Council, industry and government leaders gathered together in Invercargill this week to discuss and agree on a joint action plan to address the wintering issues seen in Southland this year.
The industry hui, hosted by Environment Southland, included representatives from both the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry for Primary Industries, industry groups Beef + Lamb New Zealand, NZ Deer Farmers Association, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers; and organisations Open Country and Fonterra.
There was an acknowledgement from around the table that Southland needs to take ownership of this issue, and that change on the ground to winter practice is crucial if we are to see improvement next season.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s chairman Andrew Morrison said farmers don’t want to feel the same way next year or in future years. He recognised that the scrutiny on farmers’ wintering practices this year had highlighted problems and that those around the table needed to take these messages back to their farmers.
Environment Southland has completed three flights to inspect winter grazing practices and has 145 farms to follow-up. Of the farms seen from these flights, there was a disappointing lack of good management practices being applied across the board.
The group is now developing a plan with both short and long-term actions. The focus for the next six weeks would be on talking with farmers about paddock selection and managing swales or critical source areas on-farm for winter next year. The group agreed that getting all farms to good management practices was critical.
Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the hui was a positive step forward and it is important to have the commitment from those around the table to work together to ensure there is a significant improvement in wintering practices. "We know the regulation around these practices is changing both from our own plan, but also from Central Government. For these groups and Southland farmers, now's the time to look at and update your farm plans, share these with your teams, and get advice. Change is required."
"We need to see good management practices in next year's winter grazing. Both Environment Southland and the Ministry for Primary Industries will be looking for this next winter."
The group also acknowledged that while the focus of this hui was on the environmental aspects of winter grazing, farmers also need to ensure they meet the animal welfare code of practice.
The hui identified several longer-term initiatives including a need for coordinated local leadership and better understanding of the barriers to adopting good management practices.
The group will meet again in the next two weeks to discuss and review the action plan.