Dairy Farmer NZ March 2022

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MARCH 2022 | $8.95

Love for the land

Migrant brothers rise to the top


Sustainability to the fore ➜ Breeding top cows ➜ Supplying raw milk ➜ An extra pair of hands

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CONTENTS NEWS 16 Milk Monitor Another rise for the GDT

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17 Fonterra enters partnership to take one third shareholding in GDT


A successful journey Eketahuna brothers are top sharemilkers

20 Keeping things simple Taranaki couple implement sustainability strategies


Guest column Richard Allen

28 Dairy champion Scott and Jeanette Shaw 32 Women in agribusiness Shelli Mears

FEATURES 54 Breeding and genetics 64 Effluent


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Sharemilking siblings say happy cows are the key to happy farmers.

8 20


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Rising to the challenge together By Richard Allen

Fonterra Farm Source group director takes a look at what is happening and what is needed to help farmers navigate changes.


ew Zealand dairy’s history shows the industry’s enduring ability to take challenges and turn it into opportunity. The challenge of distance from the market led to refrigeration of butter. Excess skim milk led to a long list of product innovations in protein. Milk perishability led to the world leading development of whole milk powder, enabling us to access markets around the world not capable of producing milk. At its core, NZ dairy has a unique natural selling point that is almost impossible to replicate. It’s that very “New Zealandness” that’s helped lift the Farmgate Milk Price, even during a global pandemic, and it’s the crux of Fonterra’s strategy. Looking ahead, the demand for natural, grass-fed dairy as a premium source of nutrition is likely to strengthen. Today our customers are increasingly looking to use our grass-fed, lowcarbon milk to help them bolster their sustainability credentials. Perhaps the greatest challenge our industry faces today is ensuring we support our farmers to keep up with the pace of change and impacts on their business that consumers are demanding. Fonterra adds real value through ensuring a coordinated and considered approach is taken in meeting these changing needs of customers and consumers with respect to sustainability and animal wellbeing. Within Fonterra, we’ve introduced The Co-operative Difference Payment. We’re now paying farmers for producing milk that’s more sustainably produced. We’re ultimately recognising farmers who invest and innovate to produce dairy with world-leading sustainability credentials. We’re continuously looking for ways


March 2022

in which to utilise the data we collect from our farmers to meet regulatory and market access requirements and, most importantly, add value to our products in-market. Through this data we’re able to provide much-needed proof points to our customers of the care our farmers take for the environment and their animals. We’re also innovating to ensure our farmers extract value from the time and effort they put into collecting and recording data. Last year we released personalised Farm Insights Reports giving our farmers information on their milk, animal and environmental performance. The reports include farm specific greenhouse gas data, heat stress indicators, milk shed efficiency and farm performance under the Co-operative Difference Programme. Our field teams, collaborating with the wider rural professional community, are then able to work alongside farmers and their reports to help farmers achieve their on-farm goals. Fonterra’s Farm Environment Plans (FEP), a key component in The Cooperative Difference, are helping farmers to assess how their farm is performing relative to good practice and provides practical actions to improve their environmental performance and reduce risk. Our 40 Sustainable Dairying Advisors work with farmers to create FEPs at no extra cost. Today 60% of our farms have one and by 2025 that will be up to 100%. The strengths of Fonterra Co-operative – scale, influence, innovation, profitability and sustainability – help farmers meet these challenges and ensure they’re better off both now and into the future. But the challenges facing dairy farming, and indeed farming more broadly in NZ, aren’t ours alone.

Fonterra’s group director Farm Source Richard Allen says the strengths of the Fonterra Co-operative will help farmers meet the challenges they face.

Now more than ever, close and collaborative relationships across the primary sector, with iwi and government are critical to ensuring this pace of change is managed through world-class support services for our farmers. We need to provide clarity of future requirements and allow time for onfarm innovation. As a sector, continued investment in innovation and technology are critical to keeping our farmers ahead of the pack. He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN), the climate action partnership, is a great example of this type of collaboration. It’s important farmers participate in the discussions currently being led by DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb NZ on behalf of HWEN. Comprehensive farmer feedback on the options for a suitable and credible alternative to the Emissions Trading Scheme is critical. The world is changing and, with it, the expectations of our communities here in New Zealand and our consumers across the world - this has always been the case and will continue to be. Through innovation and, importantly, collaboration we can keep turning challenges into opportunities for our industry. n


Sharemilking brothers from Eketahuna, Sumit Kamboj and Manoj Kumar were named as the 2021 Share Farmers of the Year and created history by becoming the first siblings to win the national title.

