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Dairy Focus DECEMBER 2017



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It’s been a real rollercoaster of a year for dairy farmers – but unfortunately it’s been more down than up as the year draws to a close. Volatility in global dairy prices has in recent weeks seen Fonterra revise its farmgate milk price forecast for the season downwards, with it falling from $6.75 to $6.40 per kgMS. Given the GlobalDairyTrade price for whole milk powder has fallen 10 per cent since August, no one should be too surprised about that, and fortunately downward pressure on the price of WMP has been partly offset by a falling US-NZ dollar exchange rate. Another downer in recent times has been the negative sentiment pointed at dairy farmers during this year’s election campaign, where they seemed to end up carrying the can in many peoples’ eyes for declining fresh water quality in some parts of the country. Most in the rural community know that the majority of dairy farmers actually do a fair bit to protect and improve water quality, whether it be fencing off waterways or riparian planting. In this month’s issue of Dairy Focus we hear from Canterbury dairy farmer Tom Mason (pictured on the cover with farm manager Michael Boston) who tells us about some of the things dairy farmers in the region are doing to ensure their businesses are environmentally

Colin Williscroft


sustainable. Mason also sheds some light on the dairy environment leadership programme, a network of dairy farmers involved in a range of initiatives aimed at promoting sustainability at regional and national levels. While more can always be done, it’s important to recognise the efforts that have been – and continue to be - made. Last week we also learned that the bacterial cattle disease mycoplasma bovis had been found in Southland and was strongly suspected of also being in Mid Canterbury, which was not the Christmas present farmers were looking for. Now more than ever it’s important for dairy farmers to be thoroughly up-todate about the disease, its effects on cattle and what to do if you suspect your stock may be infected. Although it’s not a food safety risk M Bovis will affect animal welfare and production, so it’s important you have good on-farm biosecurity measures in place.


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Stepping up to improve waterways Colin Williscroft


Canterbury dairy farmers are putting money where their mouth is and playing their part in helping to improve water quality, Canterbury dairy leader Tom Mason says. “And it’s working. We have hard proof that water quality in the region is already beginning to show signs of improvement as a result of farmers fencing off waterways to exclude dairy cattle, and planting out riparian buffer zones that help to filter nutrients before they reach the water,” Mason said.

Tom Mason is involved in the dairy environment leaders programme.


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Dairy Focus


From P3 “The latest data from Environment Canterbury (ECan) shows that 90 per cent of the region’s farms have taken action to get a land use consent, but a number are on waitlists for nutrient budgets. A farm environment plan is a requirement of their consent, so we can say with confidence that the vast majority of farmers have an environmental plan, also known as a Sustainable Milk Plan (SMP). “Important though it is, the plans are not just about farmers meeting regulatory requirements,” he said. “These plans are just as much about having truly sustainable dairy farm businesses that strike a balance in getting the best out of the farm, while also achieving the best for their people and the environment.” SMPs were first developed by DairyNZ about five years ago, says the organisation’s catchment engagement leader, Angela Harvey. “The primary purpose then was to raise farmers’ awareness of environmental risk areas on their farm, and to have them start taking steps towards a more sustainable


“We have hard proof that water quality in the region is already beginning to show signs of improvement as a result of farmers fencing off waterways to exclude dairy cattle, and planting out riparian buffer zones that help to filter nutrients before they reach the water.

footing before regulations were introduced. Many farmers had already been well on this journey so having the plan did focus their activity to the areas where the most environmental gains could be made. “We helped the farmer pinpoint what needed to be done and involve consultants to work closely with them to explain the reasons why certain options were better than others, and provide detailed plans and direction for the work to be carried out.” She added that farmers have found the SMP process much more rewarding than simply being told what to do by a regulator. “Along the way, farmers have also told us they have been gratified by the fact that farming to SMPs has also helped them to be sustainable across the board, not only achieving better outcomes for

their environment, but also for farm teams and the business bottom line. “It’s been a pleasure seeing farmers’ passion to improve the environment they farm, and particularly find innovative and clever environmental solutions to reduce nitrogen leaching, and ultimately improve water quality of their dairy waterways. It’s been even more exciting to see their work begin to have tangible and positive results.” Mason is also a member of the dairy environment leaders programme, an initiative that involves hundreds of farmers from around the country, with new people coming on board every year. The leaders are often early adopters, looking to continually improve their farm in the pursuit of excellence. However Mason said as leaders they also need to be

