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Dairy Focus NOVEMBER 2018


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Dairy Focus


Focus on the environment





Dairy farmers’ industry good organisation DairyNZ will invest $6.1 million into projects which “protect and nurture’’ the environment next season. This is alongside $53.7m for research and projects that support competitive and sustainable dairy farm businesses and $7.5m into establishing dairy farms as “great’’ workplaces with talented people. The projects are part of the organisation’s Dairy Tomorrow strategy launched last year. DairyNZ chairman Jim van der Poel said dairy farmers were committed to farming within environmental limits and maximising value from pasturebased farming systems. “This is what continues to be our competitive advantage,” said van der Poel at DairyNZ’s annual meeting in Invercargill. He said the strategy’s commitments were aimed at the environment, resilient businesses, producing high quality nutrition, animal care, great workplaces and growing vibrant communities. They were crucial for dairying’s future success. Van der Poel said the past season had highlighted the importance of biosecurity as mycoplasma bovis had affected routine farming on dairy



Tim Cronshaw


farms nationwide. He said DairyNZ had provided support to help farmers manage the disease. At the meeting Jacqueline Rowarth and Jo Coughlan were added to the DairyNZ board. Rowarth was voted in as a new farmer-elected director and is expected to bring a wealth of science, agribusiness and policy experience to the role. The co-owner of a family-run dairy operation in Tirau was the first chief scientist for the Environmental Protection Authority and was formerly the professor of pastoral agriculture at Massey University and professor of agribusiness at Waikato University. Coughlan was brought in as a new board-appointed director, replacing

Jim van der Poel

Barry Harris who retired from the board after 11 years. She has 20 years’ experience in senior public relations, government relations and communications roles and was a Wellington city councillor.


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Fonterra looks at long-term value Fonterra has failed to deliver “meaningful’’ returns from shareholders’ capital since it started 17 years ago, says a new report. The co-op’s performance was found to be “unsatisfactory’’ in a report by the Fonterra’s Shareholders’ Council commissioned in response to “heightened commentary’’ by suppliers, media and the financial industry. The analysis shows the co-op’s value-added business generated a return that was 0.2 per cent a year higher than its ingredients business since it started in 2001. This is lower than the 1.3 per cent required to compensate shareholders for its higher risk. Value-added returns lately have been torched by Fonterra being forced to write-down $439 million from its Beingmate investment in China. Council chairman Duncan Coull said in a statement in the report that Fonterra had failed to deliver meaningful returns over and above the cost of capital since it started

Tim Cronshaw


in 2001. Milk growth over the past 15 years had been an impediment to the co-op’s financial performance, but that was now largely historical, he said. Fonterra’s average post-tax return on capital of 6 per cent a year is lower than the benchmark range of 6.9 to 7.7 per cent a year. The difference over 17 years is estimated to be an opportunity cost of more than $2 billion in “foregone’’ earnings. A dollar invested in NZX’s top 50 companies would have returned $4.79 or 9.6 per cent a year over 17 years. The same dollar put into Fonterra would have returned $2.84 or 6.3 per cent, before tax. The shareholders’ council

Duncan Coull

says the report analysis shows that Fonterra has not generated enough additional return on its value-add business. “This is important because the value-add business units are now using an increasing share of Fonterra’s capital.’’ Value-add business has increased its share of co-op capital from 36 per cent in the first five years to 50 per cent the past five years. The council concedes

that investment lately in consumer brands and other value-add business took a long-term approach with expected returns. Chinese investment was expected to be loss-making initially before eventually making target returns and potentially higher returns than expected. The report, which was done by Northington Partners, noted that Fonterra comparisons with other companies would be “misleading’’. Fonterra is obliged to supply competitors as part of legislation initially allowing it to be formed and to collect milk over an extensive catchment, unlike other companies such as Open Country Dairy, Tatua, Westland Milk Products or Synlait. Fonterra collected 12 times more milk than OCD, 25 times more than Synlait and 102 times more than Tatua. It was more exposed to international commodity prices and market fluctuations because of its scale. Product mixes varied between the

companies. OCD is the largest of its competitors, mainly focused on commodity ingredients, and over the past 10 years it has generated an average pre-tax return on capital of 7.06 per cent a year which is lower than Fonterra’s 8.3 per cent. The focus of the report was on capital invested in Fonterra rather than the farmgate milk price or dividend and the point was raised that the milk price is the greatest driver of farm profitability. “The council’s goal is the creation of long-term value for our farmer shareholders,” said Coull. “We believe our report on the results of the review provides an impartial and reliable overview of where we’ve come from, with a view to moving forward positively and effectively. It will be a useful input into the ongoing discussions about our co-op’s continued evolution.” Farmers’ land values have risen 6 per cent a year and the report notes that some of this could have been driven by Fonterra’s role in the sector.

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Farmer support is building for the return of the recalled Eco-N product to break down cow urine and prevent farm nitrates from straying. The nitrate inhibitor was pulled from rural shops in 2013 when tiny residues of an ingredient were found in milk powder, even though it was deemed to have no food safety issues. The regulatory door might open up for benign compounds in food products and that has given farmers hope that Eco-N might become available again. Federated Farmers environment spokesman Chris Allen said the return of the nitrate inhibitor to pastures would be a boon for farmers and efforts to protect groundwater, rivers and lakes. “Feds strongly supports any such move,’’ he said. “It deserves a ‘grown-up’ conversation around the issues involved because Eco-N is a valuable tool that enables farmers to temporarily store nitrogen in soil when it would otherwise be vulnerable to loss – a bonus both for agribusiness productivity and to

Tim Cronshaw


reduce nitrate leaching into waterways.’’ Ravendown’s Eco-N, and a similar product by rival co-op Balance Agri-Nutrients, was taken off the market after minute residues of the active component Dicyandiamide (DCD) were found in milk powder. The discovery of DCD was never a food safety issue, but Eco-N was withdrawn to avert possible trade repercussions as there was no international agreement about acceptable limits. Ravensdown has told Federated Farmers there’s now a chance that world regulatory authorities, including NZ’s Ministry for Primary Industries, might ratify an umbrella codex

Chris Allen backs the return of Eco-N to help reduce nitrate leaching.

agreement midway next year to set rules for a maximum residual level for a range of benign compounds in food products. “We have measurements for it and the tests in [milk processing] plants are brilliant,’’ said Allen. “And they are safe, but we don’t have a limit, which is what a codex does. It’s just the DCD didn’t have one and that’s the problem – the default becomes zero.’’ Allen said the product was also one of the answers for the pressing issue of reducing

nitrous oxide emissions. Eco-N is a trademarked nitrification inhibitor product developed by Lincoln University in partnership with Ravensdown, a fertiliser cooperative. Launched in New Zealand in 2004, farmers found they could typically achieve an extra $600 a hectare in profit from milk production while reducing nitrate leaching losses and emissions of NO2 into the atmosphere. Fertilisers containing DCDs have continued to be used by farmers in the United States.

