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These menus provide a range of practices for dairy, drystock and cropping farms to improve nutrient management and reduce impacts on water quality. They are designed to help identify the best options for individual circumstances. The practices listed are generally a step ahead of current regulatory expectations. They will also help farmers to better meet future sustainability challenges.

The dairy menu should be used together with a farm management team and consultant to support current industry initiatives, such as the Upper Waikato Sustainable Milk Project, Waipa Sustainable Milk Project and the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord.

The drystock menu should be used in conjunction with your consultant or your Land Environment Plan.

The cropping menu is designed to support current industry initiatives, such as the work of the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) and Horticulture New Zealand. The arable industry standard is the Farm Environment Template and Guidelines for Arable Enterprises and HortNZ is currently using the Good Agricultural Practices.

The starting point for using these menus is a nutrient budget and a farm system analysis, which looks at farm goals, management approaches and feed supply. These tools will help identify the water quality improvement practices that best fit an individual farm, taking into account flow on effects on feed budgets and other farm policies. Looking at the big picture will help ensure changes in one area do not create deficits or unbudgeted costs in another.

You can use the menus to identify practices that may be suitable for your farm by sorting practices from highest to lowest (or vice versa) in terms of:

The menus include links to other sites for more information (indicated by ) and links to YouTube clips (indicated by ). Also, you can copy and paste any part of the menu into your environmental farm plan.

What's the issue?

Farmers, iwi, industry, local government and others have already done much to improve water quality, and continue to do so. However, more is needed to meet community desires for fresh water.

Water quality varies across the Waikato region from excellent to poor. This is largely due to variations in land use type and intensity, and also due to geology. In less developed parts of the region conditions are excellent and there have been few signs of deterioration. But water quality is poorer in intensively farmed areas. In some areas, urban and other non-agricultural point sources also contribute to poor water quality.

In waterways across the region, slowly but steadily rising levels of nitrogen over the last 20 years are cause for concern. Nitrogen in groundwater can take decades to emerge into surface water, and this indicator of water quality will worsen before it improves. Levels of micro-organisms are moderate to high, but stable. Sediment levels are high in places, and phosphorus levels vary.

Water quality benefits

To help determine the most effective water quality improvement practices for an individual farm, each practice’s likely water quality benefits are rated. The ratings are based on latest research and indicate likely effectiveness in reducing the amount of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), sediment (Sed) and micro-organisms(MO) entering waterways.

Topography and management regimes vary from farm to farm, as does the need for and effectiveness of each practice listed. The ratings are an indicative best estimate and assume generally accepted industry good practice is followed.

Likely water quality benefits: estimated reduction (at whole farm scale) in contaminant reaching waterways

Dairy, drystock and cropping

  Nitrogen (N) Phosphorus (P) Sediment (Sed) Micro-organisms (MO)
Less than 10% Less than 20%
From 10 to 25% From 20 to 50%
More than 25% More than 50%

Farm business impacts

Each practice’s potential cost and economic benefit to the farm business are also rated. Individual farm circumstances will influence costs and benefits. However, the menu can help you identify a short list of practices for the farm management team and consultant to consider in more detail. Many of the practices’ cost ratings are different to their benefit ratings. For example, a low cost practice may provide a high farm benefit. Also, some of the benefits may take some time to be realised.

Potential impact on farm business

  Cost Benefit



Limited input of farmer time and
expenditure. Limited practice change
Little change to farm profit as a result
of this practice, or may require small
changes to farm infrastructure.



Moderate input of farmer time and
expenditure. Some practice change
Practice likely to result in a moderate
increase in profitability or improved



Significant input of farmer time and
significant expenditure. Significant
practice change required.
Very profitable practice or results in
improved management e.g. large
reduction in farm operational costs.