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Farmers on same page as townies on environment

Kim Stewart Dec 12
Farmers on same page as townies on environment
Farmers’ confidence is harmed when they are attacked with suggestions they are intentionally damaging the environment, says Federated Farmers South Canterbury branch president Jason Grant

Jason Grant believes dairy farmers and their townie cousins are on the same page when it comes to environmental goals.The South Canterbury farmer and Federated Farmers South Canterbury branch president says, while he and his fellow dairy farmers are facing significant public pressure over environmental issues, their goals are actually the same.

“Farmers are probably naturally environmentalists at heart. They love their properties, they love the outdoors, they love the environment.”Farmers’ personal confidence is harmed when they are attacked with the suggestion they are intentionally damaging the environment, Jason says.

“That is definitely not the case.”Farmers love of what they do, and their desire to look after the land and improve it and waterways is why media push-back against them strikes a raw nerve, he says.“It has a huge impact when that perception is wrong.”

Other ongoing issues that have been challenging for dairy farmers are the fallout of the M. bovis outbreak and the Emissions Trading Scheme.“The policy around (the Emissions Trading Scheme) is a concern; it’s just another thing that’s simmering in the background.”Collectively, these issues are creating a lot of pressure, Jason says.

“It’s one of the most important industries in the country and most people are doing it because they enjoy doing it. It’s not all about dollars and cents, they enjoy the lifestyle of farming.”Also in the mix for many is Fonterra’s poor fiscal performance, but Jason is hopeful this can be turned around and that past mistakes are learned from.

Farmers on same page as townies on environmentDespite these challenges he is upbeat about the forecast payout having a mid-point of $7.05/kgMS for this season, an amount that will boost confidence in the industry and allow debt to be reduced, as well as providing extra cashflow for environmental mitigation and enhancement.

“You’ve got to be in the black to be green.”Jason and his wife Anna have two dairy units, one at Fairlie and another at Rangitata Island.

Fairlie comprises a 285ha milking platform with a herd of 1000 jerseys milked through a 54 bail rotary shed, while Rangitata Island milks 730 fresians cows on 200ha.Respectively, last season the farm’s produced 370,000kgMS and 330,000kgMS. There is a signifi cant variation between the two properties, which is the reason for having different cattle breeds.

“They’re both quite different farms; Fairlie is dry land, higher altitude, probably a bit cooler and with longer walks, is more suited to jerseys. Around Christmas time Fairlie generally goes on to once a day (milking), the jerseys are quite well suited to that.”Each farm has a contract milker, leaving Jason and Anna free to take on a managerial role.

The farms are supported by a 290ha run off wintering block at Albury.As the farms are both recent conversions they are equipped with some of the latest effluent system technology.

They operate a two pond system with about fifty days storage. This allows them the flexibility to spread when conditions are right. The Fairlie unit has a number of waterways, swamps and wetlands.

Operationally, the focus is on both farms is efficient production and attention to detail in feeding and general cow welfare, which as well as ensuring a good body condition score, includes helping them to be as productive as possible.

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