If the regulatory path is cleared, Eco-N could be back in use during autumn to winter 2020. DCD is a winter-active compound, when the impact of nitrate leaching is greatest. Allen said the emphasis previously had been spraying Eco-N on pastures, but it was best used on bare dirt in spring after winter feed crops had been consumed so nitrogen “hangs in the soil’’. That would provide a greater chance of nitrogen being used when the next crops would come through, he said. “It’s not a silver bullet but if we get it back it’s another tool in the tool box to help us with nitrogen.’’ Less nitrogen would need to be replaced if more of it was retained in the soil. Technology was also available to target it in areas where there were more cattle, he said. “We should let the science speak and that should guide the international discussions on this – and the stance of food processors, marketers and dairy companies should codex agreement be reached.’’

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Fonterra election full of surprises Fairlie farmer Leonie Guiney’s return to the Fonterra board is a sign that shareholders’ patience is running short when it comes to turning around its financial performance. Guiney was voted on to the co-op’s board by shareholders, along with Peter McBride, who is standing down as Zespri chairman, in an election of surprises. She previously served on the board from 2014 to last year, but was not selected by a panel screening candidates. Talks became tense when the board took out an injunction this year to prevent her talking to media. She responded by issuing defamation proceedings after being accused of leaking boardroom discussion content by the board and this was settled out of court. Guiney achieved the support of more than 50 per cent of votes cast to return to the board, while McBride met the same threshold as a newcomer. She told NZ Herald that she was happy to be back on the board for Fonterra, and was

Tim Cronshaw


delighted, with the amount of farmers taking part in the voting process. “For me this was a test of whether the farmers were sufficiently engaged to care enough to change things - 68 per cent in a co-op came out and voted.” She said she was ready to put the past behind her and move forward. Guiney was unable to be contacted for further comment. She is a director of four farming companies. McBride lives at Te Puna and has farming interests in Waikato and Bay of Plenty. The kiwifruit industry veteran recently announced that he would step down as chairman of the kiwifruit co-operative

Leonie Guiney

Zespri in February. In another voting turnaround, a director position remains open as the remaining three candidates did not achieve the support of more than 50 per cent of votes cast.

This includes incumbent director Ashley Waugh and unsuccessful candidates Jamie Tuuta and John Nicholls. A second election must now take place with details yet to be revealed. The other directorships

became vacant because former chairman John Wilson and Nicola Shadbolt retired from the board, effective from Fonterra’s annual meeting on November 8. At the meeting, chairman John Monaghan told shareholders that Fonterra was looking at exiting three assets which might include its investment in the Chinese company Beingmate as part of a review to strengthen the co-op’s balance sheet. Dairy farmers were upset to learn in September that Fonterra made its first fullyear loss of $196 million in its 17-year history. Playing a large part was the $439m write down on the co-operative’s Beingmate investment earlier this year and the $232m it ended up paying French company Danone after the 2013 contamination scare. For the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council, elected unopposed were nominees Mark Slee for Central Canterbury’s ward 21 and Michelle Pye for South Canterbury’s ward 22.

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EDITORIAL COMMENT It’s been fascinating to watch the return of Leonie Guiney to the Fonterra board. Years ago I met her and husband Kieran and wrote a farm feature about them. If my memory serves me correctly they were sharemilkers on one farm and Tim Cronshaw were managing another with four young kids to boot. This must have been when they were in Darfield or Rangitata and just before they bought their first Fairlie farm. Even then you could see they were gogetters and there were signs of Leonie’s grit and resilience. She was easy to talk to,

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determined for them to succeed in dairying and passionate about the sector and her co-op. On reflection, you could tell she was never going to settle for standing still and she would aspire to a

leadership role. It’s been well documented that she went on to become a Fonterra director in 2014, determined to offer independent thinking. There she remained until last year when she failed to be selected by a panel screening candidates. It’s also been well publicised that the Fonterra board took out an injunction to stop her talking to the media and things got tense when she issued defamation proceedings

(but not for damages) after being accused of leaking boardroom content. Publicly, details of the affair are light and no doubt bound in confidentiality agreements, but Fonterra settled this out of court. Feeling rebuffed, the average farmer would have turned their back on the co-op and returned to farming. But Guiney didn’t do this – she stood again this time as a selfnominated candidate. To get to this stage she needed the support of 35 shareholders and to be elected win the votes of more than 50 per cent of shareholder support. This was achieved, against a backdrop of shareholders being resentful that Fonterra posted its first loss in its 17-year history, after a $439 million write-down on its Beingmate investment earlier this year and the $232m it paid French

company Danone after the 2013 contamination scare. Neither were they impressed with chief executive Theo Spierings and chairman John Wilson both leaving the co-op before facing the heat. Pretty clearly Fonterra farmers made a statement when they voted in Guiney, brought in soonto-be former Zespri chairman Peter McBride and left one other directorship open after failing to support three other candidates. We are already seeing signs from the co-op that it wants to right its balance sheet smartly. So it’s going to be interesting watching what changes take place and what influence Guiney might have on the board. For a clue, perhaps hop on the internet and search for her candidate profile presented to shareholders in 2014.

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Dairy farmer eyes will be on the market movement of whole milk powder after it drove dairy prices to dip again at the last Global Dairy Trade Tim (GDT) auction. Cronshaw Dairy prices slipped by 2 per cent at the November 6 auction led by another fall for the key ingredient of whole milk powder. Whole milk powder dropped 2.9 per cent from the previous auction to $3981 ($US2655) in the sixth consecutive fall for overall prices. Despite the weak result, NZX dairy analyst Amy Castleton has lifted the NZX milk price forecast by eight cents to $6.26 a kilogram of milksolids. The outlook for dairy commodity prices has lifted slightly since the auction, pushing the milk price forecast up, she said. Skim milk powder and butter milk powder were the only commodities to lift in price at the GDT event.

Overall, the average price was $US2851 with173 bidders contesting the 42,412 tonnes sold. Castleton said the whole milk powder RURAL price was the lowest REPORTER since August 2016. “Whole milk powder offer volumes were high at this event, so prices had been expected to come down. There was a greater volume of whole milk powder sold than at the October 16 event though.’’ She said whole milk powder volumes were forecasted to peak at the November 20 auction and the expectations were initially that continued milk supply growth would put ongoing pressure on prices. Regular grade whole milk powder to ship in January plunged 6.4 per cent. However, prices for whole milk powder futures trading on the NZX Dairy Derivatives market are slightly stronger than they were in mid-October, when the NZX milk


price was last calculated. Futures contracts from December to June are up between $US20 a tonne and $US65/t and the March contract is steady. Whole milk powder prices are expected to reach $US2830/t by July. At the GDT auction skim milk powder prices gained 1.2 per cent at $US1997. However, NZX noted that medium heat skim milk powder to ship in January fell 1.7 per cent. This grade and contract had been expected to lift 0.7 per cent. Prices lifted strongly for skim milk powder shipping in December, indicating there are short term needs in the market to be filled. Butter milk powder rose 0.8 per cent to $US2568, but butter prices lost 1.7 per cent at $US4045. Unsalted butter to ship in January dropped 5.8 per cent. However, like the other commodities, the outlook for butter prices is stronger than it was a few weeks ago. Contracts from December to March have all risen by $US110/t, and the April contract is up $US25/t. Anhydrous milkfat (AMF) prices fell 1.3 per cent.

