26 Aug 2021

Government defers introducing tougher winter grazing rules - again

6:16 pm on 26 August 2021

The government has pushed intensive winter grazing rules back by another six months.

020818 Photo: Richard Cosgrove / Fish & Game NZ
Southland Fish & Game field trip looking at winter grazing and break feeding practices

An image taken during a Southland Fish & Game field trip looking at winter grazing and break feeding practices (file image). Photo: Fish & Game New Zealand

Intensive winter grazing is when livestock are feed fodder crops - when done poorly it can create a muddy mess leading to animal welfare and environmental issues.

Regulations aimed at improving intensive winter grazing practices were supposed to come into effect from May this year, but were recently deferred until May 2022.

The government has pushed them back another six months until November 2022.

The move is part of proposed changes to winter grazing regulations the government has just released for consultation.

Under the proposed changes, farmers would be required to re-sow grazed paddocks as soon as conditions allow, instead of by a set date and specific requirements around the depth of pugging will also be removed.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor said the government had been working with industry representatives and regional councils this winter to roll out on-the-ground support to drive better practices to benefit freshwater quality and animal welfare.

Damien O'Connor

Damien O'Connor. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"It's important that what we develop is workable. That's why we're proposing amendments to manage the effects of pugging, get paddocks re-sown as soon as possible, and protect critical source areas," O'Connor said.

Consultation is also underway for freshwater farm plans and stock exclusion low slope maps.

Under the proposal, farmers wanting to undertake intensive winter grazing on slopes over 10 degrees can do so with a certified freshwater farm plan that includes controls to prevent soil loss and mitigate the risks associated with a higher slope.

O'Connor said he recognised it was a busy time of the year on farm and that the country was dealing with the Delta outbreak.

"But, overlapping with existing consultation being undertaken for certified freshwater farm plans and stock exclusion, low slope maps will make it easier for farmers to have input.

"To help provide farmers with certainty, the introduction of intensive winter grazing practice regulations is proposed to be deferred for a further six months until 1 November 2022," O'Connor said.

Consultation runs for six weeks until 7 October 2021.

Industry groups welcome changes

Federated Farmers said farmers would be breathing a sigh of relief over the proposed changes.

Spokesperson Chris Allen said the government has listened to recommendations made by the Southland Advisory Group.

"Everyone wants strong protection for our waterways but from the day they came out Feds had said a number of aspects of the essential freshwaters winter grazing rules were simply unworkable," Allen said.

"It's good to see the government taking a pragmatic view - a stance we're also looking for across more of the multitude of issues they are imposing on farmers in the next three years."

The Southland Advisory Group was testament to how inclusive processes involving local communities and informed stakeholders were able to produce good results, Allen said.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand chief executive Sam McIvor said the government's new approach which focused on practical management by farmers was more workable - and that was progress.

"But we still have concerns around the proposed revised 10-degree slope rule for winter grazing and the certified freshwater farm plan process," McIvor said.

"The government has proposed an improvement on the slope rule, but we still think the approach is more restrictive than it needs to be to manage the environmental risks. For example, we'd like to see flexibility in situations where there is no receiving water body nearby."

McIvor said Beef and Lamb would review the proposed changes in detail before making a submission.

Dairy NZ chief executive Tim Mackle said farmers were proactively putting in place good practice for winter grazing and it was vital the new regulations were practical.

"We want farmers and industry representatives to have time to provide robust feedback during the many government consultation processes underway, so regulations are practical behind the farm gate and achieve the desired outcomes," Mackle said.

"We know regulatory change is having an impact on farmer well-being. The policies coming through government departments must be prioritised, phased and better managed as a collective."

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