DairyNZ project drives change on Canterbury farmers
15 May 2020
A DairyNZ project in Selwyn and Hinds is helping dairy farmers significantly reduce nitrogen losses on farms, while maintaining profitability.
DairyNZ is two years into a five-year levy-funded project working with 50 partner farms to continue improving farmer practices on both partner farms and other Selwyn and Hinds dairy farms, through adopting new practices to reduce nitrogen loss.
A recent assessment of 210 farms in these catchments found all farms had changed their practices and the vast majority were on track to achieve targets set by the regional council.
“The most common actions farmers reported taking were changing their irrigation system or management (94 percent of farms), improving effluent systems or management (90 percent) and reducing nitrogen fertiliser use (80 percent),” said project lead Virginia Serra.
“They also reported taking other actions including changing stocking rates, adopting low nitrogen feeds like fodder beet or plantain, and using catch crops after winter crop grazing to harness available nitrogen for plant growth.”
In total, 40 percent of farms interviewed achieved an A grade through the independent farm environment plan auditing process. 54 percent of farms achieved a B grade, four percent received a C grade and two percent were waiting for audits.
The project’s focus is on supporting partner farms. DairyNZ and the partner farms also host field days and discussion groups to share knowledge with other local farmers, along with workshops for rural professionals.
“It’s very exciting to see changes across so many farms,” says Ms Serra. “A lot of information sharing is taking place and there is a huge commitment by farmers to make changes on-farm.”
69 percent of farmers assessed in Selwyn and Hinds had attended a DairyNZ organised event which discussed ways to improve environmental management.
In Selwyn Waihora zone, dairy farmers need to reduce their nitrogen losses by 30 percent by 2022. In Hinds, dairy farmers have a series of staged targets, requiring farmers to reduce nitrogen losses by 15 percent by 2025 and 36 percent by 2035.
“Positively, the assessments found that 85 percent of farmers had a plan in place to meet these targets,” says Ms Serra.
Ms Serra says dairy farmers across New Zealand will benefit from the Selwyn Hinds project work.
“Many of the changes made by farmers to reduce their nitrogen losses in Selwyn and Hinds can be applied by farmers in other regions and potentially reduce their on-farm costs.”
The work in Selwyn and Hinds is an example of the dairy milksolids levy at work.
This month, dairy farmer levy payers are encouraged to vote on the milksolids levy which funds industry good body, DairyNZ. Voting closes May 30. Farmers can visit www.dairynz.co.nz/vote to vote or for more information.