Wednesday, July 6, 2022

New Zealand ‘risking reputation’

The New Zealand dairy industry is risking its “clean and green” reputation by destroying the environment and the nutritional value of its milk with the heavy use of nitrogen (N), American soil scientist Dr Arden Anderson says. He believes biological farming can overcome the health and environmental degradation the conventional farming system is creating.

“The risk right now to NZ dairying is your international reputation, which has been based on the belief system that you’re a grass-based dairy industry, which in the past you were,” he told a course in Taupo in February.  

“But you’ve become more Americanised, feeding more supplements and cranking up your N. Your use of N has gone up 600% in the last 20 years. As a result your environment is more polluted.”

Potentially NZ had the best environment in the world to produce the best-quality milk, but farmers had to get better nutrition into the soil with a calcium-based grass system, as opposed to a urea-based system, he said.

“I think there are some serious problems with NZ milk. You have DCD in the milk, which is an antibiotic, you are putting a lot of Rumensin in the feed, which is an antibiotic, and you’re putting a lot of N in the feed.  

“The N levels in your milk are two to three times what they are in the US.”

Antibiotics in milk meant people drinking it found it disrupted their gut flora and they became more resistant to antibiotics, he said.

“We’re running out of antibiotics to be able to control human illnesses because of all the antibiotics used in agriculture. To improve the health of our patients, we need to improve agriculture.”

Options

With increased debt levels, low milk prices and lower profit margins, farmers were looking for other options because the conventional system wasn’t working for them, he said.

“They’re observing farmers who started this (biological farming) five years ago who have been getting great successes.”

Anderson said biological farmers in Canterbury had reduced their N-leaching levels because they’d built up the humus in their soils.

“They’ve got better-quality pastures, they’re not having the leaching, they’re not using as much N, they’re getting higher quantity of drymatter (DM), better animal health and more profit.”

Biological farming focuses on re-establishing mineral balance and enhancing beneficial microbiology in the soil by making calcium and trace elements available and supporting microbial diversity, which leads to a rapid increase in humus.

About 200,000ha is farmed under biological principles in NZ.

Anderson said farmers were going to war every day against nature, when they should be using it as an ally.

“Biological farming works and it works better than the conventional system.”

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