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positive and encouraging, willing to share their knowledge and expertise through things like discussion groups and farmer events, while also interacting with farmer networks and organisations like Dairy Women’s Network, Federated Farmers and Young Farmers. The goal of those involved in the programme is to engage communities, thereby increasing the understanding and appreciation of dairying. A key part of that is farmers sharing their stories, although Mason acknowledged many farmers were not very comfortable doing that. However, this year’s election campaign showed the importance of being part of a national conversation, and the danger in terms of public opinion when you’re not involved. There are a variety of ways farmers’ stories can be shared,

not just through local and social media. Other avenues include talking to other businesses or organisations, hosting people and schools on-farm and being part of community groups. Mason encouraged dairy farmers to get more involved with community groups like Environment Canterbury’s water zone committees. He said historically farmers had not been very good at putting their hands up and getting involved with those sorts of committees, and it was important that they started doing so, as they needed to ensure that they were involved in those discussions. One of the farmer groups Mason has been involved in is focused on working to improve water quality in the Coes Ford area by helping dairy farmers understand the issues in that catchment and how they affect water quality. There were no quick fixes, he said, but those involved in the group were committed to doing the best they could for the environment. He said actions often speak louder than words so it was important for farmers who are part of the environmental leadership programme to be


seen walking the talk when it comes to caring for the environment. “You’ve got to be seen to be doing the right things yourself,” he said, pointing out that other farmers are more likely to listen and act on your advice if you follow that same advice yourself. He was particularly pleased that the Pendarves farm he owns a share of in recently received an A grade for its first farm audit. However, Mason did not want to unfairly claim the credit for the hard work done by farm manager Michael Boston. “It was a really good effort by Michael. There was a lot of record keeping involved.” He said being part of an irrigation scheme was a big advantage when undergoing a farm audit, due to the support the schemes provided. Earlier this month Mason attended the annual farmer-led Dairy Environment Leaders’ Forum in Wellington. Held every year since 2007, the forum is an opportunity for dairy environment leaders to get together, evaluate their progress and set goals for regional and national initiatives.


Those who attend the forum work on individual, regional and national action plans; attend skills sessions and workshops and build on existing leadership skills; celebrate individual and industry successes; and share their knowledge and experience, learning from each other. The leaders’ diverse backgrounds means a considerable amount of farming and industry knowledge is brought to the forum. Within Canterbury there is also a group called DairyCan, which Mason said was a way of bringing ideas discussed on a national level, such as those at the forum, to reality at a more regional level. He said most farmers today understand the need to protect the environment, however, water is not the only issue they needed to consider if they were to get ahead of the game. “Water quality is today’s issue. How we deal with greenhouse gases is coming, but we’ve got to start thinking about it now. It is the next thing. “We need to start getting the research done now.”

Dairying not all about milking it Seeing themselves as “guardians of their land” and adopting environmentally friendly ways of farming is a key component of the farmers’ personal convictions. A new study, “What really drives dairy production systems: economic rationale or social and environmental responsibility?” surveyed owners, sharemilkers and managers, to format a questionnaire for much larger sample of interviews with farmers, due to take place in January. Co-author, Lincoln professor of farm management Alison Bailey, said all the study subjects recognised social and environmental responsibilities as key areas that have to be integrated into their objectives and decision making. However, profitability and financial performance remains the basis of their system and their first objective. “In the context of changing internal and external pressures on agriculture it is important to determine whether the dimensions of sustainability – economic, social, environmental – can be integrated

Left – Lincoln professor Alison Bailey is examining what really drives dairy production systems, economic rationale or environmental responsibility. PHOTO SUPPLIED 

successfully at the farm level. “Having this knowledge is critical if we are to more fully understand the social and environmental consequences of changes in agricultural management,” professor Bailey said. One of the farmers’ objectives was to leave the land in a better shape than when they took it on themselves so that the next generation could also benefit from it as a productive

resource, she said. It was generally agreed amongst all respondents that, in the long term, equal importance should be given to all three areas, financial, social and environmental. Most of them also mentioned sustainability concerns as one of their main objectives, they want a system that is productive in the long term, resilient and environmentally friendly.

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Grading targets fat composition Fonterra has announced the details of its new Fat Evaluation Index (FEI) grading system, which is designed to help farmers supply milk with the required fat composition. Lisa Payne, regional head for Farm Source, said that the new system will mean Fonterra can continue to manufacture products that meet customer specifications and provide the best return to its farmers. “The co-op has a responsibility to constantly evolve to meet our customers’ needs, and provide the highest value return for every drop of milk,” Payne said. “Therefore, we need to make sure that the milk supplied can be manufactured into the products that meet our customers’ specifications. While the vast majority of our farmers are providing milk with the right fat composition, the FEI grading system will help others meet this requirement,” she said. The grading framework, which was created after consultation with farmers –

Grading Framework FEI Result

Colin Williscroft


including feedback from more than 700 of them - is similar to grading structures used for other milk quality measures, which Payne said meant they are easy to understand and have proven successful at managing risks of a similar nature in the past. A grade of A, B, C, or D will be provided to farmers daily and will reflect a six-day rolling average. Milk that receives an FEI grade of C or D for three consecutive days will be retested to confirm the grade. Demerits will only be applied if the second, confirmatory test, results in a grade of C or D. The new grading system is particularly important to farmers using palm kernel (PKE) as feed, as high use

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of PKE can affect milk fat composition. “We recognise that PKE is an important and convenient feed option for some farmers, especially in adverse weather conditions. We are giving farmers, including winter milkers, a full season to understand how PKE and other influences affect their milk fat composition. Farmers are encouraged to review their FEI results dating back to January 2017, make any necessary adjustments onfarm and plan alternative feed strategies,” Payne said. Federated Farmers has

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reminded farmers and sharemilkers supplying Fonterra to update existing business agreements, as they face joint liability to meet the grading system changes. The federation’s sharemilker farm owners’ section chair, Tony Wilding, said the organisation’s sharemilkers and sharemilker farm owners’ sections had been anticipating the changes since they were announced in June this year. “The sharemilkers farm owners section and sharemilkers section have been aware of this emerging liability. We consulted with

farmers, farm advisors and various farming groups and we believe we’ve come to a fair resolution for both parties.” Wilding said farm owners and sharemilkers in current agreements should seek to add a clause to address the new risk, while new agreements should also have an additional clause under milk grading and feed to direct the parties. Farmers will have until September 2018, three months longer than originally announced, to make any necessary adjustments before demerits are applied.


