Environment plans to the fore.

 Environmental Farm Plans must be part of Farm Business plans.

You don’t have to look far to see and hear dairy farmers being accused of ‘factory farming’ and spewing effluent and nutrients into waterways. Politics aside most farmers accept regulations to limit nutrient loss are coming but had hoped (and in some regions are still hoping) that pragmatic solutions would be found.

The reality is that the process will end up with the implementation of hard nutrient loss reduction targets to meet the Government’s National Standard for water quality.  This involves scientists calculating sustainable levels of nutrients at the bottom of a catchment and then allocating those allowable losses amongst the land users (dairy, other forms of farming, town and city communities). 

We have a microcosm of the impact on dairy farmers in the Lower North Island.  Plans have been approved which may require some farmers on ‘leaky nutrient farms^’ to reduce nitrogen leaching by 20 – 40% and in these cases in a very short timeframe – perhaps by as soon as 2020.  Whereas the councils had previously planned more gradual and pragmatic changes, circumstances and legal challenges have resulted in these much more difficult outcomes.

Few people could justifiably argue that change isn’t required. We at MyFarm are all for progressive change, but change which improves the environment without destroying the possibility of farming economically.

If we are honest, we are still grappling with the implications of these targets and timeframes. On the face of it the mitigation steps required (removing Nitrogen at different times of the year; lowering cow numbers, building stand off facilities) will either reduce productivity and profitability or will require investment funding perhaps without a return. Furthermore the current tools we use to measure N-loss are not robust enough to guide these decisions and don’t address the benefits of a farmer actively managing their landscape in ways that are very beneficial but are not modelled.. At the end of the day it’s going to be tough for some farmers.

Whilst we help farmers through this significant change, MyFarm Business is ensuring their environmental farm planning happens alongside their business planning.  As an example, when building effluent storage facilities we advise farmers use a design that gives the capacity to build a feedpad or standoff structure which will work with this storage in the future, rather than limiting the design to the current farm set up.

It is clear that long term plans are going to require a significant environmental component for many farms; our advice is to make sure dairy farm businesses are strong and well positioned to make the required adjustments. 

See more about MyFarm Business here