Comment: Farmers who let the side down with poor winter grazing practices should be encouraged to exit the industry, writes Simon Davies, President Federated Farmers Otago.

The winter cropping issue has raised its ugly head again.

This time last year I was on TV commenting about poor winter grazing practices, and penning my first column on the topic.

Well, a season later and some of us farmers have yet to learn what is acceptable and best practice with regard to this polarising issue.


Last year I made the point that some of the problems are likely to have arisen from a lack of education, and slow behaviour changes.

A year on I can't believe that farmers who undertake feeding winter crops have not taken on best management techniques.

Federated farmers, Beef and Lamb, Dairy NZ and dairy companies have spent considerable time, money and effort advertising and educating to try to ensure optimum cultivation and feeding of winter crops are adopted across the sector.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

By and large I believe farmers' behaviour has changed and the majority of those who undertake feeding winter crops are implementing good practice, though weather bombs and prolonged adverse weather can test any farmer.

Last week I was at a meeting in Christchurch and was shown images of an appalling winter feeding situation by an angry North Island farmer.

Those sorts of images have kicked off the latest campaign to highlight this practice and have led central government to launch a taskforce to investigate.

The farmer was angry because the poor winter feeding situation has tarred him and his farming business by association.


Listen: Environmentalists and farmers clash over winter grazing

I can appreciate, sympathise and agree with his sentiments. The appalling example captured completely undoes all the good work of so many other farmers who rely on, undertake, and successfully manage feeding winter crops .

I spent my afternoon today digging in fence posts. One of the joy's of this job is that it gives you lots of time to think. The winter feeding thing crowded my mind. I was trying to work out what I would say if a reporter asked me for comment on the winter cropping taskforce.

I came up with this:

Feeding winter crops can be successfully managed with good practice. However, every industry has laggards, and farming is no exception.

There are early adopters, those who will take things on as the industry progresses, some who will get there with assistance, encouragement and possibly enforcement, and those who will never get there.

At some point if encouragement and enforcement can't change behaviour than probably it is best that those individuals (businesses), should be encouraged to exit the industry.

In this case, if good practice for winter feeding cannot be achieved then I feel, for the good of the industry that those concerned should be encouraged or assisted to avoid feeding winter crops.

For the benefit of all those farmers who are doing things well, and for the protection of high standard winter feeding, isn't it time to call out the poor performers and one way or another, rein them in.