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MPI incident controller Stephen Bell says the ministry’s focus is on managing PHOTO SUPPLIED rather than curing mycoplasma bovis.

Cattle disease criticism rejected The discovery of mycoplasma bovis on farms in Southland and Hawkes Bay – and suspicion that it’s also found its way to Mid Canterbury – has increased the pressure on the Ministry for Primary Industries, but the ministry maintains its approach to the outbreak is the correct one. Former dairy farmer and now biological farming consultant David Law recently criticised MPI for ignoring what he said could be a potential cure for the bacterial disease, adding that he was not being taken seriously. Law said he first volunteered internationally-recognised disease information to MPI in October, three months after the first cases of the disease appeared but MPI failed to act. Since then, more farms have tested positive for M. bovis. “We have a product designed to kill anaerobic bacteria, and we think it could really help,” Law said. “Meanwhile, MPI is culling cows with a gestapo-type attitude.” Law was the guest speaker at a series of biological farming seminars in England in January where he met Jorn Erri, a Danish veterinarian specialising in anaerobic pathogenic diseases. Law revisited Erri in July. “Since meeting Jorn, I don’t believe M. bovis is the result of a contagious disease, but rather of a particular farming system – and the irrigation of anaerobic effluent to pasture is the beginning of it,” Law said. Understanding the make-up of effluent is key, he said, adding that an anaerobic effluent pond, with a pH below 7, is crusted and sludgy and harbours bad pathogenic bacteria, whereas an aerobic pond, with a pH over 7, is clearer of crust and sludge and contains healthy aerobic bugs. The bacteria that enjoy the particular condition dominate, and effluent, good or bad, is irrigated to pasture. “In other areas of the world where M. bovis is more prevalent, farmers follow similar systems,” Law said. “In Germany, they no longer irrigate anaerobic effluent to pasture after hundreds of cows infected with M.

Colin Williscroft


Bovis had to be slaughtered.” Law said MPI needs to look seriously at the information he has provided before more farms are devastated. “Killing cows is only killing the symptoms,” he said. “The pathway which I believe has a starting point can easily be tested and verified. M. bovis is enjoying a particular set of conditions, which is allowing it to flourish. “Our team informed the latest farmers affected that we had a possible treatment to put to the test, but anything new needs MPI approval. “MPI is not winning any friends with its attitude, and I feel helpless when I believe we could help. “Killing herds of well-bred cows won’t change these conditions, but will certainly guarantee that the disease is not going away.” However, MPI incident controller Stephen Bell said MPI makes decisions based on a body of scientific evidence. “There is no evidence of a cure for M. bovis and all international evidence shows that this is a disease which primarily spreads by direct nose-to-nose contact and with body fluids such as mucus and milk,” Bell said. “Our current focus is not on treating this disease,” he said. “This whole operation is about managing the disease while keeping our future options open. We want to minimise the risk of further spread of the disease. “Moving ahead with depopulation of the affected farms will allow them to get back to normal business as soon as it is safe to do so.” DJ6743_SW_calf_campaign_ad_360x124_v5.indd 1

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Dairy Focus


Synlait doubles formula output Synlait Milk has officially opened its new wetmix kitchen, which will enable it to simultaneously run both its large-scale infant formula spray dryers. This will double the amount of infant formula powder that it can produce at the Dunsandel site, from 40,000 metric tonnes (MT) to 80,000 MT a year. “We were at the point where our current wetmix facility was at capacity, and our consumer demand was continuing to grow. Building this new wetmix kitchen will relieve that pressure,” Synlait managing director and chief executive John Penno said. Synlait has invested $37 million in the new Wetmix kitchen, which is at the core of the production process. It’s where the dry ingredients (such as dairy proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) are mixed into the liquid milk. That mixture is then sent to the dryer, where it is dried into infant formula base powder. Mixing the dry ingredients into the liquid milk before

Left – Synlait’s new Wetmix kitchen (in front of the dryer), which will mean it can produce 80,000 metric tonnes of infant formula powder a year at its Dunsandel plant. PHOTO SUPPLIED

drying ensures a superior blend quality, Penno said. The project has been in planning since December 2015 and contractors began work on site in February

2017. At times there were up to 125 contractors on-site a day, but the construction of the wetmix kitchen did not disrupt the activities of other areas on site.

