Dairy forum focuses on farmers' environmental goals
Dairy farmers’ contribution to the environment is the key focus at the 2023 Dairy Environment Leaders (DEL) forum, currently on in Wellington.
Dairy Environment Leaders network chair Melissa Slattery says the annual forum enables the sector to plan for change. “Change is a constant in the agricultural sector and it’s important DEL farmers have the opportunity to connect and plan how we will continue to support environmental progress in our communities.
“The forum is an opportunity for us to come together, share our stories and experiences and help build our environmental leadership around New Zealand," she says. "We can then support our communities and continue to help other farmers understand that role and incorporate environmental work into their farm systems. That’s why DEL is so important.”
The DEL network was created by farmers and DairyNZ about 14 years ago. It is a farmer-led programme and now has more than 300 members around New Zealand. “Farmers have a role to play in protecting the environment,” Melissa says. “Now more than ever, the sector needs us to lead the way for the benefit of our sector and for New Zealand.”
This year’s forum programme includes a panel of long-standing DELs - Phill Everest, Donna Cram, Stu Muir and Corrigan Sowman - looking at the successes and highlights of the network throughout the years. This includes supporting their communities and learning from - and being inspired - by other farmers.
DairyNZ general manager sustainable dairy, Dr David Burger, says DEL has a vision of environmental stewardship – famer-led practical change across individual farms, catchments and regions.
“It’s about supporting farmers through their change journey and influencing government and regional leaders to help ensure there’s practical policy in place.
“A lot has been achieved as a result of all this great work. It’s now widely recognised that catchment groups are the way forward for meaningful change. Thanks to all the work farmers have already been doing, the dairy sector is progressing well along the environmental change journey.”
The sector is committed to improving water quality outcomes and farmers continue to make significant positive progress in reducing environmental footprint.
“There is still work to be done and DairyNZ has an extensive range of initiatives underway to improve water quality,” says Dr Burger.
This includes researching mitigation tools such as constructed wetlands on farms, to treat contaminants before they enter waterways. DairyNZ also works with research organisations to identify water quality issues at a catchment level and uses science to prioritise on-farm actions that lead to significant improvements.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without DairyNZ support,” Melissa says.
Improving water quality is a priority for the wider dairy sector, too. Through the Dairy Tomorrow strategy, the sector is committed to protecting and nurturing the environment for future generations. As part of this commitment, dairy sector partners are supporting farmers to develop farm environmental plans to improve water quality outcomes. As a result of this initiative, more than 5000 dairy farmers now have a farm plan which include specific actions to address local environmental risks.
For more information about the dairy sector’s commitment to improving water quality please visit dairytomorrow.co.nz