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Scheme already showing benefits It’s been an interesting start to the irrigation season. We’ve had some good rains which set farmers up well for what could be a challenging summer and autumn, with El Nino conditions expected to affect East Coast regions. In October, Central Plains Water started operating. Looking back on the history of the scheme, it’s been nearly 30 years in the making with Christchurch City Council and Selwyn District Council first investing in irrigation development in the early 1990s. To get to where we are now, farmers and the project and construction team who progressed the scheme development, have shown huge perseverance. CPW is one of New Zealand’s largest private infrastructure projects and it was constructed at a time when there was major pressure on labour and specialist skills, such as engineering, in Canterbury. Given this, it’s amazing that it was completed within budget and on time. The scheme is already

Andrew Curtis


benefiting the community as stage one alone has allowed 80 million cubic metres of groundwater to remain in aquifers as farmers switch from using groundwater to alpine water. Stage one of the project will allow even more water to remain in aquifers. This will allow groundwater-fed streams to have improved flows over time. The local water zone committee is also planning to use water from CPW to recharge the Selwyn River. Meanwhile, on the farm, farmers connected to the scheme have certainty that they will have access to water. The scheme can take run-ofriver water when no water restrictions are in place and it

CPW brings benefits for farmers and the environment. PHOTO SUPPLIED

can also store water in Lake Coleridge for farmers to use at a later date. Better water reliability offers many opportunities to improve production – for example, by growing two crops per year, or by moving into higher value crop production. With dry conditions very likely to make an appearance this summer along with the El Nino, now is a good time

to think about how you will manage your irrigation over the next few months. Developing an irrigation strategy for scheduling your irrigation will help you get the best use of water. Scheduling involves planning your water application across the season and also for individual irrigation events. To schedule your irrigation you’ll need to know your soils’ water-

holding capacity, the full-point (the point beyond which any water applied is wasted and drains away) and the point at which plant growth starts to drop-off (the stress-point). Soil water infiltration rates are also important as these determine the maximum rate at which water can be applied. IrrigationNZ has developed an online training system on irrigation scheduling which covers how you can use irrigation scheduling to manage within your water budget. The two benefits of scheduling are that it allows you to plan how to maximise your production within the limited water budget you have available and also saves you money by avoiding any unnecessary irrigation which reduces electricity and often water user charges. Good water planning will also ensure you’re not caught out in the autumn with no more water available. The online system is free for IrrigationNZ members to use. Andrew Curtis is chief executive officer of IrrigationNZ

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Opening up Middle Eastern markets Ashburton-based Carrfields Group is increasing its footing in the Middle East market after supplying cow feed to dairy industries in the United Arab Emirates last year. The agribusiness company, which opened an office in Dubai late last year, has identified the Middle East as an export market with high potential and is linking with food producers to expand business. Middle Eastern locals and expatriates with deep pockets are seeking food brands with high standards of quality, provenance and safety. Carrfields Middle East chief executive Graeme Wilkins said Dubai was a well-established global trading hub for agricultural products and provided entry into affluent markets where consumers were keen to access food from trustworthy sources. He said New Zealand producers had so far “under-utilised’’ the market pathway. “Several United Kingdom and American food brands are already well-established in the Middle East and New Zealand is on a very strong footing to compete, because of our great reputation for producing quality food.’’ Global consumers believed New Zealand products to be trustworthy, safe and high quality, which was a big

requirement emerging from the global food industry. “Consumers want to be able to trust that the food they serve to their families is what it says it is. With food supply chains becoming longer and more complicated, New Zealand’s reputation for quality, transparency, honesty and integrity offers a key advantage when it comes to the trustworthiness of our food provenance.” Carrfields Middle East is expanding with the appointment of new people to the team. At the Dubai office are six employees, including specialist traders focusing on commodities, forage and fresh produce, as well as administration and management staff. Team members, who come from several nations, including New Zealand, were selected because of their specialist expertise and connections in the Middle East. The company started last year with supplying forage to the large dairy industries in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has since expanded into agricultural commodity trading. Wilkins said the country was known as an affluent market with consumers willing to pay a premium for quality food. “We’re linking with New Zealand producers to market and sell their

produce in the Middle East, although we are also dealing in related areas such as wool products, as well as continuing with the forage business.” Wilkins said Carrfields was particularly looking to work with Kiwi producers who were looking to expand their export markets into the Middle East, but were finding it difficult to break into the market. Many producers who exported to China had identified the Middle East as a promising market, but were facing barriers to entry because of a lack of marketing and trade contacts, he said. He said the Dubai team was in a position to provide the connection and could eventually become a hub for New Zealand food and other products to the Middle East and further afield. The company was keen to partner with innovative Kiwi producers and suppliers and more New Zealand brands to assist them with their Middle East distribution, he said. Carrfields is also in talks with potential business partners in the UAE with large customer networks such as high end hotels, restaurants and airlines. Wilkins said the geographicallystrategic nature of the Middle East with ready access to Asia, Europe, India and Africa provided further potential for the future.

Carrfields Middle East chief executive Graeme Wilkins. PHOTO SUPPLIED

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Call for comment on Nait changes Cattle farmers with a beef about changes to the National Animal Identification and Tracing (Nait) scheme have until December 19 to get it off their chest. DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are urging farmers to pass on their comments about MPI’s proposed changes to Nait legislation and regulations. The changes include corporate bodies being added to individual farmers – referred to by the ministry as the person in charge of an animal. Under the changes, Nait tags would be assigned to a specific location and would not be able to be used elsewhere and anyone transporting untagged animals without an exemption could be fined. Animals that are unsafe to tag must be declared before they are sent to the meatworks. Farmers must segregate untagged animals before tagging/returning them, unless at the meatworks and they must declare any nonNait species each year.

Tim Cronshaw


Public consultation opened late last month for the proposed changes. MPI Biosecurity and Animal Welfare Policy acting director Dr Andrew Bell said it was critical that New Zealanders had confidence in the effectiveness of the Nait scheme. He said mycoplasma bovis had shown how widespread the impact an outbreak of an animal disease could have on the farming sector and rural communities. “We have also seen how important it is to have an effective system for tracing the movements of livestock, particularly during a biosecurity response. We need to ensure Nait works properly and continues to do so well

Katie Milne

into the future.” The organisation overseeing the scheme, OSRI, released a review this year which included a range of recommendations for its improvement. MPI proposed changes to the laws that govern Nait on the back of the review and after lessons

learned from the M. bovis response. Operational improvements are also being made to the scheme and its education, compliance and enforcement is being strengthened by the ministry. DairyNZ is encouraging dairy farmers to make a submission on the changes. Chief executive Tim Mackle said it was vital that dairy farmers took a close interest in the proposals because of the importance of biosecurity to dairying. “Mycoplasma bovis has highlighted the importance of an effective traceability scheme and every farmer should take the opportunity to express their view. We encourage farmers to look at the proposed changes on MPI’s website and provide their feedback.” Mackle said DairyNZ was working with MPI to understand the impact of changes on dairy farmers. The industry organisation will also be submitting its feedback. Federated Farmers said it was in sync

with the Government’s determination to revamp Nait into a more effective and easy-to-use system, and also urged farmers to speak up on changes they wanted introduced. President Katie Milne said the new improvement round was a vital step for futureproofing the tool. Good progress had been made with getting some of the 37 recommendations in the Nait review released earlier this year, she said. “Now we have another chance to further hone the scheme into the effective farming, traceability and biosecurity tool we need it to be.’’ Milne said farmers used Nait every day and had a huge stake in the changes and would have ideas on how to make it work better. Included in the consultation are questions that go further than the Nait review, including the role of animal transporters, issues around stock agents and potentially bringing other species under the scheme.