“We’re really happy with how the build went,” Penno said. “It was a smooth process which was completed on time and within budget, without

the need to alter our day-today operations.” Designed with staff in mind, some manual steps (eg lifting and tipping large bags of ingredients) have been reduced with the help of automation. This creates a safer environment and provides operational efficiencies. “It was really important for us to make this new facility as user-friendly as possible. We want our employees to be safe at work, and to work under the best possible conditions,” he said. The opening of the wetmix kitchen follows last month’s opening of the company’s new Auckland site, which is home to its second state-ofthe-art blending and consumer packaging facility.


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Increase in export revenue forecast New Zealand’s dairy export revenue is forecast to reach $16.8 billion for the year ending June 2018, according to the latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries, an increase of $2.2 billion (15 per cent) from the year ended June 2017. The December quarterly report, released by the Ministry for Primary Industries last week, said the rise is mostly price driven, because average dairy prices are expected to be up significantly compared with the previous year, despite recent falls in whole milk powder (WMP) prices on Global Dairy Trade auctions. “These higher dairy prices are expected to lead to an increased all-company average farm gate milk-solids price of $6.93 per kilogram (including dividends where applicable) for the 2017/18 season,” the report said. The report said New Zealand exporters are expected to export less milk powder during 2018, but will increase exports of more valuable products like infant

Colin Williscroft

Situation and Outlook for Primary Indu st


formula, liquid milk, and yoghurt. Dairy export revenue is forecast to hold steady in the year ending June 2019 to just under $16.9 billion, the report said. “While we expect milksolid production to recover next year, this is likely to be offset by lower dairy prices compared to the June 2018 year, particularly for WMP and butter. Butter prices remain high in the meantime, supported by strong consumer demand for natural fats. “New Zealand exporters have benefited from this demand and butter export revenue is forecast to increase by 45 per cent as a result. “We expect prices to begin





to fall gradually in early 2018 as European butter production increases and food manufacturers turn to substitutes such as vegetable fats in response to high butter prices.” Infant formula prices are also expected to keep rising, particularly as demand


2017 • 1

continues to grow among Chinese consumers for imported products targeted at babies and young children. China imported 27 per cent more infant formula in the year ended June 2017 compared with the year ended June 2016 That included a 67 per

cent increase in the amount of infant formula from New Zealand over the same period. Although most of the forecast increase in New Zealand’s dairy export revenue is driven by butter and infant formula, WMP exports are also expected to increase in the year ending June 2018. Average export prices are forecast to be around 10 per cent higher compared with the previous year despite recent falls in Global Dairy Trade auctions, the report said. Recent WMP demand from China has been very strong, with the September 2017 quarter import quantities double those of the same period last year. Around 95 per cent of China’s WMP imports come from New Zealand. Long-term, the report predicts that dairy export growth will be driven by increased productivity and a shift to higher value products rather than increasing cow numbers, as environmental guidelines around water quality are implemented.










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Dairy Focus



Satisfaction stable, survey shows The level of investment required in modern dairy farming is underlined in the latest Federated Farmers Banking Survey, with the size of mortgages and the number of dairy farms with overdrafts increasing. Across dairy and non-dairy sectors, three quarters of the 480 farmers who responded to the survey said they felt under the same pressure from their banks as six months ago. Eight per cent said they felt under more pressure and just under 10 per cent were feeling less pressure. The twice-a-year Federated Farmers Banking Survey started in 2015. Research First conducted the November 2017 survey and results show farmers’ overall satisfaction with their banks remains strong and stable, with an average 81 per cent satisfied or very satisfied. Federated Farmers vicepresident Andrew Hoggard said it was a positive that levels of bank satisfaction among sharemilkers had improved to be close to the industry average “as

Federated Farmers vice-president Andrew Hoggard PHOTO SUPPLIED 

sharemilkers do represent the next generation”. “Some sharemilkers had been under quite a bit of financial pressure in the recent past but a shout out to them for working hard to get good financial processes in place. It’s great to see they have such high levels of budgeting. “As usual though, farming

isn’t plain sailing. With particularly dry conditions quite early on in the summer, it’s going to be important that if conditions get worse farmers are making proactive decisions on the financial implications, and keeping accountants and bank managers in the loop.” New Zealand Bankers’

Association chief executive Karen Scott-Howman was pleased that overall bank satisfaction among farmers remains consistently strong. “It shows that banks are continuing to work closely with their agri clients. That’s not surprising given the high level of bank support for the agri sector,” she said. “Constructive relationships are essential in helping to deliver good results for both farmers and their banks.” Four out of five respondents to the survey have a mortgage, with the average across all farms increasing slightly since May from $3.1m to $3.2m. Dairy farms (89.7 per cent) and sharemilkers (97 per cent) are more likely to have mortgages than non-dairy farms (71.8 per cent). Mortgage interest rates have been stable (average 5.2 per cent) and no respondent was paying more than 10 per cent mortgage interest, which is the first time since the survey began in May 2015. Farming is a very seasonal business, with revenue often volatile. Just on 85 per cent

of farms have overdrafts, at an average limit of $192,000. Overdraft interest rates are declining slowly, and the proportion of farmers paying over 10 per cent interest has decreased from 14.8 per cent in May 2015 down to 3.7 per cent in November 2017. Hoggard said it was encouraging that only a small minority of farmers feel that they have come under undue pressure over the past six months and it’s also encouraging that this proportion (currently 8 per cent) has been easing back over the past 12 months. The survey found that currently around 60 per cent of farms have an upto-date, detailed budget for the current season. This proportion is particularly high for sharemilkers, at 90 per cent, with non-dairy farmers somewhat less likely to have budgets. “Although currently low, we expect the proportion of farmers to have budgets for next season to increase as the season progresses,” Hoggard said.









