I think the word pivoting has been overused this year, but maybe a realignment is more what is needed and what we see leading farmers doing. Making small changes to better fit with their values, buttoning off intensity, stepping away from using so much N, finding more balance.

Covid-19 came along and we all stopped with the overseas work trips and the holidays and realigned ourselves to enjoy staycations and conferences over Zoom.

It’s become wasteful and resource-hungry to buy a new wardrobe each season so we have adjusted to wearing the old ones and trawling through the second-hand shops to re-use and recycle.

I have spent the year cutting down on plastic use, refilling the old plastic and glass bottles as much as possible with my new-found BFFs at the local Bin Inn, and I really have cut down on trips to the recycling centre by simply not buying the plastic.

As a family we have also cut meat consumption – not because I really believe eating less of New Zealand’s low-carbon beef and lamb will actually save the planet from climate change – it’s more for the health benefits of higher vegetable content in our diet.

At the recent Primary Industry Summit, Dave Frame from the NZ Climate Change Institute said the CO2 increasingly dominates the climate change problem and while methane needs to reduce a little, CO2 really needs to go to zero – because of the longer timeframe that CO2 spends in the atmosphere.

A split gas approach is fairer and less arming in the long run – and so while destocking cows is tinkering around the edges, it’s really all about cutting fossil fuel use and emissions.

So that is a work-on for next year which at farm scale will take a lot of realignment of systems and processes.

Talking of work-ons, our budgeting special report reminds why it’s important to be a ‘super-spread-sheeter’, creating, monitoring and reviewing the budget at frequent intervals to help make better decisions. You can’t go forward or change direction if you don’t know where you sit. (pg 45)

In a similar vein, Align Farms in Canterbury want to understand more about regen ag, so have embarked on farm-scale trials, running regen and conventional systems side by side so they can actually get data and make informed decisions on the financial, environmental, human and animal health and social impacts of the system. They are after robust scientific outcomes that they can share with other farmers (pg42). The Dairy Exporter will follow the trials and help spread their data and conclusions.

The Wards in Canterbury are re-aligning their N use and cover off how they are driving down their N surplus to fit under the 190kgN/ha/year ceiling set under the Freshwater policy reforms. (pg 34)

While not classically beautiful, our cover-girl cow from Align Farms certainly has attitude – with the stumpy horns, the googly eyes and her tongue hanging out, she made me smile – and perhaps personified a little how we all feel about 2020.

Bugger off crazy old 2020, bring on 2021 so we can all work-on our realignment!

Jackie Harrigan