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Dairy Focus

Fewer dairy farms changing hands Tim Cronshaw


Only one dairy farm was sold of the 27 Canterbury farms passing hands in the three months to September. Just two farms were sold in the Ashburton District and neither of them were dairy properties. Sales movement is down on the same period last year when 11 Ashburton District farms were sold, including two dairy farms, in the area between the Rakaia and Rangitata rivers from the sea to the alps. The 27 farm sales in the province added up to a total of $47.2 million compared with 33 sales – including two dairy properties – over the previous period for a total of $116.2m. The sales decline was in line nationally with regions such as Northland, which had 14 fewer sales, and Auckland was shown in the latest REINZ figures to be down by nine sales. Other provinces had increased sales with Wellington posting 10 more sales than previously, Southland was up with another four sales, and Manawatu/Wanganui was up by three sales. Nationally, there were 250 farm sales, down 7.7 per cent from 271 sales for the three months to September last year. The median price per hectare for all farms sold was $25,447 compared with $27,363/ha previously. REINZ rural spokesman

Brian Peacocke said the Ashburton District would be experiencing much the same conditions nationally with farm sale volumes continuing to ease and down 35 per cent across the country compared with two years ago. The three months to September were traditionally quiet selling months, he said. “Based on what’s happening in the North Island there are quite a few large properties coming on the market, but I’m not quite sure what the listings are for Canterbury. The market has been fairly passive for a while.’’ Compliance-related proposals for water quality and effluent had put pressure on farmers, combined with the mycoplasma bovis outbreak and weather and income volatility. Labour shortages

in Canterbury and other areas were exacerbated by the Coalition Government’s living wage programme. A lower dollar brought in more export income, but also pushed import costs up and rising fuel prices were being felt on and off the farm. Also, there had been a “jolt’’ in dairy farmer confidence from Fonterra retaining 5c a kilogram to strengthen its balance sheet. Peacocke said farm buyers were taking stock of these factors and were being more cautious and increasing their due diligence before committing to sales. However, sheep and beef prices were good, with venison values close to record levels and that pointed to better prospects, he said. The early spring had so

far been one of the best for several years, he said, with enough rain to stimulate grass growth which had resulted in corresponding increases in production. “Whilst most farmers are enjoying the mild temperatures and contractors are busy with silage and crop planting activities, the cautious operators are maintaining a close watch on rainfall figures as they factor in the possibility of a dry period ahead.’’ Over the three months there was minimal sales activity for dairy farms with only 14 sales nationally. Demand was solid for finishing properties in Waikato, Manawatu/ Wanganui and Canterbury. Sales activity in other regions for the properties was quiet.

There was also demand for grazing farms in Northland, Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago. Apart from Southland, there was little appetite for arable farms. However, there were good sales for mostly smaller orchards in the Bay of Plenty, some horticulture sales in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay and a burst of sales in Marlborough. Grazing farms accounted for 34 per cent of all sales over the three months – finishing farms 30 per cent, horticulture properties 17 per cent, and forestry properties 6 per cent. The median sales price per hectare for 14 dairy farms was $30,876, compared with $37,812 for 22 properties in the three months ending September 2017.


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Dairy Focus


Low cost changes can keep energy

Good energy savings can be made in dairy sheds.


Energy efficiency measures can help dairy farmers stay competitive by increasing their milk production while shrinking their carbon footprint. There are several areas where farmers could make substantial savings on electricity use in dairy sheds. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) provides energy efficiency advice on its website and recommends the technologies and equipment to use for heat recovery, lighting, pumping and fan systems, refrigeration, renewable energy and vehicles. The EECA recommends farmers use its dairy farm energy efficiency tool to find out how efficient their farm is compared with similar farms – and how much energy could be saved. The tool is on its website. It’s expensive to run a dairy farm and there are a lot of fixed costs that can’t be reduced or skimped on, such as feed, vet bills and rates. However, farmers can control their energy spend through both low cost changes and cost effective capital investment. Reducing your energy bill can mean substantial savings which you can plough back into your farm, or use in leaner months to keep the farm going. EECA’s Dairy Farm Energy Efficiency

spend down tool helps farmers map their energy use against 150 dairy farms across New Zealand. By answering a few simple questions, farmers can find out how they compare against others, and the savings they could make through improvements in their milking shed. Farmers fill in questions about their average milksolid production, annual electricity use in the dairy shed, their farm’s location and their estimated annual kWh based on 20 cents/kWh. Then they are asked whether they have a heat recovery system, if their vat is insulated, if they have a variable speed drive vacuum pump or if they have fresh water irrigation system on their dairy shed bill. The tool then calculates and compares their energy use. Water heating is the best place to start as it accounts for about a quarter of the dairy shed electricity bill and has the highest potential for savings. Through a combination of clever technologies and tweaks to the way farmers run their shed they could save up to 75 per cent on their water heating costs. There are three main technologies to help improve water heating efficiency. Heat recovery technology can cut dairy shed electricity bills by up to

30 per cent. Recovering the heat produced during the milk chilling process provides an additional source of energy which can be used by a dairy shed hot water heating system, reducing the amount of electricity needed. Payback on investing in heat recovery technology typically takes two to five years, although it can be less than a year for large farms. Variable speed drive enables the pump to change speeds to match demand for pressure from the system. If more cows are connected to the milking cups, the speed of the pump is increased to match the demand for vacuum – and vice versa as cups are taken off cows. This also reduces animal stress during milking, somatic cell count and motor wear and tear as the pump is run at lower speeds. Potential savings can be achieved of 10-15 per cent. Insulating your milk vat could increase your refrigeration capacity at minimal cost and save you money. Potential savings are in the order of 3-6 per cent. EECA promotes energy efficiency, energy conservation and the use of energy from renewable sources. 

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Dairy Focus


The Ice Bank stores a reserve of ice, meaning the cooling units don’t need to be switched on during milking.

