web analytics

Happy cows and land restoration

Written By: - Date published: 7:10 am, March 1st, 2020 - 12 comments
Categories: climate change, Economy, Environment, farming, farming - Tags: , ,

All those articles and memes circulating now about how terrible meat and dairy is for the environment, they’re based on global statistics that don’t take into account local variations. They’re measuring the impact of farming like this, which isn’t really farming so much as a grotesque industrial machine. 

 

This is the worst of what we do. The push towards veganism wants to replace it with this,
 
When measuring global statistics, the second photo is apparently an improvement, but in terms of climate, biodiversity, water and sanity, the latter is us just killing ourselves (and everything else) a bit more slowly. 
 
These two kinds of farming aren’t done in New Zealand (yet) and so our farming can’t be compared to this in terms of impact. However most people in New Zealand choosing to go vegan ‘for the environment’ are choosing to swap our conventional pasture raised sheep and beef for the soy desert above (by and large we’re not growing our own soy yet). The point here isn’t to go boo vegans, it’s to point starkly to the problems with the current food and environment debate.
 
Enter regenerative agriculture, which by definition regenerates land, and does so by not treating it as a giant mine to plunder.
 
 
Yep, that’s what we could be choosing instead. That’s an agroforestry farm, a kind of farming that integrates trees, stock, and ground crops.
 
Here’s an example (5 mins) of cows integrated into a regenerative food production system. Note the almost closed loop nutrient cycling, water restoration, reliance on trees as fodder, and the happy cows.
 

Some additional points,

  • half the world’s food comes from small-scale producers.
  • the shift to small-scale, regenerative systems brings multiple benefits: economic resilience, food security, carbon sequestration, rebuilding soil and fertility, much lower inputs and near zero pollution, increased biodiversity, water conservation and protection, improved animal welfare.
  • the system in the video is not a system for mass producing export milk powder from stock units. It’s a system for producing local food in a way that restores land and is relatively self-sustaining.
  • if we transition to a relocalised economy, farmers will need a new way of making a living that isn’t export based. They also need a way out of the massive debt many are under. These are stark political realities standing between us and avoiding climate catastrophe.
  • there’s a general rule of thumb that regenerative farms are less productive per hectare when measuring output, but the economics are better because input costs are much lower than conventional farms. That’s without getting to counting the value of things like increased biodiversity, clean water ways, local employment.
  • different locations and climates have differently designed systems. Part of the point here is to design appropriate to the specific landbase.

12 comments on “Happy cows and land restoration ”

  1. RedLogix 1

    Thanks for this post weka. Agriculture is one of any governments primary responsibilities and there is so much potential to lift our game.

    there’s a general rule of thumb that regenerative farms are less productive per hectare when measuring output,

    I don't see that as an insurmountable problem; while I totally support the ideas of the post around producing high quality, localised animal proteins, there are two factors that work in your favour.

    One is that I believe the trend in our lifetime will be toward people eating less meat, but at a higher quality. The other is that the balance of our diet can come from plant based food production using methods like aquaponics, and greenhouse based vertical farming which inherently use far less land and water than traditional cropping methods.

    The two strands complement each other very nicely, one allows us to manage arable landscapes intelligently and sustainably, the other can reliably feed tens of millions at huge scale without imposing a huge footprint on the natural world.

  2. Thanks for this post, that video was awesome.

    there’s a general rule of thumb that regenerative farms are less productive per hectare when measuring output…

    That's the big hurdle, because the private sector operates on KPI-based thinking. That thinking is that success = maximising your key performance indicators, but the problem with measuring success based on a number is that people will naturally seek to maximise that number and broader measures of success will take a back seat. In the case of farming, productivity per hectare is the main KPI. I think the Greens understand there's more to success than maximising some numbers, but I'm not sure that Labour do and National certainly don't.

    • weka 2.1

      So they only measure out put rather than whether their books balance? What's just weird.

