Farm manager Bryan Mitchell describes as brilliant the SCADAfarm systems that allow him to remotely monitor and manage the irrigation of his 300ha of leased grazing land near Kirwee.
A report on the first year of operation of the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord has been released showing there has been good progress on key environmental actions including stock exclusion from waterways, effluent and riparian management and accreditation of expert advisers.
Some of the areas identified as needing more work by the industry are nutrient management data collection, effluent compliance in some regions and data collation and verification systems across all dairy companies.
The Water Accord is a voluntary dairy industry commitment to improving water quality, led by industry body DairyNZ, the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) and dairy companies.
A broader new Water Accord was launched in July 2013 involving all dairy companies, with a number of targets and commitments across the dairy sector.
DairyNZ's environmental policy manager Dr Mike Scarsbrook compiled the One Year On report with assistance from dairy company staff and other sector bodies.
Some of the key achievements highlighted in the report include:
- Every dairy company having an assessment programme in place for new farm conversions
- Effluent assessment systems in place for farms across all dairy companies
- Stock exclusion from farm waterways across the country
- Regionally-tailored waterway planting advice for farmers
"We've made meaningful progress in our first year of operation and we'd like to thank farmers for all the work they have done. There is still a lot more to do but there are lots of examples where farmers are making a real contribution to improving water quality," he says.
"We need to put a greater focus on nutrient management data collection at the farm level and on how to benchmark and deliver useful information back to farmers. The dairy companies are going to lead a review of how we collect information across the industry to ensure we can gather more data and lift the level of reporting from farms," says Scarsbrook.
"We're going to learn from this report and keep on improving. The big focus is on getting better collation and alignment of how we collect our industry data across the dairy companies for next year's report.
"We've achieved some but not all our targets for this first year so we need to keep working on all the initiatives we have underway. We've got new EnviroReady field days for farmers, a Warrant of Fitness programme for effluent systems and 15 local projects focused on waterways. We are committed to proactive environmental stewardship," he says.