We have your cooling needs covered Located in the heart of Timaru, Cool Air has diligently served Ashburton, Geraldine, Timaru, Waimate, Oamaru, Fairlie through to Twizel and the Waitaki District for over 25 years. At Cool Air, we specialise in commercial refrigeration, farm refrigeration, freezer/ cool rooms, residential and commercial air conditioning, home ventilation, mechanical heating and ventilation, heat transfer systems and vehicle air conditioning servicing. Cool Air pride ourselves on being innovative and keeping up-to-date with the latest dairy farm technologies. We supply, install and service milk silo refrigeration, milk silos, water chill plants and heat recovery systems and can design the most costeffective solution for your farm whether it be 100 head to 1500+. Our service doesn’t stop at the installation of your system as we offer a preventative maintenance programme to

keep your system running effectively which decreases expensive problems that can come from a lack of maintenance. Cool Air also offer a 24-hour breakdown service for all our clients. Keeping up with the latest MPI Milk Silo regulations being enforced of Milk Cooling 5.14 it is important for farmers to make sure that they comply with the new MPI regulations. Cool Air can offer you a free on-farm assessment of your refrigeration equipment. With a few tests we can determine if your existing refrigeration systems complies. We can also offer for purchase a third-party cloudbased supervisory controller to ensure you are kept upto-date with your milk silo temperatures. This will send you a text alert to let you know if there is a fault. If this sounds like

something you are interested in, we can discuss the specifications with you. Cool Air are authorised partner installers of the Packo Ice Banks (PIBs) in the South Canterbury region, working with Dairy Cooling Solutions to bring you innovative cooling technology. The Packo Ice Builder (PIB), is a high quality, insulated, stainless steel tank with a serpentine evaporator which makes and stores energy in the form of ice which is produced overnight, and when required, between milkings. A simple water pump and aeration unit is all that is needed during milking to provide a constant source of 0°C ice water. This is why ice banks are the only form of cooling that could put milk into the vat as low as 2°C without the risk of freezing or damaging the milk quality. As the ice bank stores a reserve of ice, the cooling units don’t need to be switched

on during milking. There is less risk of milk temperature increase due to this ice reserve, even in the event of power fluctuations. The other advantage is that you don’t need to invest in large cooling units, which saves you space and cuts down installation costs; the fact that you can avail yourself of cheaper night-rate electricity to build up your reserve of ice, thereby reducing running costs substantially is an added bonus. In New Zealand Dairy Cooling Solutions have supplied around 200 Packo Ice Builders around the country and several Large Packo Milk Cooling Tanks - every one of these installations has been an outstanding success for the installer and farmer with the units living up to their reputation of excellent quality, performance and value. Dairy Cooling Solutions, a division of Eurotec Ltd, was established to supply solutions to meet the dairy sector’s milk

cooling technology challenges, improving efficiency and milk quality on the farm with premium milk cooling solutions from Packo Inox. Packo is considered a pioneer in the field of milk cooling and is the oldest milk cooling tank manufacturer in the world. For over 20 years, Packo’s presence in Australia has resulted in over 1600 new Packo milk cooling tanks installed on farms - and now available to New Zealand farmers through Dairy Cooling Solutions and partner installers such as Cool Air. For more information, or to arrange your free on-farm assessment contact us at Cool Air today. COOL AIR Ph: 03 684 8034 Email: Website: Visit us: 3 Cliff Street, Timaru 7910 Advertising feature


Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Specialists in South Canterbury Cool Air Refrigeration and Air Conditioning are heat pump, air conditioning and refrigeration Specialists located in the heart of Timaru. We serve farms, businesses, residencies and factories throughout South Canterbury. At Cool Air, we pride ourselves on being innovative and keeping up to date with the latest Dairy Farm technologies. We supply, install and service milk silo refrigeration, milk silos, water chill plants and heat recovery systems.

Cool Air are authorized partner installers of the Packo Ice Banks (PIBs) The latest MPI Milk Silo regulations being enforced of “Milk Cooling 5.14”, it is important for Farmers to ensure that they comply with the new MPI regulations. Cool Air can offer you a free on farm assessment of your refrigeration equipment. With a few tests, we can determine if your existing refrigeration systems complies.

“A recently installed Packo Ice Bank with a Bitzer package condensing unit running the Ice Bank. This high quality combination ensures that the farmers milk is snap chilled to 4°C and producers a higher quality product than any farm without a Packo Ice Bank”

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Dairy Focus


Think about investing in solar panels As the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines. When you think about investing in a new asset for the farm, you probably think about buying a new tractor or silage wagon, you probably don’t think about investing in solar panels. The reality though is that you should be thinking about it. Most commercial and agricultural solar power systems sold by Sunergy Solar are generating returns of 15 to 20 per cent, based on the direct reduction in power bills due to the solar system generating that energy. This may sound too good to be true, but it’s easily demonstrated by the team at Sunergy, via the online monitoring of every solar system they install. The team at Sunergy Solar have a simple formula that is winning them big jobs all over the South Island, provide factual information, and back it up with evidence from existing systems. “How can we expect someone to make a decision

A 30kW solar power system installed on a dairy shed in Rakaia is generating excellent returns.

based on guesses”, says Andy Wells, “we pride ourselves on providing accurate information, which allows our customer to make the decision to invest. “Our industry is hurt by our competitors over-promising and under-delivering, because when you’re asking someone to spend 60 or 70k, they do some research, and if John

down the road had a system installed but it’s not doing what the salesman said it would do, then that impacts on our customers’ decisionmaking process. “By providing factual information, and not overpromising in order to get a sale, our customers are instead showing everyone that it’s doing exactly what we said it

would”. You can tell the team at Sunergy are passionate about the industry they work in. The owner has run an industrial and agricultural electrical contracting business for the past 13 years, and it’s this technical knowledge that makes all the difference. Sunergy Solar provide a free onsite consultation,


which is followed up by a proposal specific to your site, including accurate solar power production data, based on an average of 15 years of NIWA’s recorded weather data. One example that they have of this is a farmer in Rakaia who had Sunergy Solar install a 30kW solar system as a pilot on one of their farms 18 months ago. In the first 12 months of operation the system produced 0.4 per cent more than Sunergy’s proposal suggested it should. This farm has saved over $10,000 in power in that first year of operation, based on an initial investment of around $55,000. In terms of investments, they don’t get much better really, with 10-year warranties on inverters and 25-year warranties on panels, a solar power system is a secure investment. For more information give the team a call on 0800 SUNERGY or visit their website, www.sunergysolar. Advertising feature







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Dairy Focus


Reduce costs, be compliant, increase production “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” the saying goes. But that was before technology, cloud data and Regen Ltd, combined to deliver targeted recommendations into the palm of your hand, helping you optimise irrigation and reduce power usage. Meridian Energy is pleased to introduce Regen’s suite of ReGen products to its customers. Regen is known for innovative services that bring the science and technology needed to farm sustainably right to the farmer’s pocket – through their smartphone. Knowing how farmers operate day to day, Regen packages up relevant science with farm-specific data to generate daily decision support recommendations for water irrigation, effluent irrigation and nitrogen use. Meridian and Regen know that farming has to keep evolving to meet the changing values and needs of our consumers, as well as the changing regulatory environment. Today that means that we have to reduce our environmental footprint and create more value for each unit of output – milk, meat or wool.

Significant power saving

Power use is a major cost for farmers and through its partnership with Regen, Meridian can point to the ReGen Water service to reduce energy use through optimal irrigation. ReGen helps farmers to only use irrigation when required which can reduce power bills substantially. In many cases the power saving is between 5-10 per cent per season, which can equate to over $10,000 in a large scale operation.


