“…Yes, we’re here, we’ve done it and we can help with the transition.”Janette Perrett | ODPG Chair | Dairy NZ Winter newsletter
An article about the ODPG and organic farming appears in the Dairy NZ Winter newsletter this month.
Here’s the full text by Virginia Wright, with the article pictured below…
Janette Perrett is an organic dairy farmer and the current chair of the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group. It’s a group of people who exist because they want to share what they’ve learnt from their own experiences organic farming, as Janette explains. “We are a group of pastoral, dairy, sheep and beef farmers who passionately work alongside regenerative organic principles. While around 50% are certified organic, the other half have joined the group to learn from us. I’m at the moment focused on fortnightly webinars free to members, and I have asked a number of our sponsors to participate and explain what their products can do for us in an organic regime.”
When Janette began organic farming 15 years ago she was helped a lot by her peers. “Their knowledge is amazing,” she says. “They’re like encyclopaedias because they’ve had to find the alternatives.” Janette gives an example of an organically acceptable treatment which she recently discovered “giving kombucha to cure ‘woody tongue’ with the best results achieved with early intervention,” she says. “It’s really out of the ordinary but we’re always looking for alternatives to veterinary drugs. I’ve found kombucha’s really good when I’ve got a sore throat, it soothes it straight away, so I thought let’s try it on the cows and it worked. It turns out ‘woody tongue’ is due to a lack of iodine in the system.”
Janette has been on their current property for six years. She and her daughter Carla stepped away from conventional farming 15 years ago and were determined to find the alternatives.
“It’s been really interesting, really inspiring and it puts a whole new light on farming – it’s enjoyable again!” says Janette. They farm north of Whangarei where they have let their certification lapse due to the added expense of maintaining it when Fonterra doesn’t collect organic milk north of Whangarei . They were certified for ten years and still fully adhere to its principles but no longer claim the label. “We only own the herd, not the land,” explains Janette. “We’ve had to convert it from conventional farming methods but our principles have never changed. We haven’t used antibiotics since 2006, choosing to use homeopathy and the vet comes once a year if he’s lucky. We make our own fertilisers and fish emulsion, expanding EM, Effective Micro-organisms to add to the mix”
As far as Janette’s concerned chipping Scotch thistles and pulling ragworts isn’t difficult and is much kinder to the surrounding environment than using chemicals. “We just don’t let them seed, that’s the moral of the story,” says Janette.
The Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group of NZ was formed 20 years ago by a group of farmers who saw the need to share their knowledge and compare successes and failures. Over the last few years it’s been gaining popularity with 50 of the approximately 150 members having joined in the last year to 18 months. Janette puts it down at least in part to the media coverage around regenerative farming. “It’s a good time to get our name out there. A few years ago we were called ‘tree-huggers’ now we’re seen as doing a good thing so we want to advertise the group and say yes, we’re here, we’ve done it and we can help with the transition.”
One of the drawcards she believes is their annual conference with inspirational and educational guest speakers covering all sorts of topics. For Janette as Chair, the challenge is to keep the new ideas going and ensure there’s enough happening to give members value for their annual subscription. The “How-to” webinars, such as How-to keep the weeds under control” and “How to feed the soil”, came about thanks to Covid, and are a good example of what they’re doing to achieve that goal.