Dairy Focus - January 2013

Page 1






An Ashburton Guardian Supplement


January 2013

Frances treats her cows like royalty at Camelot Page 8


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Dairy Focus January 2013

Keeping it low on the farm


DairyNZ-funded report has highlighted practical ways to improve Canterbury’s effluent compliance results.

DairyNZ’s Keep It Low campaign, launched last summer to remind farmers to irrigate in the drier months, when conditions allow, and to get Compliance data provided by regional effluent ponds as empty as possible before winter. councils nationwide was analysed by AgFirst Waikato’s Nicola Waugh, who This year, the message is the same – to produced a report identifying trends in keep the level of effluent in ponds to a the region’s significant effluent nonminimum – but with extra emphasis on compliance. keeping application depths low with an Better management practices around effluent irrigation system. storing and applying farm dairy effluent have been identified as ways which might bring down significant non-compliance in Canterbury. The information is being used in

from mid-summer through to early “Ensuring effluent irrigators are set autumn, will mean there is as much free correctly for optimum performance capacity as possible in the pond, before with a plan that takes into account the conditions i.e. soil moisture, weather the wet weather hits.” conditions and labour availability Managing the process of applying will also go a long way to preventing effluent to land is also really important, ponding.” she says. DairyNZ has developed a range “The main reason for significant non- of guides to help farmers manage compliance in Canterbury last season effluent, including A farmer’s guide to was ponding,” Serra said. managing farm dairy effluent. “A major cause of ponding is incorrect These guides have been summarised DairyNZ regional leader for irrigation. You can really maximise in the DairyNZ Effluent Resources Canterbury, Virginia Serra, says summer the nutrient benefits of effluent and Brochure and highlighted in a Keep is a good time to lower effluent pond minimise the environmental risks It Low calendar. Both are available to levels. by checking application rates and order at dairynz.co.nz/effluent or phone “Irrigating when conditions allow, equipment. 0800 4 DAIRYNZ (0800 4 324 7969).

An advertising supplement of the Ashburton Guardian Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Ashburton Guardian Publication date: January 29, 2013 Next issue: February 19, 2013 We welcome any correspondence to either: Linda Clarke, phone 307-7971 email: linda.c@theguardian.co.nz Desme Daniels, phone 307-7974 email: desme.d@theguardian.co.nz Dairy Focus designed by: Yendis Albert

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Dairy Focus January 2013

Doing the basics uncommonly well


he 2012 spring in the South Island didn’t do dairy farmers a lot of favours. It was cold, wet, and particularly challenging right at the time when cows were calving and milk production for the season starting to flow. Some farms didn’t do well in the conditions, but others, by getting the basics right, excelled.

detail to produce a feed wedge that worked.”

Juliet Maclean, CEO of Synlait Farms, says that the company Todhunter says the field-day on welcomed the opportunity Wednesday March 6 is a unique to share its innovation and experiences at the winner’s opportunity to gain an insight field- day. into the systems and processes used by Synlait Farms. “An essential element of the South Island Farmer of the Year “There’s always a lot of Competition that has been talk in any industry about impressed on us is that it is a getting the basics right, but vehicle for sharing knowledge for various reasons people Ben Todhunter, chair of the and growing New Zealand’s often find that hard to put into Lincoln University Foundation, success in agriculture. We practice. Synlait’s innovation says the foundation’s South strongly support this ethic. and excellence of practise is Island Farmer of the Year If what we do and how we embedded in its attention to competition winner for 2012, the basics so they are done very do it helps other farmers Synlait Farms, is a prime example and industry players lift their well. People will be able to take of a farming practice that game, that contributes to the away some practical, relevant managed to produce excellent success of the industry as a knowledge that they can apply results in spite of the conditions. whole and we all benefit.” to their own situations. Now, through the competition’s The field-day on March annual winner’s field-day, there’s “Synlait’s approach to its 6 will start at 10am an opportunity to learn how that people, its stock and its land with an introduction was done. can be held up as an example to Synlait Farms before of what can be achieved when “One of the things that the breaking into workshops good leadership, good people judges of the competition designed to be interactive and good systems go hand-innoted,” Todhunter said, “is that and hands on to enable hand.” Synlait Farms stood out for maximum benefit for doing the basics uncommonly With the themes of cows, grass, participants. well. A classic example of that people and the environment, the was their response to their field-day will be on Synlait Farms’ Each theme of cows, grass, people and the environment will feed regime and the care of Robindale property, located be explored, giving examples their cows in a difficult spring. at 498 Te Pirita Road, inland of the philosophies, systems They demonstrated innovation, from Dunsandel, near Hororata excellence and attention to (Synlait Supply number 1011). and practises Synlait utilises;

elements that helped it secure the 2012 South Island Farmer of the Year title. Workshop sessions will be followed by presentations focusing on innovation and profit.

