Intensive Winter Grazing

 

We know that intensive grazing is an essential element of many Otago farming systems, but when it’s not managed well it can result in significant nutrient and sediment losses into waterways that may negatively impact on water quality.

 

In general:

  • If the area of intensive winter grazing is outside any critical source areas and within the limits stated in the chart below, and you manage your grazing well, you wouldn’t need a resource consent.

  • If the area of intensive winter grazing is large, or you do not meet the permitted criteria, you would need a resource consent.

 

Use the flow chart to work out whether you would be likely to need a resource consent for intensive winter grazing under the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater.

 

Cattle in paddock near waterway

Well-managed intensive grazing activity

A well-managed intensive winter grazing activity means:

  • Avoiding critical source areas, such as wet spots in paddocks, gullies and swales (see definition of “critical source area”  below or click here for a fact sheet)
  • Leaving a grassed or planted buffer strip between the area of grazing and any critical source area or water body
  • Break feeding from the top to the bottom of a sloped paddock

Refer to your farming industry organisation for more guidance, as they’ll be able to assist with solutions specific to your farming operation.

Good preparation is crucial for managing your intensive winter grazing well. It’s best to start thinking about how you will manage your grazing well before selecting paddocks and beginning cultivation. This winter grazing plan template could help. 

 

Not sure whether you need a consent or not?

Contact us on 0800 474 082 or email customerservices@orc.govt.nz

More information about our resource consent process.

In general:

  • If the area of intensive winter grazing is large, or you are unable to comply with the permitted activity criteria, you would need a resource consent.

If you need a consent, the earlier you contact ORC to discuss your application, the better.

For your application, we’ll need to know:

  • Where and how much land is grazed intensively
  • Which stock types are grazed
  • Which types of crops are grazed
  • How the intensive grazing is managed to avoid nutrient and sediment loss Please note, new national government rules for existing winter grazing will come into effect in November 2022.

Please note, while these rules relate to the National Environmental Standard for Freshwater, the following two rules under the Otago Water Plan are relevant to intensive winter grazing.

  • Any discharge from land that has been disturbed by stock, where sediment reaches a water body or the Coastal Marine Area, that doesn’t have a sediment mitigation is prohibited. (RPW 12.c.0.3)
  • The discharge of sediment that results in an increase to the local sedimentation or has a conspicuous change of colour or clarity in a river, lake or wetland is not permitted. (RPW 12.c.1.1)

This information will be reviewed regularly to check for any changes required as a result of new national requirements. For more information please refer to the Ministry for the Environment website.

Click here if you think you are ready to apply for a consent.

You can watch the step-by-step guide video below to help you fill out the Intensive Winter Grazing Resource Consent Application Form.

 

Definitions

Intensive Winter Grazing

Grazing livestock on an annual forage crop at any time in the period that begins on 1 May and ends with the close of 30 September of the same year.

Critical Source Area

A landscape feature such as a gully, swale,or depression that accumulates runoff from adjacent flats and slopes and delivers contaminants to surface water bodies such as rivers, lakes, and artificial watercourses (excluding subsurface drains, and artificial watercourses that do not connect to natural water bodies). View the fact sheet here.

Water Body

Fresh water or geothermal water in a river, lake, stream, pond, wetland, or aquifer, or any part thereof, that is not located within the coastal marine area.

 

Frequently asked questions

What are forage crops and what are some examples?

Annual forage crops are crops grazed in the place where they are grown, including cereals (such as sorghum, barley, oats, ryecorn and triticale), brassicas (such as kale, turnips and swedes) and fodder beet.

If you are growing cereals, brassicas or fodder beet for grazing by stock during winter, it is a forage crop.

What if I am growing a mixture of annual forage crops and other crops?

If the mix is more pasture than it is fodder crop, then it will be treated as pasture. For example, if it is 80% pasture and 20% fodder then it will not be treated as an annual forage crop. However, if it is 60% fodder and 40% pasture then it will be
treated as an annual forage crop.

Is an annual ryegrass defined as an annual forage crop?

No, annual ryegrass is not considered an annual forage crop.

What if I manage my cereal crops in a way that means that they re-grow after grazing and do not require re-sowing?

If you manage your cereal crops in a way that means that after grazing the crop re-grows and is harvested or grazed again without re-sowing, they will not be considered annual forage crops.

Rule 26(4)(b), National Environmental Standards for Freshwater: The slope of any land under an annual forage crop that is used for intensive winter grazing must be 10 degrees or less, determined by measuring the slope over any 20m distance of the land.

