Farmer feedback results in changes to wintering rules


Ongoing work by the farming sector has resulted in the Government making significant changes to make wintering rules much more practical on-farm.

The Government had announced that significant changes had been made to several winter grazing requirements.

Federated Farmers Provincial President David Clark said the changes were closer to reflecting reality.

“It would have saved a whole lot of angst if the Government had genuinely consulted with the people who have to comply with the rules,” he said.

“It has been two-and-a-half years of scrapping and fighting and a complete waste of resources on both sides of the argument. It’s a poor way of setting public policy.

“There is still some way to go, but some of the rules were just downright stupid and they had to be got rid of.

“For instance, the pugging rule – that was nonsense and so hard to quantify.

“And sowing by October 1 – once again nonsense. To go back to a pragmatic approach to sow the crop as soon after the completion of grazing makes much more sense.

“And what is still far too broad and subjective is the classification of a critical source area – a hollow in a paddock that water will flow down into. This is now closer to reflecting reality.”

The changes announced by Government were that:

Paddocks would need to be re-sown following winter cropping as soon as conditions allow, instead of by a fixed date.

Rules about pugging depth in paddocks had been removed and replaced with a requirement that farmers took steps to minimise the effects of pugging on freshwater.

Farmers must protect critical source areas, by not cultivating and grazing them during the winter grazing period from May to September.

Farmers who carried out winter grazing in paddocks with slopes over 10 degrees would also need to either obtain a resource consent or include how they would mitigate risks in their certified freshwater farm plan once these were available.

DairyNZ general manager for sustainable dairy David Burger said the changes addressed farmer concerns that the rules were impractical and unclear and wouldn’t improve environmental or animal welfare outcomes.

He said the dairy sector had made a significant improvement in wintering practices over the past two years.

“Last season, 80 per cent of dairy farmers had a wintering plan at the start of the season and 89 per cent also had a contingency plan to protect their animals and the environment in bad weather.”

He said DairyNZ, the farming sector, and farmers were already planning for the coming winter and were continuing to work together to raise the standard of wintering practices.

– By Pat Deavoll