Synlait Farms CEO Juliet Maclean with the South Island Farmer of the Year trophy.

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Dairy Focus January 2013

Heat Stress in Dairy Cows quickly the cows will collapse, have convulsions and die.

Ian Hodge,

BVSc. MACVSc. Riverside Veterinary Services Ltd


airy cows can be affected by heat stress when the ambient temperature and humidity levels combine to reduce the ability of the animal to cool effectively. In Canterbury, dairy cows are often subject to intense sunlight and heat, but low humidity. Cows are also often deprived of adequate shade. Lack of shade can further increase heat stress and affected cows may start to show clinical signs.

High producing adult dairy cows will drink an average of 60 to 80 litres of water per 24 hour period. This quantity varies widely with ambient temperature and humidity, and with water quality. Cows will drink a lot less if the water quality is poor despite having an increased requirement.

Conception rates in cows may also be reduced during heat stress. This may mean that more services will be required to achieve conception and a higher percentage of non pregnant cows at the end of any breeding period. Higher rates of embryonic loss are also seen during chronic heat stress. Prevention

Effects on production and reproduction

During summer always make sure your herds have ready access to cool clean water, preferably in a shaded Cows suffering from even mild heat area. Allow for cows drinking as much stress may have reduced milk volume as 100 litres of water per day in very and reduced quantities of both fat and hot conditions. Remember that water protein in their milk. The individual additives such as trace mineral salts somatic cell counts can also rise in may reduce the palatability of the During heat stress the cows’ cows that are stressed by the heat, and water and reduce intakes. This could body temperature may increase this may be one reason for increases have disastrous effects in very hot to dangerous levels. These cows in bulk milk somatic cell counts during conditions. become agitated and distressed. The periods of very hot weather. respiratory rate increases and the Gently hosing the cows with a fine animal will seek shade. Cows will often Bulls can also suffer heat stress, and mist of water while yarding them at may have reduced libido and fertility. refuse to lie down, and would rather milking time will help to cool them, stand staring aimlessly with excessive During the bull mating period the and will be beneficial on very hot days. effect of this could be significant salivation (drooling) from open especially if a large proportion of the If you are concerned that your cows mouthed breathing. herd are still not pregnant during the may be getting heat stressed, contact If the heat stress isn’t relieved bull mating period. your vet immediately for advice.

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Dairy Focus January 2013


Synlait initiatives to increase sustainability S

ynlait Milk has recently undertaken several key initiatives to improve sustainability at its Rakaia site.

was limited due to infrastructure damage at the previous service provider’s facility following the Christchurch earthquakes.

resource consent conditions to allow for the discharge of clean wastewater to a dedicated disposal area on its manufacturing site.

The first is an on-site recycling project that will take the company from 1230 metric tonnes of waste (96 per cent) and 46.5 metric tonnes of recycling (4 per cent) in the 2012 financial year, to 35 metric tonnes of waste (18 per cent) and 1258 metric tonnes of recycling (82 per cent) in the 2013 financial year.

The initiative has been successfully rolled out to all business units including the manufacturing plant, warehouse and office buildings. The programme sees all Synlait employees sort paper, food and recycling from standard waste via a bin system.

“With milk only being 13 per cent milk solids, the milk powder plant returns more water to the environment than it uses to operate,” says Lucy Johnson, environment manager at Synlait Milk.

Synlait is working in partnership with Mastagard to manage the site’s recycling and has also opted to have a dedicated full-time Mastagard employee on-site to manage the programme. Before the implementation of the initiative, recycling at the Rakaia site

“The recycling initiative has not only reduced our impact on the environment it also has a number of positive financial benefits for the organisation,” says Luzette Wolmarans, procurement manager at Synlait Milk. Another sustainability development recently undertaken by Synlait is in regards to its clean wastewater. Synlait applied and successfully changed its

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The dedicated wastewater disposal area is planted in a brown top pasture that has a deep root system that does not mind getting its feet wet. Furthermore, the area is not grazed or fertilised to limit nutrient leaching and minimises effects on the environment. The system applies a small rate of water that is matched to the soil infiltration capabilities. The system reports on the volume and application

rates of wastewater to each sector of the disposal area. Synlait has worked with Waterforce, Industrial Control Soultions, Babbage and Specialty Seeds to develop the automated irrigation system for the clean wastewater. “Sustainability is something we take seriously at Synlait. The purity of our natural environment is central to the value of our products, and we want to improve our sustainability systems and processes wherever we can,” says John Penno CEO at Synlait Milk. Synlait Milk processes 550 million litres of milk per year, from which 95,000 metric tonnes of milk powder is produced. Synlait has 150 milk suppliers, over 130 staff and exports to over 40 countries.


