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Dairy Industry Shares Environmental Research

The dairy industry is showcasing results from its environmental work in the areas of research and extension, at a two-day conference starting in Hamilton today.

Dairy InSight Chief Executive Peter Bodeker says the bi-annual Dairying and the Environment Committee (DEC) conference invites regional councils, dairy companies, farmer representatives and other interested parties to hear what work is being undertaken and provide input.

“The conference enables us to share our industry good, FRST and Sustainable Farming Fund funded research with them. It also provides us with an opportunity as an industry to see where the trends are and thinking is, from a regional council and dairy company perspective and also from farmers through groups like Federated Farmers.

“It’s really a showcase of the work that is being done.”

Mr Bodeker says DEC – a group comprising representatives from Fonterra, Tatua, Westland, Dexcel, dairy farmers and Dairy InSight – has been operating for about 15 years and evaluates research requests and activities relating to the environment.

“We’ve undertaken some really interesting activities over that time, but probably haven’t been good at telling people about it,” he says.

Global Programme Leader for the Environment Jim Barnett says the conference is held every two years to highlight outcomes from the research undertaken during that period.

Dr Barnett says there are positive stories to tell.

He says results from a study of four catchments at Waikato, Taranaki, Canterbury and Southland are encouraging better riparian management from farmers.

“We have been measuring water and soil quality in these catchments and are now working with the regional councils and farmers to improve some management practices to enhance the water quality.

“The catchment in Canterbury – the Waikakahi Stream – is now almost fully fenced off and a recent fish survey showed quite a few fish had returned to the stream.

He says it is hoped the positive improvements being made to these catchments will provide a spin-off effect to other areas.

“We hope other farmers will see it is worthwhile doing these things and voluntarily implement things like the environment management system called Market Focused.”

Dr Barnett says the conference will also discuss the ‘Advanced Pond System’ for effluent disposal developed with NIWA.

“We have spent some time and money developing a biological system that is quite an advance on the two-pond system. The Advanced system is more suited to farmers with a hilly topography or high rainfall where there are issues with land based treatments.”

The design is now available for farmers to adopt and conference delegates will view the Advanced Pond System installed at the Dexcel farm near Hamilton tomorrow. Some farmers have also installed the system in Northland and Southland.

Dr Barnett says conference sessions on extension work will outline what work has been done and how results from research being undertaken are being communicated to farmers.

“Dexcel has three environmental co-ordinators and action teams around the country where groups of farmers are looking at issues for their region and coming up with farmer solutions.

“In the past two years there has been a noticeable increase in farmer awareness and a greater preparedness to do things to enhance their environment.”

The conference, on August 27 and 28, is being held at Livestock Improvement.

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