Good Management Practice and Farm Environment Plans are part of everyday farming now and together, Meridian and Regen are committed to enabling farmers to be as efficient as possible with the use of electricity, water and nitrogen. The Regen services also ensure compliance targets around water use and nitrogen use can be met, measured and reported on, and all sent directly to your smartphone or computer.

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Helping farmers with irrigation efficiency and production is important to Meridian, so making sure the right amount of water goes on at the right time is key. This efficiency is essential to help you remain compliant, keep power costs down and to optimise your pasture production. After a quick set up of the relevant hardware and data calibration, the ReGen Water app calculates every day what the optimum irrigation depth is for each of the next five days, based on science and the latest technology from Regen. The ReGen Water app provides a customised recommendation for each irrigation block, automatically recording data which is presented in an easy to follow format on a smartphone or computer.

ReGen Nitrogen Based on current soil moisture and temperature data from your farm the ReGen Nitrogen app calculates the likely response rate (kg DM/ha) from a planned nitrogen fertiliser application, it then gives the price this would translate to in c/kgDM. You’ll be better informed to decide if using nitrogen is the cheapest source of feed at that time. By introducing ReGen Water to customers, Meridian will help them reduce their power bill while not compromising pasture growth. All the while farmers can be confident they’re farming sustainably and can prove this as required – to the local regional council or to the valuable consumer of their product. Meridian customers get 20 per cent off their first 12 month Regen subscription fees. To find out more about ReGen Water, Nitrogen or Effluent contact your local Meridian account manager on 0800 496 444. More product information is available at Provided by Regen Ltd, in association with Meridian

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Dairy Focus


The show must go on Tim Cronshaw


Tai Tapu farmer Dean Geddes didn’t have it in his heart to break his family’s 90-plus year run of exhibiting dairy cows at the Christchurch show, despite mycoplasma bovis casting a shadow on the reduced field. Tahora Farms is a family operation, run by Geddes, his wife Jo, parents Jim and Judith and daughter Sophie and son Tom, with a long history of exhibiting cattle at the Christchurch A&P Show, now called the New Zealand Agricultural Show. That history was important to them, said Geddes. “We have always done it and we have never missed a show. We seriously talked about not attending, but after talking to MPI and the protocols in place

Tahora Farms owner Dean Geddes with nephew Brett Barclay “clipping and fitting’’ a holstein PHOTO TIM CRONSHAW friesian before it enters the show ring. 

at the show in our minds there is no chance of catching bovis here.’’ Show visitors had to go through foot baths before entering the Geddes’ pens. Their cows were kept separate from other stud cows and beef cattle, and they had their own wash bays and milking parlours. Also in their favour was the field was much reduced from

previously. Only four dairy breeders attended the show compared with 10-12 breeders usually. Geddes said they had only brought nine animals compared with usually 18-19 and as many as 30 some years, but it was still a “big job’’. “It would have been nice to have the year off to go to the trots and that’s what I was going to do, but there was peer

pressure from the kids to do this.’’ He had less than four hours sleep on the first day of the show after an evening of feeding and making sure the show herd would get in milk in time for judging. “If you are going to do it you have to do it properly whether we have nine or 20. It depends what the judges like in the ring and we just get them

in as good as shape as we can.’’ Last year Tahora Sidhtinio, a holstein friesian five-year-old cow, was the reserve champion and was being exhibited again. “She’s a pain in the ass. I love her mother and she’s nice natured enough, but she’s just pushy.’’ They also have a jersey stud and won the champion jersey last year. Geddes said they had footbaths for visitors at their farm too and signs warning of precautions against M. bovis. Vehicles were not allowed in the paddocks and had to follow tracks. No farms around them had M. bovis and there was a river between Tahora Farms and another dairy farm with the other properties run by cropping and sheep farmers. They don’t import any stock, using United States embryos and semen artificially inseminated in the herd. Show organisers estimated cattle numbers were down to 60 per cent of normal attendance, but were confident breeders would return next year.

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Anchor wins big in shopping frenzy Tim Cronshaw


Fonterra’s cash tills were ringing when Chinese buyers went in overdrive during China’s “Double 11’’ shopping day. The world’s largest 24-hour shopping event was a boon for the dairy co-operative with its sales jumping 31 per cent from last year’s turnover. Fonterra estimates $28 million (132 million RMB) of products from its Anchor, Anmum and Anlene brands were sold in the sales period. President of Fonterra China Christina Zhu said Anchor UHT milk was a crowd favourite, topping number one in its category for another year. “After our continuous efforts in building the brand in China over the last five years,

Anchor products on sale in China. 

Anchor’s popularity among Chinese consumers, is still very exciting to watch.” All Fonterra products were available during Double 11. Sales of Anmum baby formula milk powders increased 41 per cent from last year. Online sales through platforms JD and Tmall of Anchor cream, cheese and

butter doubled to more than $1m (5 million RMB). Twelve tonnes of Anchor unsalted butter was sold which was 22 times the amount sold last year. Zhu said Fonterra’s focus during the day was to get the best return by reaching as many consumers without lowering Anchor’s premium.


“While some companies heavily bulk discount their brands on Double 11, overall our prices were 5 per cent higher than last year and 25 per cent higher than our competitors.” More than 30 million people visited the Anchor online store within 24 hours and 8400 tonnes of product was sold.

The Anchor range was only launched in China five years ago and had gone on to become one of the top brands in its category. “This is because we’ve really concentrated on building the brand, with a big focus on smart digital marketing over the past five years,’’ said Zhu. She said Chinese were attracted to the natural goodness and “New Zealandness’’ strongly associated with the brand. “[That] gives consumers confidence in the brand’s taste, quality, and, most importantly, its safety. “Consumers trust Anchor and, for these reasons, our products are considered premium.” Over the past five years, Fonterra China has sold the equivalent of about one billion glasses of Anchor milk to Chinese consumers. The Chinese market is worth $US800 billion and Double 11 returned $US31b in turnover this year, with one billion orders placed, according to data from Alibaba.

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Improving reproductive performance Canterbury farmers will be reminded that dairy cow reproduction is a yearlong focus at an Ashburton course later this month. Leaving it to mating time can result in a lower calving performance. A team of DairyNZ trainers have updated a course known as the InCalf Training Programme because of the importance of reproduction for farmers. Manager Samantha Tennent said the course taught

farmers, rural professionals and vets the key steps to improve fertility and dairy cows’ reproductive performance. “As a sector we need to be working together to help lift the current national average six-week in-calf rate from 66 per cent, closer to the sector target of 78 per cent,” she said. Tennent said many factors

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influenced reproduction and it could be challenging for farmers to do everything they needed to do at the right time to achieve good results. The course has been run for the past decade and was originally adapted from Australia for New Zealand conditions. The new training format is designed to help farmers understand and prioritise drivers of fertility. “The principles

of InCalf help raise awareness of a year-round approach to reproduction for good performance, rather than focusing only on the mating period,’’ said Tennent. “It’s important not to wait till it’s too late to address issues.’’ The course has been reduced to two days, but will contain the same amount of learning. Courses are being held in Hamilton on November 20-21 followed by Ashburton on November 27-28.

