The future of dairy farming?
7 December 2009
The future of dairy farming?
Federated Farmers is supporting the right of farmers in the MacKenzie Basin to submit a resource consent application. It believes that ever tighter regional council and national rules may force other farmers to consider this type of farming too.
“I think we need to take a deep breath here. These are only applications and as such, they have to go through the full resource consent process. I think it’s safe to say we’re going to have a very helpful debate,” says Don Nicolson, Federated Farmers President.
“From what I see, it’s a European style of agriculture being applied to a European style of climate. The MacKenzie Basin supports rapid grass growth over summer but also has harsh winters.
“Yet it’s the right of every single landowner to make an application and let due process test the validity of that application. Listening to some of the comments, especially from the Greens, makes me wonder when did we become a dictatorship?
“The Greens can’t have it both ways. They wish to see pastoral free-range farming controlled, yet oppose applications that are fairly much as controlled as you can get.
“Also, given the increasing trend towards council micro management of farming we are seeing in Horizons’ proposed One Plan, a lot of farmers will be following these applications with interest.
“I haven’t seen the applications myself but people should be aware the European Union (EU) classes ‘organic production friendly’ milk as coming from livestock being on pasture for a minimum of 150 days each year. I understand this application is for around 121 days.
“So while the applications would not satisfy the EU’s rules for ‘organic production friendly’, they’re not far off the mark.
“EU regulations for ‘loose housed’ dairy cows require each animal to have at least 6 m² of indoor and 4.5 m² of outdoor space. Cows must also have easy access to feed and water, ventilation, freedom to move and, of course, access to pasture.
“This style of closed cycle farming means effluent can, for example, be put into bio-digesters with the resulting biogas used to power the farm offsetting farm animal emissions. Surplus energy could be sold into the national grid and all the while, nutrient loss is minimised.
“This is what the emissions trading scheme is meant to encourage, isn’t it?
“Diluted cow effluent also contains vital nutrients that can be recycled back into pasture over the summer months to support grass growth, which further reduces the need for fertiliser.
“When people see what pastoral farmers already do on-farm, they are astounded at the truckload of great things we do to minimise our environmental footprint.
“Yet outside of the farming pages you never see just how environmentally aware farmers truly are. Perhaps we’ve got a chance to change that in the debate that will follow these applications,” Mr Nicolson concluded.