Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust project manager Nicola
Holmes at home in Palmerston. Photo by Sally Rae.
Farmers intuitively know which are their best and
The Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust is encouraging them to
do something about the difference, citing the potential to
significantly increase farm-gate returns, improve animal
health and allow greater flexibility in farming systems.
The trust, an independent entity working to increase the rate
of pasture renewal in New Zealand, comprises 14 agribusiness
companies who sponsor key activities.
The companies began to work co-operatively in 2007, after
establishing they could have more influence working together.
That proved to be a strength, as projects like the Berl
report, released earlier this year, could not have been done
by individual companies, project manager Nicola Holmes, of
An economic analysis of the value of pasture by Business and
Economic Research Ltd (Berl) showed sustained investment in
pasture renewal had the potential to increase the farm-gate
value of pastoral products from $16 billion per annum to $19
It could also boost direct and indirect full-time employment
associated with pastoral farming by more than 50,000 jobs.
The report confirmed while there had been an increase in the
proportion of dairy pasture being renewed in recent years,
overall investment in pasture renewal remained low.
The $19 billion projection could only be achieved if the
proportion of sheep, beef and deer pasture continuously
renewed rose from 2% per annum to 8%, and dairying pasture
renewal increased from 6.6% to 12%.
The collaborative approach attracted Ms Holmes, who has a
long background in the agribusiness sector, to the part-time
role of project manager in 2007.
Support for the trust also came from the Ministry for Primary
Industries, Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, Beef and Lamb New
Zealand, Meat Industry Association, Government ministers,
Maori organisations and rural retailers.
Ms Holmes believed the whole farming industry needed to work
together more rigorously and that the collaborative focus
would increase, citing the likes of the Government's Primary
Grass was "by far" the cheapest feed source and more
sustainable than buying in imports. The message to farmers
was that there was a value proposition to pasture renewal and
it needed to be a year-on-year programme, similar to
fertiliser maintenance, Ms Holmes said.
The trust encouraged farmers to make strategic, long-term
While there was a strong emotional link in the way farmers
responded to their animals, there was not the same link with
pasture, she said.
"This isn't going to be a quick flick. It's about changing
farmers' behaviour," she said.
She expected the change would be led by the dairy industry
and particularly the younger generation coming through.
To create a baseline for pasture renewal, the trust has some
questions included in the 2012 agricultural census, which
would provide useful information.
To help get the message across, a competition, dubbed Win A
Free Paddock, will be launched in January.
Three prizes nationwide, each worth $8000, will be offered.
The winners will receive product from a nominated rural
retailer and technical advice.
It is anticipated they will keep a diary about what they are
doing with their pasture for publication in rural media.
A pocket-sized pasture condition score is being developed,
which includes tips for pasture renewal success.
An e-book, which can be downloaded from the trust's website,
is being revamped while online calculators, giving an idea of
potential profitability, are also available.
Ms Holmes, who grew up on a mixed farming property at
Methven, has worked as a journalist for agribusiness
publications in New Zealand and overseas.
She established her own public relations business, where her
main work was for the kiwifruit industry, and later worked
for what is now Antarctica NZ, and for Trade New Zealand, now
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
She produced a rural leadership development programme for New
Zealand Young Farmers.
Ms Holmes shifted south to Palmerston in 2004 and farms with
her husband, Rod Philip.
The couple are the southern-most asparagus growers in New