Looking after three key components of sheep and beef farm environments | Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Looking after three key components of sheep and beef farm environments

Three new Beef + Lamb New Zealand initiatives will be helping farmers understand and monitor the natural environment on their farms and in their catchments.
Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Fresh water, climate change, and biodiversity are the focus of extension programmes being designed to support farmer knowledge as part of the organisation’s recently released Environment Strategy.

Fresh water workshops, giving farmers a deeper understanding of their in-stream ecosystems, are soon to be rolled out throughout the country.

Successful pilot workshops were held in the Waikato, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay in July and September and were well received by farmers.

The workshop and supporting materials are being developed to broaden farmer knowledge of freshwater ecosystems and the key indicators of water quality. They will also help farmers understand and respond to fresh water issues on their farm and within their catchment.

Robyn Williamson, Chair of B+LNZ’s Mid Northern Farmer Council attended the first pilot workshop and despite recent heavy rain preventing her from actually testing water, she says she learnt a lot at the workshop, particularly the value of fresh water monitoring both on farm and within catchments and sub-catchments.

This could include strategically testing fresh water at key points within a catchment such as flows from critical source areas and from large areas of bush.

“It sets a baseline measure and is then a fantastic way to determine whether restoration and rehabilitation efforts such as fencing and pole-planting are working.”

Robyn says once farmers have a baseline, they can detect changes in their water over time and respond to those changes if necessary.

Even though these water quality measurements are not necessarily recognised by the Regional Council, Robyn says they are a great tool for farmers to use on farm and for catchment groups to use.

The workshop is based around the SHMAK (Stream Health Monitoring Assessment Kit) monitoring system, which assesses indicators such as physical habitat, algae, macroinvertebrates, as well as contaminants such as E. coli.

Although still in the development phase, B+LNZ is working on a climate change workshop which will explain the complex issues and explore some of the opportunities available to sheep and beef farmers to reduce and/or offset their biological emissions.

A third area of work focuses on biodiversity and the development of a single information source about indigenous biodiversity management on sheep and beef farms.

Earlier this year, a B+LNZ commissioned a report from the University of Canterbury which estimated that 24 per cent of all this country’s native vegetation cover (2.8 million hectares), including grasslands and woody vegetation, is on sheep and beef farms. The research identified that 1.4 million hectares of this vegetation is native forest, which is not only a major contribution to New Zealand’s biodiversity, but will also be sequestering of carbon.  

B+LNZ is working with experts in this field to explain what biodiversity is, why it is important and outline practical steps farmers can take to help sustain and enhance biodiversity on their farm.