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New footage from South Island farms reveal cows living in knee-high winter mud

Amid authorities and farmers working to end poor intensive winter grazing, new footage has emerged from farms across the South Island showing animals living up to their knees in mud this winter.

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Authorities have been working to end the practice known as poor intensive winter grazing. Source: 1 NEWS

The footage, sent to 1 NEWS by environmental activists, showed cows stuck in muddy paddocks, the ground underneath them softened after rain across the West Coast, Otago and Southland.

In the worst cases, cows were seen calving in the mud.

Environmentalist Geoff Reid said the footage showed “there’s been no change from previous years”.

“We still have a major problem,” he said.

“When the rains come, our landscapes start washing into our rivers and our estuaries.”

Winter grazing can be done well, such as when animals strip feed in areas where grass doesn't grow.

But, when intense winter grazing is done poorly, where there are lots of animals on a small amount of land, soil can collapse in bad weather. This creates animal welfare issues and runoff into rivers.

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John Hellstrom, the independent chairperson of the Government’s winter grazing taskforce, said there was a “significant group of farmers who do their best”.

But, he said they get caught out because they hadn’t planned adequately. 

“It's more a lack of support, a lack of knowledge and ability.”

Federated Farmers said it was only a few bad eggs, and most farmers were winter grazing responsibly.

“Sometimes it doesn't quite get done right. But the vast majority of time, 95 per cent of the time, this is done really well,” Federated Farmers Southland vice president Bernadette Hunt said.

“We haven't finished yet. We're still working hard to keep lifting that bar and keep improving the standards.”

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Farmers are strongly opposing the laws saying they’re ‘unfarmable’. Source: 1 NEWS

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Winter Grazing Action Group, established early this year, is continuing to advise the farming industry and give farmers help where they need it.

The group acknowledge that progress has been made, but say there's no short-term fix, and there was still plenty of work ahead.