A successful journey Sharemilking siblings say happy cows are the key to happy farmers. 8

Photos by Chelsea Millar DAIRY FARMER

By Cheyenne Nicholson

Jumping into the dairy industry feet first, two brothers from India created history when they became the first siblings to win the National Share Farmers of the Year award.


hen brothers Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj first embarked on their dairying careers here in New Zealand, they had no idea where it would lead them or how fast their careers would take off. In 2021 they created history by winning the NZ Share Farmer of the Year award, the first pair of siblings to win the national title. The pair demonstrated strengths in leadership, health and farm safety, business and community engagement, all things that drive their business. Born and raised on a small farm in the village of Rudrapur in Uttarakhand in northern India, the brothers formed a love of the land from an early age. The family have lived and worked on the same land for three generations. “The whole family was involved in the farm, we only had about 10 cows and did a little bit of cropping, but it was a family affair. Our brother Pramod and the family run the farm now,” Sumit says. When they first came to NZ, dairying wasn’t really on their radar but they always knew they wanted to work in the agricultural space, just as they had done growing up. Having heard much about NZ agriculture at home, they chose the land of the long white cloud to do their tertiary studies.

While Manoj studied horticulture and Sumit studied business, the pair worked on kiwifruit orchards in Bay of Plenty and were keen to see where their careers would take them. Dairy farms surrounded the orchards and the pair spent many a smoko watching the farmers at work. “Dairying here is completely different to back home. The scale, the practices, everything. We were really interested. When I finished studying, I decided to see what jobs were in the dairy sector,” Manoj says. He soon spotted an advert for a farm assistant role in the Tararua on a farm owned by Andrew and Monika Arbuthnott and applied. He was hired and within six months was promoted to manager. The plan was always for them to work together, so Sumit joined Manoj a short time later and ever since, their careers have been on accelerator mode. Today they work two sharemilking jobs. One for the Arbuthnotts called Chessfield, which Manoj runs and another for Geoff Arends and Ester Romp called Kakariki, which Sumit runs. In fact, the brothers admit they may not have had the spectacular career


• Farm owners: Andrew and Monika Arbuthnott – Chessfield • Sharemilkers: Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj • Location: Pahiatua, Tararua • Farm size: 119ha • Herd size: 290 KiwiCross • Production: 530kg MS per cow • Farm working expenses: $2.26

FARM FACTS • Farm owners: Geoff Arends and Ester Romp - Kakariki • Sharemilkers: Manoj Kumar and Sumit Kamboj • Location: Pahiatua, Tararua • Farm size: 164ha • Herd size: 460 KiwiCross • Production: 415kg MS per cow • Farm working expenses: $2.16

Continued page 10


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The brothers worked hard early in their careers and at one stage were running four farms. They are now at the point where they can enjoy family life. Sumit and Manoj with his wife Sunita Rani and daughter Avni holding their trophy.

they’ve had in the industry had it not been for the Arbuthnotts. “The dairy industry awards were one of the main ways we networked when we first started in the industry, and I think perhaps winning the Sharemilker of the Year award helped us get this new job,” Sumit says. Their entry into the Dairy Industry Awards this year was fairly last-minute. Still, they won over judges at all stages with their impressive presentation, which included drone footage of their family farm in India and nearby village, creating the link between their roots and where they are now. Share Farmer head judge Jacqui Groves says the brothers impressed the judging panel with the amazing relationships they’d built in the industry and their community. They have been working on the Arbuthnott farm since the start of their dairying careers in 2012. Chessfield, is an 112ha property situated between Pahiatua and Eketahuna. It is home to rolling country, summer-safe and what the brothers classify as “a fairly easygoing farm”. The System 4-5 farm peak

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milks 290 KiwiCross cows and dabbles in some winter milking with 60-odd cows. Kakariki farm is slightly larger and is a System 2, peak milking 460 on 164ha. Located just a ‘hop, skip and a jump’ away from each other, the farms are relatively similar in terms of land contour, rainfall and general management and have both undergone some changes in the time the brothers have been on them. Last season on Chessfield, the herd produced a record 150,000 kilograms of milksolids, about 530kg solids per cow. Compared to the previous seasons 124,000kg MS, the increase is huge, but the brothers put that down to a very good grass-growing summer and few hiccups on-farm. The Kakariki farm had a great production year, averaging 415kg MS per cow. Chessfield, in particular, has seen a lot of developments – most notable full pasture renovation. With grass that was decades-old in some places and a widespread buttercup issue, grass quality and quantity were stunted and negatively impacted the farm’s efficiency and production. “When we first arrived, it was all old grass. The maximum production was about 10 tonnes per ha. We started regrassing 8-10ha each year, and now there is no grass on the farm older than 10 years old. Last season’s production was about 15 tonnes per ha, but we did have an amazing summer,” Sumit says. The entire farm is now in predominantly tetraploid permanent pasture to provide high-quality and highly palatable feed. Summer turnips are used as part of the regrassing programme, which has been scaled back to 4-5ha annually.