Dairy Focus January 2013

Five-star treatment for Cam I

“I don’t think I could cope with farmers deciding to put animals down rather than treat them.

by Michelle Nelson

n the shadow of the Mid Canterbury foothills lies a modernday Camelot, where something magical is happening – huge super cows are milked by robots, and a dedicated team of humans attend to their every need. Camelot Robotic Dairy Farm is owned by the Beeston family’s Blumoon Trust, and is a place where animal welfare and sustainable farming practices are kept at the forefront of decision making. At 26, Frances Beeston manages the state-of-the-art robotic dairy farm; home to the Blumoon Holstein Fresian and Triann Brown Swiss studs – and according to her, life doesn’t get much better. The daughter of Bryan and Annette Beeston, Frances grew up with elite dairy cows, and wasted little time thinking about where her future lay. “I worked on the farm with mum and dad when I was a kid, I had pet calves and loved going out at night to check on cows at calving – I always loved the lifestyle,” she said. While Frances briefly considered a career as a vet or a farm consultant, she was aware such occupations were bound to clash with her values.

“If something happens to one of the cows I consider it’s my fault - and I don’t think any life is worth more than another. “If a cow is paralysed after delivering a really big calf, then that is my fault for mating them with a bull that was too big, or maybe over-feeding them, so I want to give them every option to survive.” As an example of her commitment, when a Camelot cow injured while adjusting to the newly-opened robotic system, benefited from hydrotherapy at a neighbouring robotic farm, a seed was sown. Soon a second-hand cow-bath was established down by the calf shed. “They soak in warm water for a few of hours at a time. The water supports them and their circulation improves without having to be hung up by the hips. “The water is emptied gradually and they slowly take their own weight.” During the spring five cows, one from Camelot and four from nearby farms, were in hydrotherapy. The move to robotic milking was also motivated by France’s concern for the welfare of her herd, which contains some of the country’s top milk producers.

“My way of farming is not conventional – I need to try to help an animal, whatever it takes.”

A microchip in the cow’s collar gives her access to the shed.

“If I’m not satisfied with a diagnosis – I’ll get a second opinion, I’ll try homoeopathic or any other alternative therapies.

She spent months working on Zealand and in Australia, lookin about routines and figuring ou Camelot, before construction b

“I love the cows, the better yo feed them, the better they do

“I’m always trying to improve with better feet and better udd

“Having spent money to bree grown them to their potential, to their potential.

“My cows are half as big again produce twice as much milk.”

Robotic milking allows the an udder when it needs to, and as separately, dropping off when harm caused by over-milking is

Giving the cows the option of makes perfect sense. Recently litres, might use the robots fou whereas those about to dry off day milking.

Handing the decision over to run separate herds and reduce

Adjusting to the robots took t

In the calf shed, automatic feeders ensure the next generation of super cows are well nourished.



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Dairy Focus January 2013


melot cows

n robotic farms, both in New ng for design ideas, learning ut what would work best on began.

ou bred them and the better you

the line – to breed better animals, ders.”

ed better animals and fed and you want to make sure they milk

n as normal cows, and they

nimal to take pressure off the s the robots milk each quarter dry, the risk of infections and s minimalised.

f milking when they choose calved cows, milking up to 60 ur times in a 24 hour period, ff cut themselves back to once a

the cows alleviates the need to es stress on the animal.

the herd about three months.

