Drystock

What would an exemplary dry stock farm in Northland look like? This farm would be designed and developed to minimise emissions and optimise soil health.

1. Erodible land is protected

Agriculture has transformed the New Zealand. This article from the Ministry for the Environment outlines the diverse forces that have shaped the landscape. Government policy has been a crude instrument. For example, subsidies in the 1970s and early 1980s led to the clearance of land unsuitable for pastoral farming.

This map from StatsNZ reveals  spine of highly erodible land in the Northland peninsula. This is where you will find a lot of dry stock farms. You don’t have to drive far to see erosion throughout the region. When eroded soil is exposed, soil organic matter is lost with loss of topsoil.

Northland erosion

Erosion control is a major focus for the Northland Regional Council and will remain so as concerns about climate change increase. Part of the solution will be to change land use on erosion prone pastoral land. This MPI document explores the impacts of climate change on erosion.

2. Breeds of stock are appropriate for the landscape and soils

As climate pressures increase, we need a better match between stock species or breed and soil conditions. Beef and Lamb provide Environment Plans for farms. So far four regions are covered, but there is no plan for Northland yet. The website still has good resources under the Rest of New Zealand section.

3. Production is diversified

Northland has diverse soil types and one farm can have a several different soil types. Combined with other environmental factors this creates diverse niches. Working from a land use capability lens, farmers can change land use to both generate new income streams and reduce emissions and soil carbon losses.

What would an exemplary dry stock farm in Northland look like? This farm would be designed and developed to minimise emissions and optimise soil health.

4. Pasture is diversified

Doug Avery’s experience in Marlborough demonstrates the benefits of pasture diversification. This video illustrates his use of lucerne. Northland is different, but our pastures appear to rely heavily on traditional grasses. Where are the exceptions?

Here is an old article about lucerne in the Auckland district.

5. It is run organically

This quote from an FAO report captures the essence of organic farming – and that essence is about the soil and related practices. The benefits of organic farming have been articulated for some decades, but with the advent of climate change concerns organic agriculture becomes even more important.

There are many explanations and definitions for organic agriculture but all converge to state that it is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. It is a system that begins to consider potential environmental and social impacts by eliminating the use of synthetic inputs, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, veterinary drugs, genetically modified seeds and breeds, preservatives, additives and irradiation. These are replaced with site-specific management practices that maintain and increase long-term soil fertility and prevent pest and diseases. (FAO)

The nomenclature of organic farming can be confusing, but ultimately the names don’t matter so much. Biological, or organic, or resilient, or biodynamic – as long as the farming methods deliver the benefits of building the soil carbon bank and eliminating the use of toxic and synthetic chemicals.

6. Energy use is sustainable

Farms require energy sources and transport. Ideally energy will be renewable. Each farm will have a mix of opportunities to utilise wind, sun or water to harness power. Electric vehicles will soon be more affordable than their petrol or diesel alternatives. Alternatives for heavier machinery may take longer to be viable.

7. Waterways are protected

Northland’s farmers are working hard to protect waterways. In addition to riparian planting, the practices outlined above will enhance water quality.

Questions

  • How many dry stock farmers are farming organically in Northland?
  • What are best practices that build soil carbon?
  • Where are the examples of farms diversifying pasture including fodder trees?
  • Where are the examples of farmers diversifying income streams?

 

 

 

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