Good winter grazing habits

Environment Southland has had some positive results from its first flyover of winter paddocks in the South.

The regional council completed its first aerial compliance inspection of the winter grazing season on July 4, identifying some great compliance and only two potential sites of interest.

The flight focused on western and central Southland.

Environment Southland compliance manager Donna Ferguson said in a statement the team was impressed with the buffers in place and the critical source areas left uncultivated and ungrazed.

"These were two areas we were specifically checking compliance with as they’re key criteria in the rules and can have a big impact on water quality if not managed well," she said

She also noted there was a lot of pasture-based grazing happening, where bales of hay or baleage are placed evenly across grass paddocks and stock are break fed from these.

"Remember that good management practices need to be applied to stock grazing on crop as well as on pasture with baleage,’’ she said.

The flights were an opportunity to see if the good preparation observed earlier in the year was being followed up by good practice and compliance with the rules.

“While we observed many good examples of winter grazing practice, there are always improvements that can be made.

"In particular, we’ll continue to encourage the use of portable troughs and back-fencing, as well as grazing towards waterways.’’

The sites identified for follow-up were in relation to crop being grazed on what appeared to be a critical source area, and a paddock with no buffering from a waterway, Ms Ferguson said.

Follow-up would be done with an assessment on the ground, and any further action would depend on the level of environmental impact.

Flights were planned for the start of each winter month and would follow paths guided by known areas of concern and incidents reported.

"We will be undertaking further aerial monitoring flights and responding to complaints through the winter grazing period.’’

Anyone who saw something they were concerned about environmentally should get in touch with Environment Southland directly, she said.

The Ministry of Primary Industries inspects animal welfare concerns.

The government announced proposed changes to the winter grazing rules in the Resource Management Act in April, but those changes have yet to be finalised.

Regional rules for winter grazing already exist in the Southland water and land plan.

Ms Ferguson said farmers who were unsure about the rules and what they needed to do to comply should take the time to visit the Environment Southland website for more information.