Sheryl Haitana

Fonterra’s Sustainable Dairy Advisers are booked solid until autumn as the interest grows in farmers wanting to complete a farm environment plan as part of its Tiaki Sustainable Dairying Programe.

Fonterra has completed farm environment plans for 25% of its suppliers so far, with the co-operative’s 30 sustainable dairy advisers able to complete 1000 plans a year, Fonterra director of onfarm excellence Charlotte Rutherford says.

When Fonterra formulated the Tiaki roll out they underestimated the demand, especially from farmers in regions outside sensitive catchments, Charlotte says.

“I underestimated the demand, especially in unregulated areas and the return visits farmers wanted.”

Farmers who have completed a project on their farm environment plan are also eager to get Fonterra advisor back to take photos and update the plan which takes up more time.

It’s great to see the commitment of farmers engaging and wanting to embark on a plan for their entire farm and business, she says.

“It’s a good problem to have, farmers are embracing a really good tool.”

There has been a lot of talk that there are not enough trained people on the ground to deliver farm environment plans to all farmers in a speedy fashion, but Charlotte disagrees.

“If farmers want them, we can build the capability.

“We will adapt what we do to make sure our shareholders are getting what they need as regulatory requirements come into place.”

Fonterra’s hope is that under the Government’s Essential Freshwater Package that Farm Environment Plans become mandatory, but remain under industry leadership, embedded with new regulation from central or local government.

The one-on-one delivery of Tiaki between the farmer and the sustainable dairy advisor is one of the keys to its success, she believes.

“I don’t believe you can produce a tailored relevant plan when you’re trying to do it in a group. They (the people) are the ones that make it tick, they add the value and they’re the ones that can align everything to an individual farm.”

The Tiaki plans are another tool Fonterra can use to showcase to New Zealanders and overseas customers the work its farmers are doing.

While domestically, New Zealanders are focused on freshwater, many of Fonterra’s biggest customers are asking about other issues such as biodiversity, animal welfare, waste and soil management.

“We had Coke out here and they were interested in bees and butterflies.”

Farmers need to meet domestic regulation to retain a social license to farm, to continue to deliver products that meet market expectations.

  • Tiaki means to look after, to guard, to care for, keep and nurture. Fonterra’s Tiaki Sustainable Dairy Programme, includes delivering farm environment plans for all suppliers, consent support, nitrogen reports, farm mapping and plans around managing riparian and effluent. To book in to get a Tiaki farm environment plan talk to your local Fonterra representative.