Winter Grazing New Zealand

Key Winter Grazing Information


 Key Consultation Documents

 Consultation: Opportunities to engage -Freshwater farm plans, stock exclusion (low slope map) & intensive winter grazing

Useful Video, Slides and Q&A from the IWG Rural Professional Webinar

 IWG Report to Minister Parker - 1 August 2021

 Consultation Documents out now: Freshwater Farm Plan and Stock Exclusion Low Slope Map 

 Winter Grazing Groups 2021

 Expectations and Opportunities

→ Joint Approach to Winter Grazing Guidance Continues in Southland

→ Using Satellite Imagery to Determine the Extent of Winter Grazed Land

→ Achieving Good Animal Welfare Outcomes in Winter Grazing

→ Aparima, Southland: Farmer Survey 

Critical Source Area Management is Key

How Do You Become the Trusted Source of Information?

NZARM's Role in Intensive Winter Grazing

Winter Grazing Newsletter - We want to hear from you

Key Consultation Documents 

Please see below the links to the documents related to consultation in freshwater farm plans, IWG and stock exlcusion:

Freshwater Farm Plan Discussion Document

Freshwater Farm Plan Discussion Document Summary

Stock Exclusion: Proposed changes to the low slope map document

Interactive stock exclusion map

Intensive Winter Grazing Discussion Document

Intensive Winter Grazing Discussion Document Summary

Consultation: Opportunities to engage-  Freshwater farm plans, stock exclusion (low slope map) & intensive winter grazing

Public Webinar Freshwater Farm Plans, Stock Exclusion and Intensive Winter Grazing

The Ministry for Primary Industries and Ministry for the Environment are offering a virtual workshop for the public to help people further understand more about the consultations before you provide feedback.

The workshop will give an overview of the proposed freshwater farm plan system, the changes to low slope maps and intensive winter grazing as well as providing you the opportunity to submit questions.

When: Monday 20 September, 2021

Time: 7PM – 8:30PM

Topic: Freshwater Farm Plans, Stock Exclusion and Intensive Winter Grazing pre-submission online information session

Please register in advance for this webinar:


Useful Video, Slides and Q&A from the IWG Rural Professional Webinar

Public Webinar Freshwater Farm Plans, Stock Exclusion and Intensive Winter Grazing

On Thursday 26th August in collaboration with Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers and Dairy NZ, a crop planning webinar was held to support rural professionals and rural contractors with the tools and knowledge needed to support farmers across New Zealand when it comes to them making decisions around selecting paddocks and crops for next winters forage crops. 280 people attended the call in on the day and 500 received the information afterwards.

You can find the recording from the webinar here Webinar link along with a copy of the slides here and a link to Q&A.

The key messages to from the webinar were:

  • It all starts at paddock selection
  • Making clear cultivation plans is a key to success
  • Make a plan – record it – do it - review it
  • Work with your team
  • Look after each other
  • Seek advice where unsure

The following resource has a number of useful links to help you and your team and to be able to share with farmers where you see fit. Please feel free to share this throughout your networks. Link to Winter Crop Resources.

The government has also released its proposed intensive winter grazing regulations Consultation runs for six weeks until 7 October 2021. The consultation document and online submission forms are available on the Ministry for the Environment's website

IWG Report to Minister Parker - 1 August 2021

Click the links below to view the documents presented to Minister Parker 1 August 2021.

1. Regional Council Report on Intensive Winter Grazing

2. Regional Council Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement

Announcing the publication of the Freshwater Farm Plan and Stock Exclusion Low Slope Map consultation documents to inform your submission on these two important consultations

- From MPI Freshwater Team -

Kia ora

Freshwater farm plans are a tool under the RMA that will incorporate farm-specific mitigations to improve freshwater outcomes. We are seeking feedback on many aspects of the system, including the content that will need to be in these plans, the outcomes they need to achieve, how plans could be certified, audited, and amended, as well as advice on the transition to implement these. 

Consultation documents are being made available today with public submissions accepted from 26 July until 12 September 2021.

Click here to view the Freshwater farm plans discussion document

Freshwater farm plans were introduced last year as part of the Government’s Essential Freshwater package, which aims to show material improvements to freshwater within five years and restore our waterways to health within a generation. 

