A Southland farmer believes careful planning is the key to mitigating potential risks of grazing livestock on fodder crops during the winter.
Winter grazing has been in the spotlight in recent years with bad examples of this being highlighted in the media resulting in a major move to get farmers to adopt better management practices when managing stock grazing crops.
Fiona Young, Environment Southland's land and water services manager, says last year the regional council overflew farms and they were encouraged to do it again by the farming community. She says they recognise that it is a really positive way to reinforce what needs to happen or to highlight potential problems before they happen.
"That early intervention is important and I think that farmers really appreciate that. We are trying to identify any problems in terms of when stock that are put on those crops and any issues that could likely lead to a breach of the current rules. There are rules around management practices, such as those in relation to buffer zones and critical source areas, so we are strongly encouraging farmers to take not of that," she says.
Young says they are also looking at winter grazing from a risk management point of view and looking at where winter crops are now being grown and if they may pose a problem later on in winter.
This year there have been two flights which have taken in the Oreti and Mataura areas. Young says from the council's perspective, they feel positive that people have taken heed of what they need to do when setting up their paddocks.
"Last year we noticed a real step up with the flights and that has continued this year. There are still a number of farms we have concerns about and we have made contact with these individual to provide them with some good advice," she says.
Young says winter grazing is an important topic from a regulatory point of view and it's really important from a community point of view. She says they are just working collaboratively with all parties to get the good outcomes required.
DairyNZ's Tony Finch says the results of the fly-overs are very pleasing and he says it's great that farmers are recognising the issues, doing a better job and are focused on the season ahead.
"What we are seeing is good management practice being implemented on farms," he says.
Finch says the upsurge in compliance is due in part to the collaboration between Beef+Lamb NZ, DairyNZ and Environment Southland. He says in all his time with DairyNZ he's never seen such a high level of collaboration between the groups that he's seeing now.
"There has been absolute consistency in the messaging. We are all singing from the same hymn sheet and in terms of messaging, we have all been involved in bringing the research and tools together. As a consequence, there is very little if any mixed messaging. It's all been about what good management practice looks like for winter grazing," he says.
But he points out that it is still early days and there is no reason to be complacent about the good news so far.
Meanwhile MPI, MFE, councils and industry groups have launched an on-line tool aimed at helping farmers better manage winter grazing.
According to Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, the module is part of a range of practical support measures being rolled out to help farmers achieve immediate improvements in intensive winter grazing practices to benefit freshwater quality and animal welfare.
"The module contains a template that farmers can use to develop a plan to manage their intensive winter grazing activities, if they don't already have one."
"Farmers with existing plans need to update them to reflect the expectations set in this module," says Damien O'Connor.
Finch says there are a number of tools available for farmers which will provide recommendations and guidelines. He says both Beef+Lamb NZ and DairyNZ have options available for farmers.
"We just want farmers to pick he module that suits them best and do it," he says.