A covered feed pad on Chessfield is large enough for the whole herd and is utilised during wet weather to reduce pugging. They have been experimenting with plantain to help combat the drier periods in the year but have yet to decide if it’s the best option for their farms. “You have to keep on top of weeds with plantain and have to manage it carefully. Both farms are fairly summersafe anyway, but it will be interesting to see how it performs,” Sumit says. Weekly pasture walks are essential in creating a grazing plan that will optimise cow nutrition, production and pasture utilisation across both farms. During late spring to early summer, they aim for a 2800 pre-grazing residual and 1500 postgraze and alter this depending on how the season is going. “On Chessfield we have a covered feedpad large enough for the whole herd, which we utilise in the wet to reduce

pugging. When you get pugging, grass doesn’t grow as well, and it’s an open invitation for weeds to pop through come spring, which we are keen to avoid after doing so much work on getting clean pastures,” Manoj says. The brothers joke that more than once, they’ve woken in the middle of the night to pouring rain and rushed out to shift the cows onto the feedpad. While they say it might seem silly to many, it gives them peace of mind that their cows are happy and their pastures remain intact. They have strict rules on both farms around weeds, spot-spraying or grubbing where needed and no flowering weeds from February onwards. Fertiliser is

Continued page 12

The brothers work two sharemilking jobs near Eketahuna. One for Andrew and Monika Arbuthnott called Chessfield, which Manoj runs and another for Geoff Arends and Ester Romp called Kakariki, which Sumit runs.

Supplement is matched to feed requirements to ensure cows are fully fed at all times of year to maintain good body condition scores while ensuring pasture growth and quality are optimal. Sumit and Manoj head off to feed out to the herd.

applied twice a year, with soil tests done every second year, determining the type and amount of fertiliser required. Supplement is matched to feed requirements to ensure cows are fully fed at all times of year to maintain good body condition scores while ensuring pasture growth and quality are optimal. “We meet regularly with the Arbuthnotts and Arends to determine what supplementary feed we need and get that ordered ahead of time. We mainly use palm kernel with some added minerals and utilise maize and grass silage, which is grown on the run-off block,” Sumit says. The brothers take extreme pride in their cows. Over the years, they have worked on breeding quality mediumframed KiwiCross cows that can handle the sloping terrain, heavy soils and are efficient producers. Calving begins on July 22 (Chessfield) and July 28 (Kakariki) and 25% are kept as replacements, with a focus on high PW and BW genetics with crossbred calves sold on to the beef market. A handful are donated to community charities and causes for fundraising like Gumboot Friday. They do all their own calf rearing and their family from India normally comes out to visit and help during the calving season, but due to covid they haven’t been able to see their family in two years. “They love to come out and spend time here on the farms. It’s helpful to have extra sets of hands as well, and it takes us back to our childhood really, just on a biggerscale,” he says. On Chessfield, they rear around 200 calves each season. Calves are reared inshed until they are three-weeks-old when they are moved out to the paddock and fed twice-a-day. At Kakariki farm calves are

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reared in-shed until weaning at 90kg, as there are lots of sheds on farm, they can easily rear them inside for longer. Once calves are weaned, they stay onfarm until February before going off to graze at the run-off block until it’s time for them to be put up for mating and join the milking herd. Mating starts October 15 on Chessfield and October 20 on Kakariki and consists of a nine-week programme. Four weeks AB for replacements, one week of AB with whitefaced or Speckle Park genetics followed by three weeks of natural mating. Short gestation semen is used in the last week to tighten up the tail end of calving. “We want an efficient cow that suits the farm. So we want them to have good udder conformation and be good converters of pasture to milk. We want them to milk out well and be able to hold their own throughout the year,” Manoj says. Over the years, they’ve improved their six-week in-calf rate from the mid 70% to 78-80%, which they largely attribute to the whole farm regrassing and their focus on having fully fed cows year-round. “The cows really are the key to everything. Happy cows, happy farmers,” Sumit says. The past few years they have dabbled in some A2/A2 genetics to give them some more options with their herd and get a piece of that market. It’s not proven to be the winner they had hoped, so they’ve gone back to basics. “We knew at some stage we may want or have to sell our herd and the demand for good A2/A2 animals was for a bit looking quite good. Unless you’re fully into it though, it doesn’t seem to be a place where we could gain any value,” he says.

Calving begins on July 22 (Chessfield) and July 28 (Kakariki) and 25% are kept as replacements with a focus on high PW and BW genetics. A handful are donated to community charities and causes for fundraising like Gumboot Friday.

