Dairy Focus | February 2017

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Dairy Focus FEBRUARY 2017




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Our late summer has been to the fore this month – while it enabled farmers to get in their harvests, it also made the Port Hills tinder dry and the perfect spot for a fire to rage out of control. Farmers who were also volunteer firefighters have found themselves giving a hard day’s slog in the aftermath, helping dig up hotspots where hot embers had found their way underground courtesy of tree roots. A tragedy, especially for those who lost homes in the blaze, but if there is a flip side a great many firefighters new to the service gained important coalface experience about how fires can survive for days beneath the surface. Ashburton was the hottest spot in the land for a couple of days running though it was trying


to rain the day I caught up with three Methven farmers trying to get the Canterbury onfarm dairy heifer contest up and going again. Their own Methven contest (the winners progress) will be a fun day and spectators, no matter where they live, are welcome to join the supporters tour. The commentary is bound to include a few jokes about the Irish! It is a shame the contest has fallen over in Ashburton, though it still thrives in Mayfield. It is harder to find volunteers for many things these days and it can be a leap of faith to stand aside and wait for new blood to put their hand up. The Methven guys have pledged to give it their best for two years and hope another association will pick up the mantle. Some interesting stats from the recent report about dairy’s economic contribution to New Zealand – I think I need to move into the dairy processing industry, where the average wage is $72,910, a whole lot more than I am paid! It did underscore the undeniable fact that when dairying is good, we all reap the rewards.

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Heifer comp a learning experience Methven dairy farmers Trevor Monson, Phil Lowe and Ben McIntosh are trying to breathe new life into the Canterbury Dairy Heifer Competition. The contest has been running for many years and interest had flagged following a tough couple of seasons for the industry, but the trio – all part of the Methven A&P Association – have taken over running it and hope to build it back up. The competition involves A&P associations from Waimate to Amuri running their own on-farm heifer competitions and the winners going on to contest Canterbury titles. Monson said the contest had fallen out of favour with some associations over the years – Ashburton has not run one for several years – but it was a great way to share good information for the benefit of the industry. The contest has sections for owners/sharemilkers and for graziers. Monson said graziers were an important part of a heifer’s

Linda Clarke


growing cycle. A well-reared calf and a well-grazed heifer resulted in an animal primed to take its place in the milking herd. He said recognising the work of professional graziers was important as it also encouraged other farmers to join the industry. Five A&P associations are taking part in the Canterbury competition this year, with Mackenzie making an appearance for the first time. Mackenzie will be joined by Methven, Mayfield, Ellesmere and Rangiora. All the regions will have finished their judging by April 1 so the Canterbury winners can be announced at the Mackenzie show in Fairlie at Easter. continued over page

Methven dairy farmers (from left) Ben McIntosh, Trevor Monson and Phil Lowe are revamping the PHOTO LINDA CLARKE onfarm heifer competition.

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From P3 The Methven trio are also organising the local on-farm heifer contest and have a full day of judging with 19 farms on the agenda for March 1. They estimate judges Richard van Wynbergen and Hannah Wentworth will see some 10,000 cattle. Monson said the owner categories were for heifers born in 2015 and 2016 so dairy farmers who calved in autumn because of winter milking contracts could also take part. “Traditionally it was seasonal with spring calves, so some were not included to enter.” He said judging day was an event on its own and anyone interested was welcome to come along for part of the whole day. “There’s a bit of commentary and it’s always fun. “There’s a free morning tea and a free lunch and you meet new people and do some networking. But you also see lots of different ideas on the different farms you see. “You can take something from nearly every farm as you drive right through them. “It’s all about information

sharing.” Mayfield A&P Association president Martin Williams milks 450 cows on Jaines Road with wife Lisa and says the on-farm heifer contest helped both farmers and graziers

improve their game. Nearly 8000 heifers were entered in the Mayfield contest last year and the competition was more about information sharing and helping owners prepare good

stock for grazing. “It is not to be critical, but to be exposed to other ideas.” Williams said he had seen both owners and graziers improve from competition to competition.

Farmers needed to do a good job rearing their calves so they went out to grazing in prime condition; graziers could then continue the good work. The end result was a good

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Farmers can pick up a lot of good ideas when they follow the judges on competiton day. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

heifer that helped their dairy businesses going forward. He said he regularly kept an eye on known good performers around the district in order to improve his own game.

Williams, a fifth generation dairy farmer, said the contest was also a good way to involve dairy farmers in their local A&P associations, where they could be part of the community.

It would be interesting to see this year how farmers and graziers had coped with low quality grass that had resulted from a wetter than usual spring and fewer sunshine hours, he said.

