From on farm nutrient management advice to setting up farm environment plans, SDAs work one-on-one with farmers to assist with a broad range of sustainability-related farm matters to meet the Co-op’s and the dairy industry’s guidelines and requirements. Hadleigh shares his thoughts below.
I’m a few months into my SDA role at Fonterra, having been immersed in the Waikato all my life.
After growing up on a dairy farm in Putaruru I’ve spent my career both as a nutrient specialist in South Waikato and a training adviser supporting farm trainees through training courses.
There’s 400 farms in my catchment that I’m gradually making my way around. I really enjoy teaching and sharing the knowledge I have about soil and pasture with farmers, particularly around good fertiliser management. Being an SDA is a perfect blend of the two.
My time to date has been spent working with farmers on their Farm Environment Plans to ensure we’re home and hosed before the 2025 council deadline. Once I’ve made initial contact, I typically spend a few hours with the farmer at the kitchen table then out looking at all aspects of the farm. I take photos, document good management practice and highlight potential risks and opportunity for improvement, before heading back to the office to put the full plan together.
It’s still early days but some of the key trends I’ve seen so far are around effluent management – particularly around reinforcement. The majority of our farmers have a lot of good infrastructure in place so they’re being complimented on that, while looking ahead at what works best with the varied flux in the weather we’ve had recently.
There’s also a lot of pride around waterways on farm, particularly when remembering how it used to be. Part of my role on farm, and through Fonterra’s commitment to the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord, is to verify that waterways are fenced to keep stock out – and there’s been a huge amount of work go into that down here. Farmers are also planting native species as part of their riparian programmes and they’re extremely proud of that.
Over the next few months I’m focused on meeting as many farmers as I can. It’s going well so far and I’m enjoying the mix of being both on farm and in the office working on solutions that are going to make a lasting difference for our suppliers and to our environment.