Greenhouse gas and 2050

The release of the Climate Change Commission’s report reinforced New Zealand’s commitment to reaching net zero emissions of long-lived gases by 2050 and to reducing plant and animal methane emissions by between 24 to 47% by 2050.

Whether you are an urbanite or live rurally, all are now grappling with the changes required to achieve these targets.

Dairy NZ’s greenhouse gas farm partnership project on 12 different farms has highlighted that tailored solutions for individual farms will be central and it is not a simple case of only considering stock reductions.

For farms that already operate at highly efficient levels, the opportunity to reduce nitrogen (N) leaching and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be less, so understanding your starting position makes a difference on what farm system options to consider.

Examples from Dairy NZ’s project farms* make for interesting reading:

Owl Farm, Waikato - owned by St Peters School in Cambridge

  • A focus on improving profitability resulted in reducing total feed eaten and reducing the farm’s N surplus, with reduced N loss and emissions while improving profitability.
  • As the farm becomes more efficient with growing and utilising home grown feed it becomes more difficult to reduce emissions without compromising profit. 
  • Investing in infrastructure, such as a feed-pad and standoff pad, can increase profit and reduce N loss but will increase farm emissions.

“…We focused on harvesting more home-grown feed.  We reduced inputs, reduced outputs and improved profitability and environmental outcomes…” - Jo Sheridan, Owl Farm manager

And, from an already highly efficient farm - Tokoroa Pastoral, Waikato

  • Reducing the replacement rate achieved small gains in both greenhouse gases and profit and looked to be the best opportunity. This option relies heavily on reducing the not-in-calf rate and finding an alternative use for additional grass grown on the support block.

“We have significantly reduced N usage over time, the whole farm soil tested, we soil test every season, provide proof of placement for nutrient management, try to optimise timing and restrict N applications to 30 units or less per hectare. We have improved the genetic merit of the herd, improved herd performance, restricted lactation length and purchased in feeds and maintain a slightly reduced stocking rate. We are seeking further efficiencies around N use and pasture management…” - George Moss, farm owner

While these examples are for dairy, similar but different conversations are being had for sheep, beef and deer farmers who point to the progress made in reducing GHG in these through greater breeding productivity, lowering stock numbers over many decades and by incorporating exotic and native forestry.

We will continue to follow closely the decisions that will come from the submissions going to the Climate Change Commission and how they impact on our advice and services, particularly to those farmers utilising our management and advisory service.

*www.dairynz.co.nz/environment/climate-change/dairy-sector-action/greenhouse-gas-partnership-farms-project/

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