|Carbon Positive Farming
with Peter Burton
Functional Fertiliser Ltd
In the last 60 years, walk through cowsheds have been replaced by step-ups, then herringbones, and now rotaries. And robots!
Fifty dairy cows used to be an economic family farm in the 1960s, and in the 1970s a 150-cow unit was regarded as the maximum that could be managed by a single person with casual labour in spring.
Change, whether we like it or not, is ongoing and it is the speed at which it happens that can take it from invigorating to unsettling, however Kiwis, particularly Kiwi farmers, take it their stride and emerge stronger and more resilient as a result.
Pushing back against enforced change is not only important, it’s essential as it provides time to fully examine the immediate and future benefits ensuring resources are well utilised.
Pastoral farmers historically and currently enjoy a somewhat privileged position in this country because the money earned from the sale of meat and milk related products significantly lifts the standard of living of every New Zealander.
But could that be about to change? Sometimes change is forced on us by things that are near impossible to envisage and the changes that have taken place in the tourism industry in the last nine months is a case in point.
Visiting overseas tourists, we were told, contributed considerably to our economy, however the money that Kiwis spend on their overseas trips was not factored in and it appears that they may cancel each other out.
Instead of Queenstown, Wanaka, Rotorua and other tourism hotspots dying as many expected, they have flourished and there is no indication currently that the situation will change.
Behavioural change can also occur when most of the population decide something different is required, and the speed of change can be astonishingly rapid.
The demise of plastic bags happened almost overnight with hardly a dissenting voice; peer pressure can be extraordinarily powerful.
Is it too far-fetched to suggest that our lakes, rivers and pristine water may take priority over the income from intensive pastoral farming in the minds of the majority?
Farm owners around Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti have already accepted a government buy out even though there was no compelling evidence that farming was the major contributor to regular algal blooms.
The de-intensification of pastoral farming won’t happen overnight. One farmer politician described the process as death by a thousand cuts, and that will take time. Market returns will have to escalate to compensate for lower volume and that won’t happen immediately.
Farmers can front foot the inevitable tide shift and put themselves in a much stronger negotiating position by making the changes to soil fertility practises that sequester carbon markedly reducing carbon dioxide levels and greenhouse gas emissions.
The most rapid way to sequester carbon is under permanent grazed pastures, the science is clear, however nitrogen needs to be fixed by clovers to reduce nitrate-N losses sufficiently.
Annual pasture production increases as essential changes to grazing management are implemented. Although these changes may initially seem to be onerous, as the benefits to total farm performance become apparent they soon become standard practice.
Pastures containing more protein and less nitrate naturally result in increased milk solid production and more rapid weight gain in rapidly growing animals.
Weed and pest pressure decreases and the requirement for regular pasture renewal diminishes as pastures with a strong clover base naturally move from lower to higher fertility species.
The data necessary to support these claims has been painstakingly collected over the last twenty years and there is a steadily increasing client base keen to share their experiences.
For more information call Peter on: 0800 843 809.