Lynda Gray

The proposed environmental standards around intensive grazing practices and management on a ‘feedlot’ has come under the spotlight of the deer industry.

“They’re primarily targeted at large-scale beef but the way the criteria is framed it could be interpreted and applied to the indoor wintering of deer,” Lindsay Fung, environmental stewardship manager, DINZ says.

“It’s a benign environmental practice but it could get caught up in the regulation.”

The indoor wintering of stags has become popular in some regions where big animals grazing crop can create problems.

“In essence it’s an environment-saving practice, especially in areas such as Southland where it reduces mud and sediment getting into waterways. It’s a good solution especially if you have an existing building.”

Under the proposed standards a feedlot and a ‘stock holding area’, where animals are held for more than 30 days in any 12 months period, or more than 10 consecutive days, will require consent.

A feedlot is defined as a stockholding area where stock is confined for more than 80 days in a six-month period and are hand or mechanically fed.

Southland farmer and NZDFA chairman John Somerville agrees that regulations are needed around the practice but draws the line at a resource consent process as recommended.

“I think that a lot of people don’t understand what a ‘feedlot’ is on a typical farm. For deer farmers it’s about looking after the welfare of the animal as well as reducing the environmental footprint by protecting soil and pasture over winter.”

Also, the deer industry would be emphasising that the effluent from deer – primarily dung – does not have the nitrogen run-off problems that the copious flow of urine from dairy stock has.

Somerville speaks from experience; he’s wintered stags indoors for almost 30 years on his farm at Pine Bush. He’s taken photos of the manure build up which is spread back on paddocks and is completely unlike the sludge of dairy cattle effluent.

His other concern with the increasing red tape around feedlot type grazing is the extra cost that will be borne by farmers, and the likelihood that councils will be able to monitor the practice.

Also, the NZDFA will be seeking clarification around the thinking and methodology triggering a consent for the winter grazing of forage crops. The standards recommend that grazing 10 or 15 degrees slope will remain a permitted activity so long as no more that 30ha or 5% or 10 % of a farm is growing crop.

“We’d like more movement around the area to up around 100ha.”