Mid-Canterbury dairy farmers Rachel and Greg Roadley
Synlait is also asking its farmers to voluntarily commit to delivering reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and water use, with incentives offered for doing so through its Lead With Pride programme.
The programme recognises farmers by rewarding them with a premium milk payout if they achieve dairy farming best practice in the areas of environment, animal welfare, social responsibility and milk quality.
Synlait has boldly committed to achieving on-farm reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent per kilogram of milk solids by 2028, including a reduction of methane by 30 per cent.
By 2028 the company is also aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent for its manufacturing sites and supply chains.
Providing these types of incentives to farmers who are preserving and growing the value of their land through investment in natural capital is important.
We are seeing more examples of farmers changing the way they farm to create much more environmentally, financially and socially sustainable business.
Mid-Canterbury dairy farmers Greg and Rachel Roadley are a great example.
Together they have built a successful business able to withstand the challenges dairying will face in the next few years.
The couple, who supply to Fonterra, milk 3100 cows across five farms in Mid Canterbury and North Otago.
Their low-cost, grass-based system is producing good profits while keeping their nitrogen loss and greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum.
“We view ourselves as pasture farmers that happen to harvest the grass with milking cows,” says Greg Roadley.
Viewing their farm as a system, the Roadleys scrutinise every input.
“We constantly challenge conventional wisdom and what we did the previous year, continually reviewing and tweaking our system to drive productivity.”
An openness to adopting new technology is also a large part of the Roadleys approach.
Soil probes are installed on the couple’s farms, giving them up-to-date data on the moisture and temperature of the soil.
This means they only irrigate when necessary and only apply fertiliser when the ground is warm and the grass is growing and able to absorb the nutrients.
This approach ensures their pasture grows and provides the maximum food and nutrition to the cows.
It also means there is minimal loss of nutrients like nitrates and phosphates through leaching from the soil, benefiting the environment.
“Our objective is to have stability and repeatability, and that's what our system is set up to deliver.”
Many of the changes the Roadleys have made to the running of their farm have been driven by their desire to be more efficient and profitable, but they also believe there’s an important role for banks and other financial institutions to play in the years ahead.
“Farmers are having to move in a more sustainable direction,” says Greg.
“Support and signals from the marketplace, the financial institutions or industry will help that direction of travel.”
The Roadleys are a great example of a couple who have challenged themselves to showcase good sustainability practises.
This is the mindset our industry needs if it is to prosper and showcasing best practice is important.
But as a finance sector we need to take best practice and benchmark it against recognised and consistent measures. In time good benchmark performance should influence where capital goes.
A sustainable primary sector is vital to New Zealand’s economic well-being, but achieving this goes beyond investing in environmental initiatives on the farm. It involves a significant system change at many levels, including the finance sector.