Freshwater farm plans are intended to provide a practical way for farmers to meet both regionally set and nationally prescribed rules. They will be a risk-based plan which responds to the characteristics of each farm. Over time, we expect that freshwater farm plans will be increasingly relied on, reducing the need for consents and hard-and-fast rules.  

We are consulting now on how the freshwater farm plan system will be run. In the meantime, we encourage farmers to keep working through the current plans they have, or to get started now with farm planning to make the transition easier (noting there will be a phased implementation).

We are also asking for feedback on the stock exclusion low slope maps via a separate discussion document also available for review today with public submissions accepted from 26 July until 12 September 2021.

Feedback is being sought on:  

·       A different mapping approach called ‘local terrain averaging’ 

·       Altitude limits and removing tussock and depleted grassland from the map   

·       The balance between using the low slope map and freshwater farm plans for identifying areas for stock exclusion.  

Click here to view the Stock Exclusion discussion document

The consultation will include meetings with farmers, agricultural sector groups, iwi and Māori, councils, and environmental groups. An online feedback portal will be available throughout the consultation period to allow for feedback to be posted at any time.

It is vital that as many people and groups have their say and provide feedback on either one or both discussion documents. Everyone’s feedback will be carefully considered, and we expect the outcomes to be released later this year.  

The Government is listening to, and helping farmers and growers as shown already by the work with the sector on He Waka Eke Noa, integrated farm planning and ensuring farmers are using the best practices for intensive winter grazing.  

Click here to view all the consultation documents

The online submission forms will be available when the consultation opens on the Ministry for the Environment website in the have your say section.   

Submissions platform open 26 July - 12 September 2021

Winter Grazing Groups: June 2021

Significant effort has gone into supporting and responding to winter grazing challenges in 2021. The below infographic is a basic guide to the major groups involved in NZ wide winter grazing activities.

If you know of other groups, or feel the groups outlined below have a different purpose we would like to hear from you.

Expectations and Opportunities

In March, the Government deferred the introduction of IWG practice regulations for one year - until May 2022. While most of the permitted activity (PA) rules were deferred, the interim intensification rules remained in place. From March, two high level expectations were made to the regional council and farming sectors in relation to parts of the IWG provisions of the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater (NES-F) being deferred. These were:

→ Support improvement practice during the year by rapidly deploying an IWG module for inclusion in certified freshwater farm plans (FW-FP); and

→ Undertake increased monitoring and reporting to ensure measurable improvements in practice during the year.

Regional Requirements 

The above expectations relate to the IWG component of the NES-F. However, in many cases there are existing rules around wintering practices. Farmers undertaking IWG practices should check in with their regional council to see what the current expectations are. As a handy guide, DairyNZ has summarised the new rules in ‘Action for Healthy Waterways’ alongside current regional council rules. Anyone can find their region in the list and check out the existing requirements, click here. Regional councils are also working through the details of what increased monitoring and reporting requirements look like for this year. The expectations outlined to them in March were to:

→ Undertake increased monitoring and reporting to ensure there are measurable improvements in IWG practices during the year

→ Carry out more monitoring of winter grazing practices and take compliance action against breaches of the law.

→ More effective monitoring by councils of receiving environments such as rivers and estuaries to show if their health is improving, i.e. whether significantly less sediment and other contaminants are ending up in them.

→ Monitor the total hectares in IWG, and enforcement of the rule against the area in winter grazing increasing on any one farm.

→ Quarterly progress reporting to the Environment Minister on the above points through Environment Southland (and other councils as appropriate), i.e. on 1 August and 1 November 2021, and 1 February and 1 May 2022.

Improving practice and the deployment of an ‘Intensive Winter Grazing Module'

The expectation is that regional councils and industry bodies work together with farmers to implement and deliver positive change on the ground through an IWG module. The expectations post deferral of the NES-F rules are that IWG module roll out includes:

→ Improve IWG practice during the year by rapidly deploying IWG modules in line with the MfE and MPI module, for inclusion in the certified FW-FP regime currently under development.

→ Demonstrable and early progress in deploying the IWG module.

