Ten North Island Federated Farmers provincial presidents, board members Ian Mackenzie and Anders Crofoot and Federated Farmers national president Bruce Wills met in Taumarunui over Easter to discuss how hill country farmers can viably manage their unique environmental challenges. This is in line with the Federation’s initiative to be proactive in regard to environmental stewardship.
“New Zealand’s hill country farmers are exploring effective ways to play their part in environmental stewardship. This meeting was a response to their interest. It was an opportunity to see the issues these farmers face first hand and get ideas rolling on what can feasibly be done,” Federated Farmers water spokesperson Ian Mackenzie said.
“For hill country farms the big challenge is around land stability and erosion. In low-land farming there has been a lot of emphasis on fencing off waterways and riparian planting. In many hill country situations, however, the practicalities of steep gullies, flash flooding ripping apart fences and other farm infrastructure and invasive noxious weeds means it is impractical to fence all waterways.
“We have seen one of the best ways to keep cattle out of a waterway is to provide shade trees, giving them the option to keep cool away from waterways. Planting trees, or even just trimming up regenerating totara or kanuka, also provides valuable slope stabilisation, one of the biggest environmental and financial problems facing hill country farmers.
“We also discussed ways to mitigate the effects of stock crossings in creeks. One practical suggestion is already successfully used on many farms; laying concrete sleepers in frequent crossing points to prevent creek bed disturbance and sediment loss when cattle and all terrain vehicles pass through.
“Using readily available tools, such as Beef & Lamb’s Land and Environment Plans for self assessment could give farmers a good understanding of their land use, whether they are farming intensively or extensively and where they need to concentrate their environmental investment.
“On a 1000 hectare (ha) property, it may be the 20 ha used intensively to over-winter dairy stock that needs most attention, while strategically placed tree plantings for stabilisation and stock shade are the only steps needed on the remaining 980 ha.
“Another constructive suggestion was asking government for special depreciation rate on capital expenditure for environmental stewardship.
“The meeting highlighted there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for hill country farms which have unique terrain, climate and land use combinations. However, New Zealand’s hill country farmers have a deserved reputation of practical innovation and Federated Farmers is keen to support them in finding environmental solutions to individual situations,” Mr Mackenzie concluded.