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Feed supplies under pressure A very wet spring followed by a hot, dry start to summer has put pressure on summer feed supply for many dairy farmers. Data shows current soil conditions are drier than normal, particularly parts of Northland, Taranaki, Lower North Island and Southland. With the unusual start to summer, DairyNZ extension general manager Andrew Reid is encouraging dairy farmers to have a plan in case dry conditions continue. “It’s apparent that in many regions silage yields are down and summer crops have been sown late,” Reid said. “Farmers always factor variable weather into their seasonal plans, so many, if not all, across the country will be pretty well prepared for the Left – DairyNZ extension general manager Andrew Reid has encouraged farmers to have a plan for dealing with the current dry weather, in case it continues. PHOTO SUPPLIED

conditions we’re experiencing. “However, it is timely to revisit the summer plan and talk through different scenarios with the farm team. For example, supplementary feed usage, culling policies, once-a-day milking, irrigation priorities and what the target dates and trigger points for dry-off decisions are. “It’s easier to have these in place now rather than trying to work through them during a stressful dry period. “Dairy farmers will be monitoring the condition of their cows – and their feed supply. For many, winter and spring pasture damage and subsequent weed burdens may mean changing expectations about how these pastures will perform over summer.” Many of DairyNZ’s Tiller Talk farmers, who are working to improve their pasture management and are sharing their progress online, talk about how they are responding to dry conditions. Many are extending rotation length and some farmers have started 16-hour milking intervals.

DairyNZ Canterbury/North Otago regional leader Virginia Serra said while it was a wet start to the milking season, high temperatures and lack of rain mean it’s now drying out. “Dairy farmers will be monitoring the condition of their cows – and their feed supply, and thanks to a period of good grass growth, there’s been a decent amount of silage harvested in the region in recent weeks. “What will this summer bring? If it’s a dry one, it will be challenging for dry land farmers, which for dairy are mainly support farms. The irrigated farms need to continue to ensure efficient use of water, something farmers are well across these days.” Other parts of the South Island are also experiencing soil moisture deficit to varying degrees, with pugging or pasture damage from the wet winter and spring being accentuated in some areas by the warm, dry weather. Farmers have been encouraged to talk to others about options for dealing with the dry conditions.


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Irrigating in challenging conditions With much of New Zealand now experiencing exceptionally dry conditions, irrigating farmers will now be trying to maximise every drop of water and make sure it’s used as efficiently as possible. During challenging dry spells such as this, irrigation plays a really important role in ensuring Kiwis can continue to have access to affordable local produce. To get through the next few months, irrigators will need to manage their water allocation very carefully and make some decisions about what their priorities are. Checking your irrigation equipment is well maintained and performing to specifications will minimise down-time, leakage or delivery problems. Some systems may be 20 to 50 per cent out and using more water than you need. Calibration checks can save a lot of water and are easy to carry out. IrrigationNZ has a free Check it – Bucket Test app which can be used to check irrigators are applying water evenly. The app is available from Google

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Play or the App Store. As the irrigation season goes on, regular maintenance checks are essential. Checking pressure and sprinklers is recommended. Re-nozzling might help stretch out water for longer but this should be done under the advice of a qualified irrigation designer. Irrigation scheduling is also critical when your water supply is likely to be limited. With water meters in place, you should be keeping a close eye on how much water is being used, and regularly reviewing soil moisture levels and crop requirements. Sitting down and planning your water budgets will enable you to work out how best to allocate water over the coming months.

Irrigation has an important role during dry weather. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Farmers who operate a number of irrigation systems should think about using their most efficient irrigation systems more than their least efficient systems to help make the best use of their water allocation. You should also consider limiting irrigation during high winds or extreme

daytime temperatures, to make every drop count. Investing in good soil moisture monitoring technology is also important. You should check this every day so you know when to irrigate and how much water to apply. Understanding which soils are the least

productive and which are the most productive can help you identify which areas would benefit most from irrigation if water is limited. If you have stock, then placing your most productive animals on good pasture makes sense, while less productive stock could be put in areas without irrigation or with less pasture. Finally involve your staff in a plan to manage your irrigation systems. If water is limited make sure they understand that any leaks or operating issues need to be fixed as soon as possible. If you have new staff, it’s important they know how to correctly operate irrigation equipment. IrrigationNZ is carrying out a range of training this summer on irrigation management, soil moisture monitoring and irrigation assessment - visit www. irrigationnz.co.nz/events to find out more about our upcoming training events. Andrew Curtis is chief executive officer of IrrigationNZ



