A Waikato dairy farmer and regional councillor favours education over interrogation for farm effluent management.
Stu Husband, who farms at Tauhei, near Morrinsville, says policy before the Environment Court will “put a stick in the sand” for farmers. The plan firms up current rules which Stu says are “pretty grey”.
Running 180 cows on 121ha, Stu is the Waihou Constituency member on the Waikato Regional Council.
He says the key element of the new policy is for farmers to provide 90-day storage of dairy effluent when the soils are saturated – generally May to July. “Otherwise, it would run straight into waterways.”
Working with dairy companies and other associated agencies, Stu says the council is creating a template for an effluent management plan which farmers can easily transfer to their particular operation.
While a majority are currently compliant with existing rules, Stu says at least half of the farmers in the area will need to upgrade their systems to overcome the storage issue. Options include holding ponds, tanks and bladders.
In his own farming situation, Stu spent more than $100,000 upgrading the old system. “There was an unsealed feed-pad and effluent flowed wherever it wanted to.”
Shed effluent destined for a pond overflowed because of inadequate piping – he changed it from 100mm to 300mm.
Stu also put in a sand-trap, between the shed/pad and pond, and concreted the feed-pad.
Then liquid is sprayed onto pasture monthly – except during winter – by a travelling irrigator, while the pond is stirred once-a-year by a contractor and the solid material spread onto paddocks.
Stu says Waikato Regional Council wants to help farmers upgrade systems without using costly consultants. “The days of having your head in the sand and saying you don’t know the rules are over,” says Stu. “Most ‘mum and dad’ farmers want to leave a farm better than they got it. It’s personal pride.”
Stu says the new policy will give farmers clarity and enable them to budget accordingly.
The regional council wants to have more of an education role “rather than whacking farmers with a big stick if they haven’t got it right”.
Consultation with farmers has included public meetings and mailouts. Information on Waikato Regional Council’s current guidelines and rules can be found at: