Friday, 21 February 2020 12:15

‘Cows can help reverse global warming’

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Phyllis Tichinin. Phyllis Tichinin.

Cows and pasture are not the villains in climate change, but could instead be our saviours, says Hawke’s Bay farmer, soil scientist and consultant Phyllis Tichinin.

An executive member of the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group (ODPG) and on the organising committee of the group’s upcoming national conference, Tichinin says with regenerative farming methods, the grazing sector alone could make New Zealand carbon-negative.

“Cows are not bad. They’re actually a very important part of reversing global warming and CO2 levels quickly and productively.”

Tichinin said that over the last 30 years New Zealand farmers have assumed that what we see in terms of rooting depth and fibrousness is normal and assume that the soil is going to deteriorate as we till and graze.

“It doesn’t have to be that way. That’s not the way it would happen on a fully-functioning ecosystem.”

Tichinin says pasture can be restored to health by mimicking nature. Grasslands such as the Serengeti and North American Great Plains grew tall in between intensive but brief grazing by passing herds. 

The ODPG is a mainly North Island-based group with around 120 members, mostly organic beef and dairy farmers. With a focus on farmer-to-farmer education and resource-sharing, it is about to hold its first South Island conference, at Lincoln University over the weekend of March 7 and 8. It is encouraging South Island farmers to attend.

The main speaker will be Dr Walter Jehne, former CSIRO climate scientist and microbiologist and founder of Healthy Soils Australia. Other speakers include Tichinin and freshwater ecologist Dr Mike Joy.

She said the focus of the conference will be soil carbon sequestration – grazing in a way that increases organic matter in the soil.

“We’re focussing not just on farming without the chemicals, but actually actively consciously farming to grow specifically the soil carbon sponge because that’s a primary indicator of soil health.”

Tichinin, a self-described “contrarian”, ran Jerseys because of their higher fat content, both in their milk and in their bodies.

She said that leaving Jersey bull calves with their mothers allowed them to lay down crucial early fat cells, then put down lots of fat to be harvested at slaughter at four to five years instead of the usual two.

Overseas there was “huge” awareness of the importance of fat soluble vitamins like A and D and K2 and conjugated linoleic acids, said Tichinin.

More like this

Carbon zero milk

Fonterra has joined forces with a supermarket chain to deliver what it claims is NZ’s first carbon zero milk.

Making good use of a crisis

One of New Zealand’s largest dairy farmers says the Covid-19 pandemic presents the country an opportunity to rethink its approach to on-farm sustainability.

Featured

Longest running ag field days all go

The South Island Agricultural Field Days, held in Kirwee on the outskirts of Christchurch, will celebrate its 70th year in March 2021 with a bigger demonstration area.

 

National

Global movers and shakers

Dairy companies around the world are facing a dilemma – whether to expand or divest assets, says Rabobank’s Mary Ledman.

Live cattle exports in limbo

The fate of 28,000 cows in quarantine in New Zealand and supposedly destined for China in the coming weeks hangs…

Machinery & Products

Mowers get a makeover

Well known throughout New Zealand over the past 18 years, Pottinger has redesigned its rear-mounted Novadisc mowers to incorporate a…

Hardy spotlight

High quality, reliable lighting is essential for anyone involved in agriculture or the great outdoors.

Simmm twin water blasters

Italian made Simmm Power Cleaner 100/11 and Power Gun 100/11 single-phase (230 volt) electric water blasters are proving popular in…

OPD argument raging on

A stoush is brewing with the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) heavily criticising Farmsafe Australia’s recent Safer Farm Report.

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Cows and earthquakes

OPINION: It has long been suggested that animals have senses that humans don’t, and often behave differently than usual shortly…

Battle is on

OPINION: One of Australia’s biggest dairy businesses is back on the market after the Federal Government knocked back a bid…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter