Thursday, 29 November 2018 09:36

Hill country's development risks and opportunities

Written by 
The project has found that farmers are increasingly using hill country forage crops and pastures to finish stock and that the increased erosion risk is being partly mitigated by farming practices. The project has found that farmers are increasingly using hill country forage crops and pastures to finish stock and that the increased erosion risk is being partly mitigated by farming practices.

Sheep and beef farmers are increasingly finishing stock on hill country forage crops and pastures, with a resultant drop in erosion risk.

But some farmers had difficulty assessing the potential environmental impact and the financial return of hill country development, due to the unpredictability of sediment loss and the costs.

This was discovered by studies done as part of the Sustainable Hill Farming Tool project (SHiFT), says Paul Hulse, of Environment Canterbury (ECan). 

The SHiFT project is to tell landowners the best ways to address these concerns, says Hulse.

“Three related studies were commissioned to better understand farmers’ hill country development practices,” he says.

“Initial interviews were held with 150 hill country farmers in Canterbury and Manawatu.  This was followed up by in-depth interviews with 16 farmers, advisors and helicopter pilots, focusing on the use of helicopters for developing hill country land. 

“And AgResearch reported on relevant research about the environmental impacts of forage cropping in hill country.”

The findings will be used to help develop a free advisory tool for farmers and advisors.

“ECan recognises that forage crops are important but they need to be managed so that sediment does not enter waterways. 

“We’re expecting the tool to identify high and low risk areas on a property, estimate the potential sediment losses and provide a reference guide... so that sediment losses to waterways and estuaries can be minimised.”

Farm consultant Dave Lucock, of The Agribusiness Group, says farmers need to be aware of the risks in developing hill country and plan to avoid or mitigate those risks.

“It is no longer acceptable to have large quantities of sediment flowing from poorly managed winter feed paddocks.” Only about 50% of farmers consider sediment loss factors before developing their hill country, he said.

“We expect this tool will help farmers... to get the best results for their farm business and the local environment.”

The AgResearch review of research into soil losses from grazed forage crops showed the importance of block selection, and smart, timely decisionmaking to avoid soil loss. It also identified some of the success factors in hill country development. 

Dr Seth Laurenson, author of the AgResearch report, says that the research review showed that management, in combination with climate, soil and slope, are important.

“The timing, duration and location of grazing animals relative to swales and gullies that act as overland flow paths is important for protecting waterways. 

“Using riparian buffers and fencing to exclude stock from streambanks are all measures that can be included in a farm environment plan and are easily adapted as part of a farmer’s good management practices.”

Using helicopters to sow and spray hill country terrain requires good advice, he said. The survey found that farmers using heli-spraying do so because it is safer and more precise than using wheeled vehicles. 

 

More like this

GE grass’s GHG solution

New Zealand forage scientists have been experimenting to discover whether a new, potentially environmentally sustainable grass will perform in the field as it has in controlled environment studies.

Reducing stress on in-lamb ewes

Most of the ewes that make up the New Zealand ewe flock are high performance animals, many of them sitting on a metabolic knife-edge as they get closer to lambing, says Ben Allot, North Canterbury Vets.

Multi-prong attack in combatting worms

Changes in a farm’s land use or policies which result in it having mostly young livestock could be disastrous in promoting the development of drench resistance.

Championing wool to the world

Telling the story of wool is one of the keys to its resurgence as the global fibre of choice, according to NZ grower owned company Wools of New Zealand.

 
 

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Quota watch

The Hound understands that Mike Petersen’s time as NZ agriculture’s special trade envoy will soon end.

What a jerk

Your old mate notes that serial whinger Mike Joy continues to put the boot into the farming sector.

» Connect with Rural News