Stan and Jocelyn Eichler have been dairy farming in lower Pongakawa since 1995. During this time, they have increased their land area, adding three blocks to the original farm, while developing a top-quality dairy Jersey herd.
They are hoping to gain insight into strategies to help the estuary recover. Jocelyn commented that while she hoped on-farm trials and plantings would improve options for solutions, the feedback from the systems analysis has provided valid perspectives on ways they can adapt.
After two years of being part of the Lighthouse farm group Jocelyn remarks, “we have found some areas of the business to tweak, without being too radical”. She maintains reservations about making major changes to their business, partly due to a lack of assurance of future regional plan change regulations.
Jocelyn emphasises that farmers need, “science as well as practical solutions with vision”.
Changes on their farm include a recently installed effluent storage bladder, which provides an immediate advantage of reducing nutrient and bacterial losses to ground water.
Increasing the volume of sealed storage benefits pasture growth through deferred irrigation. Effluent can now be applied when soil and growing conditions are optimal for maximising the economic benefit of nutrients. In addition to this upgrade, the Eichlers have trialled a reduction of nitrogen fertiliser and are reducing milking cow numbers slightly.
Jocelyn appreciates that while on-farm improvements will take time to provide significant improvements in the estuary. With the growing number of farmers interested in investing time in understanding their systems, she is hopeful the community will succeed.