The New Zealand red meat sector is looking forward to 2050 by putting its best environmental foot forward with the launch yesterday of two initiatives, a new Environment Strategy for beef and sheep farmers and a new Environmental Management Code of Practice for deer farmers.
Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ)’s new blueprint to lift the environmental performance of New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector was launched at an event in Wellington.
The B+LNZ Environment Strategy lays out a progressive long-term vision for the sector based around four priority areas – healthy productive soils, thriving biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and cleaner water.
As part of the plan, B+LNZ has identified two key goals – every sheep and beef farm having a tailored and active environment plan by the end of 2021, and the sheep and beef sector as a whole moving towards net carbon neutrality by 2050.
Over the next three years, B+LNZ will roll out a range of environmental initiatives to support sheep and beef farmers. This includes establishing a Collaborative Catchment Communities programme to help communities work together to target water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, and soil health issues.
The organisation will also invest in developing a new generation farm plan that encapsulates these four priorities, develop new tools and technology, provide support and advice and undertake research.
“As a sector we have an opportunity for our sheep and beef farmers to be world-leading stewards of the natural environment and sustainable communities,” says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ.
“Sheep and beef farmers have made meaningful improvements to their environmental performance and lowering emissions and they deserve credit for these gains.
“However, farmers know there is more to be done – not just extending the good work already underway – but also taking new and diﬀerent approaches.
“This includes adopting new management techniques that better connect actions to the environmental outcomes and more on-farm monitoring and measuring that gives farmers confidence their actions are reaping benefits.
We also need to allow the wider community to better understand the contributions farmers are making.”
“This strategy has been developed in partnership with sheep and beef farmers.
“This blueprint is about supporting sheep and beef farmers to manage their properties to improve freshwater, helping them to continue to reduce emissions and provide habitats that support biodiversity and protect our native species.
“We will also be working hard to ensure land use is closely matched to soil potential and capability. That will mean soil health, carbon content and productivity will improve while minimising soil erosion and loss to water ways.
“We will equip our farmers with the knowledge, and tools to best manage their resources and make changes as required.”
B+LNZ will also use funding from the Ministry for the Environment’s Freshwater Improvement Fund to work with farmers in four priority catchments to scale up individual actions.
Andrew Morrison, chair of B+LNZ, says since the 1990s, the sheep and beef sector has made major productivity and eco-eﬃciency gains and is now producing more from less.
“We’ve reduced sheep numbers from 57.9 million to 27.6 million and beef cattle numbers have declined 23 percent.
“Absolute greenhouse gas emissions from sheep and beef farms are 30 percent below 1990 levels while the sector’s contribution to GDP has doubled to $5 billion. greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of saleable product have dropped by 40 percent and nitrate leaching per kilogram of saleable product has declined by 21 percent.
“New Zealanders are concerned about the declining natural environment and there is no question our climate is changing.
“It’s a concern shared by farmers.
“Consumers are expecting more, and disruptive technologies are challenging our existing systems and processes. But every challenge brings an opportunity and this Environment Strategy aims to turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities.
“Agriculture is inextricably linked to the natural environment, which means how we farm today will directly aﬀect what’s left for tomorrow. Our sheep and beef farmers fully understand this and are determined to be part of the solution,” says Morrison.
Deer farmers improving water quality
To keep waterways clean, deer farmers are fencing their deer out of streams and taking measures to keep valuable soil where it belongs – on the farm, growing grass.
Dr Ian Walker, chair of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ), says deer love playing in water and creating muddy wallows, so farmers have had to be creative in order to improve their farm environment.
“Many novel and practical ways to do this are detailed in our new Deer Industry Environmental Management Code of Practice,” he said.
He launched the Code – the first for a New Zealand pastoral industry – at the deer industry conference in Timaru on 16 May.
“It is intended to keep the deer industry at the forefront of efforts to improve water quality. While we strongly encourage farmers to adopt it, we won’t have to do much prodding. Most farmers are already highly motivated to have a great environment on their farms,” he said.
Walker said the NZ Deer Farmers Association (NZDFA) first published a Landcare Manual in 2004 that was updated in 2012. The new Code builds on this work.
“It draws many of its case studies from the Deer Industry Environmental Awards initiated by Fiona Lady Elworthy and the late Sir Peter Elworthy in 2000. These awards continue to throw up great examples of the work farmers are doing to improve the environment.”
Walker said much had changed in the last two decades. “While many farmers have fenced off their waterways and retired erosion-prone areas, regional councils, customers, visitors and our fellow New Zealanders want proof that we take our environmental obligations seriously.
“That means having Farm Environment Plans that show we are doing our best to protect soil and water, and ensuring streams, rivers and lakes stay clean. That’s where the new Code comes in. It provides deer farmers drafting a Plan with practical answers to the environmental challenges they face.
“We believe it is realistic to have all deer farmers operating with a Farm Environment Plan by 2020.”
David Morgan, outgoing NZDFA chair, farms deer at Raincliff Station, South Canterbury. He said the code is a “fantastic resource” that’s practical and easy to follow.
“Good environmental management goes hand in hand with good animal husbandry. Deer that are healthy, well-fed, not stressed and given the room to act like deer are a lot easier on the environment than a poorly managed herd,” he said.
“I’ve noticed on farms that are actively making changes to improve the environment that they don’t have to wait long before they start seeing results.”
Morgan said it was hard to put a price on the pride that deer farmers feel when they see a healthier stream or more bird life appearing on their property.
The lead authors of the Deer Industry Environmental Management Code of Practice 2018 were Janet Gregory (NZ Landcare Trust) and Edmund Noonan (NZDFA). It was published by DINZ as part of the Passion 2 Profit programme, the industry’s Primary Growth Partnership joint venture with the Ministry for Primary Industries.
The Code is available online at: deernz.org/environmental-management-code-practice.