ITINERARY Want to join the Methven contest crew? The Methven A&P Association’s dairy heifer contest is being held tomorrow. You can join for all or part of the day with judges expected at these points: 7.30am ........................... Leaving Crossroads Bar and Restaurant, Methven 8am ....................................................................................................................Ben Streeter 8.20am ....................................................................................Ben and Cate McIntosh 8.40am................................................................................................................Mark Lock 9am........................................................................................................................... Phil Lowe 9.20am..............................................................................................................Kerry Smith 9.40am............................................................................................................ Rob Withers 10am ...........................................................................Morning tea at Staveley Store 10.40am................................................................. Andrew Oram (Brent Trafford) 11am..........................Andrew Wright (Nathan Currie and Trevor Monson) 11.30am..................................................................................................... Greg Meadows 11.50am.......................................................................... Hamish Marr (J. O’Connell) 12.10pm....................................................................... Grant King (Fonterra heifers) 12.30pm................................Andrew Furzeland (Rob Turney and D. Cotter) 1pm........... Lunch at Chris Curd’s property, 812 Dromore Methven Road 2pm..........................................................Chris Curd (M. Lilleuy and Dairo Roma) 2.20pm.................................................................................................Lawrence Rooney 2.40pm....................... Barry Begg (Jeremy Duckmanton and Rob Turney) 3pm................ Sam Letham (Stephen Moorehead and Grant Hargreaves) 3.20pm........................................................... Karl Henderson (Andrew Griffiths) 3.40pm..........................................................................James Anderson (Phil Lowe) 4pm................................................................................. Alistair Mangin (Brad Chard) 4.20pm............................................................................... Jim Rodd (Jeremy Casey) 6pm.............................................Prizegiving at Crossroads Bar and Restaurant

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Farming Dairy Focus


Ashburton the perfect spot for parac By Linda Clarke


Former party boy Helinton Da Costa-Marques, or Croc to his mates, has learned a thing or two about dairy farming since arriving in New Zealand seven years ago. The 31-year-old Brazilian is among thousands of migrants working in the New Zealand dairy industry and while he was something of an accidental starter, he has no regrets . . . for working in Mid Canterbury means he can also indulge in his all-consuming passion for skydiving. Croc says he has “grown up” in New Zealand; he’s learned about responsibilities, work and how to manage his money. He comes from the Pantanal region of Brazil – the area is a huge wetland that attracts tourists who want to see jaguar and other wildlife. It is also where he got his nickname. The wetlands are home to caiman, a species of crocodile that are abundant in the area and able to be hunted. Croc says it was a pastime for him and his mates, who would

entice the smaller 40kg caiman with cow lungs that floated on the surface of waterways. Once hooked, the caiman were dragged to the bank and killed with a quick machete blow to the back of the neck. The tender meat is cooked and eaten with lemon or salt, or – Croc’s favourite – passionfruit sauce. He wears a necklace of crocodile teeth made for him by friends who belonged to one of the eight tribes that surround his home town. It was in Brazil he also started skydiving. “I was fortunate to come from a comfortable family,” he says. It also meant he could travel and, by his own admission, party. His original plan was to go to Australia to learn how to fly helicopters in 2010. He stopped off in New Zealand to visit a friend and never left. He met a Brian Bolt, who offered him a job on a dairy farm in Geraldine. It was a huge learning curve and he described it as intense. continued next page

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achuting-loving dairy worker Croc He was part of a crew milking 820 cows in a 38bail herringbone shed. He has learned about grass management, putting on cups, animal welfare and all the paperwork that goes with running a dairy farm. Management, he realised, was not for him. He had no time to indulge his passion for skydiving. So he left recently for a job driving big tractors on a Mayfield dairy farm. “I am a happy tractor driver,” he says. He is also closer to Skydiving Kiwis’ Ashburton base and has more time to jump. The dairy farm experience was valuable, he said. He suddenly had responsibilities on the farm, as well as managing his money and keeping his house clean. And at the end of five years, he realised he had learned a lot. Croc’s long-term goal is to combine his interests in

tourism and skydiving and he says Ashburton is the perfect spot for the sport. “Ashburton is a awesome place to skydive! Ashburton people might not appreciate it, but people all over the world come here to skydive. “You can see the blue ocean, you can see Mt Cook and the farming landscape. Everything looks pretty cool.” He said Skydiving Kiwis ran a business with tandem jumps for tourists, but also encouraged experienced fun jumpers with cheap rates. “You can jump as often as you want, they are all about the love of the sport.” It is one of the few drop zones in New Zealand with such a culture, he said. Croc says living in New Zealand has also given him a chance to learn English. It helps that he loves to talk with people, so he has quickly absorbed the vocabulary and slang.

Above – Dairy farm worker Croc Da Costa-Marques is crazy about skydiving. PHOTO LINDA CLARKE 140217-LC-0002

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Farming Dairy Focus

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Pilot swaps fertiliser for water to Helping fight the devastating fires which tore through Christchurch hillsides this month claiming one pilot’s life and destroying at least a dozen homes was “work with a difference” for a Ravensdown pilot, Ben Robinson. Robinson, 40, in his fifth season as a pilot for Ravensdown, and with 12 years flying experience, was ready for the call, he and ground crew Duncan Fraser quickly taking off the fertiliser box on his fixed wing PAC Cresco 750 and putting on a water tight fire door. Ravensdown, the farmerowned fertiliser co-operative, operates four planes in the South Island and 10 in the North Island, under the Aerowork brand. Normally the pair are engaged in spreading dry fertiliser and seed for Ravensdown clients, but dropping water or fire retardant was a vital deviation from the norm when the February fires took hold above Christchurch. “Duncan receives a lot of feedback about our work and

Ravensdown pilot Ben Robinson takes a break during firefighting PHOTO SUPPLIED in the Port Hills.

it was clear that a lot of our shareholders who are farmers understood what we were doing, and were very keen to support us,” said Ben. The crew, operating from its base in Rangiora received the

call at midnight on Monday, February 13 when the fires were taking hold. “It quickly became obvious that everyone who could help in the air was going to be needed. “The Rural Fire Authorities

called us and just before light we got the plane ready and were away. They found us an airstrip near Tai Tapu at first, then moved us to Christchurch International Airport.” Carrying up to 2000 litres of water per trip, or 1600-1700 litres of fire retardant, Ben and

Duncan flew about nine hours on the Tuesday, each trip taking about 15 minutes return. In order to precisely drop their load on the burning hillsides, they took their directions from the air attack authority who talked to them flying in a helicopter above them.


