Exploring farm level response to multiple drivers of change, a West Coast case study.
Developing resilient, profitable, and robust dairy farm businesses in response to multiple drivers of change (e.g., water quality regulations, a low carbon economy) is challenging. This study explored methods for working with dairy farmers and stakeholders from the West Coast of New Zealand to evaluate options for system change. Physical, financial, and environmental data from the study farms were analysed and benchmarked to provide farmers with information on how their financial and environmental performance compared with others. The most profitable farm had the lowest purchased nitrogen (N) surplus. However, high pasture production and utilisation resulted in higher methane emissions for this farm. FARMAX and OVERSEER models were used to apply principles of the top performing farm to two selected study farms.
These study farms largely succeeded in reducing N surplus and methane emissions, but operating profit was reduced, suggesting a complete system rethink is needed including focusing on growing and harvesting more home-grown feed with less N input, and scrutiny of farm working expenses. This study showed that benchmarking, farmer participation and modelling has the potential to create a positive environment that
motivates farmers to review their current performance, extract solutions from their local peers and partner with researchers.
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