Accustomed to functioning as a herd, the cows had to learn to act independently and to push open the gates, activated by a microchip their a collar, before moving into the robot. “At the start, whenever one cow moved toward the shed, the rest followed – because they expected someone would be behind them driving them up,” Frances said. The unfamiliar sensation of the automatic teat scrubbers and robotic arms moving underneath to attach the cups also took time for some animals to adjust to. “When we first started we had a lot more maintenance work, because the cows were more likely to kick, but they’ve settled down now.” Frances says cows are clever animals, and food is the secret to ensuring their co-operation. “Each time a cow comes to the shed, she is rewarded. She gets food in the robot, and goes out onto fresh pasture – it doesn’t take long to work out that’s a good choice.” The result, according to Frances, is that the cows are more content, quieter and friendlier. “It’s nice when the cows come up for a lick and a scratch – it shows they trust you.” On average the Camelot cows calve every 18 months. “Some milk for 600 days, we had one in milk for over 1000 days.”

A cow takes time for a back scratch, while waiting to use a robot.

Fast and efficient service to Mid Canterbury

“When you demand a lot from them it can take longer for them to get back in calf, they need time to recover from birthing and settle back down – there’s no rush to get them in calf, we don’t chop their heads off if they don’t get in calf straight away, it doesn’t work like that here.” Robotic milking systems have been touted as less labour intensive than conventional sheds, but this isn’t the case on Camelot. “I don’t believe it requires less staff, but it does require higherquality staff. Because the cows aren’t coming in as a herd it’s not as easy to spot one that’s off colour, you don’t see the lame cows at the back of the herd when you’re not driving them in. “I employ people who can read animals – who know when they are in pain or sore, they notice when something’s wrong. The sooner you get onto an animal health problem the quicker it’s fixed. “They don’t injure themselves deliberately and if they kick it’s because they are frightened – I have no tolerance toward people who are cruel to animals.” A recently constructed feed pad will make winter easier this year, able to feed 140 cows at a time, clear of the mud. “It will save the pasture and it’s easier on the cows, the bigger the cow the deeper it sinks into the mud.” Currently the herd is 580 strong, and will grow to 600 in the next year, but that is the limit the shed can cope with.

An injured cow relaxes in a warm bath.

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Dairy Focus January 2013

Farmers thank Government for 2013 water kick-start


he Government moving to set up a company to act as a bridge investor for regional water storage projects is being applauded by Federated Farmers. The organisation’s president Bruce Wills farms in Hawke’s Bay and knows full well the value of water storage. He puts his thoughts to paper: “What the Government is doing here should be applauded by environmentalists as much as it will be by farmers. “It is over 30 degrees outside and the pasture I am looking at is brown. The last significant rainfall we had here was before Christmas but I am not complaining, this is farming on the East Coast. “In saying that it highlights the big two opportunities we have with water storage, the economic and the environmental. The best way to keep nutrients and soil on our farms and out of water is green living grass. It is really that simple.

“Take the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Ruataniwha Plains Water Storage Project as one example. If it comes off, it will not only be big for the Hawke’s Bay but big for New Zealand. “The resulting reservoir will cover an area of some 372 hectares; only slightly smaller than Sydney’s central business district but around double the size of Wellington’s.

“It also speaks volumes that the poster project for water storage remains Canterbury’s Opuha Dam. This exercise in perseverance took years, highlighting why short-term government involvement is needed to deliver economic infrastructure.

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“This will greatly aid the development of not only pastoral agriculture and horticulture, but value-added manufacturing too. In early 2012, Heinz announced closure of their Australian plants in favour of the Hawke’s Bay. “Politicians from the left and the right agree Canterbury’s Opuha Dam works, so why not speed similar projects along? This is what the Government is doing here and it will be as good for jobs as it will the environment.”


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“Economic analysis indicates farm output in the Hawke’s Bay will rise by $160 million each year with farm value add increasing by $70 million. That last amount includes additional household income worth $24 million each year.

“Farmers will have to pay a water distribution price so this is not a hand out, but a hand up. “An additional 632 full-time equivalent jobs The Government will exit to bring in further will be created and we are just talking about private sector investment. We only need look to the performance of Fonterra’s units on the NZX one project. These are real green jobs because that is the colour of the grass it will grow. to see what could be possible.

“What we know from Opuha is that since it opened there has been numerous “Farms like mine have dams, but they can only environmental and recreational spin-offs, in last so long. In winter, when you see our rivers addition to benefiting farmers of course. over capacity, you ask why this cannot be stored for use when we hit a dry spell like now. “The Ruataniwha Plains Water Storage Project


in my area will lift the area of land influenced by irrigation from 6000 hectares to some 42,000 hectares.

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Dairy Focus January 2013


Water report shows responsible water use Contributed by IrrigationNZ


he latest water report from Environment Canterbury demonstrates irrigators in the region are using water responsibly.

