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Managing farm’s water a juggling act

Managing farm’s water a juggling act
Janet Schultz’s plan for water diversion is complicated by having not one but four rivers to manage.

Janet Schultz farms 87 effective from 103 hectares in Inglewood, with a 34 hectare run-off two kilometres down the road to support the home block. “My heifers graze there, my calves go up there in February, and it provides supplementary feed in winter,” says Janet.

The view up to Mount Taranaki almost makes up for the weather it brings with it. “It can be very cold,” she explains, “and when it rains like it did today we measure it in inches not centimetres.”

The high annual rainfall is a mixed blessing: the 30,000 litre rainfall tank that feeds the house never runs dry, and pastures stay reliably lush, but the sheer volume of water coursing through the various creeks and rivers brings its own issues.

Four rivers flow down from the mountain to run through the home block and another two cross through the run-off.They provide the water for running the farm but their tendency to flood requires careful management. As with most farms around north Taranaki water is pumped directly from the river, in this case into two 20,000 litre holding tanks.

From there it’s pumped around the farm as required. Effluent is collected into two huge holding ponds, with the top water piped from one to the next leaving the solids behind, and eventually trickling into the river well within the current consent requirements for biochemical oxygen demand.

“The limit is 2g/m3 and the result that we send is 1.0g/m3,” explains Janet, “and also the ammonia that everyone worries about because it can kill the fish and the plants – its requirement is 0.026 g/m3 and ours is sitting at 0.0058.”

It’s so far so good on that front with the current resource consent good for another two years but then, despite being well under all the current allowed levels, Janet will no longer be able to drain into the rivers.

Janet’s relatively simple plan for water diversion is complicated by the fact that she has not one but four rivers to manage, each of which will have its own no-go zone for the treated water. “We’ve got lots of things like that to think about,” says Janet, “as do many others, and we don’t all fit into one tidy regulatory box so it’s challenging with all the new policy.”

Having just retired after two years as dairy chair for her local branch of Federated Farmers, although still on the Dairy Committee, Janet continues to work with them to inform the government as the process of formulating new policies runs its course .Janet’s 280 cows are a mix of 60% pedigree F16 Fresian herd and 40% pedigree J16 Jerseys.

They’re on target this year for 100 kgs of milk solids after 92.4 last year. “So far this years everything’s on track and the pay out is a lot better which helps make ends meet. A lot of farmers, me included, are still trying to catch up from the really bad payouts we had nearly five years ago.”

Having been widowed when she was 39 Janet brought her two children up on the farm. “Kelsey’s 28 now with an Ag-science degree and two little boys of her own. She and her husband Matt Brooks started as contract share-milkers here on the 1st of June. They’re getting $1.10 a milk solid with very limited expenses. Brody’s 26.

He did an Ag-commerce degree as well as a Bachelor of Accounting and he’s now an Ag-commerce analyst for TSB bank.”Clearly proud of her two children whether on or off farm, Janet’s also proud of the breeding pedigree she’s achieved with her bulls.

“To me I’ve hit the pinnacle of breeding with my Fresians in that I’ve ended up with bulls in the LIC and CRV Ambreed catalogues so my bulls have been used in herds throughout New Zealand.”

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