Does the whole paddock have to be less than 10 degrees if only part of the paddock is planted in annual forage crop?

No, the less than 10 degrees requirement only applies to the area planted in annual forage crop. The slope must be less than 10 degrees in the steepest area of the cropped area, measured over 20m.

You may also want to consider Good Management Practices to avoid sediment loss in areas less than ten degrees slope and include these actions in your
Winter Grazing Plan.

See Beef + Lamb, DairyNZ, and Ministry for Primary Industries websites for winter grazing plan resources:

Winter grazing/ Forage crop grazing

Wintering

Intensive winter grazing

How do I measure slope?

One method of measuring slope is to put two standards approximately 20m apart
and then measure from the top of one peg to the top of the other using a
clinometer or slope measurement app or tool.
The video below explains how to measure slope in your winter grazing paddocks.

 

How do I measure slope in paddocks with humps and hollows?

Slope is measured between two points in a paddock 20 m apart, rather than on each hump and hollow.

How will the council check slope on my farm?

To be a permitted activity, the slope of any land under an annual forage crop that is used for intensive winter grazing must be 10 degrees or less, determined by measuring the slope over any 20 m distance of the land. The Councils will use a
clinometer or a mobile phone app or tool. Councils may also have drones, aircraft and high-resolution digital elevation maps available in some areas.

Rule 26(4)(d), National Environmental Standards for Freshwater: livestock must be kept at least 5 m away from the bed of any river, lake, wetland, or drain
(regardless of whether there is any water in it at the time)

How wide should my buffers be?

You must have a buffer of at least 5m from areas of grazed forage crop and rivers, lakes, wetlands or drains. This buffer is regardless of whether they contain water or not. A 5m buffer is the minimum legal requirement. However, regional rules may require you to have wider buffer widths so you need to check with your Regional Council.

You may also want to consider wider buffers as good practice. The good practice rule of thumb is, the steeper the slope, the wider the buffer should be.

Examples of vegetated buffers

Vegetated buffer

Another vegetated buffer

Where do I measure the buffer distance from?

The 5m buffer must be measured from the edge of the bed for rivers and lakes. This is measured from where the river reaches its fullest flow without overtopping its banks. Speak to your Regional Council for help on measuring buffers from wetlands. The aim is to avoid winter grazing in wet areas. If in doubt, be conservative and put in wider buffers and keep stock out of these areas.

What is a wetland?

A wetland includes permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water, and land water margins that support a natural ecosystem of plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions. Identification of whether an area is a wetland may
require expert advice from an ecologist. Contact your regional council for advice.

What about sub-surface drains?

Sub-surface drains are exempt from the buffer requirement (no buffer required).

Rule 26(4)(e), National Environmental Standards for Freshwater: on and from 1 May to 30 September of any year, in relation to any critical source area that is within, or adjacent to, any area of land that is used for intensive winter grazing on
a farm,
(i) the critical source area must not be grazed; and
(ii) vegetation must be maintained as ground cover over all of the critical source area; and
(iii) maintaining that vegetation must not include any cultivation or harvesting of annual forage crops.

How are Critical Source Areas defined in the rules?

Critical source area means a landscape feature such as a gully, swale, or depression that:

  1. accumulates runoff from adjacent land; and
  2.  delivers, or has the potential to deliver, 1 or more contaminants to 1 or more rivers, lakes, wetlands, or drains, or their beds (regardless of whether there is any water in them at the time)

How do I identify Critical Source Areas?

Look for areas where water accumulates during rainfall events and which also connect to water bodies. These are Critical Source Areas. These areas can be on steep or shallow slopes. If you are unsure, talk to your council or farm advisor. See the next page for some examples of Critical Source Areas.

Am I allowed to graze stock in Critical Source Areas?

From 1 May to 30 September, stock cannot be grazed in Critical Source Areas within a winter crop area, unless you have an active resource consent to do so.

How do I manage Critical Source Areas?

Vegetation cover must be maintained in Critical Source Areas within a winter crop area. No cultivation or harvesting of annual forage crops can occur in Critical Source Areas during this time. You will need to apply for consent if you cannot
meet these requirements.

You may also want to consider the following Good Management Practices:

  • Maintaining buffers between Critical Source Areas and winter grazing. Generally, the steeper the slope, the wider the buffer should be.
  • Using measures to trap sediment at the bottom of CSAs, e.g.: using haybales or sediment traps.
  • If you can see sediment being lost from CSAs into water bodies, you will need to change your management of these areas, for example, increase
    size of buffer between these areas and areas being grazed.

