A fresh suite of “menus” of farming practices to help protect water quality are the focus of Waikato Regional Council’s site PF19 in the main pavilion at Fieldays next month.
The menus, for the dairying, drystock and cropping sectors, stem from collaboration between Waikato Regional Council and the Upper Waikato Primary Sector Partnership.
“We started with detailed on-farm analysis of more than 60 Upper Waikato catchment farms,” said council agriculture advisor Ross Abercrombie.
“We identified what the farmers can and will do to reduce the effects of farming operations on water quality.”
That work was then enhanced by the establishment of the Upper Waikato Primary Sector Partnership, which brought together experts from the main agricultural sectors to assess a wide range of potential solutions for the whole region.
Mr Abercrombie said this collective approach has created a robust and objective assessment of the likely environmental benefits of each practice identified in the menus and the farm business implications, both positives and negatives.
“The environmental benefits are dependent on the situation, including slopes, soils, rainfall and farm system.
“Also, the individual farm business costs and benefits are dependent on the farm system, available labour, skills, debt levels and farm goals.
“No two farms are the same and the menu allows farmers to pick a spread that meets their needs and budget.”
Mr Abercrombie said the new menus included effluent-related tips for dairy farmers and also dung and urine-related tips for the drystock sector.
“The menus cover various nutrients and contaminants, and offer practical management tools for farmers and farm consultants to reduce losses from farms to waterways in a cost effective manner,” said Mr Abercrombie.
Some of the menu items specific to management of dairy shed effluent include switching to land application from a two pond discharge system, increasing land application areas and minimising effluent volumes by limiting wash water use.
Growing maize on effluent blocks, low rate effluent irrigation, and boosting storage capacity to help ensure irrigation can be done at the right time are other options listed.
The drystock menu looks at nutrient management options such as developing whole farm nutrient budgets, using phosphorus applications economically and reducing large urine spots by cutting the number of older cattle and increasing sheep-to-cattle ratios.
“Soil conservation measures such as pasture management, tree planting and riparian management are included as ways that drystock farmers can keep soil on the land and reduce sediment, nutrient and bacteria runoff into water,” said Mr Abercrombie.
To access a copy of the menus, come to site PF19 at Fieldays, visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/menus or call freephone 0800 800 401.