“The new stock exclusion requirements for dairy cattle is a strong endorsement of the hard work dairy farmers have done on their farms to protect waterways,” says DairyNZ CEO Tim Mackle.
“The on-farm fencing requirements in the new rules have already been met by 97.1 percent of dairy farmers around the country, and the target by May, a month ahead of the new requirements, is to be 100 percent, with all waterways running through dairy farms will be fenced off and all stock crossings bridged,” he says.
“This means that right now very few dairy cattle have any access to waterways, and in just two months’ time no dairy cattle – that’s zero dairy cattle – should have access to waterways on our farms.”
Dr Mackle says fencing – currently 27,109 kms – is always set back a healthy distance from waterways, varying from farm to farm depending on the soil type and contour of the land.
“This ensures the optimum levels of bacteria, nutrients and sediment are filtered. Farmers also keep cows off sensitive areas in the vicinity of the fenced waterways, for example, in wet weather.”
“There’s still a way to go in some areas, and dairy farmers are well aware of that. We acknowledge that improving New Zealand waterways is a long journey, as today’s announcement recognises. The good news is dairy farmers around the country are leading the way in protecting freshwater on their farms.
“Our dairy farmers can be immensely proud of the work they are undertaking for the environment on their farms, and many are also doing work to improve their surrounding communities – and all New Zealanders, whether they are living in towns and cities, or in rural communities, can also be proud of the efforts of our dairy farmers,” says Dr Mackle.
As part of their commitment to the environment, dairy farmers are also planting vegetation along waterways, and using native plants such as manuka, cabbage trees and flaxes, as well as native grasses, that have superior ability to filter and slow run-off, he says.
“Added to this, all dairy farms now have dedicated effluent management systems with effluent ponds, just like towns around the country. Areas such as the dairy shed and yards drain directly into these systems where the effluent is stored and later used by farmers to fertilise their land.
“It’s also encouraging to see the rates of dairy effluent related prosecutions and abatement notices continuing to decline dramatically, and an improvement in overall effluent non-compliance, which is the lowest it has been in recent years.”
Over the past three years farmers have invested over $1 billion dollars in environmental protection measures, he says.
“About 70 percent of this expenditure has been on effluent systems that feature the latest technology. Farmers are also well along the way in preparing environmental management plans for their farms, working closely with environmental advisors and their local councils.”
Dr Mackle says while a number of forward-thinking farmers began environmental initiatives a decade and more ago, the actions of the past three years are recorded in the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord.
“The accord is an independently audited report. It can be seen as the commitment of every single one of New Zealand’s 14,000 dairy farmers to play their part in helping to ensure that their fellow Kiwis can enjoy cleaner freshwater.”
Full results of year three of the water accord are currently being audited and will be announced in April.
For year two water accord results click here.
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