The initial phase encompassed the full spectrum of scale and complexity. One study showed the production impact of grazing management and diet composition, while another involved systems thinking (how individual elements influence one another within a complete entity) among multiple stakeholders to set targets and agree on a preferred approach to improve the quality of waterways.
Pastoral 21 Phase II (P21-II, 2011-2016) was even bolder and drew on the work of its predecessor, as well from other public- and industry-good R&D programmes, to create proven solutions that can be practically applied on farms.
Its twin goals are:
- a $110/ha/year increase in average profitability from dairy production, with a 30% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorous losses to water.
- a 3% annual meat productivity increase, while containing or reducing
“Delivering on these goals will mean changing the current relationship between production and environmental footprint,” says AgResearch’s P21 Science Leader Mark Shepherd.
“Thanks to science, better farm management practices and other tools, we have found amazing ways to increase production over the years. We’ve also found ways to reduce environmental footprint – but not at the same pace. Our goal is to reverse that trend – to ensure efficiency gains to reduce our environmental footprint while maintaining production gains.”
So who wins in this scenario – farmers or the environment? “Both,” says Dr Shepherd.
“Production gains are as critical as ever. What’s changed is that the commitment to creating gains that are sustainable, within a given environmental footprint, has gone up to a whole new level.”
P 21-II objectives sit within three broad themes: next generation dairy systems, lifting profitability for mixed livestock systems, and breakthrough technologies.
Research collaborators in the AgResearch-led research programme include DairyNZ, NIWA, Landcare Research, Plant & Food Research, Massey University, Lincoln University and Telford Rural Polytechnic.
In the Next Generation Dairy Systems theme, dairy production systems have been tested in four key dairy regions. Each of these ‘farmlet’ comparisons aimed to test readily adoptable approaches that were expected to increase profitability from production while reducing nutrient losses to water.