Extra monitoring and a range of practical support is being rolled out to help farmers achieve immediate improvements in intensive winter grazing practices, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.
Intensive winter grazing (IWG) is a farming practice where livestock, such as cattle and sheep, progressively graze areas planted with fodder crops. It is widely acknowledged that, if done poorly or too extensively, the activity has serious negative effects on both animal welfare and the environment, particularly freshwater and estuary health.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Ministry for the Environment (MfE), councils and industry representatives, have developed an online tool to help improve practices to benefit freshwater quality and animal welfare.
“The 2021/22 Intensive Winter Grazing Module highlights practical solutions farmers can take to mitigate the effects of grazing livestock on fodder crops during the winter months,” Damien O’Connor said.
“They include leaving a buffer of at least five metres next to waterways, grazing crops top down where they grow on a slope, and using portable water troughs to limit livestock movements.
“The module contains a template that farmers can use to develop a plan to manage their intensive winter grazing activities, if they don’t already have one.
“Farmers with existing plans need to update them to reflect the expectations set in this module,” Damien O’Connor said.
The module will be used to inform IWG components of existing and new farm plans and enable them to be tested and incorporated into wider certified freshwater farm plans when they are rolled out from early 2022.
“In March, the Government deferred the introduction of IWG practice regulations for a year until May 2022. We want people to engage with this module so they will be ready for the upcoming changes.”
Increased monitoring and reporting by councils will help drive measurable improvements in IWG.
“We expect regional councils and industry bodies to work together with farmers to implement and deliver positive change on the ground through this module,” Environment Minister David Parker said.
“It is important farmers ensure they are complying with their regional council’s current rules on intensive winter grazing.”
Farmers’ plans should include measures to provide adequate shelter during severe weather events and suitable space for livestock to sit down.
“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,” Damien O’Connor said.
A hotline (0800 FARMING), which is supported by industry and councils, is being provided as an opportunity for the community to give feedback. People with concerns about animal welfare are encouraged to call MPI’s animal welfare hotline on 0800 00 83 33.