Monday, April 22, 2024

West Otago catchment survey shows positive results

Neal Wallace
A survey of farmers involved in a West Otago catchment group shows more than 85% of respondents have changed wintering practices over the past two years.
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The survey also revealed 71% had a paddock plan before cultivation compared to just 14% in 2019, 84% had a winter grazing strategy and 91% had a contingency plan for adverse weather.

Pomahaka Water Care Group project manager Lloyd McCall describes the result as pleasing and he was especially encouraged by the high percentage of farmers who have amended their wintering practices in the past three years.

McCall says these new practices are becoming accepted by farmers and are obvious this winter with farmers grazing paddocks from top to bottom, using portable water troughs and having a plan for when the weather turns extreme.

“It’s encouraging, there is still a way to go, but the bulk of people are making changes,” McCall said.

The Otago Regional Council and Environment Southland have both conducted aerial inspections this winter and praised farmers for their wintering practices.

Craig Simpson from NZ Landcare Trust, which supports the catchment group, says winter grazing surveys in 2019 and 2021 show a step-change in management practices.

He describes as a standout result the number of farmers planning well ahead of winter, with 71% having a pre-cultivation paddock plan compared to 14% in 2019, 84% having a winter grazing strategy and 91% a contingency plan in case of adverse weather.

“These numbers alone represent a huge shift in the way farmers are thinking about their winter practices, with farmers planning well ahead, identifying risks and putting mitigation strategies in place,” Simpson said.

That saw 94% of those surveyed leaving critical source areas uncultivated and 89% using five-metre riparian buffer zones, up from 56% in 2019.

“A total of 93% of respondents were using strategic grazing and there were also increases in the use of back fences and portable water troughs,” he said.

Simpson says the survey shows farmers will adopt good management practices in conjunction with farmer-led catchment groups in collectively owning and addressing water quality issues specific to their catchment.

“This Sustainable Farming Fund project has allowed the (Pomahaka Water Care) Group to promote good winter management practices and has been very helpful in providing support to landowners within the catchment,” he said.

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