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“Visibility was not too bad, but later in the day the smoke became worse. We made at least 35 to 40 trips, and were joined by another Aerowork plane flown by Andrew Denniston from Masterton in the afternoon.” On the first day Ben and Andrew’s roles included

making a retardant barrier above the new Adventure Park, finishing their flights at about 8pm. Born and bred in Ashburton, Ben said it was a real privilege to be able to help in Christchurch’s latest crisis. Ravensdown’s chief executive, Greg Campbell,


said all the staff were buzzing with the news that the company was involved in such positive actions during the unpredictable hours and days when the wind direction kept changing and the fire front kept advancing. “We are all incredibly proud of the work done by Ben

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plant in Hornby. “We received so many messages of appreciation from people living on the hillsides and from people who knew someone who lived in the line of the fires. “It made it all very worthwhile for us to be involved at a time of crisis.”




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Dairy Focus



New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards South Island finalists in the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards have been announced as the top contenders in the competition are found nationwide. Judges have been on farms in the Canterbury/North Otago, West Coast/Top of the South, and Southland regions, scoring entrants in the dairy trainee, dairy manager and share farmer of the year categories. Finalists in all three categories were announced ahead of the regional awards dinners, when winners will be announced. Regional winners progress to the national final and are judged by a national judging team to determine the national winners and placegetters in each competition. National winners will be announced on May 6 at Sky City Auckland. The Canterbury awards dinner is being held this year at the Air Force Museum in Wigram on March 22. Tickets are still available. The finalists were to be selected from 12 entries in the dairy trainee of the year

Michael and Susie Woodward were an award-winning sharemilking partnership at last year’s dairy industry awards. They won the Canterbury/North Otago final and went on to be runners-up in the PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN national competition.

category, 19 in the dairy manager of the year category and eight in the share farmer of the year category. Regional competition organisers Melissa and Justin Slattery, national sharemilker/ equity farmer winners in 2015, say the function is open to

entrants, sponsors, supporters and anyone interested, with all tickets sold to the event going into a lucky draw to win a helicopter flight with All Black great Richie McCaw. The Slatterys have been balancing organisation for the competition with the arrival

of a new baby, milking 520 cows and working through the logistics of moving back to the Waikato at the end of the season to run their own farm. Melissa said the number of entries was a good response, considering many dairy

farmers had been keeping a tight rein on costs. While recent increased forecast payouts were light at the end of the tunnel, the awards were a great way for dairy farmers to analyse their businesses in tight times. “Everyone is in the same boat. You need to keep reviewing opportunities and making goals, and thinking where to from here. That is a good reason to enter.” Awards general manager Chris Keeping says judges have been extremely impressed with the quality of entrants this year. “This is an incredibly busy time on the farm, and it shows the high-calibre of the entrants that they are continuing to run their businesses and do their jobs on a daily basis, as well as prepare for the competition,” she said. “The dairy industry awards aren’t just about winning, they are about education, networking and growth. The people living and breathing the dairy industry have upbeat and positive attitudes. The future looks good.”


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Dairy Manager of the Year: • Emma Gibb • Russ Young • Paul Clement • Kerry Higgins • Rhys Roberts and Kiri Roberts

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Dairy Manager of the Year: • Ann Linton • Matt McKenzie • Angela Nicholson • Randy Saldana • Phil White

Share Farmer of the Year: • James Bawden • Kieran McCall and Erin McCall • Simon Clisby andNadia Trowland • Christopher O’Malley and Siobhan O’Malley • Tania Riddington • Dairy Trainee of the Year: • Ben Haley • Hamish Lee • Peter Magon • Luke Roberts • Cheyenne Wilson

Share Farmer of the Year:

• • • • •

Derek and Laura Dudley Jeremy Smith and Michelle Oldam-Smith Russell and Tracy Bouma Jared and Sara Crawford Matthew Van Hout

Dairy Trainee of the Year: • Tane Boyce • Simone Smail • Bryce Deal • Brooke Buchanan • Jase McNaught • Ben McLean

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Farming Dairy Focus


It must be an election year It must be election year, all the same political battlefields are being occupied with the opening salvoes being fired over law and order; every political party is promising more police. This plus health and education are the areas where politicians make bold positive promises to spend more and do more; the triennial lolly scramble. The flipside to these traditional battlefields are the political footballs; those who can be blamed for all manner of woes in order to score political points without upsetting too much of your base. Immigration is getting a good kicking and is shaping up to be a major football this year and the Greens have dairy farmers squarely lined up. Twitter can provide an interesting window to exchanges that would have otherwise totally passed you by, I don’t know if politicians use it as a testing ground to float their ideas or if it’s just a place where you get to see their unfiltered thoughts. A senior Labour MP

