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Environment Canterbury Supporting Industry Winter Grazing Initiatives

With Canterbury farmers facing a challenging winter, Environment Canterbury is supporting industry initiatives to ensure farmers follow good winter grazing practice and if needed, seek advice as early as possible.

“Winter grazing can be a significant environmental issue if not well managed, and can be an issue for cattle, sheep and deer farmers. Done poorly, winter grazing can result in elevated nitrate leaching, sediment run-off, phosphorus contamination, and increased bacterial levels in water bodies. There can also be animal welfare issues,” Environment Canterbury Chief Operating Officer Nadeine Dommisse says.

“Drought conditions are widespread in Canterbury, particularly in the north of the region, and delays de-stocking prior to winter due to Covid-19 have impacted on winter feed supplies, compounding the challenges farmers are facing. We’ve worked alongside industry groups in developing support programmes, as we’re just as keen as industry to ensure farmers are able to follow good practice and know where to get help if they need it.

“Farming sector groups are very aware of the issue and have provided support and clear guidance to farmers on best practice winter grazing including dairy discussion groups and online platforms. It’s great to see the considerable industry-based support available to assist farmers, and we would strongly encourage any farmers struggling with winter grazing to seek advice to ensure they can operate successfully while remaining within the rules.”

Environment Canterbury has implemented some of the strictest land use rules anywhere in New Zealand requiring farmers to manage a range of environmental issues, including those caused by winter grazing. The inclusion of winter forage crop grazing in the Government’s announcements on Action for Healthy Waterways reflects the significance of this issue nationally, Nadeine Dommisse says.

“Farmers, the industry and Environment Canterbury are all committed to good environmental outcomes. We can’t use adverse conditions as a reason to lower necessary standards, but we may consider adverse conditions in any response to a rule breach, from education through to enforcement and prosecution. Environment Canterbury has already allowed for delays in completing compliance tasks due to the Covid-19 lockdown,” Nadeine Dommisse says.

Environment Canterbury rules require Good Management Practice on winter grazing to be implemented on all farms, including having vegetative buffers between any winter grazing and waterways – usually a minimum of five metres. Buffers around critical source areas, as well as paddock selection, strategic grazing, and post-grazing paddock management all need to be carefully considered and planned for.

The Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP) puts limits around discharges of sediment and contaminants to waterways, strict restrictions on stock access to rivers, lakes, wetlands and drains, and contains consent to farm requirements regulating winter grazing.

Farms that require a land-use consent to farm need to prepare and implement a Farm Environment Plan (FEP), which is regularly audited, to manage environmental risks including those associated with intensive winter grazing. As part of their FEP, farmers need to plan how they are carrying out winter grazing to ensure they can meet requirements throughout the season.

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