Inside Dairy October-November 2020

Tried, true and coming to you

New farming practices that’ve passed the test in Canterbury are now being made available to all dairy farmers around the country.

One of DairyNZ’s key projects right now is called Step Change. It aims to help dairy farmers achieve financial gains, while making progress towards their environmental goals and adapting to pending regulations. We’ve already worked with farmers in some regions to achieve these goals. Now, through Step Change, we’ll be taking these lessons wider, testing them with farmers around the country. Head start in Canterbury Since 2018, 50 dairy farms in Canterbury’s Selwyn and Hinds catchments have been taking part in a five-year DairyNZ project that’s influencing change on hundreds of farms in the region. Under targets set by the Canterbury Regional Council, farmers in Selwyn need to reduce their nitrogen (N) losses by 30% by 2022; in Hinds, staged targets require reductions of 15% by 2025 and 36% by 2035. Along with the 50 partner farms, 210 dairy operations (out of 460) in both the Selwyn and Hinds catchments have been surveyed, and almost all have adapted their farming practices. Virginia Serra, DairyNZ’s new systems co-development lead, says many of the changes made by Canterbury farmers are relevant to farmers in other parts of the country. “The most common actions farmers reported included improving effluent systems (90%) and reducing N-fertiliser use (80%),” says Virginia. “Reducing N losses isn’t easy but this project shows it is possible – and there are a number of options available. There is a huge commitment by farmers to make changes and they’re also willing to share what they have learnt in order to help others like in the Hinds and Selwyn Project.” Top tips for low-N fertiliser use Here’s an example of how some farmers in the Selwyn and Hinds catchments have reduced their N-fertiliser use: 1. Lowering application rates to no more than 40kg N/ha in early spring and then to 0.8kg N/ha per day of round length. 2. Optimising conditions for clover growth, ensuring good soil fertility (pH, P, K and Mo) and grazing management to avoid shading of clover.

Nick Hoogeveen speaks to local farmers during a field day about how he's reducing N losses on his farm near Hinds.

3. Skipping a few paddocks from routine applications when pasture growth rates are high and silage making is not wanted/needed.

For more top tips, visit

What’s next?

DairyNZ consulting officers are now using information from the Hinds and Selwyn Project, and other similar projects, to help farmers start adapting their farm systems to make early progress. Give your CO a call today if you’d like to discuss making similar changes. Find your local CO’s contact details on page 24, or at


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

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