Dairy Focus



Lame cows are costing you money How many lame cows do you have? I have a strong suspicion that most farmers don’t actually know. When we go to a farm to do hoof trimming, we often end up treating more cows than what had been booked. This has been the case throughout the 25 years I have been trimming in New Zealand. Our Australian colleagues are finding the same. A lot of the cows we trim are not considered lame by the farmer but are identified for preventative trimming. However, it still strikes me how often there are more lame cows than expected. Often farmers say they don’t have lame cows, yet when you see their herd walking over the track it is obvious that this is not the case. Maybe it’s less obvious which foot the cows are favouring, but, nevertheless, they are lame. So, what constitutes a lame cow? Cows are lame long before they limp, and even at this stage (known as the subclinical stage) they are

Fred Hoekstra


costing you money. Research shows that a cow will lose 5 per cent production in this subclinical stage. If you have a large percentage of the herd in that situation you may be losing more money than you realise. So how can you identify the cows that are subclinically lame? There are some good tools available to help you recognise the signs. Zinpro has produced a helpful locomotion scoring chart which highlights five different stages of lameness and encourages you, the farmer, to observe how a cow stands and walks. In summary: Locomotion Score 1 - A cow should stand and walk with a

Cows are lame long before they limp, and even at this stage they are costing you money.

flat back. Locomotion score 2 - The cow stands with a flat back and walks with an arched back (she has now moved in to the subclinical stage of lameness). Locomotion score 3 - The cow stands and walks with an arched back, but you are not able to identify which foot she is lame on. Locomotion score 4 – You are now able to tell which foot the cow is lame on and she



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is now considered clinically lame. Locomotion score 5 - When the cow becomes so lame that her lame foot is not weightbearing anymore. At Locomotion scores 2 and 3 cows don’t always become clinically lame. Most cows don’t stay clinically lame even if they never get trimmed or treated, and I think it is an important point to make that we, as

trimmers, are not trying to just get cows to come right, because most cows will come right if you give them rest and don’t walk them too far. However, our aim is to have cows come right as quickly as possible and their recovery time is a good indicator of the effectiveness of the trimming being performed. If you get your score 3 cows trimmed and improve their locomotion, you will be making more money even if they would not have become clinically lame, as their production levels will improve. We need cows to come right as quickly as possible because it is an animal welfare issue and they are costing you money. So, I challenge you to have a look at your cows as they walk to the cowshed today with a critical eye and see how many cows you have with a Locomotion score of 2 or 3. Give us a call and we will send you a free Locomotion Scoring Chart or you can download it from our website to help you with your assessment.



Vaccinating to maximise calf growth Growing your heifer replacements to maximise their potential can be a difficult and challenging process. Calves post weaning can face a wide array of challenges such as feed changes and parasite challenges along with social hierarchy changes. Combining these stressors may increase the risk of poor growth rates from disease challenges such as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR). There is nothing more frustrating than getting great calves to weaning and then losing ground in the post weaning period due to disease. This may flow into less-thansatisfactory reproductive performance in the spring. Calves becoming infected with BVD may have six to eight weeks of poor growth rates and suffer immune suppression, making them more susceptible to other diseases such as pneumonia, worms, coccidiosis and Yersinia outbreaks. The risk of infection

Calves face many challenges after weaning, but vaccination can help.

causing scour and periods of ill thrift is quite real. This is most likely to occur when mobs from different sources are mixed in a grazing situation with the risk of introducing a Persistently Infected (PI) animal. The outcome is poor growth rates despite having ample feed available. BVD can rob your

replacements of their maximum potential. IBR is caused by a Bovine Herpes Virus and causes sporadic outbreaks of nasal catarrh and conjunctivitis in calves. A very high temperature may occur which can precede more severe secondary infections along with a snotty nose and weepy eyes.

Like all herpes infections, it may become silent and chronic but resurface if animals become stressed as may happen if feed becomes short in a dry period or a drench is overdue. Weight loss is a risk from this disease and being highly infectious, can lead to a true outbreak situation occurring with most animals

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Dairy Focus


Reducing mycotoxins Practical on-farm work and monitoring are usual topics when mycotoxin risks are discussed. It is well-known that mycotoxins are almost always present. While this is unavoidable, there are several lowcost things a farmer can do to help reduce their exposure, and several ways to monitor the risks. One of the biggest threats that the farmer has some ability to manage is the mould that grows in storage on farm. The following actions are practical and useful. Ideally, any by-products should be stored in a way that protects them from the weather. For storage in silos, consider acidification. Lowering the pH of grains in silos will help to put mould into a dormant like state that will minimise mould growth. Use a proven silage inoculant when ensiling material. Mould in silage tends to go dormant around pH 4.0. Increasing the speed at which the ensiled material drops to around pH 4.0 means less mould growth, and potentially less dry matter loss as well. Discard any obvious mouldy feedstuffs – do not blend them in with other feed. Cleaning silos and other storage bunkers between loads is very important, especially as it minimises fines.

In terms of monitoring, a simple electronic moisture meter will tell how well things are stored. Moisture needs to be below 14 per cent for stored grains and by-products. Indirect measures can give a guideline of the risk posed by a material. Mould counts are commonly used as an indirect measure of the risk associated with product. It is not a direct measure of mycotoxins, but gives a fairly good guide as to what feeds need to be used with caution. Guidelines indicate that if there are less than 100,000 colony forming units (cfu) of mould, it should be least risk. Between 100,000 and 10 million the feed needs to be fed with caution, and over 10 million it is not considered safe to feed. Mould counts are attractive because of their lower cost, but for increased accuracy of risk assessment, mycotoxin testing should be undertaken. For dairy cattle, ergot toxins should ideally not exceed 0.5 parts per million (ppm), zearalanone should not exceed 0.25 ppm, and deoxynivalenol should not exceed 0.5 ppm. When mould counts exceed the recommended numbers, or mycotoxins exceed the recommended practical limits, a broad spectrum, non clay based mycotoxin binder should be included.  Advertising feature

Accurate monitoring Animals that are affected by health issues are unable to perform to their maximum potential and therefore identifying health issues and having the ability to quickly respond with treatment is one of the most important factors in running an efficient dairy farm. The importance of our animals’ health is easily proven in the testimonials received from those who discovered the benefits of CowManager’s health module during a trial. The Ludemanns said: “In the beginning we only purchased the fertility module however we were able to trial the health and feeding modules for a few months. We quickly realised the health module was an extremely worthwhile tool for our business and

have since gone on to purchase this module also. In the three seasons since we have been using CowManager, we have not lost a single cow to milk fever! “When we purchased the system, we estimated a three-year return on investment as we expected to reduce our empty rate by 3 per cent. What we hadn’t planned for was the savings we would make on not losing cows to milk fever and costs associated with treating downer cows. “So, although our in-calf rate has remained consistently 3 to 5 per cent better than our district average, the real savings have most definitely come via animal health. The system ultimately paid for itself in two years on our farm.”  Advertising feature

