It will be interesting to see at what point farming, or at least livestock farming, can satisfy those who have set themselves up as the watchdogs of ….. perhaps everything.
Probably most farmers, if they were/are honest with themselves would agree that there are plenty of areas within their systems that could be improved upon. I suspect most industries would be in a similar situation.
However, most sectors outside of agriculture don’t have the same need to meet a social license to operate that farming does, and livestock farming in particular.
New Zealand seem unique in holding its farmers to account to the degree the public here does. Perhaps it comes from the fact that most 3rd or more generation New Zealanders have had some connection to farming and this lifts their expectation of what can be achieved.
The irony is farmers are operating in a far more sustainable and ethical fashion than they were 50 years ago, the catch is we know far more than we did 50 years ago and information flows far faster. I started paid employment in the livestock sector in about 1972 and I cringe at the way we did some things. The mind set back then was for most totally different to what it is now, and both the treatment of animals and the environment is significantly better now.
So, when I hear farmers being criticised for practises the public deem to be unsuitable my first instinct is one of defensiveness as I know how worse they used to be. However, most of the criticism to make headlines does come with more than a grain of truth.
For most farmers it is the constant scrutiny and requirements to change that forces them onto the defence.
Generally, the public criticism is followed quite closely by a regional or national regulation which if it doesn’t require spending more money will require a reset of the farming system. Neither of what is welcomed. The latest volley is criticism of the intensive wintering systems practiced, particularly by some dairy farmers but beef and sheep farmers are also implicated as well. The NZ Herald piece which ‘discusses’ the issue talks about a “campaign” and “the environmentalist Angus Robson was leading the campaign, and was launching it with supporters outside the offices of the Ministry for the Environment in Wellington.”
There was no mention of who Angus Robson was or what ‘organisation’ he represented given the comment of “supporters”.
Fed Farmers leader Katie Milne was very moderate in her comments and didn’t try to defend the practice and agreed that farmers need to sympathetic to the needs of both the animals and the land as did all farmers who were questioned and some said the person with the drone must have had to wait for a long time to find this example as the mismanagement exhibited in the video is becoming less common.
There was discussion that the practice is not illegal however, with the damage to soils and waterways regional councils are ramping up the anti from the nutrient runoff perspective. The unfortunate aspect of the articles and publicity is the fact that the pressure group(s) going running immediately to media be it social or conventional with no dialogue with the sectors involved.
Where were these ‘watch-dogs’ when the Lake Taupo incident happened or when Queenstown got the 35 year right to pollute Lake Wakatipu?
The one-eyed nature of the criticism being consistently levelled at farmers leads one to believe that the only point when the ‘watch-dogs’ will be satisfied is when there are no livestock left. Farmers do have ways to reduce the barrage but it is only by being totally vigilant in what they do and how they do it and be aware that social media criticism is only a cell phone away. I used to tell students, “if they buy a farm make sure the first thing they do is plant a hedge around the boundary”. However, doing the correct ‘thing’ is probably better. Just be aware the correct ‘thing’ will change over time.
On a totally different topic, isn’t it disappointing to see the decline in the venison schedule? This time last year it was breaking all the records and this year it is the one class of red meat that is languishing.
Seasonal variation with meat always occurs with troughs in the autumn when supply is plentiful and peaks in September with there is minimal supply and processors are trying to keep the chains operating.
However, venison has been flat or declining now for 45 weeks and the national average price now is what it was back in May 2017. Meat companies are not being that forth coming with the reasons, mentioning oversupply and that excess stocks need to move.
However, this hardly explains the drop from $11.47 a kg in September last year to the $847 this week and little sign of an uplift.