Lynette Maan is one of the founders of Southern Pastures (with the company’s directors), which is a group of 19 farms focusing on delivering dairy products with a focus on long-term sustainable outcomes. The company’s offices are based in Britomart’s Hayman Kronfeld Building. Here, she talks to Britomart’s Jeremy Hansen about the company’s sustainable initiatives. 

JEREMY HANSEN Southern Pastures prides itself on supplying grass-fed, free-range, sustainable dairy. Can you talk first about how that differs from many other global dairy suppliers? 

LYNETTE MAAN Firstly, we own our family of just 19 farms, not hundreds or thousands of them. It’s uniquely intimate in the sense that we know the exact detail around our farm inputs and therefore have calculated our Scope 3 emissions [Scope 3 emissions are the emissions an organisation is responsible for up and down its supply chain]. Southern Pastures doesn’t purchase carbon offsets but instead has an approach of carbon in-setting on our farms. We use native planting, we’re retiring slopes and we’re allowing wetlands to flourish and regenerate. We also know that healthy soils sequester carbon and produce the best feed for our animals, so we’re introducing earthworms and dung beetles – which drag surface carbon from cow effluent deep into the ground – and we’re planting multi-species, deep-rooted plants amongst our pasture cover additionally assisting in water retention. When we see cows in fields in New Zealand, we take it for granted that they’re all being raised the same way. I can tell you that’s not the case. Our farms are regenerative, environmentally sustainable. Our cows are completely free-range and pasture-fed, with antibiotic stewardship and 100 percent non-GMO/GE. We take animal welfare extremely seriously. Southern Pastures have never and will never participate in the live export trade, for example, for this reason. We’ve improved cow digestion with the use of pre and probiotics. We also use rotational grazing and have been minimising our use of synthetic fertilisers. Our feed is palm-free which is rare in New Zealand, and also free from other imported feeds such as soy. We’ve achieved Toitū Carbonreduce certification on all our farms. We also looked for a certification programme that could be applied to the way we farm and couldn’t find one, so with the help of AsureQuality, Southern Pastures developed an independently audited programme. 

JEREMY How easy is it to get the message of sustainable dairy across, when animal products are often portrayed as being bad for climate outcomes?

LYNETTE That’s a loaded question, and it’s one that I believe we need to think about in greater depth instead of shooting the easy target of dairy. We all need to do better and to choose food that’s doing the same. Our farmers work hard to produce nutrient-dense food, and we’re finding more and more sustainable ways to do that. Our progress towards true carbon-neutrality, as opposed to neutrality achieved through offsets, will take time, but we hope to achieve it on all our farms by 2050. Pleasingly we are already running ahead of the Government’s 2030 target. ll our farmers are incredibly conscious of climate change because they feel its impacts. Our long-term intention is to go beyond carbon neutrality and become climate-positive, meaning we would be net extractors of atmospheric carbon. We think our ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] efforts are an essential part of our social license to operate. We must repeatedly prove why we’re worthy of our customers’ trust and how we’re world-leading in this area. We’re focused on farming as a force for environmental good. 

NEXT / Read about Westpac's Sustainable Farm Loan in an interview with Tim Henshaw, Head of Agribusiness at Westpac New Zealand.