      • weka 2.1.1

        But lol, this is *exactly the difference between regenag and conventional/industrial farming on a number of levels.

  3. pat 3

    Rod Oram appears to be having similar thoughts.

    "But farming profitably through climate change is going to take far more than traditional measures such as extra reserves of feed, more water storage and irrigation and government handouts to alleviate drought-induced financial losses.

    It will take big changes in farming systems to make farm ecosystems, paddock grasses, forage crops and animals much more drought resistant. The absolute key to this is rebuilding the health of soils as the keystone of regenerative farming practices."

    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2020/03/01/1059732/farming-when-drought-is-the-new-normal

    • Ian 3.1

      So Rod Oram believes that supplementary feeding,water storage and irrigation is not profitable. He needs to go and talk to some FARMERS,rather than a few idealistic broken arses

  4. bwaghorn 4

    I just cant see how we can transition back to small farms being able to support a family . Land prices are so high and costs are high ,and while meat seems expensive it would have to be much expensive to allow a mass move to the farm shown in your video.

    • weka 4.1

      The farm in the vid produces a range of foods, not just meat. The shift is away from seeing stock units = output measurements, and more towards the whole system and the benefits (economic and other) that it brings.

      My personal view is that the govt should pay to free up land from debt that transitions to regenag. That land then becomes part of a different system i.e. it can't be sold for big capital gains.

  5. Andre 5

    The massive fields of grain (or soybeans) in the second photo of the OP are a large part of what enables the hellscape of the first photo to exists.

    If there were a massive shift in worldwide diet away from beef, towards a diet with a higher proportion of its protein from vegetable sources or pork or chicken, the land area needed to produce protein for human consumption would reduce significantly. There would be less of photo 1 and less of photo 2.

    • weka 5.1

      Yes. I'm less convinced of how much a difference this would make*, but let's assume for argument's sake it does make an important difference. It still won't save us from CC, Peak Soil, the biodiversity crisis, the water crisis, food shortages and so on.

      This is what I meant by dying a bit more slowly.

      *in part because that big ag neoliberal capitalistic system will also be quite happy to use freed up land to grow biofuels. I'm not seeing anyone trying to regulate that yet because we are still largely in the phase where reducing GHG emissions is secondary to keeping the global economy in perpetual growth. We also tend to see GHG emissions as linear rather than as part of the wider systems that would include peak soil, biodiversity etc.

  6. Aaron 6

    Hey Weka fantastic to see you putting out info about Regnerative Farming – I was in a state of despair about how few people in New Zealand know about it.

    To put this in perspective Democratic candidates in the US have been using the phrase but I couldnt't find it on the NZ Green party's agriculture page last time I looked!

  7. A 7

    Great article and I really like the Geoff Lawson video – it's time the blame for things shifted away from cow farts etc to how the farming is done (+ China…world's biggest polluter, just saying).

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Worsening housing crisis must prompt action
    A growing public housing waiting list and continued increase of house prices must be urgently addressed by Government, Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today. ...
    4 hours ago
  • Twenty highlights of 2020
    As we welcome in the new year, our focus is on continuing to keep New Zealanders safe and moving forward with our economic recovery. There’s a lot to get on with, but before we say a final goodbye to 2020, here’s a quick look back at some of the milestones ...
    3 weeks ago

  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Better care for babies with tongue-tie
    Babies born with tongue-tie will be assessed and treated consistently under new guidelines released by the Ministry of Health, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. Around 5% to 10% of babies are born with a tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, in New Zealand each year. At least half can ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison over
    The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison is over, with all remaining prisoners now safely and securely detained, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says. The majority of those involved in the event are members of the Mongols and Comancheros. Five of the men are deportees from Australia, with three subject to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test for travellers from the UK and the US from 15 January
    Travellers from the United Kingdom or the United States bound for New Zealand will be required to get a negative test result for COVID-19 before departing, and work is underway to extend the requirement to other long haul flights to New Zealand, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today. “The new PCR test requirement, foreshadowed last ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago