(Published on 27th February 2017)
"You can't be green when you're in the red," is a theme often expressed by farmers who attend discussion groups. However this sentiment may change thanks to environmentally friendly ideas that also have excellent economic outcomes.
The findings from a recent MPI report about the environmental and economic benefits of reticulated water for stock on hill country farms will come as no surprise to farmers who are already investing in this approach. One such example linked to NZ Landcare Trust's Waitangi River Catchment Project is Ludbrook Farm located south of Ohaewai in Northland.
Rodger and Carol Ludbrook operate a 410ha beef farm and like many farmers find high levels of debt to be a major concern - a situation that can leave little money or motivation to deal with environmental matters. However this apparent dilemma can be viewed from a different perspective when environmentally beneficial changes also bring significant economic returns.
Following the completion of a farm environment plan in 2013, Rodger and Carol began a programme of work to gradually extend their farm's stock water supply. The aim was to increase production levels while reducing any negative environmental impacts. From a production perspective Rodger's goal was to achieve a net carcass weight of 450kg per hectare, which compares favourably with Northland's average of around 200kg per hectare.
In recent years the Ludbrook's have continued to develop their reticulated water supply. In 2015 another 13ha was added to the reticulated water system, which is a simple approach using pipe joins and mobile troughs supplied by a company based in Bulls called KiwiTech. In addition 2016 saw two 25,000 litre water tanks included within the system. This added storage capacity will allow the Ludbrook's to add another 42ha to their Intensive Beef System (IBS) this summer.
The new system allows for intensive production to focus on a core area, avoiding sensitive areas such as wetlands, which are allowed to serve as natural water filters.
There is little doubt about the effectiveness of this approach, with the target of 450kg carcass weight per ha already achieved. "In the summer of 2016 we split 19 hectares into two IBS areas. Thirty five bulls averaging 281kg went onto a 9ha area on 11 March 2016, and by 11 December the average live weight was 512kg." Rodger Ludbrook explained.
The Ludbrook family now has 230ha on a reticulated water supply, grazing bulls using IBS. There is a further 50ha targeted for development, of which 25ha will be completed this summer. Roger Ludbrook says, "there are substantial production gains to be had by moving from natural water sources to a reticulated water supply. On the farm currently we have three 25,000 litre header tanks along with two 3,000 litre tanks, and about 50 ha using a pressure tank and pump system."
A farm environment plan is often the foundation for a smart farm system. The information generated allows a farmer to make better decisions, such as matching stock to soil type, focussing resources on areas that have the ability to generate increased returns, and identifying how best to utilise riparian buffers and wetlands to protect waterways.
NZ Landcare Trust is proud of it's 20 year track record working alongside farmers, landowners and community groups all around New Zealand. This community based approach see's the Trust collaborate with industry bodies such as Beef + Lamb NZ and DairyNZ who share the goal of encouraging good farm management practices, that ultimately leads to more sustainable farms.
More information about NZ Landcare Trust's Waitangi River Catchment Project and the farmers involved, can be found in a publication entitled "Farming for the Future" - available online at:
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