Managing your farm resources

Managing your farm resources

Dairy farmers are coming under increased pressure to improve their businesses’ environmental footprints. AbacusBio farm consultant Kevin Wilson shares his perspectives and insights.

It feels like the environmental expectations have come in a short and abrupt timeframe, but the reality is clear – intensive farming has an impact on the environment.

A report from the Ministry for the Environment showed a 69% increase in dairy cow numbers between 1994 and 2015, during which freshwater quality and biodiversity declined in some waterways. Consequently, nutrients from rural and urban waterways are a growing problem.

In general, New Zealand’s dairy industry has been very proactive in trying to turn the tide on these trends.

For instance, catchment groups around NZ are taking positive steps to educate and inform their local farmers. We have the Pathway for the Pomahaka, where New Zealand Landcare Trust and Pomahaka Farmers Water Care Group work together to support farmers as leaders, and develop strategies to meet new rules and water quality standards.

At the individual farm level, there are also good initiatives to minimise sediment and nitrogen losses from our soils.

Primarily, the focus is to encourage best management practices for farm resources, particularly:

  • nutrient management,
  • waterway management,
  • land management, and
  • water use efficiency.

Sustainable milk plans can provide a practical approach to managing these resources and offer a farm-specific action plan that outlines steps to accelerate adoption of good environmental practices.

This effort will be beneficial for farms through efficient use of resources – at the same time providing evidence of a sound farm environmental plan for future regulation changes.

For more information, visit these links:

NZ Landcare Trust - Pathway for the Pomahaka

DairyNZ - Sustainable milk plans

DairyNZ - A guide to good environmental management on dairy farms