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By Cameron Henderson, President North Canterbury Federated Farmers

Photos of mud, animals and dirty water are popping up again in the seasonal media campaign against winter grazing of cows.

Nobody wants to see situations like these, good farmers most of all. Let me explain.

During the winter, cows are not being milked as they rest up and gain weight ready to calve in the spring.

The best way for a cow to gain weight is to be well fed and to have a sheltered, dry spot to rest so they don’t use up their energy trying to stay warm. So, a good farmer has the incentive to provide plentiful feed and shelter for a healthy cow, easier calving and ultimately more milk production.

Quality soils are an important component on a productive farm.

If a paddock is used for winter grazing and, during wet periods is not managed well, the soil becomes extremely muddy and pugged as the cows’ hooves sink in.

This destroys soil structure and the ability for the soil to support crops in the future.

If the wet period causes water to flow across the surface of the paddock it can take the soil with it, creating runoff.

The loss of soil to the paddock also diminishes the productive value of the paddock.

A good farmer acts to protect both soil structure and the retention of the soil in the paddock by moving animals during wet periods, back fencing and smart paddock selection.

Not only do good farmers have an incentive to manage winter feeding according to these sound management practices, they now require a resource consent, an extensive farm environment plan and regular independent audits to ensure good management practice is being followed.

Winter grazing is an important component of the farming cycle in Canterbury and has evolved dramatically over recent years.

As the few remaining farmers catch up with the latest standards, environmental media campaigns will need to look elsewhere for scandal in the future.