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Statistics show focus on better cows The last dairy season was a recordbreaker, according to the latest national dairy statistics released by DairyNZ and LIC. Over the 12 months to June 2017, the average dairy cow produced more litres of milk containing more kilograms of milksolids than ever before. The average dairy cow produced 4259 litres of milk in the 2016-17 season, containing a total of 381kg of milksolids (kg MS), compared to 4185 litres and 372kg MS in 2015-16. The statistics also reveal milking cow and herd numbers have decreased for the second consecutive year. The latest count is 4.86 million cows nationally – down from 4.99 million in 2015-16 – while herd numbers have dropped to 11,748 from 11,918 (a fall of 170 herds). But despite the decline in cow numbers, dairy companies processed very similar milk quantities – 20.7 billion litres of milk containing 1.85 billion kg MS in 2016-17. The previous season was 20.9 billion litres of milk (1.86 billion kg MS). DairyNZ senior economist Matthew Newman said the trend for increasing per cow milk production showed farmers were opting for animals that were year-on-year more efficient at converting grass into milk – the industry’s national breeding objective. “We are producing similar milk quantities from fewer cows, partly because we are breeding better animals and feeding them well,” Newman said. “The average herd is now 414 cows, down from 419 in 2015-16. Currently we are at the lowest level of cows milked since 2012 – with North Island cow numbers declining 90,000

to 2.89 million, while South Island numbers decreased 46,000 to 1.97 million.” LIC general manager New Zealand Markets, Malcolm Ellis, said the stats reflected a shift in the industry. “Farmers are acknowledging that, as an industry, if they are not going to be milking more cows then they need to be milking better ones,” he said. “The lower payout in previous seasons certainly forced some farmers to reconsider their cow numbers as part of a wider farm system review, but these stats prove it can really pay off for a farming business. “It boils down to the fundamentals of herd improvement – creating high quality herd replacements that will out-perform their mothers in productivity, longevity and fertility.” Changes in dairy breeds continue, the statistics showed, with HolsteinFriesian/Jersey cross-breeds now comprising 48 per cent of cows (up from 40 per cent in 2010-11). Holstein-Friesians make up 33.5 per cent of the national herd and Jerseys comprise 9.3 per cent. The number of cows mated by artificial insemination (AI) increased to 72.7 per cent, up slightly on the previous season. The number of yearling heifers mated to AI also increased. The average six-week in-calf rate decreased 0.9 percentage points to 65.6 per cent in 2016-17 (from 66.5 per cent in 2015-16). Farm ownership structures have also changed over the last couple of seasons, with 27.3 per cent of New Zealand dairy herds operating under a sharemilking agreement in 201617, compared with 32.4 per cent in 2014-15.

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Dairy Focus


Waitaki Boys’ High School Developing the all-round student Waitaki Boys’ High School is enriched by a proud heritage, but forward looking and progressive in our task of educating boys for the future. With a roll of just over 440 we are the smallest state boys’ boarding school in New Zealand but have unmatched facilities – over 65 acres of grounds includes a working farm, numerous sports fields, the internationally recognised Hall of Memories and a new science teaching block will be opened for the start of school in 2018. The school also has a fantastic school camp at Lake Middleton less than 90 minutes from Oamaru. More specifically the facilities at our boarding hostel (Don House) are unparalleled especially if you come from an agricultural background. All four dormitories have been recently refurbished ready for the start of the 2018 academic year thanks to the financial support of the school’s foundation. Don House sits

adjacent to the school’s working farm – Fraser Farm, a nationally recognised trap shooting range, tennis courts, swimming and diving pool and the school gymnasium. Agriculture is offered as a subject choice from Year 9 and both theoretical and practical agricultural courses are offered at all three levels of NCEA. A growing relationship with the Ara

Polytechnic along with the Gateway programme also offer extensive vocational opportunities. The largest curriculum area in the school is technology and the school boasts fantastic hard and soft materials workshops. Academically, we are “on track” to significantly exceed 2016 NCEA pass rates at Level 1 and Level 2 and will sit above the national

average for all boys’ schools. Already impressive course endorsement rates will be matched. The size of the school allows us to ‘track’ all students in the junior school against expected curriculum levels and in the senior school all students meet regularly with a ‘mentor’ teacher. Waitaki Boys’ has always “punched above it’s weight”

on the sports field and 2017 was no different. This year we have had four national representatives, three South Island champions and at the Aoraki Schools’ sports awards 16 boys were recognised as being top in their respective sports. At Waitaki Boys’ our goal is unashamedly to develop the “all-round” student. A student who ‘lives’ the school values of respect, resilience and motivation – and in doing so fulfils their potential in academic, sporting and cultural pursuits. Our boarding hostel has had a remarkable effect on generations of Waitakians and this opportunity awaits your son. Both the school and hostel are under relatively new leadership and a transformation has taken place at Waitaki Boys’ in 2017. If you want to see this for yourself please contact the Rector for a tour of the school and Don House – email rector@waitakibhs.school.nz 

