Nutrient, land and water management

Fonterra is working with farmers and natural resource management agencies to improve water quality in northern Tasmania.

Fonterra links farmers with natural resource management agencies

Fonterra is using its unique position as a dairy processor to link up its farmers with natural resource management agencies. Farmers, NRM North and Fonterra have teamed up to develop a program aimed at improving water quality in northern Tasmania.

The partnership is based on a three way approach to managing the potential impacts of dairy farming on water quality. NRM North and Fonterra provide support to participating farmers through funding and advice for projects to improve on farm sustainability.

James McKee, CEO of NRM North said, “This is a great partnership which recognises we all have responsibilities in ensuring our water is clean and safe. The public, industry and farmers all contribute and have a role to play and this partnership is developed on that basis.

 “This partnership is part of the bigger picture for us. And working with Fonterra gives us better access to a whole new group of landholders.”

Matt Watt, Fonterra’s General Manager of Australian Milk Supply said, “Dairy farmers take their environmental responsibilities seriously – they rely on the land and its resources to maintain their farms and look after their cows.

“The run-off of nutrients from farms not only impacts the environment, but is also detrimental to farm profitability, which is why this issue is a key focus of Fonterra’s SupportCrew Sustainability program.

 “We’re delighted to partner with NRM North to support farmers in implementing positive changes on-farm that will benefit the environment and improve the profitability of dairy farming at the same time.”

The fourth round of the program was launched in August 2015 at the Meander River farm of Brent and Alana Atkins.

Brent said, “It is much easier to do more innovative projects when we have such good support from both companies like Fonterra and organisations like NRM North, which are looking out for the broader public interest. We received incentive funding in Round 3 of the programme to rebuild our old dairy yards with best practice collection and drainage, which has multiple benefits for us and the environment”.

Brent and Alana’s project limits run-off of nutrients from effluent into waterways (via leaching or overland flow) and allows for controlled management of nutrients that are collected – as it is treated and spread safely to pasture via the shed effluent management system.

By the end of 2015 Fonterra’s SupportCrew Sustainability program had implemented over 300 farm projects that improve environmental outcomes and farm profitability.  These are mainly nutrient management, soil health and efficiency projects for water or energy. 

Tatura farmers embrace nutrient management planning

One of the key planks of Bega Cheese’s sustainability program in the Tatura, Victoria region is providing assistance with the development and implementation of on-farm nutrient management plans. 

The plans are based on the industry recognised Fert$mart model of planning and provide suppliers with the tools to make informed, profitable nutrient management decisions. 

Fert$mart, initiated by Dairy Australia, was developed to improve the efficiency and profitability of fertiliser use, and to improve soil health on Australian dairy farms.

The program provides easy-to-follow planning steps to guide farmers and advisors with fertiliser planning and decision making based on the 4Rs: Right rate of the Right fertiliser source applied at the Right time in the Right place.

The plans are developed in conjunction with the supplier and a qualified Fert$mart consultant, and involve splitting the farm into management zones; with soil tests, historical management, effluent and fertilizer use all taken into consideration to maximise production, profitability and effective use of nutrients.

The soil testing allows targeted fertiliser strategies, potentially saving money. This, combined with viewing effluent as more than just a waste product and understanding its nutritional value, helps dairy farmers make decisions about using those nutrients.

By getting soil and fertilizer management ‘right’ suppliers are able to maximise feed production at no extra cost while ensuring health of the environment. 

In the Tatura region, more than 20 plans have been completed, with at least another 20 signed up.

This program has been enthusiastically embraced by Bega Cheese’s suppliers with the plans becoming a key tool in their farm planning. This compliments work being done with suppliers across the Bega Cheese Group.