→ Farmers putting in place better practices such as providing appropriate buffers that are uncultivated and ungrazed around waterways and critical source areas, as recommended in the Southland Advisory Group report; and retiring steeper slopes that are unsuitable for IWG.

At this stage the IWG regulations enter into force from 1 May 2022. Officials are currently reviewing the PA standards for IWG and will provide recommendations to Ministers on whether any further changes will be required. 

From May 2022, farmers will have the option of undertaking IWG through a certified FW-FP as an alternative to complying with the default permitted activity pathway in the regulations, or obtaining resource consent. It is important to note that the FW-FP system is forecast to go operational in the early part of 2022 and due to the time needed for FW-FP roll out, not all farmers will be able to use this pathway when the rules are reapplied.


As outlined above, many regional events are being undertaken to help drive good practice. In Southland, staff from MPI and Environment Southland will be proactively visiting farms that may pose animal welfare or water quality risks to ensure they have effective plans in place to manage IWG, especially during periods of heavy rain. A hotline (0800 FARMING), which is supported by industry and councils, is being provided as an opportunity for the community to give feedback on the IWG practices that they see. People with concerns about animal welfare are encouraged to call MPI’s animal welfare hotline on 0800 00 83 33. 

Joint Approach to Winter Grazing Guidance Continues in Southland

Environment Southland is taking to the skies alongside stakeholder organisations in July to keep an eye on winter grazing practices in the region.

The regional council has scheduled its first aerial compliance inspection of the winter grazing season for 7 July. Three flights will cover large amounts of Southland by helicopter, with each flight having a key stakeholder onboard including MPI, Southland District Council and DairyNZ/Beef+Lamb NZ.

After two aerial paddock checks of preparation for winter grazing in April, the council’s land sustainability team were encouraged by the amount of good practice and planning they witnessed. Most farmers appeared to have planned well and are prepared for winter, but the recent wet weather would have tested that preparation, so it was important to continue to keep a close eye on the situation. The compliance team will follow up on any issues identified during the aerial inspection.

The aerial inspection continues the joint approach to tackle winter grazing issues by Environment Southland, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers, MfE and MPI, which was developed in 2020.


Using Satellite Imagery to Determine the Extent of Winter Grazing Land 

In 2014, Environment Southland commissioned Manaaki Whenua (Landcare Research) to produce a map of livestock forage areas for the Southland Region using time-series satellite images. They analysed agricultural land (approximately 1 million hectares) and found over 70,000 ha were specifically mapped as winter livestock forage (6.7% of the mapped agricultural area). This was done using a combination of forage-crop spectral signature (a certain type of light that is emitted from objects) and the distinctive temporal pattern (i.e. IWG is usually vegetated in autumn, then bare in spring). A further 55,000 ha (5.2%) also had this temporal pattern, but had a spectral signature of pasture or other vegetation. The latter category is often associated with winter forage paddocks, but can also be caused by other non-forage land uses such as spring pasture renewal, so these areas were termed ‘likely forage’. In a further 8.6% of the mapped agricultural area, the imagery was insufficient to conclude whether the land use was winter forage.

Of the 331 paddocks identified in Environment Southland’s field data as forage, 95% (314 paddocks) were classified by Manaaki Whenua’s method into the ‘specific’ and ‘likely’ forage categories. Of the 43 paddocks identified by Environment Southland as non-forage land uses, 77% (33 paddocks) were correctly classified as such by this method.  They further found that classification does not appear to be affected greatly by hilly terrain, as similar accuracies were obtained for the paddocks that Environment Southland recorded as being gentle, moderate or steep in gradient.

Manaaki Whenua states that this method of winter forage mapping has been successful at regional scale, with good accuracy levels. The image dataset was strongly affected by cloud, and an image-set with less cloud cover would have allowed for a simpler mapping method, and likely higher accuracies.  Future winter forage mapping would be improved if image coverage in May was included to aid identification of these paddocks.

Above figure: Southland Region, 2014 – Example enlarged maps of agricultural land under winter livestock forage crops, plus other non-forage land.

Achieving Good Animal Welfare Outcomes in Winter Grazing

Winter Grazing Action Group

The Winter Grazing Action Group, established in early 2020, is made up of 15 representatives from industry organisations, government, vets, farmers, and other rural professionals. It's tasked with implementing the recommendations of the Winter Grazing Taskforce to improve animal welfare.

