1. Winter Crop Cultivation Pilot Study. Working with the Southern Dairy Hub, the group have extended this pilot study onto 10 commercial farms across Southland, to determine if there are any alternative crop establishment to conventional cultivation methods, or combination of methods, that will help improve wintering practices in Southland and meet the new regulations that are being passed. A range of methods including direct drilling, strip tillage, air seeding, and precision drilling have been looked at for fodder beet, swedes and kale.
Our farmers and agronomist Natalie Stocker (supported by a wide range of volunteers and local businesses) monitored the farms over a 12 week period to gather the physical measurements for the trial, and the findings are now being collated. The monitoring looked at many aspects such as animal welfare - lying times, pugging depth, animal behaviour, environmental effects - visual observations of run-off, effect on soil structure, crop utilisation, dry matter yields, soil moisture infiltration and lastly the financial aspects in terms of cost analysis.
It is hoped that this pilot study will be expanded over the coming years to get a fully controlled trial. This year’s work has gathered a huge amount of data, which is now being looked at.
2. Understanding Our Catchment. We are working with Clint Rissmann and Land and Water Science Group to understand our catchment, and develop an online picture (model) of it to help us make good decisions to look after it.
Phase 1 of this project has just been completed. The full catchment of 111,940 ha has been mapped (which covers the Hedgehope Makarewa Catchment Group and Makarewa Headwaters Catchment Group areas), looking at topography, soil types, water movement and possible sediment and soil losses. They are now on to phase 2, and are looking into specific areas, and mapping them to determine how water moves from the top of the catchment to the bottom.
This is a very exciting and cutting edge project, that will give some pretty powerful information into the hands of our farmers, so they can make more accurate decisions about their farming practises. Managing data privacy is an important aspect of this project, and the information being gathered can only be accessed and seen by the landowner.
3. Exploring local communication and engagement ideas
4. Supporting DairyNZ by trialling eight of their new on farm water quality kits