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PTO EFFLUENT PUMP
Eco-smart farmer to set example
SMART effluent management is a
''no-brainer''-- and at the forefront
of farming, says dairy farmer Mark
He was among 40 farmers who
attended a DairyNZ-funded forum in
Wellington in December which focused
on the challenges ahead for the industry.
The farmers are looking for good
outcomes for dairying for all New
Mr Saunders believes dairy farmers
need to act together to control soil
moisture and nitrate levels to cope with
increased environmental regulations.
''Collectively, if we don't have good
outcomes with soil drainage and nitrate
levels, potentially we have a sinking ship.''
Responsibility for this should be
shared, and he said, ''If anyone driving
along a country road sees something
related to dairying we don't like the
look of, we should talk to the supplier's
sustainability representative about it.''
Mr Saunders and wife Pennie milk
1600 cows in an equity partnership on
Waioto, their property at Westerfield,
The couple are conscious their farming
has an impact on aquifers and on the
resources in their area, and want to
reduce their environmental footprint.
Mr Saunders considers his role is to be
an example for his seven staff to get them
to understand the importance of making
small changes to their working day that
will help the industry progress.
The staff are encouraged to consider
the impact their work has on the environ-
ment and accept responsibility for this.
''Daily activities are built around what
we can influence. Staff access to Aquaflex
data leads to putting correct amounts of
water on pasture, minimising chance of
drainage into the aquifers and taking care
of the resources and employing best prac-
tices on farm. We need all three to make
progress,'' he said.
Mr Saunders is one of several young
farmers in the Hinds Plains Land and
Water Partnership who want to make
positive changes to how they farm.
Sixty-six per cent of the Hinds catchment
is dairy related through dairy support,
arable crops for dairy and dairy farming.
Through his involvement in commu-
nity groups and leadership programmes,
Mr Saunders is convinced grassroots
farmers need to take responsibility to
improve farming practices before change
is imposed on them. Complying with
the Canterbury regional regulations isn't
''It should be about doing the right
thing every day when no one else is
Effluent dispersal is a good example of
how the couples are tackling changes on
''Its not about when the pond is full,
that is the time to spread effluent. It might
rain on the 32nd day and they can't do
it,'' he says. ''My message is to get effluent
on when it suits.''
Simple learning tools and visual aids
about when to apply effluent safely are
available for staff who have back up from
smartphones, graphs and a website which
gives real-time state-of-soil moisture read-
ings for effluent dispersal.
Staff monitor application rates through
''the bucket test'', a simple procedure that
requires placing a bucket with a rock in
it, under the arc of the spreader, and half
an hour later ''dipsticking'' to measure the
amount in the bottom. ''So they know to
use the bucket test weekly as a minimum
when they are setting up a run. The
bucket shifts and shares responsibility for
accountability, and it has to be right every
day or we're not doing the right thing for
our aquifers and resources.''
Faith in his staff and methods allows
him to leave the farm knowing they will
get things right around effluent and
Prior to the introduction of his teach-
ing tools, he would only run the irrigator
and boom application when he was on
the farm. Now, when he returns home
and sees things running smoothly, he
is confident everyone understands the
importance of dispersal rates.
As a follow-on from the forum,
Mr Saunders is willing to talk to his
community about dairying. ''I am feeling
comfortable and right about the way I am
going forward and want to be part of the
Small changes: Mid-canterbury dairy farmer Mark
Saunders with his teaching tools, a step-by-step
training manual and a pond level indicator.
BY SANDIE FINNIE
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