New research shows that New Zealand sheep and beef farms are already offsetting the majority of their agricultural emissions.
The aim of B+LNZ’s ‘Future Farm’ is to demonstrate how new technologies, systems and practices can impact on performance – while maintaining the highest production standards within a leading environmental footprint.
The team on Lanercost, a 1310ha commercial sheep and beef farm near Cheviot, is making full use of mapping and modelling tools to identify the land use capability of different areas of the farm and employs Overseer to carry out nutrient budgets.
Kirsti Lovie, Insights Manager at B+LNZ’s Future Farm, uses the tool to ensure the farm can meet environmental compliance requirements. But also, to gain a fuller picture of the impact of farm management practices by forecasting the results and updating with actuals and any planned changes to the budgeted farm plan.
“Every action you take has a reaction, so we use OverseerFM in conjunction with other tools to track where we are going and the impact of the decisions that are made on farm,” she says.
“For instance, we had really good winter crop yields and so had some additional feed. We wanted to bring in some extra grazing cattle to eat it. We were able to use Overseer to model the impact of this change and the practices available to mitigate risk.”
Lovie says Lanercost is making important changes to reduce the farm’s environmental footprint this year as a result of using Overseer – in conjunction with Land use class (LUC) mapping and a farm environment plan.
“It has helped us really understand our soil’s limitations, the opportunities and the zones to exclude from winter cropping to avoid phosphorous losses.”
She says, on any farm, it’s really important to understand the land resource, what it is capable of, how it varies across the farm and where the risk areas are.
“It’s a good idea to link OverseerFM to your farm environmental plan and LUC mapping so you know what your soil is capable of,” Lovie adds. “Your topography, overland flow potential, the timing of putting animals into different zones and what impact different stock classes will have.”
She believes by using the tool themselves or alongside their consultant, farmers will get the maximum benefit by better understanding the tool and the accuracy of the model.
“Sheep and beef farmers will know what changes have an impact on their farm, they will know how to read the reports and understand how different parts of their farm react to different farm management approaches. That way, they can identify the opportunities and maximise the potential of their farm business.”
Lovie says it is a very fluid tool and the new version is visual and farmer centric.
“If farmers are using a consultant to set OverseerFM up, I would recommend sitting with them to gain an understanding about how it works,” she explains.
“My advice to farmers would be to ‘own’ your Overseer account, even if a consultant is completing the modelling for you. Once you have access and can control it, you will be surprised how quickly it becomes familiar and you build confidence around using it or viewing outputs.”
The Future Farm programme is also planning to look at using the new carbon stock tool in OverseerFM to estimate the carbon sequestration potential of existing tree blocks.