Shaw, who attended Fieldays on Wednesday, backed a March report by Uk-based Vivid Economics which recommended a 20-35 per cent reduction in pastoral animals to meet New Zealand’s carbon neutral 2050 promise.
His preference is through economic incentives for farmers that foster a value-over-volume industry.
Government has a role to play here, he said, but how the Green Party intends to reduce cow numbers is yet to be determined.
‘‘There is some stuff that’s cooking for the campaign,’’ Shaw said.
At the Forest and Bird New Zealand stall, central North Island co-ordinator Rebecca Stirnemann said the country was beyond peak cow.
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett firmly contrasted this in her speech to the Fieldays crowd on Wednesday, saying National will not consider a ‘‘lazy and totally ignorant cow quota’’.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the debate about reducing cow numbers had been misconstrued.
‘‘We don’t want the heavy hand of Wellington deciding whether there should be cows or sheep milking or goats or bull beef or alpacas or onions or potatoes. That’s something that the regional councils should administer and, by and large, they do a good job.’’
Guy did acknowledge some catchments were stretched.
‘‘That’s where science needs to provide that information through the regional councils, and then they determine what those individual nitrogen loads should be in those individual catchments.’’
Dairy New Zealand spokeswoman Vanessa Winning agreed it was a catchment-by-catchment issue.
‘‘No one wants to see cow numbers double. The solution we’re trying to solve is the nutrient load across the land.’’
She said some catchments were stretched by current cow numbers and said the Waikato is one area where ‘‘mitigation’’ is needed.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw said his preference was to reduce cow numbers through economic incentives.
NZ’S cow herd has doubled in the last 20 years.