Switching from a 70-year tradition of dairy farming, to expand their piggery and cropping operations, has paid off for the Stanley family, who were finalists in the 2020 Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
The 131 Ha Stanley Brothers farm at Oaonui, near Opunake, has not needed to use any commercial fertilisers for the past 20 years. Instead, effluent produced in their indoor piggery is piped through an irrigation system.
The effluent was previously used to produce grass for the dairy herd but now the maize, hay and silage produced instead is sold to other local farms.
“When we had the cows, they were putting more effluent onto the land,” says Karl Stanley, who runs the farm with his father Noel and his uncle Ron.
“Now we can put controlled amounts of pig effluent exactly where we need it, not where the animals decide to put it. Selling the crops to local farms as feed also cuts down on fuel use, as it isn’t being trucked from further away.”
The comparatively small environmental footprint of commercial pork farmers in New Zealand provides opportunity for the sector. Pig farming currently contributes just 0.2 per cent of New Zealand’s total Greenhouse Gas agricultural emissions. New Zealand Pork is working with farmers to achieve a carbon neutral commercial pig farming sector by 2050.
The late Noel Stanley and his brother, Ron, now deceased, purchased the land in 1947 after returning from military service in WWII. They established the dairy herd and a small piggery – balanced with Noel senior’s duties as manager of the All Blacks during the 1970s.
Noel Stanley senior welcomed his two sons, also named Ron and Noel. They joined the team in the 1960s, dividing their time between developing the piggery and managing the dairy farm. Currently, the piggery has 400 sows and 3,800 growers. However, five further sheds are going up, with plans to expand to 500 sows and 5,000 growers.
“A lot of planning went into the switch from dairy,” says Karl. “We recognised that we could use the land and the effluent from the piggery to better advantage. On the cropping side, we are now averaging about 24 tonnes per hectare of dry matter annually and we’ve done about 1,600 hay bales this season, all to be sold off locally.”
All effluent from the piggery goes into a 70m by 5m deep pond and is directly pumped into the irrigation system, with controls to ensure it is applied evenly.
“Growing and selling crops, rather than producing grass for our own cows, means that we are effectively transferring all nutrient produced by the pigs off farm, rather than the cows putting more nutrient into the ground,” says Karl.
In other measures, to reduce energy use, all lighting in the business is being converted to LED. The farm also has a licence to import grain from Australia to feed its pigs, which comes in to their local port, minimising road transport.
“Visitors to the piggery and farm are amazed at what we are doing,” says Karl. “They see the high welfare standards and conditions for our pigs and they are very interested in the changes we have made to create both business and environmental benefits.”
New Zealand Pork is supporting its farmers to understand the emissions profile of their farms, understand options for emissions reductions at farm level and helping them implement mitigation measures to reduce emissions.
The organisation is committed to ensuring every farmer has conducted an environmental assessment and has a Farm Environment Plan in place to manage the environmental risks and opportunities on their farms. It is also promoting the adoption of Good Farming Practice principles on farm to support improvements in the ecological health of freshwater environments.