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recently tweeted that New Zealand was experiencing record immigration and it was “an uncomfortable fact that this was related to the recent rise in unemployment”. He remained stonily silent when presented with the facts; the previous three years had seen rising immigration and falling unemployment, and got downright petulant when it was pointed out his comments were dog whistle politics bordering on racism (because when we talk of immigration nobody is talking about the English family that just moved in next door). It took less than an hour for his premise to be totally destroyed and the MP to leave the subject alone. Had his tweet been a press

release there would have been no instant discussion. It’ll be interesting to see if his framing of the subject changes closer to the election or if he chooses to double down. Prior to that DairyNZ had been tweeting some good positive messages about dairy farmers spending $1 billion on riparian planting and fencing of waterways. A Green candidate decided to chime in and, rather than ask how much was left unfenced or what measurable effects these

initiatives had had on water quality, he took DairyNZ to task over the figure of $1 billion, demanding they show their working much to the delight of his supporters. Interestingly the last Niwa summary I saw put the industry’s spending on water quality measures at closer to $3 billion, but he was so focused on being negative and scoring points that he failed to accept that the amount spent doesn’t matter; it’s the effectiveness of the

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programme that counts. We’ve never had so much information so readily available to us; there should be no need for politicians to be spinning the story. Until they stop the spin it’s up to us to check the facts for ourselves and hold them accountable. Social media gives us unprecedented ability to engage with our politicians and I’m thankful they do so, it gives us a voice every day rather than every three years.



Volatility in dairy presents tax opportunity Agribusiness tax specialist Tony Marshall explains what the latest NSC values will mean for New Zealand farmers. With the release of the 2017 National Standard Cost (NSC) values for livestock, advisory firm Crowe Horwath says ongoing volatility in the dairy cattle market presents both opportunity and risk in the tax structures for New Zealand’s farmers. Tony Marshall, tax advisory partner in the company’s Dunedin office, also says the gap between the two livestock valuation schemes used for taxation purposes is set to diverge once more after coming to its closest point last year. This will effectively close a window of opportunity to costeffectively switch between schemes. “By using standard nationwide averages for the cost of production of an animal, farmers are spared the effort of running a complex calculation on their own, resulting in a considerable compliance cost saving,” Marshall said. The two livestock valuation methods most commonly used are NSC and the Herd Scheme (HS). Valued under HS, Marshall explains, movements in livestock value are nontaxable, whereas movements in value under the NSC method are taxable, either as income or a deduction. With the Inland Revenue Department’s release of the NSC figures this week, he says there has been a substantial reduction in average production costs for dairy cattle, from $529.10 to $404.10 for breeding, rearing and growing a rising 1-yearold heifer and from 414.20 to $322.50 for rearing and growing a rising 1 heifer into a rising 2 heifer. As the livestock ages the value feeding into the mixed aged cow tax values will reduce, increasing the difference between NSC and HS values. This will see deductions flowing through for farmers on the NSC scheme in the 2016/17 year for their capital stock. “This is positive for those using NSC who have moved back into profit, as the movement will have a dampening effect on profitability, thereby improve their tax position.” Those on HS are not affected; however, he adds that farmers considering a move to the HS are likely to see the values compared with the NSC widening. “Last year we saw the HS value of a mixed aged dairy cow fall to $1356, with the NSC value at approximately $900, with the $456 difference the smallest seen for many years. This year, HS values are expected to climb back to 2014/15 levels when announced in May,” he notes. If HS values increase as expected the differential between the NSC and HS values is likely to

increase to $845. Marshall says the substantial drop in the NSC values is owing to the reduced payouts for dairy which has driven farmers to cut costs and revert back to a more pasture based model; however, he points out that dairy prices have seen considerable volatility through 2015/2016. With payouts increasing in recent months, it is his anticipation that while NSC values are down, HS values will increase. “Owing to the volatility of the dairy payouts last year, farmers have generally reduced their herd sizes. This means purchasing cows has become quite difficult, pushing prices up further – and that will impact on the HS values come May,” he said. Marshall says these market shifts means opportunities for tax optimisation for primary producers will continue to change. “There is no one-size-fits-all. It is best to discuss individual needs with your tax advisor for the optimal structure for your farm.” In comments on NSC values for other livestock, Marshall notes: Sheep Small increases in average production costs of $1.20 per head in a weak sheep market will have limited impact on sheep farmers. NSC and HS values remain well apart. Restructuring transactions would remain the only time where a move to HS might be considered (where market value significantly exceeds HS).


NSC increases have come on the back of a buoyant prior season and will see additional taxable income arising on capital stock when returns are starting to diminish. Average costs are up as farmers expand numbers and capacity. Movement is unlikely to be material for most. There remains a significant difference between NSC and HS values.

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Farming Dairy Focus


Treating lame cows Last month we talked about preventative trimming. This month I want to go a step further and talk about lame cows. Remember how we said that the outer claw is often higher than the inner claw? That means that the outer claw will carry a greater part of the weight. When it carries more weight the live tissue inside that outer claw is under more stress then the inner claw. When a cow gets laminitis (a disease in the foot that damages the blood vessels of the claw and weakens the live tissue) the outer claw will suffer more because of this extra stress. So when we trim this claw preventatively we spread the weight evenly over the two claws and the effects of the disease will be minimised. If a cow got to the point where the outer claw became too badly affected and ended up lame then we need to go further. If this claw suffered more because the extra pressure then the logical thing to do for this cow is to