Water use data for the 2011-12 year shows only 39 per cent of allocated groundwater and 43 per cent of allocated surface water across Canterbury was taken for irrigation (http://ecan.govt.nz/advice/your-water/water-metering/ Pages/water-use-report.aspx). “It’s very pleasing to receive confirmation that irrigators use water only when needed. During a wet year like we’ve just experienced, the data shows irrigators will not take water unnecessarily. They recognise its value, monitor rainfall and soil moisture, and reduce their water takes accordingly,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis. The report’s findings on water meter uptake in Canterbury (for water takes more than 20 litres per second) were also reassuring, says Mr Curtis. “The vast majority (88 per cent) have now installed water meters or are in the process of installing. So the compliance picture is far better than we first thought. Also it is being shown that many of the remaining 12 per cent have actually installed meters, it’s just the paperwork has not been submitted by the water metering industry due to extreme workloads. Irrigators should be commended for their responsible attitude, particularly as it is not cheap to measure water. The average water meter installation cost is well in excess of $8000 per farm.” Once all water takes, with an abstraction rate of more than 20 litres per second, are equipped to measure water use, more than 97 per cent of allocated groundwater and 99 per cent of allocated surface water across Canterbury will be monitored and reported on. “The opportunity to learn more about our water use has come at a good time. Environment Canterbury’s report confirms pricing signals already drive efficiency of water use. In a wet season, farmers are not wasteful. Using your irrigator costs money in energy, labour and wear and tear, so the suggestion by the green lobby that an additional layer of water charges is needed to drive efficient use is nonsense. Unlike urban drinking water supplies, irrigators already pay a volumetric charge for water.” ECan’s water use report is based on data from 2140 water takes, with more data to be gathered over the years as more takes have water meters installed to comply with National Regulations for Water Management. The Selwyn-Waihora and Ashburton zones account for nearly two-thirds of all the groundwater abstraction points in the region; surface takes are spread more evenly. Ashburton zone had the highest daily groundwater allocation at 6.7 million cubic metres, and the fourth highest daily surface water allocation of the ten water management zones.

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Dairy Focus January 2013

Withdrawal of DCD based nitrification inhibitors


ederated Farmers is endorsing a decision by fertiliser companies to voluntarily withdraw DCD-based nitrification inhibitors until acceptable residue levels have been internationally agreed. Traces of DCD (Dicyandiamide) have recently been detected in liquid milk, and could be a trade risk. “DCDs are considered safe and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise, however, there is no internationally agreed acceptable level and so the default is the level of detection,” said Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers spokesperson on food safety. “These residues have only come to light given the increased sophistication of testing we now possess. It really shows the thoroughness of testing within New Zealand’s primary industries and the high standard we put on ourselves to protect our reputation as a trusted supplier of food products.” He said the issue needed to be kept in perspective DCD-based nitrification inhibitors have been applied on around 500 dairy farms out of some 12,000 in New Zealand. “That said a detectable level at this time presents a trade risk, no matter how small. It is completely

appropriate that Ravensdown and Ballance AgriNutrients have withdrawn DCD-based nitrification inhibitors from the market. “Given DCD-based nitrification inhibitors would generally have been applied last spring, it is highly unlikely any DCD will be detected in products coming off the production line now. “Extensive testing by the processors has found no traces of DCD in processed dairy products like cheese or butter.” He said people should have no issue in consuming dairy products but given New Zealand’s reputation was based on integrity, honesty and trust, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) had briefed trading partners. “I want those markets to know that New Zealand’s primary industries take this extremely seriously. We are being open and honest and everyone involved is front-footing it. “There will be a financial cost but that is secondary to maintaining our reputation, given the bulk majority of farms have not used DCD-based nitrification inhibitors.