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Dairy Focus


Make the most of your opportunities I recently spoke at the senior prizegiving for our local college. I did this partly because I’m the chairman of the board of trustees and it was expected of me, and partly because it was my last opportunity to see the awards presented from on stage. I don’t particularly like getting up to speak in front of a couple of hundred people, but sometimes you’ve just got to do these things if only to see what it’s like. Of course I had the coveted speaking slot between guest speaker Peter Datlen, an engaging, funny, relatable and highly successful former student now working for Rocket Lab, and the awarding of the special trophies and scholarships. I was quite literally the person everyone hoped would keep it brief so they could get to the good stuff. And keep it brief I did, partly because they weren’t really there to listen to me but mainly because I forgot to write my speech until just before the ceremony. In the tradition of speeches

Craig Hickman

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from the board chair, I was expected to give the assembled senior classes a piece of advice for their futures, something simple and catchy that they could immediately forget as soon as I resumed my seat. The piece of advice I gave them was this: take opportunities when they present themselves, live life and make memories, don’t look back and think “what if ?” Identifying and taking opportunities was something I came to late in life. It was something I learned from my wife, who was forever searching out things for our children to try and put it front of them, presenting them with opportunities and seeing how far they would take them. I had the opportunity last

year to travel to Germany with the college and I very nearly said no due to work commitments. I’m very glad I said yes instead, and Ken Pow, the German teacher, will be thrilled to know I picked up a couple of hundred new Twitter followers by live tweeting the entire journey. I may have missed some of his very important insights into German culture and history in the process, but I have made some wonderful new friends and have a trove of memories. Taking opportunities

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Former Ashburton College student Peter Datlen, who works for Rocket Lab, spoke at the school’s recent prizegiving. PHOTO IAN TEH FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

doesn’t have to involve big things like an overseas trip, taking a job offer or buying a farm, it can be a very small thing like following up on a suggestion made via social media. I almost declined the offer to write this monthly column because I didn’t believe I had anything of value to share, but I took the plunge and it has been very satisfying;

my twitter advocacy of agriculture has reached a whole new audience. The reward is when people come up to me when I’m out and tell me how much they enjoyed a particular piece. Opportunities aren’t always obvious, but nowadays I find myself saying “yes” to new things a lot more often than I used to. And subsequently I’m having a lot more fun.

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Preventative hoof trimming Do you know what preventative hoof trimming is? Many farmers will do some of their own trimming during the season, and when our contractors go on-farm they are often asked to explain what they are doing and why, and it is not uncommon for this to be quite different from the way that the farmer has been doing it. This raises the question of how many farmers actually understand preventative hoof trimming and what its benefits are. Preventative hoof trimming is not cutting out white line cracks and any other issues that you may find in a claw. If anything, you will probably make things worse for the cow if that is all you do. If all lameness issues are caused by physical damage then it would make sense to cut out any deformities, but the problem starts on the inside of the claw, in the live tissue, not the outside. If the live tissue (corium) is unhealthy, then preventative hoof trimming will not heal it, but proper preventative

Fred Hoekstra


hoof trimming will reduce the stresses on that corium, enabling it to heal more quickly. The ideal is to have both claws on the one hoof carrying the same amount of weight. If one claw is bigger (usually the outer one) it will carry more weight. This, in itself, is not necessarily a problem, as most cows have a bigger outer claw than the inner one, yet not all cows go lame. Most cows have laminitis as well but not all cows are lame because of that either, depending on how severe the laminitis is. A cow that has laminitis has all claws affected. If the outer claw is bigger and therefore carrying a greater proportion of the weight then the corium is under more

stress in that claw compared to the inner claw – this is why most cows are lame on the outer claw. So, the first step that any preventative hoof trimming should entail is paring away the sole on the outer claw. This will reduce the weight and the stress on the live tissue in that claw. If we trim a cow that has a white line issue and we open it up, exposing the corium with-




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out taking the sole down, then there is a good chance that the corium will prolapse because that claw is still carrying too much weight. This obviously creates more problems for the cow than benefiting her. I know it sounds simple and straight forward but it takes skill to achieve that balance. Both claws need to be level and flat, but on the other hand they are not allowed to get too

thin either. That is why it takes more advanced training and time to become more proficient at hoof trimming. Our One Day Hoof Trimming Workshops are designed to familiarise all dairy staff with the fivestep process of hoof trimming according to the Dutch method – visit our website www.veehof.co.nz to see when the next workshop is running near you.