Read the Taskforce report and recommendation here: Final report and recommendations – released 25 November 2019

The key deliverable from the Action Group has been the Short-term expected outcomes for animal welfare document which sets out good practice for animal welfare during winter. This document:

  • Will help farmers understand what they’re doing well
  • Highlights where improvements can be made
  • Offers advice around planning during the year
  • Has some important winter grazing management practices.

Read the document here: Short-term expected outcomes for animal welfare.

In March 2021 The Action Group provided a progress report to Minister O’Connor which can be read here: WGAG March 2021 progress report.

See for all animal welfare winter grazing information.

Animal Welfare Requirements

New Zealand’s animal welfare legislation, the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (the Act), requires people who are responsible for animals to ensure that their animals’ physical, health and behavioural needs are met, and that any pain or distress being suffered by ill or injured animals under their care is alleviated.  Failure to meet these requirements is an offence under the Act.

Information about how people can meet their obligations is contained in codes of welfare which are issued under the Act.  Codes of welfare contain minimum standards and recommendations for best practice for different animals in different situations. They have been developed following an extensive process of public consultation. Failure to meet a minimum standard in a code of welfare is not directly enforceable but can be used as evidence to support a prosecution for an offence under the Act.  A person who is charged with an offence under the Act can defend him/herself by showing that he/she has equalled or exceeded the minimum standards.

The recommended best practices shown in the codes set out standards of care and conduct, over and above the minimum required to meet the obligations in the Act. 

The three codes which apply to pastoral species are:

  1. Dairy Cattle
  2. Sheep and Beef Cattle
  3. Deer

All codes of welfare are publicly available on the MPI website:

Contact or phone 0800 00 83 33 if you have any questions about the Act or codes of welfare.

Aparima, Southland: Farmer Survey 

Project summary

In 2020, a farmer benchmarking survey was commissioned by Environment Southland, Beef + Lamb NZ, and DairyNZ. The project surveyed farmers in the Aparima Freshwater Management unit in Southland and investigated current the uptake of farm plans and the good farming practices being implemented by farmers. The survey did include questions about winter grazing practices. The idea of the survey was to track farming practice change over time as a result of the Aparima Community Environment project, with the idea that change is measured over time.

The outcome of these surveys is to measure how increased education about good environmental practices affects on-farm behaviour. Overall, 151 responses were captured across a range of farm types. Figure 6 describes the distribution of farm types.

Above Figure - The distribution of land use types involved in the 2020 survey.

Key findings: Farm Environment Plans

Four out of five of the farms surveyed have a Farm Environment Plan and were implementing the plan. This is a 23% increase from 2019.

→ There wasn’t a significant difference between farm types when it came to having a plan. Dairy farmers were slightly more likely to have a Farm Environment Plan (81%) than sheep and beef farmers (76%).

→ Two-thirds of farmers were confident in the actions they were taking to achieve their environmental obligations.

→ One-third of farmers are not confident in their actions or don’t know where to start. 25% were taking action but weren’t sure if they were on the right track.

Key findings: winter grazing good practice

→​ There are early indicators that the number of farmers understanding the importance of paddock selection – for example selecting paddocks with lower slopes, fewer Critical Source Areas (CSAs), and not cultivating CSAs – is increasing. Soil testing of wintering paddocks was an area where farmers could be better supported to understand why this is important.

→​ Winter grazing practices are consistent between 2019 and 2020 data capture. Farmers feel they are slightly more likely to use directional grazing and portable troughs.

Key findings: the relationship between winter grazing good practice and farm plans

 → The implementation of winter grazing practices is influenced by whether the farm has a Farm Environment Plan (FEP).

→ Those who have FEPs are more likely to implement GMP compared to those without FEPs.

→ Use of FEPs is increasing.

→ Confidence in meeting environmental obligations is high.