Fred Hoekstra


minimise the pressure as much as we can. We lower that claw even further so that the outer claw ends up being lower than the smaller claw. In this case the inner claw will end up taking a bigger part of the weight. You may ask now how that can help a cow because the inner claw is going to be over stressed and will end up going lame. That would be true if the inner claw had to deal with this extra pressure for a long time, like two or three months. But because the outer claw will grow back in time it is not an issue. Having trimmed the outer claw thinner the live tissue inside this claw is getting rest and can heal up again. Taking the pressure of

the wound is the key to overcoming lameness and most people know this. We often see lame cows that have been trimmed by a staff member where the wound has been dug out. The philosophy is that you take the weight away from the wound and spread it out over the rest of that claw. That is wrong. The weight has to go to the other claw. The whole lame claw needs to be released from weight. In this case we are still not finished with this lame cow.

you should glue a claw block to the healthy claw. This way the sore claw is artificially raised off the ground. The theory here goes, if in doubt use a claw block. Claw blocks are always cheaper than lame cows. On our website www. veehof.co.nz you can find the five step schedule on hoof trimming. I recommend you print it out, laminate it, and leave it in the cowshed. You can always call us if you have some other questions, or would like to find out more about our training options.

We need to take all the loose horn away. If you can put your finger nail underneath the horn then bacteria and dirt can go there. That is just a recipe for infection. So when you see an underrun sole all that horn needs to come off. That may mean that the whole sole has to come off in some cases. Don’t be afraid to do so, just try to not make the claw bleed. If the lame claw ends up with the live tissue exposed and you can’t create enough height difference between the two claws then




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Changing strategy slashes mastitis Tom Carter was in something of a bind. His 340-cow mainly friesian herd – he’s a lower-order sharemilker – was producing reasonably well, but with the milk came uncomfortably high somatic cell counts. At between 250,000 to 280,000, the bulk tank cell counts were indicating a fairly high level of mastitis infection in the herd throughout the season. Cows that have never had a mastitis infection have naturally occurring cell counts of about 20,000 to 100,000, so given the bulk levels in Carter’s herd, it’s a fair bet that many cows had subclinical infections at any one time. Clinical infections were also popping up, including during the dry period over winter. While he had been culling empty cows, he had not been culling those with high cell counts, so it wasn’t easy to force infection rates down via that route. Carter treated the clinical cases as they occurred and last year put half of the herd on to once-a-day milking to

reduce some of the pressure on his herd. Despite this, the bulk tank cell counts stayed stubbornly high, compromising milk quality and production volumes. The farm at Ohinewai, near Huntly, is mainly on low-lying flats, with a mixture of sandy and peaty soils. It’s an all-grass system with a bit of palm kernel used at times. It’s wet in spring – very wet – providing an ideal environment for mastitis infection during calving, the most vulnerable period. Carter has been with the herd on this property for five seasons and the annual pattern of mastitis infection was getting repetitive, costing the business money at a time of already low returns. Something had to change. With veterinarian Kris Brownlee of Franklin Veterinary Services, he reviewed the way he managed the mastitis risk, focusing on the use of dry cow therapy. This preventative treatment at the end of lactation clears up existing infections, protects against reinfection during the


Bulk tank somatic cell counts for Tom Carter’s herd.

dry period and next calving, and should set up cows to fight off mastitis well into the following lactation. He was using Cepravin® Dry Cow, a long-acting product widely regarded as a gold standard in dry cow therapy treatments. Whole-herd therapy at drying off is recommended, as it is not always easy to pick which cows are carrying

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infections or are susceptible to new infections by the end of lactation. Carter had been treating about two-thirds of the herd. He dries off gradually, over about three weeks. It was his practice to not treat the first cows to dry off, introducing dry cow therapy to the cows that were dried off later on. Part of the motivation for this was to manage the

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risk of the first cows to be dried off getting back into the milking herd with freshly administered antimicrobials on board. On his vet’s advice, Carter this year tried whole-herd dry cow therapy with Cepravin and he’s been blown away by the difference it made. He said infections during the dry period were much lower and that continued into calving. But what’s really stood out for Carter is the huge drop in bulk tank somatic cell counts. They have gone from around 250,000 last season to as low as 85,000 during the current lactation. Carter says the spring weather conditions were, if anything more challenging this year than last, so he’s convinced the change to wholeherd treatment this year has made the difference. Brownlee said it’s impossible to eliminate all mastitis infections, but she’s noticed that the few cases that have occurred this season in Carter’s herd have been much more easily curable than in past years.

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2 16

Farming Dairy Focus


Mid Canterbury dairy farmer and extreme runner Greg Roadley has left a hot Mid Canterbury summer for a 560km footrace in one of the coldest and windiest places on the planet. The Pendarves father will tow a life-sustaining sled across the Arctic Circle, snatching sleep in a special sleeping bag and consuming 5300 calories a day as he trudges in a race against 19 other extreme runners. Roadley loves to challenge his mind and body. He has competed three times in the gruelling one-day Coast to Coast and last year ran six marathons in six days in the Sahara Desert as part of the Marathon des Sables. While heat and sand were problems then, he faces extreme cold and hypothermia during the 6633 Arctic Ultra event. Only a handful of competitors are expected to finish and Roadley plans to be among them. Roadley, wife Rachel and son Guy will fly to Canada two weeks before the footrace starts on March 10 and he will

Linda Clarke


spend a week acclimatising to the cold and testing his gear. He has been training about 100km a week, pulling a tyre to mimic the weight of a sled. The technique has attracted more than a few looks – running up the Mt Hutt skifield road recently, someone asked him where the rest of his car was. Drivers on the roads around his Pendarves dairy farm are used to seeing him battling away on the roadside. The footrace starts in Eagle Plains in the Yukon, passes through the Arctic circle during the first day and finishes on day eight in the Eskimo village of Tuktoyaktuk, on the edge of the Beaufort Sea, west of the North Pole. The 43-year-old has broken


