Wednesday, 03 March 2021 08:55

Reducing cow numbers no 'silver bullet' for emissions

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Tom Pow says standing cows in shelters like HerdHomes reduces risks to the environment. Tom Pow says standing cows in shelters like HerdHomes reduces risks to the environment.

Reducing cow numbers isn’t the ‘silver bullet’ to lowering greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand, says Northland farmer and entrepreneur Tom Pow.

With the Government facing calls to slash cow numbers as part of its climate change action plan, Pow, the founder of HerdHomes, says a knee-jerk reaction to reduce cow numbers would be naïve.

He suggests looking at other options including reducing the number of hours cows spend in paddocks.

“Balanced feed can lead to less greenhouse gasses (GHG) or effectively a smaller herd mis-managed could produce even more GHG,” he told Dairy News.

He suggests standing cows somewhere where the effluent is contained, like the HerdHome shelters he makes.

“This means it becomes not a risk to the environment or a waste problem but it becomes your fertiliser, readily available on your farm,” says Pow.

“If the manure is re-applied at the end of winter before the manure temperature reaches 10 degrees C, then there is effectively no waste of the nitrogen or sulphur that it naturally contained in the effluent.

“Natural soil bacteria start to break down manure at this temperature, which is created by nature to coincide with natural spring growth. This way it is not able or likely to penetrate the soil and become a ground water risk.

“Cow manure is easier to handle in dry or semi dry form than flushing it away with loads of water.

“There are a few dos and don’ts: don’t hold cows on tracks or pads or allow cows to make camp spots in the paddock; always remember solid manure is great, liquid form is more likely to escape the plant root zone.”

Another option to reduce GHG on farms is to stop farm wastage, he says.

“Wastage can [occur] in so many ways. Just look at the difference in so many farms’ stocking rates and production per hectare. Look at the true potential of your land and region to produce milk or beef. Under-production on valuable land is wasteful at a time that the world’s population is expanding.”

Pow urges farmers to look at information supplied by milk processors, scientists and regional councils.

He says he has some concerns around the push by lobby groups to target dairy farming.

“If we as famers move and change too many things at the start of this period, does this mean that they expect us to climb an even bigger mountain before the end?”

More like this

State funding to reduce emissions

Chinese-owned Westland Dairy Company is getting $1.7 million from the Government to accelerate plans to reduce carbon emissions produced by its Hokitika factory.

From coal to pellets

Fonterra is on track to meeting an interim target of achieving a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030.

National

a2 Milk seals Mataura deal

The a2 Milk Company (a2Mc) has been given the regulatory approval to buy 75% of Mataura Valley Milk, Southland.

Machinery & Products

Giving calves the best

Waikato farmer Ed Grayling milks 430 cows on mostly peat soil that is low on trace elements.

Feed system helping grow top heifers

Feeding livestock can bring with it several challenges including labour shortages, wasted feed, higher prices for smaller quantities, intake monitoring…

Hard hat or hard head

A recently released coroner's report into the death of a South Canterbury farmworker in 2019 raised the question of the…

Made in NZ: Trimax

Made in New Zealand looks at the wealth of design and manufacturing ability we have in New Zealand, creating productive…

Vendro badged tedders

Masterton based Tulloch Farm Machines has introduced a new series of Krone tedders badged Vendro, to replace the existing KW…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Microbe power

OPINION: Microbes fished from the stomachs of cows can gobble up certain kinds of plastic, including the polythylene terephthalate (PET)…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter