Simple practices protect river

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Andrew Young uses environmentally friendly fertiliser on his farm near Takapau.
Andrew Young uses environmentally friendly fertiliser on his farm near Takapau.

Almost 80 North Island farmers attended a field day on a southern Hawke's Bay farm notable for the way its dairy farmer is leading the way with his environmental practices.

Andrew Young hosted farmers on his property, south of Takapau and alongside the Manawatu River, for a Once a Day Milking Field Day organised by Dairy NZ.

Young says our dairy industry is focused on reducing nitrogen outputs and he is committed to the cause.

"We are in the bottom 10 per cent on the Overseer programme for nitrogen output, which makes me really happy, and I know some of the environmental on-farm practices help me achieve these results," he says.

According to Dairy NZ's farm performance report, Young is well under the East Coast average for nitrogen leaching per hectare.

He's budgeted for 20kg of nitrogen a hectare this year (down from 50kgN/ha last year) but says he will only use it if he needs to, depending on the performance of the farm.

He told farmers that one of his on-farm practices was using environmentally friendly fertiliser that doesn't leach into waterways.

"I use Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate because it's a non-water soluble product, so it stays in the soil for the plant to use and doesn't run off into our rivers and streams," he says.

"It takes almost 300,000 litres of water to dissolve 100kg of Hatuma Dicalcic Phosphate. By comparison, it takes just 4160 litres to dissolve 100kg of superphosphate.

"I can sleep at night knowing that if we get a torrential downpour we are not going to lose phosphate."

Young told farmers that being kind to the environment was one of his main priorities, and added: "I don't just farm for money, it's a lifestyle choice and one of the big things for me is producing a more efficient and environmentally friendly operation."

He milks about 250 cows on the 80ha dairy farm, and also has a 170ha beef and dairy support unit near Norsewood.

When he was milking twice a day he was producing 74,000kg milk solids. Now that he's milking once a day, he is on track for 73,000kg.

The farm doesn't rely on imported supplements and working costs are almost 40 per cent less than the lower North Island estimate; his fertiliser expenditure per hectare is half that of the national average.

"We are very aware of our surrounding environment so we do everything possible to protect the river," he says.

Hatuma Lime Co marketing and sales manager Aaron Topp said the fertiliser producer was working with Hawke's Bay farmers to improve pasture quality and lower the nutrient levels in the rivers.

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