He said the inhibitors arose out of the considerable pressure to seek solutions to diffuse nitrogen (N). Green Party water spokesperson Eugenie Sage said nitrification inhibitors were never the magic bullet to reduce nitrate leaching. “Reducing the pollution load on our rivers, lake and aquifers is a priority. That requires a combination of incentives and stronger regulation, not a silver bullet,” she said. “Improved land use controls including reducing stock numbers where needed, more efficient water use and careful attention to fertiliser application and soil moisture levels are more important to protect water quality. “Our precious places such as Te Waihora, Lake Ellesmere and the Mackenzie Basin need special care and further agricultural intensification with its associated environmental impacts has no place there.” Industry body DairyNZ has come out in support of Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ voluntary suspension of sales and use of DCD-based products. However, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle is urging the two companies, government authorities and dairy companies to work on pragmatic solutions that would enable the product to be back on the market and able to be used by farmers. “We support this proactive approach to managing the trade risk, but this is a very useful tool for farmers in terms of managing their nutrient loss on farms, so we’d like to see solutions worked on as a priority,” he said. Dr Mackle says there is a suite of tools farmers can use instead of DCD to manage nitrogen loss and its effect on water quality, so farmers will be actively focused on those in the meantime. “We’re doing a lot of research on other measures to manage nutrient loss so there are other options. But DCD is a particularly effective one so we hope that a solution can be worked on to enable it to be used.” Ballance research and development manager Warwick Catto said further research was the key. “We remain confident that continued research will result in the development of a nitrification inhibitor solution which delivers environmental benefits, meets international requirements and is supported by robust science.” He said only a handful of Ballance customers had recently used the product. Ballance ceased sales in early spring 2012 to review the product and its applications, and incorporated it into its $32 million research and development programme aimed at reducing nutrient and greenhouse gas losses through more efficient fertilisers and next generation nitrification inhibitors.



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Dairy Focus January 2013


Depression in rural communities a concern W

ith a disproportionate number of suicides in the rural sector, Federated Farmers is calling for a proactive approach to solve the problem. Hawke’s Bay farmer and the province’s dairy chairperson, David Hunt, has experienced depression first hand. He knows just how frightening and lonely it can be. Here is his story: “A farmer suicide recently compelled me to come forward, as I have great respect for what John Kirwan has done for mental health and I wanted to share my experience to help farmers. What helped me accept my depression were the people opening up to me about theirs. There is no shame in it, depression is a hereditary illness that causes a chemical imbalance in your brain, there’s no choosing what illness you get. “Depression affected me to the point that I couldn’t physically work for 12 months. I was incapable of driving a motor vehicle let alone running my farm, at my worst I was living on three hours sleep a night. The tiny little things become a real issue for me and I battled to get through each day. “Farmers can be their own worst enemies, we struggle to let people in or ask for help. Working in isolation makes the problem harder to identify. With the stigma around depression I didn’t want to admit I had a problem, let alone take medication.

“By the time I sought help, my original doctor had left the practice so I ended up seeing several different locums all offering me different advice because they didn’t know me. There seems to be a shortage of resources in the rural health sector to cope with the problem.

to get people talking about depression, with the aim of removing the stigma around the problem, and helping people get help when they need it.

“We need to do something about this. More people take their lives through depression than road accidents, but we are not talking about it. If we don’t address the increasing numbers of rural suicides, we are letting farmers down.

“We need to have an ambulance at the top of the cliff not just at the bottom,” she says.

“If you think someone is struggling, be brave, pick up the phone, knock on the door or find someone who has a rapport with that person to help. At least you tried.” Federated Farmers health spokesperson Jeanette Maxwell said recently released Statistic New Zealand figures show there are significantly more rural suicides per population than in urban areas. The most recent suicide rate for people living in rural areas is 16 per 100,000 people compared to 11.2 for every 100,000 people living in urban areas. While there is a lot of fantastic work already being done to address depression on a national scale, Federated Farmers believes more resources need to be invested to address rural mental wellbeing. Federated Farmers is trialling an initiative

Mrs Maxwell believes there needs to be a targeted strategy for approaching depression in the farming sector.

“Like any healthy community we need our neighbours and our friends to watch out for us, and reach out to those we recognise are struggling. Rural mental health services need better resources to provide a more accessible response, with some regions facing a three-month waiting list to see a rural mental health professional. “In the face of mounting compliance costs, increased local and central government demands, weather events, coupled with the reduced forecasted lamb and milk pay-outs, along with the normal stresses and strains of life, things are only going to get harder for rural communities. “The reality is rural people can get depressed. In a more isolated work environment the challenges, to get better, can be more difficult. We need to work together with the people who are already trying to make a difference to ensure that when rural people need help and support they get it,” she said.


