Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Recovery pinned by nitrogen cap

Applying extra autumn fertiliser to help recover from this year’s drought becomes more difficult when farming under a nitrogen cap. Drystock farmers Alex and Anne Richardson run 328ha at Tihoi. Their farm, Bracken Brae, runs down to Lake Taupo and comes under Waikato Regional Council’s Regional Plan Variation 5 – Nitrogen Management in the Lake Taupo Catchment. As part of Variation 5, Alex and Anne are now restricted in their resource consent to a cap of 4782kg N/year leached. Farm facts Alex and Anne Richardson Bracken Brae, Tihoi, 328ha  Stock numbers: 65:35 sheep-to-cattle ratio, 1450 Perendale/East Friesian ewes, 440 hoggets, 120 Hereford breeding cows, 40 two-year-old bulls, 57 yearling bulls, 57 yearling heifers, 25 rams.

Any significant changes to their nutrient management plan (NMP) have to be put through Overseer and signed off by the Waikato Regional Council (WRC).

Alex typically applies a nitrogen (N) fertiliser only to address feed deficits. Some was applied this spring, but due to the drought he wants to apply N this autumn to help encourage the pasture to come back so there is adequate cover heading into winter.

“This additional application will put us over the tonnage stipulated in our NMP and will therefore need to be put through Overseer and okayed by WRC. This will incur a charge based on time putting the information through the process.

Alex has been able to hold off selling any capital stock, but the drought has hurt.

As time passes and more regions come under different environmental controls, Alex believes the Taupo catchment and Variation 5 may lose the stigma attached to it, bringing the area back on a par with the rest of the nation.

“In the future we might even be better off than other regions. A dairy farmer here has resource consent to farm at current levels for the next 25 years.

“But as we sit here grappling with our environmental sustainability I think the issue of equal or greater importance is our economic sustainability. We’re hopeful that initiatives such as the PGP project will help to achieve that, but from where I sit the only way forward under a constrained environment is to achieve higher returns for our product – and that is where we should be focusing our resources.”

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