How do you stop nutrient run-off on a hill country farm?
The McDonalds are trying their best to figure it out.
The third instalment of the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Southland farm environment planning field days was held recently at farmer Peter and Kim McDonald’s Gavenwood farm in the Caroline Valley, near Dipton.
The farm runs 4000 composite ewes to the ram.
Beef + Lamb South Island environmental section manager Turi MacFarlane explained the Farm Environment Plan as an advancement of the Land Environment Plan, and Land Environment Plan 2.
The plan would cater to each region’s requirements, for Southland that is the Southland Water and Land Plan, and help farmers meet those requirements, he said.
It was a plan farm owners could do themselves and could prioritise what they could do, he said.
“We’re trying to be quite proactive in that space. It’s actually a really good opportunity for us to see what’s working and what’s not for Southland.”
Agribusiness consultant Deane Carson helped the McDonalds to do a Farm Environment Plan, he said the farm had critical source areas where there could be a loss of sediment and nutrients and 20 kilometres of drains.
“It does remind us as farmers that we are having an impact on the environment.”
For Peter McDonald, seeing muddy water running through his waterways is a worry, not just because of the environmental impact.
“That’s all my nutrients that I’ve put into the top of the hill.”
So McDonald is working on ways to prevent the sediment loss into his waterways through good management practices.
Before he makes decisions he thinks about the best ways to do things to protect the environment.
“I’m constantly thinking about what’s got the most risk.”
He has put sediment traps through the valley in the form of duck ponds and said he was interested to see how much they trapped, he said.
He thinks about how best to manage wintering. His crops are given a large buffer on the edge of the waterways to reduce run-off.
This winter McDonald even took his ewes off crops when the paddock became to wet.
Gavenwood has become more productive through the years, in the 1990s it ran 2700 ewes and 100 cows. Now it runs 4000 ewes.
Despite struggling with clover root weevil, bad weather and “substandard” lamb prices the past two years, McDonald is focussed on trying to make his farm environmentally sustainable.
“We’re eking a lot more off the land than we did several years ago.”