Hinds dairy farmers have taken the goal of sustainable farming head-on.
With 33 years in the industry, Mark and Devon Slee have watched farming change and develop to the point that environmental sustainability is as important as farm production and product quality.
The couple aim to hit sustainability targets ahead of central and local government requirements.
The Slees have already reduced their use of nitrogen fertiliser by more than 30% over the past six years.
Mark Slee said the family farms were down to 178kg nitrogen fertiliser per hectare per year – and achieved this ahead of the Government’s 190kg cap that took effect last year.
He sees sustainable farming as an opportunity.
In the case of nitrogen reduction, the environment benefited while farmers saved money by using nitrogen more efficiently, he said.
Efficient water management is also a big focus, with real-time data from a soil moisture monitoring system ensuring the farms only use the water they need.
The Slees also reduce transport emissions by growing more grass and clover on their farm and have reduced the number of cows to lower methane emissions.
The Hinds farmers have planted more than 12,000 native trees and plants across the farm since 2009 – including flax, pittosporum, cabbage trees and native grasses.
The extensive native plantings have attracted more native birds to the farm and provided shade and shelter for the cows.
“Wildlife is important to all Kiwis, and we want to be part of building biodiversity and continuing to reduce environmental footprint,” Slee said.
The couple are part of Canterbury's Meeting a Sustainable Future project led by DairyNZ. The Slees look forward to new ways to meet sustainability regulations while ensuring farm viability.