Dairy Farming in Southland
Prior to 1990, fertiliser N was used only strategically on NZ dairy farms, once or twice a year. MAF's Farm Advisors cautioned against wider use because of adverse effects on clover growth. Dairy farming was mainly on the deep, free-draining volcanic soils of the Waikato and Taranaki, which had reliable summer rainfall.
Developments in the late 1980s changed all that. Demand for our dairy products was increasing internationally, but wool and meat prices were falling. The 'think big' Kapuni urea plant made it cheaper. Pasture production could be increased 30% (even more in Southland) if 200-300 kgN/ha were applied annually, split into in 5-8 applications. Irrigation transformed Canterbury.
Massive expansion and intensification of dairying took place, putting more pressure on the environment, especially on the shallow irrigated soils of Canterbury, and areas with long winters like Southland, on soils prone to pugging.
Successful and environmentally-protective dairy farming in Southland requires a very high level of skill and knowledge.
Endless new regulations are not the answer. We need to incentivise the best farmers to upskill their struggling neighbours. Possibly 20% of them may need to be advised, and be helped, to relocate. This is reality.