ORC pleased with grazing compliance

Sheep feed on swedes at Minchmoor Farm, near Lee Stream. The Otago Regional Council found no...
Sheep feed on swedes at Minchmoor Farm, near Lee Stream. The Otago Regional Council found no major breaches after this year’s winter grazing flyovers. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
The bird’s-eye views that winter grazing monitoring flights give Otago Regional Council staff have revealed no major breaches on Otago farms this year.

The farm monitoring flights, over three months this year, resulted in 140 follow-ups scheduled by compliance staff, council compliance manager Tami Sargeant said.

But the majority of the potential breaches identified were not related to current rules, but to new winter grazing standards, which had not yet taken effect, she said.

"In those cases, our aim is to help educate landowners about the upcoming rules and ensure they will be compliant when the rules come into force," she said.

Ms Sargeant said staff were pleased with the level of compliance.

Of the 140 follow-ups, only 18 were site visits for properties that appeared to breach current rules, and the remainder related to future rules, she said.

Of those 18 site visits, only two minor breaches of current rules were recorded, she said.

A report to the council’s regulatory committee said the three flights this year were key parts of the council’s intensive winter grazing compliance project.

The flights in May, July and, August covered North, South, and Central Otago.

There were 45 follow-ups from the May flight, 35 follow-ups from July, and a further 60 follow-ups planned after the August flight.

However, August follow-ups were interrupted by the Alert Level 4 lockdown restrictions.

During the May flight, animals were not yet on winter feed or had only just started on the feed, the report said.

In July and August, as the season went on, on-farm farming practices lowered the risk, it said.

Farmers who keep animals in outdoor feeding areas planted with fodder crops have come under scrutiny recently.

At times the practice has led to mud-covered, pugged paddocks, that harm ecosystems.

New intensive winter grazing regulations were introduced and then deferred to next year, after many in the sector called the regulations unworkable.

Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced late last month that consultation on proposed changes to the new regulations was under way.

Under the proposed changes, farmers would be required to re-sow grazed paddocks as soon as conditions allowed, instead of by a set date.

Specific requirements around the depth of pugging would be removed.

Consultation on intensive winter grazing regulations runs until October 7.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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