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The Green Light for Red Meat

30 AUGUST 2013

The Green Light for Red Meat

Many farmers are already making positive changes to protect the environment, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand Mid-Northern North Island extension manager Erica van Reenen. And, they hold real potential to trigger further environmental change.

Ms van Reenen has been researching how to increase uptake of environmental practices on sheep and beef farms.

Her project, completed as part of the Kellogg Rural Leaders course, identified barriers to uptake and investigated farmers’ thoughts on how to improve it.

“Farmers can be part of the solution,” she says.

Katikati farmer Rick Burke was one of 13 Waikato sheep and beef farmers interviewed for the project. Mr Burke has long farmed with one eye on profit and the other on the environment. He says the benefits are huge.

“We are now getting better production, increased fertility, better rotational grazing systems and not wasting fertiliser. And don’t underestimate the value it adds to a farm in terms of the vista and capital value.”

Ms van Reenen grew up on a farm and understands the critical balancing act farmers face on a daily basis. “Our long-term viability depends on looking after the resources our farms are built upon – we know that, but sometimes it seems ‘too hard’. It’s not.

“The project provides real life insights into how farmers are successfully incorporating sound environmental practices on farm – and doing so profitably and with great personal satisfaction.”

Farmer uptake of environmental practices is generally motivated by management benefits, Ms Reenen says. “But the farmers I interviewed also understood the importance of mitigating their environmental impact and wanted to do more. The primary barrier was, unsurprisingly, money.”

As well as farmers, Ms van Reenen spoke to four influential environmentalists, a Grasslands Trust trustee and an Australian ecologist – to test the farmers’ suggestions for possible ways forward.

One suggestion is a mentor scheme, which would identify farmer “environmental champions” to help other farmers improve on-farm practices.

Ms van Reenen says Beef + Lamb New Zealand is leading the way in championing environmental best practice. The industry organisation has already developed a number of tools and services to support farmers, and more are in the pipeline.


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