Pāmu, Forest and Bird Working Together

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New Zealand's largest farmer has confirmed it is cutting down on the number of cows it stocks on each of its six Canterbury dairy farms.

But it has declined to put a number on the reduced stocking.

The comments came from the state-owned farmer Pāmu, formerly Landcorp, which owns or manages 125 farms.

Its chief executive Steven Carden was speaking after announcing a deal this morning with Forest and Bird, to improve environmental practice on New Zealand farms.

The two organisations, Forest & Bird and Pāmu, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on agricultural practices that protect the natural world.

In announcing the deal, Forest & Bird's chief executive Kevin Hague said the agriculture industry had immense influence over New Zealand's natural environment, and a responsibility to protect it.

Mr Carden said Pāmu was committed to environmental stewardship in a meaningful way.

He said Pāmu was reducing the number of cows on its Canterbury dairy farms but did not yet have a number.

He said the farms could be more profitable with fewer cows and there were several ways of doing this.

"One is to reduce the number and cost of our inputs," Mr Carden said.

"Another is to make sure we are achieving all the premiums we can with Synlait in terms of their rewards for various environmental practices.

"Another is reducing pressure on our people and getting productivity up on our animals."

Mr Carden rejected a suggestion that as a state company he had more opportunity to take the moral high ground than a small private farmer facing tough financial pressures.

"We don't have any more security than a private farmer does," he said.

"The government does not guarantee us and we bank with bankers like everyone else.

"We are as exposed to this as everyone is and that puts a lot of pressure on us to make sure we get this right."

Both Mr Carden and Mr Hague said they wanted to work together for New Zealand's native species, water, climate, and people.

The Memorandum of Understanding covers several things, including: advocacy for nature in agricultural landscapes, developing climate-resilient farming systems and understanding regenerative agriculture.

Mr Hague said the aim of the agreement was to transform how farming was done.