Letter: Action needed

Last updated 12:04 26/11/2013

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OPINION: In Friday's editorial, you expressed hope for a few eureka moments from agricultural researchers, presumably hoping for some ''having our cake and eating it'' scenario where we can significantly reduce nutrient loss from our dairy farming systems while still remaining profitable.

In reality, we already have much of this knowledge available; what is lacking is the political will to require implementation.

As the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright suggests, getting cows off the land over winter, particularly in Southland, is one of the best options.

Yes, this requires investment in infrastructure rather than a ''rough'' runoff block where soils can be abused for the winter. However, as some of Southland's leading dairy farmers have recognised, benefits of indoor wintering such as improved stock and soil health and extended milk production can justify the costs, even before considering the environmental benefits.

There is also growing evidence that farms with lower cow densities can be equally profitable.

Greater animal health and longevity, better in-calf rates and greater per-cow productivity means they're as profitable as a much more intensive operation, while having less effluent to deal with, less supplementary feed to buy-in and less impact on the environment.

They are also much less reliant on artificial urea synthesised from petrochemicals.

In the past, some have used the call for science and technology as a way to forestall change.

However, now that we have some of the answers, and they're relatively simple, it's time for the industry to implement, otherwise Environment Southland will be forced to stop further conversions sooner rather than later.

If not, the Southland community will have to accept passing on the legacy of toxic rivers.

ZANE MOSS
Operations manager
Southland Region Fish & Game New Zealand

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