→ Farmers with FEPs are more likely to use grass buffers around waterways, soil test wintering paddocks, not cultivate CSAs and cultivate across slopes where possible

Critical Source Area Management is Key

Intensive winter grazing on forage crops is an activity with high environmental risk. Without exception, intensive winter grazing requires careful management to minimise contaminant loss to water. Extreme weather events should be expected and planned for. Research does, however, show that overland flow from intensive winter grazing is the most important pathway for contaminant loss, and that when critical source areas (CSA) of paddocks are protected, this can significantly decrease sediment and phosphorus loss. Southland Fish & Game considers that uncultivated buffer strips around waterways and critical source areas are an important management tool to minimise sediment and phosphorus loss from intensive winter grazing.

Beef+Lamb NZ also mentions the importance of managing areas that might channel overland flow (critical source areas or CSAs). They recommend creating an ungrazed (preferably uncropped) buffer zone of crop between the livestock and any waterways. Five metres is in line with the new IWG module but this should increase with slope and soil type risk. Identify areas that might channel overland flow of soil nutrients and faecal matter to water, fence these areas off during grazing to reduce the risk of contaminating waterways. If CSA’s are already planted this season, they can be grazed quickly and lightly when soil and weather conditions allow.


How Do You Become the Trusted Source of Information.... When People are Skipping Official Channels and Going Straight to Social Media?

Social media is increasingly becoming the place people go to for their news and information. Campaigners are taking full advantage of this by posting photos and videos that support their message.

In Southland, photos and footage of seemingly poor intensive winter grazing have once again hit the spotlight via social media and generated comments from Environment Southland councillors and several media enquiries.

The council communications team worked with their councillors to provide a response which included their concerns that social media doesn't always provide the full picture, and photos can sometimes be misleading. Environment Southland Councillor McCallum said, “It’s important that we as a council we respond to these things in a factual and engaging way, as stories on social media can take on a life of their own relatively quickly. I would encourage anyone who sees something they're concerned about environmentally to get in touch with Environment Southland directly. The team can assess it and provide advice or take things further if that's needed. Provide as much information as you can to the team including locations.”

Environment Southland’s approach to social media

Monitor - Environment Southland monitors social media closely, and watches for themes. These themes can be used for factual messaging on the council’s Facebook page. Council also regularly receives incident reports through the Facebook page or through Messenger. These are logged through the compliance team as with any other incident report.

Timely responses – If a question is posed on the Environment Southland page or through messenger, acknowledge and then respond as soon as information available.

Choose your battles - The council doesn’t respond directly to social media posts on other pages because it begs the question ‘why’ for some people. Often others will step in and correct misinformation without Council getting involved. You don’t have to respond directly, or on the same platform – Consider the other channels that get to your audience with factual messages, eg. newspapers, blogs, official Facebook page.

Upskill and prepare your people – Staff and councillors need to be prepared with key messages when they’re out and about.

Stick to the facts, and stick to your area of expertise – Working with other agencies helps. Environment Southland isn’t responsible for animal welfare issues, but works with MPI to ensure complaints go to the right place.

Repeat your key messages – This helps to ensure Environment Southland is seen as the official source for environmental concerns. During winter grazing, these messages are about reporting complaints, process for investigations and outcomes and continuing to encourage farmers to implement good practice and plan for poor weather.

NZARM's Role in Intensive Winter Grazing

Significant support is available for farmers who need help improving their intensive winter grazing practices (IWG). Change is needed to ensure environmental and animal welfare outcomes are being met. 

To help support the uptake of good practice, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Ministry for the Environment (MfE)and the regional sector have appointed the New Zealand Association of Resource Management (NZARM) to coordinate wintering efforts in 2021. NZARM is an independent not for profit organisation that supports environmental good practice in the fields of land, water and catchment management.

The scope of this project is to provide support and coordination to the various organisations involved in IWG and to establish connections and facilitate communication between stakeholders. The role will help support the delivery of continuous improvements in IWG. To help achieve this, the scope for the coordinator role is expected to be dynamic to adapt to the changing needs of organisations working to improve IWG. 

Matt Highway has been assigned by NZARM as the person with the responsibility to deliver the coordination role. Matt is available at: and 0277024378. Access to IWG resources and to sign up for this newsletter see:

Winter Grazing Newsletter - We want to hear from you

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read the wintering newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive future editions directly please enter your details at:

Let us know what you would like to hear more of or if you have an article you would like included. Please contact Matt directly on or 027 702 4378.

Do you have a query about NZARM? Contact us here

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