Ongoing work by the farming sector has resulted in the Government making significant changes to make wintering rules much more practical on-farm, which is good news for farmers.
The Government announced that, following consultation and continued work with the farming sector and other stakeholders, significant changes have been made to several winter grazing requirements.
DairyNZ general manager for sustainable dairy Dr David Burger says the changes address farmer concerns that the rules were impractical and unclear and wouldn’t improve environmental or animal welfare outcomes.
“Farmers and the community both want to see improvements in winter grazing practices and farmers are committed to delivering that on farms.
“We’re pleased the Government has listened to feedback and amended the new rules so they’re practical and informed by good science, so will actually deliver better outcomes.”
But Dr Burger says DairyNZ has yet to carry out a detailed assessment of the rules and will request that the Government work with the farming sector on guidance on the new regulations.
“DairyNZ will carry out a comprehensive review of the changes to check they won’t create any issues when implemented on-farm, and will keep farmers informed of the assessment.”
DairyNZ supports the removal of pugging and resowing rules, which were some of the key changes announced by the Government.
“These were challenging for farmers to implement, for example weather conditions can delay resowing,” said Dr Burger.
“The focus on critical source areas will help protect our waterways. These areas have a higher risk of nutrient loss and avoiding cultivating and grazing these areas during winter makes sense.
“By setting 1 November 2022 for the regulations to become operative, farmers can now start planning for winter 2023. However, we also need to see further guidance from the Government on freshwater farm plan regulations, so that farmers have all the information they need to meet the new regulations.”
Dr Burger says the dairy sector has made a significant improvements in wintering practices over the past two years.
“Last season, 80 percent of dairy farmers had a wintering plan at the start of the season and 89 percent also had a contingency plan to protect their animals and the environment in bad weather.”
He says DairyNZ, the farming sector, and farmers are already planning ahead for the coming winter, and are continuing to work together to raise the standard of wintering practices.
The changes announced by Government are that:
- paddocks will need to be re-sown following winter cropping as soon as conditions allow, instead of by a fixed date.
- rules about pugging depth in paddocks have been removed and replaced with a requirement that farmers take steps to minimise the effects of pugging on freshwater.
- farmers must protect critical source areas1, by not cultivating and grazing them during the winter grazing period from May to September.
- farmers who carry out winter grazing in paddocks with slopes over 10 degrees will also need to either obtain a resource consent, or include how they will mitigate risks in their certified freshwater farm plan once these are available.
1 Critical source areas are low lying areas on farms such as gullies where water and nutrients can pool – creating a risk to water quality.