James Shaw Backs 3NOP To Combat Methane 
Wednesday, August 21, 2019 at 9:41AM
Bill Barclay

James Shaw has been rabbiting-on about a chemical 'quick-fix' for the dairying methane problem called 3NOP. . But as Peter Fraser and Dr Mike Joy of Victoria University write in today's Newsroom,' silver-bullets' are not always what they seem at first glance.

"This ‘silver bullet’ is a compound known as 3NOP, developed by Dutch giant DSM, which is pushing for fast-track approval.

Irrespective of whether 3NOP works (or not), there is a fundamental problem with its prospective application he: as it permits a ‘business as usual’ approach to farming when that is neither ecologically sustainable nor economically desirable. Methane is only one of a raft of dairy industry problems – one can quickly add soil compaction, pugging and sediment loss, nitrate contamination of drinking water, unswimmable rivers, the despoliation of previously iconic landscapes, the creation of a Ponzi scheme in rural land values, and misdirected – and debt-fuelled – investment.

Given these problems all need to be addressed, silver bullets like 3NOP (or, for that matter, nitrogen inhibitors or managed aquifer recharge) are like continuing to smoke five packs a day while waiting for Pharmac to subsidise a new lung cancer treatment. 

It is fundamentally the wrong approach.

Rather than hope for any number of silver bullets to address any number of symptoms, what is needed is a clear understanding of the actual problem. The answer is simple: New Zealand has too many cows for a pasture-based system. (my bold)

Having intensified and overstocked areas suitable for dairying (Taranaki, Waikato), farmers have relentlessly expanded into completely unsuitable areas (Canterbury, the McKenzie Country, Southland). 

This is why New Zealand imports over two million tonnes of palm kernel annually and nitrogen fertiliser use has increased 800 percent in 30 years.

The result is not just an unmitigated environmental disaster but an economic catastrophe too. While it is intuitively obvious the ‘flipside’ of too many cows is reduced water quality and increased greenhouse gas emissions, what is less well known is the debt-fuelled nature of the dairy expansion. 

Since 2000, on-farm dairy debt has increased by over 400 percent yet milk production has increased by less than 65 percent. (my bold)

And over the next decade much of this expansion will need to be reversed.

The solution is simple: reduce stock numbers – as fewer cows = fewer nasties.  But this is where we run into the entrenched vested interests: with the incessant mantra being “fewer cows = less money”.

While seeming sensible, it is actually wrong. If the starting point is too many cows then it is possible to have fewer cows producing fewer n"

There is simply no escaping the need to reduce stock numbers - of that there is no doubt, and giving farmers hope of a magical alternative is simply creating false hope.



Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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