Dairy Focus January 2013

More cows in-calf within six weeks – an achievable goal A

Contributed by LIC

ndrew and Jackie Siemelink always knew that the reproductive performance of their herd was a priority on their Te Puke farm, but after some disappointing mating results they’ve lifted the lid on the potential which exists to improve the overall profitability of the farm. “Last year our cows were the fattest they had ever been, they were well fed, and in my view it should have been our best mating season ever, but it took us more than three months to get them all in calf,” Andrew said. “We finished calving the day we started mating this year, so I knew we had to do something.” With 450 cows on 112ha, the Siemelinks originally purchased 46ha of their farm near Te Puke 10 years ago, and purchased the neighbouring 66ha in 2009 – requiring them to significantly increase their numbers quickly. They purchased a large number of carry-over cows and increased their replacement rate each year since, but Andrew can see now that the unusual age profile this has created, with fertility issues from the empty cows, is contributing to the decline in reproductive performance. “We couldn’t afford to be paying $2000 per cow, so we bought close to 120 empty ones at a much cheaper price and milked them through the season, but now we’re paying the price for that. “They were great in production, but as it turns out they were empty for a reason and they’ve got fertility issues that we’ve ended up breeding into our replacements. “We’ve still got about half of them left too and it’s had a huge impact on the reproductive state of our herd.” They decided to seek advice from their LIC customer

relationship manager who put them in touch with the farmer-owned co-operative’s recently-established team who are leading an industry-wide collaboration aimed at improving reproductive performance of herds across the country. “It’s not a great profile at the moment, with a big chunk of young cows and a block of older cows, but that will level out soon enough, and we were keen to get any help we could to make sure we had everything else right in terms of heat detection, bull power and heifer rearing because it all impacts on their performance. “It was great to hear they could help out in this area. We had a meeting, identified a few things and we looked through the Fertility Focus Report from my MINDA records which was probably the key thing. “It allowed us to see exactly how we’re doing and it really focuses on that target of getting as many cows as possible in calf within six weeks, which has huge benefits for us and that’s our biggest driver now. “We want to achieve that in three years, with as many as possible all calved down in six weeks, because like most farms, it’s all go in that time for us, but if it’s over and done with it makes it easier to plan ahead from there. “You don’t have to run all these different mobs. It means you’ve got early milk production, and come mating you’re set up again, and you’ve got that interval between calving and mating to let the cows get over it. “Since that meeting, we’ve made some changes to the way we monitor bulling behaviour, and are spending a bit more time looking at cow behaviour down in paddocks, being a bit fussier with tail paint and have taken on their advice for when to put cows up that was a big one.”

“We’ve were intending to use five bulls in the herd once finished AI, but-turns out that ratio wasn’t correct so we’ve doubled that this year, and we took them out earlier too. “We’re prepared to take a knock from that because it means anything left will be empty and we will end up culling some very good cows - because I won’t be keeping them, I can’t afford to.” “A big part of improving the reproductive performance is aiming to grow our heifers better. “We’ve got a very good grazier and he’s always done a very good job for us, but with the new liveweight breeding value targets in MINDA Weights, our heifers to be mated this year were on average 44kg underweight – that was huge to us. “By no means have we been unhappy with the service we’ve been getting from our grazier, but those targets in MINDA will just make it even more effective, so we can all keep a closer eye on which ones are on track and which aren’t. “It’ll be difficult to catch them up this year, but we can make gains, and will be putting in extra feed to get them there.” Andrew and Jackie are now working to ensure their herd remains on the right track throughout the year, to ensure optimum performance come mating time. “We’re looking to fine-tune all the time, and this is one area we think we can make some big inroads. “We won’t be buying in any animals. We’ll rear all my own replacements now, keeping the ones from my own cows and especially those early calvers. “It’s not worth the price you could end up paying later down the track.”

Dairy Focus January 2013


New Zealand dairy industry now dependent on Filipino farm workers


ver the past few years the demand for experienced and reliable dairy farm workers has grown rapidly, as the industry continues to expand. To meet the labour shortfall the industry has become dependent on migrant workers, mainly from the Philippines, says immigration consultant Bruce Porteous.

families to New Zealand once they have settled in – Immigration NZ policies are supportive by allowing partners and children to come to live with migrants on work visas.”

Filipino dairy farm workers have been working on dairy farms outside the Philippines for several years now, including large dairy farms in the Middle East, Japan, Ireland and the UK. Farmers from around the country are unable to find suitable dairy farm workers within New Zealand.

The recruitment of skilled migrants from the Philippines is regulated by the Philippines Government through the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency. All recruitment must be processed through an agency licensed with the POEA.

Immigration Placements Ltd (IPS), a New Zealand company specialising in placing overseas dairy farm workers with New Zealand farmers, says the demand has been very strong for dairy farm workers from the Philippines with the growth in the dairy industry. IPS opened a branch office in Manila, Philippines early 2008 where its staff screen and check each applicant individually before submitting them to potential employers. This ensures farmers only receive quality applicants.

