Wednesday 27 September 2017

Stock Exclusion - What's the go?

Out and about recently, Lilian Sherman, our North Island Rural Environmental Specialist, has heard a lot of discussion about the stock exclusion rules coming into play.  Unfortunately, a lot of what she has heard has had a serious dose of the ‘chinese whispers’ and the end result is that there are a lot of myths out there with regards to stock exclusion.  Below, Lilian dispels some of those myths and provides you with some confidence around the rules.

While there is no formal definition, stock exclusion generally means to exclude stock by some means from entering a waterbody.  In most cases, the stock exclusion definition does not include sheep or goats, as sheep and goats do not tend to linger in water!  In most cases the means of achieving stock exclusion is not specified, therefore the best method or technology for each situation can be used.  This may be a permanent fence, a hot wire, or as is currently being developed, virtual fencing.
Why is stock exclusion necessary? Stock entering waterways can cause significant damage by contributing nutrients (primarily nitrogen and phosphorus), sediment and faecal coliforms to our waterways. They do this though the direct deposition of dung and urine into rivers, treading damage and reduction in beneficial vegetation that results from grazing stream banks.

As part of the Clean Water package recently released by the Ministry for the Environment, there are proposed National Rules for Stock Exclusion.  Consultation on the proposed stock exclusion regulations and other aspects of the Clean Water package closed on 28 April 2017. This feedback is being considered and will inform the final decision on the National Rules.  The proposed stock exclusion rules are practical and there are different requirements for different classes of stock and for topography (plains, rolling and steep).  More details are available on the Ministry for the Environment Website (

The proposed National Rules for Stock Exclusion recognise that for some landowners, there may be significant practical constraints that mean they are unable to meet the new requirements. In those cases, landowners can apply for permission to instead develop a stock exclusion plan with their regional council. The plan may include alternatives to fencing or mitigations to reduce the impact of stock access to waterways.  An example of this would be providing alternative areas of shade and reticulated stock drinking water, which may also provide other economic and animal health benefits.

It is important to note that the National Rules for Stock Exclusion will form the minimum requirements, and councils may choose to regulate over and above these in their regional plans.

There are some challenges excluding stock from waterways, including the effects of flooding, the proliferation of weeds and pests and access through vegetation to waterbodies.  These are valid issues and I have confidence that farmers will find practical solutions for these as the rules come into play.

In the meantime, if you are putting in new fence line or carrying out fencing maintenance, consider whether there is an opportunity to make a change to a fence line to exclude stock or make it easier to exclude stock in the future, but its also an important consideration for any development on farm such as irrigation (whether new or upgrading) and the location of waterways should be a key consideration in any design being undertaken. 

Keep an eye out for the final versions of the National Stock Exclusion Rules.

Lilian Sherman, Irricon Resource Solutions Limited.
Phone: (021) 378 308

Lilian is a Rural Environmental Specialist and Director at Irricon Resource Solutions, who works with farmers and horticulturists to prepare farm environment plans, resource consent applications and to assist with nutrient management and Overseer modelling. 

Lilian grew up on and lives on a sheep and beef farm, she has a practical knowledge of farming, including sheep, beef, deer, dairy, cropping and horticulture and combines her passion for farming with a wealth of nutrient management and environmental expertise in this role.