While the hills in Central Hawkes Bay remain green, which is remarkable for this time of the year, Porangahau farmer Sam Clark and his wife Gudrun are on the lookout for drought.
Steve Lys, in Hawkes Bay, says typically sheep and beef farmers have a low environmental footprint. But they tend to get lumped in with dairy farmers and that is making them overly cautious on how they run their farms.
“Some are afraid to use any nitrogen fertiliser because of the environmental impacts that come from it, when the reality is that a small amount – say 40 units of N – would have a beneficial impact at strategic times on their properties,” Lys told Rural News.
“But they would rather not put it on because of the pressure they see on the dairy side.”
Briar Huggett, also from BLNZ, says there is a lot of misinformation about environmental issues in sheep and beef farming circles. They are subject to a lot of hearsay with reports in the media and from colleagues and get a bit panicked about the rules.
Huggett says any problems are often due to catchment differences as farmers try to work out what they need to do.
She says while most farmers on larger holdings get advice early on environmental issues, smaller landholders tend to wait until the last minute to try to sort out their compliance matters.
“It is quite hard to engage these people and I know that some people are not getting the information they need,” Huggett told Rural News. “While it may appear hard, it can be explained simply.
}It’s just the learning process and fear of the unknown.”
She says farmers suffer a lot of angst about regional council rules and the hoops they must jump through in compliance. And although many farming women play a large role in sorting out the paperwork on compliance matters, it’s important for male farmers also to be involved because to meet the new rules, practical actions have to be taken on farm.