NZ farmers doing ‘quite well’ environmentally

Environmental consultant Clare Buchanan has been helping Canterbury farmers plan for the future....
Environmental consultant Clare Buchanan has been helping Canterbury farmers plan for the future. PHOTO: SUPPLIED BY CLARE BUCHANAN
Clare Buchanan has been helping farmers to improve their environmental footprints.

Environmental consultancy is a fast-growing profession as compliance pressures continue to bite, Ms Buchanan said.

The role involved visiting farmers, gathering details of the farming operation, noting any "critical source on the farm" and understanding previous seasons’ results.

A Farm Environment Plan (FEP) is then prepared to model a baseline and nutrient losses using Overseer.

"The baseline number is important, as farmers have to reduce from that number going forward and the FEP helps to give context to where and how these losses are occurring so the farmer can work to reduce them," she said.

Born and bred in Canada, Ms Buchanan studied environmental science before moving to Canterbury six years ago to help out on the family farming business.

"My dad is a New Zealander so I helped with the environmental compliance on the family farm and then I went to work for Ravensdown Environmental.

"I think Canada and New Zealand are pretty comparable. Obviously there’s a bit more of a focus on North American environments in my degree and I had to learn a lot about New Zealand agriculture when I arrived, but a lot of my learnings translate well.

"I think with farming, we are doing quite well compared to other countries. It’s a balance between the economy and the environment, but we are taking steps in the right direction."

Last year she was seconded to be demonstrations manager at the Lincoln University Dairy Farm, working on outreach, connecting with farmers and partners, engaging with social media and assisting with the weekly farm walks and quarterly focus days.

"Working with Lincoln gave me an opportunity to expand my skill set and be exposed to cutting-edge dairy science."

Ms Buchanan planned to continue helping with the Lincoln farm’s outreach while the management team continued to plan for the future, as she returned to the family business, Align Farms in Mid-Canterbury.

In her new role she would be looking after environmental compliance and overseeing a regenerative agriculture conversion case study.

Align Farms, owned by John Buchanan and Rob Cameron, comprised six dairy and dairy support farms near Hinds and Mt Somers.

"We will be trialling a few different things to see if we can improve our environmental footprint," Ms Buchanan said.

"We operate as a closed system and we have already planted some diverse seed mixes, with 15 different grass seeds, as well as diverse winter feed mixes with kale, fodder beet and winter-active grasses, and have seen positive results and responses in the stock and the soil so far."

Ms Buchanan will be collecting and collating the data, with input from the science advisory board formed to support the project, with the intention of publishing the results.

 

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