Before coming to New Zealand, workers are required to obtain an Overseas Employment Certificate from the POEA before leaving. The POEA oversees the activities of licensed agents and may cancel licences if not complying with the laws of the Philippines. Without an OEC, workers are unable to leave the country to work abroad. They are also required to purchase accident and life insurance, and pay a departure tax to the POEA.

Most of the migrants coming to New Zealand plan to stay permanently and become residents, Mr Porteous said. “They normally bring their

He said having an office in Manila meant paperwork could be sorted within a month of an employee being offered a job.

Immigration New Zealand requires all applicants to go through stringent medical tests before approving of work visas. An applicant’s references and qualifications are thoroughly checked by INZ before

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approval visas, and if there are any false claims made in applications the visas are denied. Immigration NZ will only approve work visas if applicants can provide at least two years proven work experience on commercial dairy farms, supported by authenticated documents such as PAYE receipts. Most applicants applying for positions on dairy farms through IPS have animal science or veterinary degrees, and have been working for at least two years on large dairy farms in Japan or the Middle East previously. IPS also provides qualified applicants from Sri Lanka. Like the Filipinos many have worked on large commercial dairy farms in the Middle East. Others have had many years’ experience on commercial dairy farms in the highlands in Sri Lanka. Mr Porteous said IPS had supplied hundreds of dairy farm workers over the years to farmers from Northland to Southland. For most applicants farmers are required to obtain approval from Work and Income to show that there are no suitable local applicants available. If the applicant has proven supervisory experience in all aspects of dairy farming ranging from milking to pasture management, they may qualify as an assistant herd manager under the skilled migrant category which will avoid the need to having the approval from WINZ.

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Dairy Focus January 2013

Does diet affect hoof health? preventative and curative trimming. Out of those 15,000 cows there may s we now are in the holiday be a handful of cows that show no season it may be a good time to haemorrhage at all; so, therefore, think about food. Food for cows, most cows in New Zealand have I mean! haemorrhaging or bruising in their hooves. Admittedly, in some of those There is still a lot of discussion on cows you have to look carefully for whether or not diet has an effect the haemorrhage but, nevertheless it on hoof health. If we think about is there. The interesting thing is that the many different ways our human bodies can react to various foods and most cows have the same pattern of haem orrhage where the main bruise the outward symptoms we observe, then it is not illogical to also think that is in the spot where the sole ulcer is shown on the cow in picture 1. The our cows can present with physical sole ulcer in the picture is just an symptoms that are indicative of advanced stage of a normal bruise. dietary imbalances or intolerances.


Contributed by Fred Hoekstra

I am a strong advocate for the inclusion of a greater amount of straw in our cow’s diet. One of the main arguments I encounter with this suggestion is that straw would substitute grass and therefore minimise energy intake and subsequently reduce milk production. I am not a nutritionist, but I would like to explain what has influenced my thinking based upon my regular observations of the cows’ feet I deal with. With this evidence you can make up your own mind whether or not diet has an impact on hoof health.

If the bruising happens because of external force then why do they look so similar? If they were caused by standing on stones then I would expect a much more even pattern over the whole claw. Sometimes I clean the wall of the claw with my grinder just to see what symptoms you can find there. In the second picture you can see some haemorrhage in the wall of the claw. How does it get there? If you look at this evidence, it is hard to argue that those bruises are caused by the physical causes that so many people believe.

We trim around 15,000 cows in a year. This is a combination of

I appreciate that disproving one theory doesn’t prove another. So,

I can’t say that this evidence is conclusive, that it is diet that causes the problems for those cows, but you can say that there has to be a problem with the corium (live tissue) on the inside of the claw. Especially if you see sole ulcers in claws, as shown in the photo, when the cow in question is a beef cow! This animal doesn’t even know what a stone looks like. It doesn’t get pushed over tracks, doesn’t have to stand on yards and isn’t under stress. So, if it is not physical force that caused this problem, and the young lush grass had nothing to do with it, then what caused this sole ulcer? One other thing I want to mention is water. Cows would do much better if they had plenty of access to water. Often when they leave the paddock for milking they don’t have any water available until they get back into the paddock. That is way too long, especially on hot days. I wonder how it would go if there were single drinking pots in every stand on the platform in the cow shed. It would be a good way to get cows onto the platform and may even work better than meal. I would be very interested in receiving your feedback on this topic.