Pāmu (formerly Landcorp) has committed to significant reductions in the effects of intensive winter grazing (IWG) over the next three years, that will see nil winter crop on many of the company’s properties.
“Addressing the impacts of IWG is an issue that Pāmu continues to be very focused on, and we are pleased with the improvements made to IWG over the last few years,” Pāmu Chairman Warren Parker (pictured below) said.
“While we still have work to do, IWG of crops is already well below the maximum levels that would require a resource consent under the proposed Fresh Water reforms, with less than 3% of our total land area having IWG status at any one time,” Dr Parker said.
“However, we see scientifically sound ways to further improve the outcomes from IWG and have a target to make a further 30% reduction in our already low level of IWG by 2023 overall. We will be especially focussed on the most climatically challenging areas for pasture-only farming and will be seeking a 55% reduction in the use of intensively grazed winter crops area on the West Coast by 2023, Canterbury by 60% and our Otago farms by 35%. This represents significant reductions cross all three regions. Our planning indicates these are financially viable and practical targets for our farms.”
“An important part of this improvement will be supporting our staff with the knowledge and tools to make the changes. They have done a fabulous job to date and we are confident in their ability to achieve these next gains.
“It is unrealistic to expect New Zealand farmers to eliminate IWG when the strength of our farming systems is outdoors controlled grazing of pastures. Those advocating this do not understand how pastoral farming systems work. The recent taskforce on IWG chartered a pragmatic way forward for the sector.
“Just as our farms adjusted to the elimination of Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE) in 2017, we are making ongoing changes now to significantly reduce the effects of IWG. We are using technology to support better selection of areas for crops, putting in buffer strips and avoiding high risk areas to reduce nutrient and sediment run-off. Winter crops play an important role in ensuring feed supply is available to animals where pasture growing conditions are slow, and as part of pasture renewal programmes. Nevertheless, we achieved a 12.5% reduction in winter cropping over the last two years (2018 – 2020), and we have plans to further reduce this area by 2023.”
Dr Parker said the company has implemented a range of initiatives that have helped reduce the effects of IWG already.
“This has included the building of a composting barn on one of our Southland farms, and the development of support tools, including a phone app to help our farm managers make smart choices with respect to paddocks, crop species and grazing. We have made this app available to the wider farming community and are keen to learn more from the experience of other farmers and latest science trials, especially catch crops to reduce areas of bare soil,” Dr Parker said.
Pāmu is reviewing all of the properties and regions where it uses winter cropping and will look to implement changes in the 2020/21 and 21/22 seasons that will see some farms in some areas reduce to zero winter crop.
Dr Parker says the company has always ensured independent verification of the company’s animal welfare practices, including grazing practices.
“Over the last two years Pāmu have engaged a visionary vet group involving the SPCA, the NZ Vet Association, and leading vets to help guide our care of our animals.
“Across all our properties audits take place where Vets check various animal welfare metrics and report up to Pāmu management if any issues are raised. We also meet independent GAP certification programmes to supply European and other markets.
“None of our farmers want their animals experiencing prolonged muddy conditions without dry rest areas, but extreme weather events over which we do not have full control can sometimes conspire against even the best IWG plans,” Dr Parker said.
Winter grazing (including wintering on crops) is used in New Zealand pastoral farming systems to ensure animals have access to feed at a time of the year when pasture growth is limited, and pasture management of wetter areas of the farm is challenging.