The productivity of a farm can be looked at in terms of the quantity of food it produces – for both humans and animals – and the quality of that food. This report identifies the priority measurements for assessing productivity on regenerative farms.
On pastoral farm in New Zealand, production is measured as the amount of plant material grown, using tools bench-marked for typical pastures of ryegrass and clover. These tools may not be accurate for the multispecies pastures seen as the hallmark of ‘regenerative’ pastoral farming, says the report, due to different plant heights and traits, and uneven changes from season to season.
The impact of these diverse pastures on animal production is also unknown. Increased plant diversity can improve plant yields and may increase pasture production through drier periods, says the report, but this does not necessarily equate to increased milk production, weight gain or improved food quality.
The report authors point out that other ways to view farm productivity might be more important to regenerative farmers. These include nutrient use efficiency, water use efficiency, and greenhouse gas mitigation. Policy changes may also make these increasingly important productivity measurements.
Measurements of individual farm profitability may also need to go beyond industry standards to measure regenerative practices more effectively, finds the report. The number of hours worked are a particular concern, due to a perception that some regenerative practices are time-consuming.
This report examines how to assess the productivity of different systems in multiple sectors using measures of quality and quantity of farm product. The focus is on-farm productivity, and the report does not address how to assess productivity beyond the farm gate (e.g. at the processor and retailer end of the food and fibre distribution and supply chains).
This report focuses on the measurement of productivity per unit area, or per livestock equivalent, over a particular time period, as is standard practice across the primary sectors. It highlights some of the challenges with using these assessments across different farm systems. Further, the report acknowledges the importance of alternative ways to view farm productivity, although these are out of the scope of this report.
Contract Report: LC3954-9