The success of the programme attracted the attention of DairyNZ’s Virginia Serra. She leads the Meeting a Sustainable Future project which aims to foster changes in farm systems to reduce nitrogen losses in the Hinds (Ashburton) and Selwyn Waihora zones.
Serra says the limits are challenging, but the sector is committed to helping farmers achieve them while maintaining resilient businesses.
“This project builds on previous nitrogen loss research. It aims to give farmers confidence the limits are achievable,” says Serra. “Many farmers have been making changes to reduce nitrogen loss for some time and this will continue to build on that.”
Camden Holdings’ Willsden Farm at Te Pirita is now one of two “partner farms” in the project.
Camden no longer applies nitrogen in May because soils get cooler and pasture plant growth slows, and demand for nitrogen decreases. “The worst time for any leaching is in autumn and winter. The unused nitrogen from summer has accumulated in the soil and it gets lost with the winter rains.”
Most dairy shed effluent is spread over about 90 ha of pasture, when conditions are right, using a small spreader, but this year that area is being doubled. Plans are also in train to modify the centre pivot so effluent can be spread from that as well, adding another 140 ha.
Camden Holdings’ Dairy Shed
“We should be to be able to do whole farm over the next two or three years, then we’d have extremely good spread,” says Camden Group operations manager Terry Kilday.
When the farm was first converted, it only had five days’ effluent storage, but now a significantly larger pond has been put in, increasing storage to between 10 and 15 days.