Dairy Focus



Rural crime prevention a partnership Crime prevention in rural areas is most effective when it involves a partnership between rural people, police, local authorities and local organisations. Police can and will respond to rural crime. Keep in mind police may need to travel long distances to get to you. Call 111 when you need immediate help with a life-threatening or timecritical emergency. Some emergencies will need more than one service (fire, ambulance and police). Ask for the service which is needed most urgently. All emergency services have links to each other and the first service called will notify the other services if they are required. For non-urgent situations, call or visit your local police station. If there’s no immediate danger or the incident happened a while ago then it’s probably not an emergency. If you can’t decide if it’s a real emergency and you’re still worried, call 111 and ask us. We’ll help you work out what to do. Clearly tag animals and keep accurate stock and produce records. Lock all rural buildings, houses and sheds etc. You should have a detailed inventory of all personal valuables and


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Report all instances of crime even when a police response is not necessary. Police need to know the pattern of crime in an area. You can help police by reporting all instances of suspicious behaviour or crime. It helps police to know who is in the community or if there is a pattern of crime developing in an area that needs further investigation. It also helps us to decide if the rest of the community should be alerted too. Be organised. Discuss and prepare. Rural New Zealand has a reputation for tight-knit, supportive communities. You can help to keep safe by knowing your neighbours, exchanging contact phone numbers and keeping those numbers handy. Discuss what you could do to alert or assist each other in an emergency. It’s also a good idea to let neighbours know if you’re going on holiday or leaving your home overnight. Reduce the risk of becoming a victim of crime by taking precautions.

If you live on a farm and are leaving the house to investigate something untoward, ensure someone knows where you’re going, as much as possible about what you’re checking, and how long you expect it to take. This could involve phoning the police or your neighbour, waiting for a neighbour to join you, and taking a mobile phone or handheld radio with you. Reduce risk by taking notice of who is out and about and talking to them (particularly if they aren’t locals), locking your house, removing keys, closing access gates (particularly to your driveway/house), and keeping an eye on each other’s property. New Zealand Police has a security checklist on its website, developed to help reduce the likelihood of those living in rural areas becoming a victim of crime. – Information courtesy of the New Zealand Police website, www.police.govt.nz

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Talbot Security Group has a proven track record in providing integrated security solutions to both residential and commercial sites within Ashburton and the Mid Canterbury area. For customers who are considering an all in one service from installation or upgrade of their security alarm through to monitoring, patrols and home management services we also have special packages. Talbot Security are happy to discuss these in further detail at the time of enquiry.

Residential security patrols What more in this world has any form of greater value than that of your family and home. With a Talbot Security Group home minder package, you can rest assured that while you are away from your home, your house will be protected. We have a proven track

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u Eco-friendly & approved v Kills better than chlorine w Costs less to use the target pathogen cell walls. Due to this mode of action, disease bearing organisms cannot build up resistance to the product.

2. DX50 kills 2.46x better than chlorine DX50 Dairy Sanitiser is Chlorine Dioxide in aqueous solution and is 2.46 times more effective at oxidising (killing) harmful bacteria than standard chlorine.

Why does DX50 kill pathogens more effectively? When oxidation occurs, the cell wall of the bacteria is dissolved, exposing the enzymes that lie beneath the surface. These enzymes control the biochemical reactions within that cell. When DX50 contacts these enzymes, it immediately deactivates them by breaking their chemical chains.

With the enzymes ruined, the pathogenic bacteria is instantly destroyed.

No resistance possible The triggering action for DX50 Dairy Sanitiser is the sugar-like substances that are an integral part of Chemical

Killing Power


High 2.46


Moderate 1.0

Chlorine Dioxide

Very wide kill range DX50 Dairy Sanitiser is not pH dependent and works most effectively in cold water. DX50 can also break down the protective bio-film surrounding a wide range of pathogens.

Parts Per Million


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3. DX50 can cost 15-20% less DX50 kills 2.46 times more effectively than chlorine at 50ppm vs 600ppm of chlorine. That means far less product is required to achieve better results. When DX50 is used with Ultimate Liquid Caustic and Ultimate ULF Acid as a full cleaning system, farmers can save up to 15-20% on sanitising costs.

Plus Hot Water Savings! That 15-20% saving is magnified when you take into account that DX50 works best in COLD water. That’s 7 afternoon washes every week with zero heating bills.











Hot Alkali

Hot Acid Detergent

Hot Alkali

Hot Acid Detergent

Hot Alkali

Hot Acid Detergent

Hot Acid Detergent

A.M. rinse

Hot Acid Detergent


DX50 Sanitiser (cold water)

DX50 Sanitiser (cold water)

DX50 Sanitiser (cold water)

A full chlorine-free cleaning system As stated, DX50 is eco-friendly in that it kills only pathogens, not the good bacteria. But what if you use a chlorine-based alkaline as part of your cleaning system? Does that undo the eco-friendly work done by DX50? Yes, it does. When any chlorine is washed into the effluent pond, it kills the good bacteria that are eating the crust and liquefying the effluent.


Hot Acid Detergent DX50 Sanitiser (cold water)

DX50 Sanitiser (cold water)

Hot Acid Detergent DX50 Sanitiser (cold water)

DX50 Sanitiser (cold water)

Here’s a chlorine-free answer DX50 Dairy Sanitiser has formed a partnership with CLARK Products Ltd to provide you with an ecofriendly Hot Alkali and Hot Acid Detergent By using DX50 with Ultimate Liquid Caustic and Ultimate ULF Acid, you’ll have a complete cleaning system that is eco-friendly and costs 15-20% less!

For more information on DX50, or to find a DX50 stockist in your area, call Ross Wright: 027 246 2114

Profile for Ashburton Guardian

Dairy Focus - December 2017  

Dairy Focus - December 2017