Thursday, 20 October 2016

Getting the lay of the land


Power is in the knowing, and a Farm Environmental Management Plan (FEMP) is exactly that.

It’s a record of your farm: shape and size, topography, inputs and outputs, nutrient levels, erosion risks, stock exclusion area, crops, and pasture types. Combined with farm infrastructure, it determines which consenting pathway you’re likely to go down. More importantly your FEMP will summarise the environmental risks that you have identified and list actions of how and when those risks will be managed, which is invaluable to the sustainability of your farming business and of our environment.

The Tukituki catchment plan looks to maintain or improve the water quality in the Tukituki River. That commitment comes with required actions, one of which is for farms to have a FEMP by June 2018.

Nutrient management is one of the main focuses of an FEMP - keeping records of your inputs and outputs on-farm is the key to being able to do that.

The more information you collect the better, because not only is information power, it also adds to your bottom line. The more knowledge you have of your farm above and below the ground, the more opportunities there are to make environmental and productivity gains.

Hawke's Bay sheep and beef farmers who recently went through the FEMP process can’t emphasise enough the importance of getting onto it early.

“Don’t leave it to the last minute,” says Alistair Ormond, “Getting mentally ready and planning now for what you’re going to do is hugely helpful.”

“We’re in one of the sensitive catchments so the requirements are quite stringent for us and the forward planning is a huge advantage. Some people are going to have to dramatically change their farming systems, so the more time they give themselves the better.”

Graeme Bayliss adds “There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes with a FEMP, Ravensdown found a few things for me to work on that I wasn’t aware of. I’m also in a sensitive area so it’s nice to have it all out of the way so I can get onto implementing my plan over the next four years.”

If you are concerned about the level of work involved it helps if you think of it in bite-sized chunks. First identify and documenting the environmental risks on your farm, such as areas that need to be fenced and/or planted - you can get a consultant to help you with this. The second step is to detail the actions you will put in place to fix them and commit to a reasonable time-frame to complete. Things to watch out for that might not be obvious are the proximity of your yards and offal pits to waterways, and where your high risk phosphorus areas might be.

Ravensdown Environmental