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Dairy farmer’s award recognises ‘superb environmental effort’

Published on Friday, January 20, 2017 - 13:15

Dairy farmer Phil Musson’s ‘can do’ attitude has won him the annual Working with Nature environment award from North Canterbury Fish & Game.

A  fourth generation dairy farmer  from Springston, south of Christchurch, Mr Musson has been recognised for his efforts to change his farming practices to make them more sustainable and environmentally friendly, while still farming profitably.

Musson milks 400 cows on 120 hectares near the Selwyn River.

The thing that sets the dairy farmer apart from his farming colleagues was his investment in the environment, specifically in a wintering-over feed barn, pictured above right.

Being able to keep all of his cows in the feed-barn over the wet cold winter has improved their welfare through improved “feed conversion” and protection from the elements.

But crucially, this also allowed pasture to receive far more protection than that provided by traditional farming methods. 

The soil and grass is protected from damage, pugging for instance, meaning that in the spring it produces more feed grown on-farm that is about 40% up on traditional methods. 

The feed-barn uses hi-tech robotic sweepers to catch animal waste and stops it from reaching the groundwater and rivers by diverting it and storing it in an effluent holding tank.

This means there is no direct animal discharge onto pasture in the wet winter months, and in spring the effluent is used to achieve the best results for feed growth.

Since the barn’s completion, Mr Musson has managed to reduce OVERSEER Nitrogen discharge on his farm to around 10kg per hectare, a fantastic result and a rate more commonly associated with a dry stock farm rather than a dairy farm.

Other efforts by Mr Musson included the fencing off a spring head on the farm and planting it out as a wetland.

He also restored a section of the Powell’s Road Drain (a tributary of the Selwyn River) outside his property with the goal of enhancing trout spawning in the area, and carried out additional riparian planting to control sediment run-off from his paddocks.

Unexpected benefits from the completion of the feed barn and effluent holding tank have included reduced fertiliser costs, and increased feed production has meant that the farmer doesn’t have to buy in feed.  

All these measures have helped make the farm profitable, but also lifted animal welfare and environmental standards.

Another Dairy farmer also received an environmental award from North Canterbury Fish & Game; Glen Herud from Nature Matters Milk in Ohoka was highly commended for his environmental efforts and revolutionary approach to the traditional dairy farm model.

Herud operates a mobile milk shed that takes milk straight from the cows, pasteurises it immediately then it’s delivered to cafes and restaurants, all within a matter of hours.

Left: Glen Herud at his Ohoka farm.

Nature Matters Milk has expanded to meet demand and Herud is ready to share the secrets of his success that enable him to get a return of around $32 per kilogram of milk solids.

By being able to move his milk processing facility around with the cows he avoids a lot of the issues in winter of pugging and the resulting increase in sediment runoff.

While it has at times been a regulatory struggle for Herud, he’s persevered through the regulatory layers of organisations like MPI, to come up with an accredited model that meets all food safety regulations.

North Canterbury Fish & Game Chairman Trevor Isitt says “These two dairy farmers have shown that thinking outside the square can reap rewards in both the environmental and financial sense.

“They should be applauded by the community for the efforts that they have done.”