Over 85 per cent of respondents had changed wintering practices over the past two years.
Craig Simpson from NZ Landcare Trust, which supports the farmer-led South West Otago catchment group, says winter grazing surveys carried out in 2019 and 2021 show a step-change in winter management practices as farmers become increasingly aware of their environmental impact.
He says a stand-out of the survey was the number of farmers planning well ahead in preparation for winter. Seventy-one percent of farmers surveyed had a paddock plan before cultivation, compared to just 14% in 2019, and 84% of farmers had a winter grazing strategy in place.
Encouragingly, 91% of all participants had a contingency plan in place in case of adverse weather.
“These numbers alone represent a huge shift in the way farmers are thinking about their winter practices with farmers planning well ahead, identifying risks and putting mitigation strategies in place.”
Ninety-four percent of farmers surveyed were leaving critical sources areas uncultivated and 89% of farmers reported using five-metre riparian buffer zones, up from 56% in 2019.
A total of 93% of respondents were using strategic grazing and there were also increases in the use of back fences and portable water troughs.
Mr Simpson says the survey clearly shows a willingness by farmers to adopt the good management practices promoted by the Pomahaka Water Care Group through the Pomahaka Catchment Project.
“This Sustainable Farming Fund project has allowed the Group to promote good winter management practices and has been very helpful in providing support to landowners within the catchment.”
Mr Simpson says the results of the survey are very encouraging and demonstrate the value of farmer-led catchment groups in collectively owning and addressing the water quality issues specific to their catchment.