Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Peel Forest takes new path

“New Direction” was the theme of a Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) and Peel Forest Estate field day attended by 150 people last month.

As well as looking at the South Canterbury property’s progress in wetland and riparian developments since winning the 2010 Ballance Farm Environment competition Livestock Farm Award, there was talk about their new three-strand venison-focused breeding direction and the $2 million battle with Johne’s that led to new knowledge on the insidious wasting disease.

Peel Forest Estate owner Graham Carr developed farm-wide riparian and wetland areas after receiving a “rude” letter from Environment Canterbury (ECan) highlighting the “sad state” of the farm’s water quality.

“It (the property) wasn’t looking flash and it stirred me into action to satisfy not only ECan but myself and animal welfare.”

Outside-the-square thinking was used to solve the water quality problem caused largely by stock, silt and erosion of the four creeks that flowed through the property. It wasn’t feasible to fence all four waterways so after consultation with ECan the decision was made to retain the two spring-fed creeks and divert the other two.

It was a huge undertaking requiring water from the decommissioned streams to be temporarily held in a pond, and the empty creek beds filled in. Almost three years on the results and benefits are obvious and were highlighted on the day by several before-and-after pictures at key sites.

ECan’s Dave Hewson said the fencing of riparian strips and wetlands was a key requirement for maintenance of good water quality, but farmers needed to remember to maintain these fenced areas. Willows and broom were potential problems and needed to be controlled.

Farm-wide tree planting had been another major project and included oaks, limes, ash and elms. All tree-lined lanes had been double-fenced to protect them from deer.

“We’ve planted a lot of trees and as the years go by they’ll look even better; they’re an investment.”

The journey to responsible environmental stewardship has taken Graham from a state of “acute embarrassment” to a great “sense of pride”.

“It hasn’t been cheap but positive from an animal health point of view.”

Although a boots-and-all approach had been taken farmers could choose to stage developments, he said. 

Peel Forest Estate Environmental Action

Key points:

  • Stream realignment and fencing to exclude deer
  •  Tree planting for aesthetic appeal and shade
  •  Attention to deer welfare: rubber matting throughout deer shed, well-maintained lanes for ease of stock movement
  •  Subdivision of paddocks to improve pasture utilisation and growth
  •  Monitoring of soil fertility and stock trace elements to help better target inputs and animal health treatments.
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