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: email@example.com and 0277024378. Access to IWG resources and to sign up for this newsletter see: https://nzarm.org.nz/wintering
Winter grazing events have been happening throughout the country with many successful events taking place in May. The below are the events proposed for June 2021 (arranged by date).
Southland - Otara Hall - 8 June - 1.30pm - South Coast Catchment group. See: Thriving Southland
Lower North Island - Ashley Clinton Hall, 358 Makaretu Road, Ashley Clinton - 9 June - 1.00pm to 3.00pm - Winter Grazing Workshop. See: DairyNZ
Southland - Hanning Rd, Invercargill. SN:31859 - 17 June - 11.00am to 2.30pm - Central Southland Wintering Event. See: DairyNZ
Southland - Otaitai Bush Road, Riverton. SN:135546 - 17 June - 1.00pm to 4.30pm - Combined Riverton and Lower Aparima Catchment Group Winter Tour. See: DairyNZ
Marlborough - The Pyramid Woolshed, 256 Avondale Road, Waihopai Valley - 17 June - 12.00pm to 5.00pm - B+LNZ Farm Plan Environment Module. See: Beef+Lamb NZ
Southland - East Chatton (venue TBC) - 23 June - 1.00pm to 4.00pm - Discussion Group Winter Tour. See: DairyNZ
In April, an intensive winter grazing (IWG) module was developed. by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Ministry for the Environment (MfE). The module was developed to help kick start IWG planning and provide a set of IWG practice expectations.
The recommendation is for all famers undertaking IWG this year to have a plan. IWG modules are the core way to undertake IWG planning, and can be accessed from MPI, DairyNZ, or Beef+Lamb NZ. Either of the below plans can be used, as long as they reflect the content of the MPI and MfE module.
MPI and MfE Winter Grazing Module - This module has been developed to help achieve immediate improvements in intensive winter grazing practices and support improved planning in 2021.
Beef and Lamb Winter Grazing Templates - A range of resources that have been tested by farmers. From an editable forage cropping template, to downloadable winter grazing paddock plan template.
DairyNZ Winter Grazing Plan. - This plan is an update for DairyNZ which now reflects MPI's wintering module.
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.
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.
Federated Farmers, Deer Industry New Zealand, DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb NZ and the Foundation for Arable Research, have put together a winter grazing checklist to help achieve good management practices. The checklist will help farmers grazing forage crops this winter assess whether they are prepared and highlight any potential gaps that need addressing.
The checklist will be supported by other new initiatives from the primary sector, such as webinars and workshops and regular information from industry bodies, which are collaborating on advice to farmers to ensure it is coordinated and consistent.
The advice is in line with the new module released by MPI and MfE recently.
The checklist was posted to thousands of rural properties in May. You can access the checklist HERE.
Horizons Regional Council has developed a paddock risk assessment app for IWG, which categorizes the risk of sediment, phosphorus and E.coli runoff from IWG areas. The app categorizes the risk as low, medium or high, depending on paddock features such as slope, drainage, stock class and proximity to waterways and critical source areas. They have also developed an IWG management plan that integrates with the app to address the identified risks through good management practices or further mitigations.
The first step for farmers in the planning process is to decide which paddocks to graze for winter. Paddock selection is not always based on risk, but on the farming systems such as the need for re-grassing, pasture renewal, weed issues, fertility or the ease of management. The tool allows farmers and rural professionals a consistent way to assess risks, and enables identification and selections of low risk paddocks to help drive good management practice when used in conjunction with the management plan.
The app: http://iwgrisk.horizons.govt.nz and the management plan can be found here: http://www.horizons.govt.nz/HRC/media/Media/Consent/052021-IWG-Management-Plan.pdf?ext=.pdf
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.
Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read this first edition of the wintering newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive future editions directly please enter your details at: https://nzarm.org.nz/wintering
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 027 702 4378.
Do you have a query about NZARM? Contact us here