OverseerFM can help farmers make important decisions to achieve better economic and environmental outcomes on their farm, Tokoroa dairy farmer George Moss says.

George and his wife Sharon have two small dairy farms, each milking 170-180 cows as well as a small 40-hectare dairy support unit. One of their farms is being used by DairyNZ to study ways farmers can reduce their greenhouse gas footprint and the financial costs of doing so.

“How can we produce more with a lower environmental footprint? That’s the simple model and we are trying to find that sweet spot,” George says.

“That’s where OverseerFM comes in. The tool gives you an understanding of what’s happening on your farm around nitrogen and greenhouse gases and provides you with a platform to guide your direction of travel.”

George has been using decision-support tools such as Overseer, along with DairyBase and FARMAX for 20-30 years to inform and manage costs on his farm through better use of nutrients.

“We have a very distinct strategy of farming at the lower end of the stocking rate spectrum and the use of these tools have given us confidence around that decision.”

George has a long-term commitment to the sector and over the past 40 years he’s had a range of leadership roles including chair of the Fonterra Farms Advisory Board, dairy representative on the Waikato Regional Council Collaborative Stakeholder Group and a panel member of DairyNZ’s P21 project.

“When I started, there was a positive correlation between production and profit and there was no talk about the environment or water quality. That model has well and truly moved on. Now it’s all about adding value, cost control and positioning our products with a low footprint whether it be nutrient losses or greenhouse gas emissions.

“The sector now has to find a way to maintain its businesses while minimising the spread of those contaminants. Using tools like OverseerFM provide a platform to do that.”

George is also very clear about the important role OverseerFM should play as a compliance tool in freshwater management – and it’s about actions not numbers. Direction of travel is the key.

“OverseerFM is a model that’s designed to deal with complex biological systems, which is what all farms are. If you use OverseerFM to create an absolute nitrogen compliance point and there’s a drought, that will throw things out.

“Instead, OverseerFM should be used to identify actions that will reduce nutrient losses. Those actions feed into Farm Environmental Plans and become the point of compliance.”