Roadley takes on arctic challenge Greg Roadley is preparing for a brutal eight-day footrace in the Arctic Circle.

down the race into 75km segments and knows he will have to slow run sections to meet time limits imposed on the competitors. He can expect temperatures as low as -40 degrees and hurricane strength winds; he has grown a beard to help cover his face and will wear special clothes and equipment to make sure no skin is exposed to the elements. He has three puffer jackets and will wear four layers of merino; his gloves are the type used by mountaineers. Roadley said planning was

crucial and his focus had been on making sure he had the right gear. Competitors will sleep on the side of an ice truckers’ highway in their sleeping bags, walking in both the day and night. He says his sled will add an extra 12kg and carry dehydrated food, a small cooker, sleeping bag and safety gear. He will also eat plenty of chocolate and pork scratching and expects to burn through more than his 5300 calories a day rations. While the event is a race,

Roadley hopes to buddy up with a Frenchman he met at the Sahara run. Support and encouragement will be crucial as tiredness and cold temperatures affect decisionmaking. He will carry a satellite phone so he can receive messages from Rachel and Guy, who will fly up from Vancouver to be at the finish line. He is not afraid of the elements as he has planned meticulously for these. It is the unknown that is scary – and he will need all his mental toughness to beat that.


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2 18

Farming Dairy Focus


Agrigate – the new word in farm per Waikato dairy farmer Bill Aubrey believes Agrigate, a new online tool launched this month, will be revolutionary in helping farmers improve their farm performance. Developed by Fonterra Farm Source and LIC, Agrigate combines all the key data farmers need to make faster and smarter decisions on one, easy to use online dashboard. LIC chief executive and Agrigate chairman Wayne McNee said having data in one place and working in real time makes it easier to make comparisons, see trends and make better management decisions. “A key outcome will be enabling farmers to make the most efficient use of their resources – which is important in both tough and better times.” Fonterra Farm Source Chief Operating Officer Miles Hurrell said the ultimate goal of this project was to support farmers by giving them a tool to help maximise their on-farm performance, productivity and profitability. “As a simple, easy-to-use tool

Agrigate is a great example of dairy industry innovation. It allows farmers to identify areas of their business where they are performing well and areas where improvements can be made.” Agrigate has been designed to help farmers plan ahead, using existing data to assess the interaction between different on-farm factors, such as weather conditions, animal health, milk production, financials, pasture cover and fertiliser applications. Agrigate will help farmers track what effect each factor has on the others so that they can plan accordingly. For example, farmers will be able to see what impact factors like herd size; milking frequency and fertiliser use have on pasture cover, milk volume and quality, and milk solids production per hectare. Agrigate will also allow farmers to benchmark these farm factors on a scale that they haven’t been able to in the past, a feature that has impressed Aubrey. continued next page



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rformance management “I can compare past and present, regional and national to see how I’m tracking and how I measure up compared to other same-system farms, even in my own area. “Simply put, Agrigate takes the complexity of dairy analytics and turns it into a straightforward way to help me make smarter decisions and improve my bottom line,” Aubrey said. He reckons there hasn’t been anything quite like it before. “Agrigate streamlines the way I view and analyse my farm’s most important data. Combining information from multiple sources, it gives me a top-line view of everything I need, at any time and in real time, on one web page. Weather forecasts, pasture growth and cover, production data and more, all on one single dashboard.”

A prototype of Agrigate was trialled with 70 farmers in August 2016 and feedback from this group helped to develop the tool further. Agrigate has been made for farmers in conjunction with farmers and on-going feedback will help the team develop new features that can make the tool even more useful. Farmers can join the Agrigate community at any time by visiting www.agrigate. co.nz. Access to Agrigate is free for Fonterra Farm Source and LIC farmers through until July 31. After that, subscriptions will be based on what information farmers want available on their dashboard and the cost will be kept as low as possible. Agrigate will be featured at regional field days in March and the National Fieldays at Mystery Creek in June.

The new online tool Agrigate helps farmers analyse farm data. PHOTO SUPPLIED


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2 20

Farming Dairy Focus


Improvements in bobby calf welfare Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed a new report showing a major improvement in bobby calf welfare last year. “The Ministry for Primary Industries has vets at nearly every processing facility and in the 2016 season the mortality rate for bobby calves between farm and processing has more than halved, from 0.25 per cent to 0.12 per cent. “This is a major drop of just over 50 per cent and shows that new regulations and education campaigns have made a real difference. As well as the big drop in mortality, calves are also arriving in much better health and condition.” It is a significant drop from 2008 when the mortality rate was 0.68 per cent. “The wider industry and MPI have put a lot of work into improving practices over recent years and they deserve recognition for this,” Guy said. While there are still a few in the industry who need to improve their behaviour, the report provided strong evidence that things were

improving. “This is the first season with tighter new rules and regulations for handling bobby calves. From August 1 this year it will also be a requirement to have loading and unloading facilities when young calves are transported for sale and slaughter and appropriate shelter.” In 2016, just under two million bobby calves were

sent for slaughter, not wanted for beef or dairy herd replacements, and the industry was under scrutiny after allegations of calf mistreatment across the supply chain were highlighted in the media. Poor handling techniques loading calves and managing calves both on farm and at processing plants were seen. The report says the