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Dairy Focus

We can’t ignore the M. bovis research David Law


I recently published a column in which I stated the strongest evidence yet that mycoplasma bovis does not flourish on farms with well-balanced soil had been confirmed at farms belonging to the Van Leeuwen Group, the first to test positive for the disease in 2017. Over 100 soil tests were carried out on VLG farms and it was discovered the farms on which cattle had tested positive for M. bovis all had the same characteristic – a low-pH soil, typically imbalanced and minerally-depleted. In contrast, soil tests taken on the farms with no cases of M. bovis found the soil had a healthy pH of 6.3. I shared my disappointment that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) had chosen not to recognise the findings, instead categorising M. bovis solely as a contagious disease and not a symptom of livestock immune system deficiency or collapse due in part to

poor soil conditions. In the interests of creating a healthy discussion around the topic, MPI reviewed the article – and it’s still failing to acknowledge our findings. “It is disappointing that some farming experts are contributing to this situation with unfounded

comments at a time of high anxiety and uncertainty,” an MPI spokesperson said. “The idea that soil conditions are important for M. bovis infection are not supported by international scientific literature. There is also no evidence to support his assertion about the bacteria thriving in low-pH farms.” I want to reiterate that I am not saying the disease lives in the soil per se, but feed that is grown in low-pH soil is eaten by the cow and creates low-pH conditions in the cow’s rumen – affecting the cow’s ability to fight disease. MPI disagreed with my opinion that its repopulation guidelines alone could be ineffective unless the farm’s soil was examined and any deficiencies corrected to balance the whole farm system, so the cows’ immunity is restored. “MPI is satisfied that a farmer can safely repopulate their farm provided the cattle with M. bovis have been culled and the property has been cleaned and disinfected to the high standard MPI requires . . . with little risk of M. bovis re-infection,” MPI stated. This idea is not something I have plucked out of thin air; it is the unanimous opinion of a large group of international farming specialists – including veterinarians, soil scientists, farm consultants and agronomists – who endorse a sciencebased regenerative farming approach as a solution to prevent M. bovis symptoms recurring. In June, I presented a statement from this group to a parliamentary committee. It was reviewed by MPI who felt “the information provided in the proposal did not meet the level required to justify spending taxpayer and farmer levies to action”. “(The proposal) did not meet some fundamental requirements of scientific research . . . (and) none of the extensive literary research undertaken by MPI staff backs up the claims made in the proposal,” MPI said. The proposal was endorsed by a

We believe the eradication response is only solving the problem in the short-term. New cases of M. bovis will continue to be found until these particular animals’ immunity is enhanced, which is the longer-term solution

group of world experts working with cutting-edge research; research that is surely more relevant than that which MPI is calling on to make decisions. “There was nothing in the proposal that would have avoided the depopulation of farms that MPI has been forced to carry out as part of the eradication plan,” MPI continued. Maybe not – but we believe the eradication response is only solving the problem in the short-term. New cases of M. bovis will continue to be found until these particular animals’ immunity is enhanced, which is the longer-term solution. If we want to be world-leading and cut a new track as far as M. bovis is concerned, we have to lead the way with new research and new information. That’s how we are going to beat this devastating disease. MPI has dismissed our sciencebased approach, which we feel is part of the solution, because it is not familiar to them. All we are suggesting is that it looks at the new research, that has backing from an increasing number of farmers and specialists alike, as part of the solution. David Law is the managing director of Forward Farming Biological Consultancy


Carrfields has landed a new tool to help farmers cut costs, comply with water regulations and lift crop yields.

New tool to monitor soil moisture Ashburton-based company Carrfields has landed a new tool to help farmers cut costs, comply with water regulations and lift crop yields. The soil moisture monitoring tool, Moisture Scout, was launched at the Ashburton A&P Show last month. Farmers access their soil moisture levels through their smartphone and web apps. Carrfields Irrigation agricultural technology engineer William StewartSmith said the benefits of

the scouting tool for farmers included savings in water use, electricity, time and money. They could make decisions with more confidence and it had the potential to make their lives much easier for managing irrigation, StewartSmith said. “With seasonal weather patterns becoming increasingly unpredictable, this tool provides accurate data and alerts to assist farmers in their analysis and forecasts of ground and

climate conditions.’’ They would accurately use only the required volume of water when needed, resulting in water and electricity savings as well as helping them to remain compliant in their water use, he said. The Moisture Scout range is manufactured in Austria and has been tested and proven over 35 years for reliability, accuracy and longevity. Within the range, the scout model has a soil moisture probe and telemetry unit.


Another model has a soil moisture probe, telemetry unit and weather station measuring temperature and rain with the “Pro’’ model including a soil moisture probe, telemetry unit and advanced weather station measuring evapotranspiration, wind speed, humidity, solar radiation, temperature and rain. Stewart-Smith said the tool could also help other growers including horticulturalists and viticulturalists monitor soil moisture and weather

conditions, as well as comply with ever-increasing government environmental regulations. “Farmers and growers need to know what their soil moisture level is before irrigating to ensure they are using water efficiently, and the Moisture Scout technology delivers this information in real time, via cellular, to their mobile device ensuring they have accurate data to hand wherever they are,” StewartSmith said.

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Advocating for genetic improvement South Island farmers Mo Topham and Tania Riddington are about to lend their insights into genetic improvement to a farmer advisory panel for New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited. The addition of Riddington from North Canterbury and Topham from Southland will bring the panel numbers to nine. The advisory panel was established 18 months ago by NZAEL, a subsidiary of DairyNZ. Panel members are spread across the country and operate a range of farming systems. They are advocates for genetic improvement and meet five times a year to provide practical views on the research and development being proposed or done by NZAEL and DairyNZ researchers. Manager Dr Jeremy Bryant said farmers had to be involved in genetic evaluation development. “The perspective and experience of farmers is invaluable when it comes to [lifting] the animal evaluation system.’’

Farmers will make use of the animal evaluation expertise of Tania Riddington (left) and Mo Topham.

Riddington is a 50:50 sharemilker at Culverden in North Canterbury and milks 480 friesian and friesian cross cows. She started out with 300 cows and has built up the numbers from their progeny. Now that she no longer needs to grow the herd further, she is concentrating on building its genetics. Last year she was runner-

up sharemilker of the year in the Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Industry Awards. She was a microbiologist before entering the dairy industry. Topham and her husband Simon lease a family farm and are investors in an equity partnership in Southland. On their farm, they run a 515 spring-calving herd, made up of mainly friesian and jersey

crossbred cows. Their assets are similar to 50:50 sharemilkers and they are maximising the value and saleability of their herd as well as increasing productivity. The couple have signed up to DNA testing and are looking forward to the improved reliability this will give the herd. Topham is a former DairyNZ


consulting officer and works for FarmWise as a farm systems and environmental consultant. DairyNZ strategy and investment leader productivity Bruce Thorrold said a large amount of farmers’ levy money was invested in genetic evaluation each year and getting more dairy farmer input would help deliver more value to farmers.

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Dairy Focus | November 2018  
Dairy Focus | November 2018