Is NZ’S cow pop­u­la­tion at max­i­mum?

South Waikato News - - Community Cookbook - THOMAS MANCH

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.

DOMINICO ZAPATA/FAIRFAX NZ

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.

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