improvements in calf mortality last year were likely brought about by a combination of new regulations, improved practices in animal welfare and favourable weather in winter/ spring. Every calf that died during transport to, or at slaughter premises for human consumption, was autopsied to ascertain if the calf was sick

or injured prior to transport. Information from autopsies may indicate whether the death could be reasonably attributed to a specific person in charge and can also be used as evidence to support infringement notices or prosecution. Results from 2016 indicated that the majority of calves dying were condemned by veterinarians rather than being found dead. On average, calves are transported a little over five hours, with some journeys up to 16 hours. Calves were held in lairage on average for 14 hours, though up to 28 hours was recorded. The most common signs of disease/defect noted at the inspection of live calves prior to euthanasia were calves being weak, recumbent and/ or thin. Three most common signs noted during autopsies were enteritis (inflamed gut), inflamed umbilicus and scour. Around 300 dairy farmers can expect visits from MPI vets this year to address onfarm management issues before slaughter.



Take the challenges out of irrigation IrrigationNZ staff spend a lot of time talking to farmers about the challenges they face with irrigation and finding practical solutions to help them manage their water and their business. Farmers are now operating in a complex, highlyregulatory environment. What we’re seeing as their biggest irrigation challenges are around scheduling, nutrient budgets and farm environment plans. IrrigationNZ can help dairy farmers navigate through the myriad of technology, plans and paperwork so they can spend less time in the office and more time focusing on efficiency, production and productivity. One of the simplest ways to ensure your irrigation infrastructure and practice is highly efficient, targeted and sustainable is by using an accredited company to design and install your system. That way, you know it meets regulatory and consent requirements and it will also meet performance and efficiency targets. You

Andrew Curtis


don’t have to worry about the council turning up and you can sleep easier at night knowing you’ve got a fitfor-purpose system that’s environmentally sound and contributing to your bottom line. In terms of scheduling irrigation and managing your Farm Environment Plan, the best investment you can probably make is to take a day or two off-farm and head to the Great Irrigation Challenge, which is being held in Ashburton in May. Farmers make a significant investment in irrigation infrastructure, but in order to benefit from that investment, they need to really understand how to maximise its use and efficiency. Farmers have

to be accountable for their water use, but scheduling irrigation using soil moisture monitoring is not a simple task. The Great Irrigation Challenge gives farmers and growers practical tools to help them understand soils and plant water use, know the depth they’re applying, how to account for production and environmental risk and how to run an irrigation schedule. In terms of Farm Environment Plans, the key message is ‘don’t over-think them’. Instead of putting them in the ‘paperwork’ pile, use them as a tool to give you

a process and timeframe for addressing environmental improvements. It’s often the small things that we never have time to get around to, that can make the biggest difference in terms of efficiency and environmental outcomes. One of the benefits of doing a Farm Environment Plan is that it gives you a really clear view of your farm – you can see exactly what you’re doing well and where you need to focus for improvement; then it puts a timeframe for delivery around making those improvements. This is the kind of

‘paperwork’ that actually benefits bottom lines. The Great Irrigation Challenge offers farmers a range of practical workshops to help them grow efficiency and meet ever-more stringent environmental targets. Topics include OVERSEER and N-check, nutrient budgets, scheduling i rrigation, fertigation, and farm plans and auditing. Coming along will be the second-best investment you ever make (after irrigation of course!). Andrew Curtis is chief executive officer of IrrigationNZ




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2 22

Farming Dairy Focus



Advertising feature

Cameras protecting their investmen

Carew dairy farmers Kelly and Jeff Gould have installed a three-camera security system plus beam alert to deter intruders on their farm. The Goulds, equity managers for Wyvern and Beth Jones, milk 1130 cows on 300ha near the Rangitata River. Jeff can use his cellphone from inside his nearby home, or while on holiday in Australia, to see what is happening in the milking shed, in the barn, the office and surrounding paddocks. With an optical zoom, he can also see what’s happening at the neighbour’s milking shed 1.5km away. But the system is not for snooping. It’s about protecting their investments, which include the stock, buildings, centre pivot irrigators and milk collected in silos. Gould said environmental vandalism was a real concern, as well as theft. The farm runs a barn system, allowing the cows to shelter on hot summer days and be warm on cold winter nights. Effluent collected in

With an optical zoom, he can also see what’s happening at the neighbour’s milking shed 1.5km away

the barn is treated and used as fertiliser around the property. “We were concerned about having a barn and people who don’t understand how they work and anti the system coming and looking and disturbing the cows,” he said. Environmental vandals against irrigation are thought to have caused $40,000 damage to an Omarama farmer’s centre pivots last month. The Goulds first installed sensor beams around the property but spent nearly $10,000 upgrading to the cameras after a period of suspicious activations. They say the system, provided by Masterguard Security Cameras, is worth every cent – it has eased their security concerns and may become a learning tool on the farm for new employees.

