Transforming New Zealand low altitude steepland grazing systems for multi-functional outcomes

Project Facts

Payment Mechanisms / Support

AgResearch Ltd

NIWA National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment


New Zealand
New Zealand: Whatawhata

Mike Dodd

AgResearch Ltd, Private Bag 11008, Palmerston North, New Zealand 4442

Case overview/description

Main Challenges
Pasture degradation, Sustainable grassland management
Starting point/ Challenges

Low altitude steep hill country in the North Island of New Zealand are traditionally dominated by family-based, owner-operator sheep and cattle breeding systems. The soft-rock sedimentary soils are highly erodible under intensive grassland systems, and the producers are reliant on international commodity prices for meat and wool that strongly influence product price. There are currently no subsidies available to support producer income during periods of adverse climate or poor prices. There is also increasing pressure from global consumers and local urban-based communities for these systems to reduce losses of sediment and nutrients to water bodies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect indigenous species dominated ecosystems

Purpose/ Objectives addressed, Results expected

Determine how changes in land use and management, broadly involving increasing the diversity of farm enterprises, will add value to grasslands across multiple functions: production, profit, environmental protection, soil stability

Type of Case
Agroecological zone
Humid (> 270 LGP)
Land area size (km2)
300 ha case study catchment farm, representing 4-5 million hectares in moderate high producing improved pastures distributed across the North Island
Number of people
One owner-operator (manager plus one labour unit) representing ~40 000 family-based owner-operator pastoral farms. Other stakeholder representing
Land ownership
Mixed private/collective
Ownership comments

Private freehold. Some corporate, both commercial and tribal (Māori)

Livestock system
Livestock Type
Cattle, Sheep
Comment livestock systems

Bovine: Hereford X, Angus X, Friesian X; Sheep: Romney, Perendale, Finn

Operating environment

free market

Comment Operating Environment

beef: breeding, Sheep: breeding

Participants in the case/project

Producers, local government, agricultural researchers, environmental reserachers

Methods / Approaches applied to reach objectives

Farm system analysis, Integrated catchment management

Outcome/ Beneficiaries/ Issues

Sustainability regarding economic issues

Increasing the diversity of productiion entgerprises, particularly higher vlaue finishing systems, woodlots

Sustainability regarding social issues

Declining access to rural infrastructure and services for families

Sustainability regarding ecological issues

Reducing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loss to water bodies; reducing GHG emissions via stocking rate and productivity; increasing soil carbon sequestration; increasing indigenous species diversity in natural ecosystems

Knowledge Exchange

Through extension activities; field days, web resources, research papers

Key Conflicts / Problems

Erosion, commodity product prices, emissions to air and water, biodiversity protection

Lessons learnt

Changes to the systems led to improvements in economic and environmental performances

Research Gaps

Long-term impacts and outcomes


pasture, hill country, catchment management, breeding enterprises, erosion, water quality, biodiversity