Your regional council, farm advisor, Beef+Lamb, or DairyNZ can help.

What do I do if my Critical Source Areas run across the length of the paddock, or through two or more paddocks?

The guidance above still applies. Stock cannot be grazed in these areas from 1 May to 30 September each year, without resource consent.

Can I graze the top part of the Critical Source Area if I have a buffer at the bottom of it?

No, you need to keep stock out of the whole Critical Source Area from 1 May to 30 September each year unless you have resource consent. It is good practice to put in place measures to trap sediment at the bottom of these Critical Source Areas, for example hay bales or sediment traps.

Critical Source Area

Critical Source Area shown in blue above. More examples below.

Critical source area examples

Rule 26A(1), National Environmental Standards for Freshwater: A person using land on a farm for intensive winter grazing in accordance with regulation 26 must take all reasonably practicable steps to minimise adverse effects on freshwater of
any pugging that occurs on that land.


The rule says I have to take all reasonably practicable steps to minimise adverse effects on freshwater from pugging - how do I show this?

Pugging can result in loss of sediment and other contaminants to water bodies during rainfall events. Areas at greater risk of pugging and loss of contaminants to water bodies are:

  • Paddocks with Critical Source Areas (see FAQs on Critical Source Areas above) where surface water flow can enter water bodies
  • Paddocks with steep slopes and/or poorly drained soils
  • Areas around gates and water troughs.

Consider the following actions to help you minimise effects on freshwater:

  • Careful paddock selection,
  • Careful paddock preparation and using reduced or no till cultivation such as direct drilling where appropriate, to retain soil structure and improve
    soil resilience.
  • Management of stock during grazing. For example, ensure stock begin grazing the least risky parts of the paddock first to minimise the period of
    runoff risk. This usually means that stock should enter at the top of paddock catchments/gullies and graze their way downhill.
  • Strategic grazing principles such as directional grazing and backfencing
  • Placement of water troughs and supplementary feed in areas less prone to pugging and away from waterways
  • Use of grass strips within paddock to trap sediment
  • Where appropriate leave some vegetated cover to help protect soils
  • Having a plan B for adverse weather events, for example avoiding using higher-risk areas during these times.
  • Ensuring there are appropriately sized vegetated buffers, ideally grassed.
  • As a rule of thumb, the steeper the slope the wider the buffer should be.
  • Avoiding grazing Critical Source Areas (see Critical Source Area FAQs)
  • Using sediment traps or placing hay bales at the bottom of Critical Source Areas to trap sediment.

Plan and implement actions using a Winter Grazing Plan to show you have taken all reasonably practicable steps to minimise adverse effects from pugging on freshwater:

You can also use before and after photos of paddocks used for winter grazing, to show how you have managed the paddock to minimise pugging and loss of sediment to freshwater.

Buffers

This photo shows how buffers have been left between areas used for winter grazing and
Critical Source Areas to avoid loss of sediment and other contaminants to water.

What should I do if things are going wrong?

It is always better to talk to your regional council early if things go wrong. Your Regional Council can advise you on what to do. Your farm advisor, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb extension staff can also provide support and resources.

Rule 26B, National Environmental Standards for Freshwater: A person using land on a farm for intensive winter grazing in accordance with regulation 26 must ensure that vegetation is established as ground cover over the whole area of that land as soon as practicable after livestock have finished grazing the land.

What does ‘as soon as practicable’ mean and how do I show I’ve re-sown as soon as practicable?

The term ‘as soon as practicable’ is not defined in the rules. However, you can use your Winter Grazing Plan to demonstrate to Councils you have re-sown paddocks used for intensive winter grazing as soon as practicable.

Councils will want to see the following in your Winter Grazing Plan:

  1. Your planned re-sowing date.
  2.  Any factors that may delay this re-sowing date, such as paddocks are too wet, contractors are not available, bad weather is forecast.
  3. Actions you will take to minimise loss of sediment during any delay periods. For example, placing haybales in swales and leaving rank grass
    buffers in place.

Rule 29, National Environmental Standards for Freshwater: The conditions are
that—

(a) land on the farm must have been used for  intensive winter grazing in the reference period; and

(b) at all times, the area of the farm that is used for intensive winter grazing must be no greater than the maximum area of the farm that was used for intensive
winter grazing in the reference period.

Do I need to have used the same paddock for IWG previously?

You need to have used land on the farm for intensive winter grazing from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019. It does not have to be the same paddock. You must not have increased the size of the area used for intensive winter grazing in any one winter between 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019.

If you are unsure about the rules, please check with us.

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