Gould said the beams are monitored and if broken, the monitoring station rings immediately to alert them. The activations at odd hours led them to believe someone was moving around in the barn. Since the cameras have been installed, the intrusions have stopped. He said the cows would react badly if a stranger walked into their midst and started shining lights around the barn. An animal could break a leg in the chaos that would follow. The cameras monitor the daily cycles at the farm, including milking, collection by tanker, and irrigators. Footage is able to be magnified to see tyre tracks, faces and even a cow needing help in the calving paddock. The video images are date

and time stamped. Masterguard Security Cameras’ Hartley Curd designed the system for them and helped them learn to operate it. The system includes software for cellphones, tablets or computers to allow remote access and it operates on electricity, though the Goulds have a back-up generator that kicks into action should the power go out. The couple, who have been farming together for 15 years, said theft had also become an issue, with stock being stolen from roadside paddocks or expensive consumables like antibiotics taken from sheds. Their new security system allows them to see out to the farm boundaries, and beyond, to keep track of people and vehicles in the area. And if an incident does occur, they can go to their image library and see what happened. Kelly and Jeff Gould (inset) installed security cameras to protect their stock and property. PHOTO LINDA CLARKE 210217-LC-0003

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Advertising feature


Eye on your assets

New on the security scene, Ashburtonbased iSPY Security and Surveillance Services is all about protecting what matters to you. Owners Kramer Khublall and Simon Williams were inspired to start the business by what they saw as a lack of options around self-monitored security and surveillance systems that did not require monthly monitoring contracts. They say they had also noticed a rising trend in theft in rural areas. The business provides high quality camera surveillance systems, New Zealand-made security alarms and perimeter monitoring devices and they can distribute internet services around the farm to remote buildings such as dairy sheds and staff quarters. They also do electrical testing and tagging, and sell and service fire extinguishers. “We get huge personal satisfaction

from delivering great end results. It’s great to see clients gaining peace of mind, knowing assets are covered and losses are minimised, and deterrents are in place.” iSPY’s systems use networking and internet technology. They are monitored by the owner who can gain remote access or control from anywhere in the world. The Ashburton pair say standalone solar powered surveillance and alarm systems are coming, for buildings and areas where there is no electricity. They have big plans to become the “go-to” company in Canterbury for security and surveillance needs. “Meeting new people and understanding other people’s businesses, needs and concerns – all in the great outdoors – is what we love.” Check them out on Facebook: iSPY Security and Surveillance Services.


7 Visitors you would want to catch if they turn up on your Farm • Friends • Customers • Thieves • Thugs • Courier and Truck Drivers • Poachers • Compliance Officials Whether you are busy getting things done, asleep, away, or simply relaxing ... you can now catch everyone who turns up! A wireless alert system catches every visitor as they arrive, and warns you immediately with an audible or text message alert.

Parabeam® solutions Parabeam® is a range of wireless alert systems developed by two Kiwi electronics engineers in 2003. Over this time the Parabeam® brand has built a reputation for high performance and quality and is popular with farmers in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom who just want "something that works". Systems are available for wireless distance up to 2500m (between a detector and base receiver) Alerts can then be forwarded to your phone as a text message via 3G. Up to 4 detectors can be supported by one receiver and multiple receivers can be installed in different buildings or sheds. If you want to implement a deterrent strategy, a base receiver can operate flood lights or 'police strobe' lights to scare would-be intruders away even if you are not home. Many things are possible. We recommend calling us direct or visiting the Parabeam® website.

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2 24

Farming Dairy Focus


Hi-tech way to weed out passengers Dairy farmers with herringbone sheds can now tap in to latest smart device technology to help them determine in real time – while their animals are being milked – which cows are producing the best or the worst on any given day. And for farmers with small to medium-sized herds, the technology is surprisingly inexpensive compared to other automation products. The ‘YieldSense Connected’ app, developed by LIC Automation, has been available to a portion of the dairy farmer market for some time, but it now includes new functionality to allow wider farmer appeal. Farmers equipped with YieldSense® in-line sensors can use the YieldSense Connected app to immediately identify the passengers (low value/production cows) in their herds, along with identification of high-producing (high value) cows. YieldSense is an automated in-line milk sensor that provides farmers with live yield and milksolid results. Until



Matamata farmer Graham Cates makes use of the YieldSense Connected app.

now, the system’s marketability has been restricted to farmers with automated rotaryoperated dairy sheds. The YieldSense Connected app works by capturing information from the milk sensors, alerting the farmer of the results via their smart device. Results include a summary of the bottom- and topperforming individual cows in the herd. Graham Cates, manager of a 300-cow herd in Walton (near

Matamata), uses YieldSense Connected to record the yield for each cow in his herd. He taps in to the technology for a 10-day period each month. “We record the alerts when they appear. Whenever we’re alerted, we go to the bail, get the cow number, and punch it into the phone,” Cates says. The information backs up animal management decisions. “It makes our job easier, its user friendly and fast, and now we don’t herd test. “We make our decisions

about what we’re going to do: treat, dry off, or cull.” The app goes beyond individual cow results. Herdlevel reporting is designed to provide a platform for farmers to focus on herd improvement solutions. A flashing light system in the milking shed is an optional extra. The lights provide milking staff with an additional visual alert – signalling the bottom- and topperforming cows before they return to the paddock.

Summary information – how the YeildSense Connected system works: 1. Farmer selects the threshold for alerts based on a percentage of the herd. 2. YieldSense detects the yield and milksolid levels in the milk. 3. Alerts from the sensors are sent to the farmer’s smart device and flashing light system (optional extra). 4. Farmer links the alert to the cow number. YieldSense Connected provides farmers with instant, real-time, reporting about their cows and herd and allows for better decision-making at the right time. It is suitable for both herringbone and rotary milking sheds and connects to other LIC Automation products.