Farmers keen for solutions that benefit farm management and the environment

The effluent management system is hands off so frees up staff for other activities.
ILLYA MCLELLAN/FAIRFAX NZ

The effluent management system is hands off so frees up staff for other activities.

Groups advocating for waste management innovations on dairy farms say they are are a positive step toward redevelopment and sustainability of the New Zealand environment.

Greater Wellington Regional Council, Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and Sustainable Wairarapa are cooperating to develop sustainable outcomes for Wairarapa that will have national implications.

A field day was held at Keith Finlayson's Pirinoa dairy farm on Thursday to showcase a new dairy effluent system that helps manage waste, reducing farm costs and lifting water quality on the farm and in surrounding areas.

Dr Praat addresses the gathering at the field day at Pirinoa.
ILLYA MCLELLAN/FAIRFAX NZ

Dr Praat addresses the gathering at the field day at Pirinoa.

Finlayson, who has a 500-cow dairy farm over a 193-hectare area, said the system he installed was a headache at first because of the cost involved, but over time he realised it had many benefits.

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"The system has enabled filter and storage of a lot of water for longer periods, which lessens worry about our ability to manage high rainfall. It also enables a reduction of fertiliser bills and also reduces nutrient loss to water," he said.

Having a larger water storage lessened worry about capacity and enabled the farm to store water easily until the dry season.
ILLYA MCLELLAN/FAIRFAX NZ

Having a larger water storage lessened worry about capacity and enabled the farm to store water easily until the dry season.

"It is a hands-off system so doesn't take up the time of staff who can do other activities."

Dr John-Paul Praat is a sustainable land management expert helping Sustainable Wairarapa, the regional council and MPI to develop practical solutions for farmers.

Many farmers were keen to come up with ways to improve farm management and the environment, he said.

Dr Praat said the enthusiasm and willingness of farmers has been encouraging.
ILLYA MCLELLAN/FAIRFAX NZ

Dr Praat said the enthusiasm and willingness of farmers has been encouraging.

Awareness has improved over the past few years but it is often farmers, who are more financially secure, and who can develop and maintain good effluent management systems.

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"There are economic factors that come into play. When the milk solids price dropped a few years ago farmers were suddenly in a position where they were worried about survival and dropped out of sustainability projects, he said.

"There is a willingness there, though, in the farming community to improve the situation, which is sometimes lost on the general public and in media coverage."

Andrew Stewart, of Sustainable Wairarapa, said there has been a shift toward greater awareness in the farming sector about the issue of water quality in rural areas.

There are farmers who are doing things to improve their effluent management systems, which have benefits for the environment. A lot of positive things happening on farms goes unreported and unnoticed, he said. 

"There is a long way to go, but there are encouraging signs that change is happening. Sustainable Wairarapa is supportive of this project that encourages farmers sharing information about innovations being implemented on farms," he said.

"Farmers like to hear other farmers' experience of an innovation or change and how it has benefited their farm and made a difference."

 - Stuff

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