What has added value to their herd has been the purchase of cheap cows with minimal or no records. While good on the conformation front, the cows they purchased were largely unrecorded animals that required DNA testing. The brothers took a punt and bought them. “As sharemilkers, your biggest asset is your cows. When you buy top-end cows, you can’t add more value to them. There’s also no guarantee that they will be good producers. We’ve seen that many times. By buying cheaper cows and investing a bit in DNA testing, we’ve been able to add value to them,” Manoj says. “With any cow, regardless of what’s on paper, if you feed her right, look after her right, if she’s got four legs and a good udder, she will produce well. You don’t always need the best numbers to have the best cows,” Sumit adds. The DNA testing process was a little time-consuming, but most cows are now

Chessfield is an 112ha property situated between Pahiatua and Eketahuna. The System 4-5 farm peak milks 290 KiwiCross cows and winter milks about 60 cows.

fully recorded and some have proven to be their top producers. On the animal health front, they take a proactive approach. Blood tests are taken annually to analyse mineral requirements, which are fed via their feed and through dosatrons to ensure the best possible uptake. All team members on both farms are fully educated and up to speed with recognising metabolic issues and kits are kept on all farm vehicles during calving time. “We don’t have a high incidence of calving issues. We have eyes on them regularly and can act quickly. Our biggest issue tends to be lameness from walking to and from the shed as it can be a long walk,” Sumit says. To combat this, there are strict stockmanship rules on the farm. Cows are to walk at their own pace and are given plenty of time to make the trek from the furthest away paddocks to the shed. In recent years they have started putting rubber matting on the tracks to cushion the walk, which they’ve had a lot of success with. They have also been investigating upgrades to the laneways at Chessfield to provide a long-term solution for the issue. “Aside from that, water tends to be our biggest challenge, on Chessfield in particular. While we get good rainfall and are summer-safe, the water comes from the neighbour’s property through a spring. In summer, when it gets really dry, we have to pump out of the river or the dam, but we usually make it work,” Manoj says.


Continued page 14 February 2022


As well as sharemilking, the brothers have built up a property portfolio and are eyeing farm ownership. Sumit and Manoj, with his daughter Avni, check out the herd.

While neither farm has or needs irrigation, one of the other big farm developments has been the effluent system on Chessfield. Effluent goes from the sump to a hill via a pump and then is gravity-fed out to the farm via a subsoil drainage system. When they first arrived, only 12-15ha of the farm could be accessed. This has grown to 58ha through the investment of the farm owners to extend the gravity feed system. “It’s been really valuable to have so much of the farm able to be spread with effluent. It’s had benefits for the quality and growth rate of our pastures. Our farm owners on both farms have been great at supporting us with developments like this,” Sumit says.

“You have to keep on top of weeds with plantain and have to manage it carefully. Both farms are fairly summer-safe anyway, but it will be interesting to see how it performs.” Sumit Kamboj In fact, the Arbuthnotts have been supportive all-round. They started out as farm assistants, then in 2016 took on 50:50 sharemilking on Chessfield farm, as well as two contract milking roles on the Arbuthnot’s other farms. They juggled those roles for two years before they took on the sharemilking role for Geoff Arends and Ester Romp on a 460-cow farm, bringing them up to four farms. Manoj looked after the contract milking farms and they hired a manager for Chessfield.


While the idea of running four farms for many people is highly daunting, the brothers were encouraged by their business goals and relied heavily on good planning and bookkeeping to keep everything ticking over. “We knew early on in our careers that we were prepared to make some sacrifices to get ahead. For those years, we didn’t have much work-life balance, but we are gradually getting to a point now where we are better at that,” Manoj says. While arguments are inevitable, after so long of working together and with the same values and goals for themselves and their families, there’s nothing they can’t work out. “Three of the farms were in the same area so it made life easier. Staff was a great strength to our business and they all understood the operation very well and knew what we were working towards,” he says. “We are really grateful to both farm owners. They both have done so much for us and are very supportive in whatever we want to do on-farm; we’ve been lucky, but we’ve also worked hard for it. The respect flows both ways.” Keen learners themselves, the brothers have instilled that same keenness in their staff and are focused on helping them with training and study opportunities. They employ three staff across the two farms who work on a 12-on-2-off roster, with a maximum of 50 hours a week. Two of their staff are cousins who came over from India to work. “It can be hard to find good staff. In previous years we always had people coming to us looking for jobs, now it’s the other way around. Covid has played a big role in this, so we are lucky with our little team,” Sumit says. They pay for staff to do Primary ITO

training courses. Every few years, they hire an independent contractor to come out on-farm to do intensive training sessions for machinery use and maintenance as part of their health and safety plan. “It’s important to us that we give our staff those opportunities. That’s how you learn. We also like to do what we can to encourage work-life balance, even though we aren’t always very good at it,” Sumit says. Community is another cornerstone of their business. When they first came to the Tararua district, the brothers say they were welcomed with open arms and instantly felt at home and take every opportunity they can to give back. “We do what we can with volunteering and donating to local charities. We’ve tried to help as many people as we can with finding jobs during covid as well,” Manoj says. While it might seem like a lot of extra work to take on, the brothers are aware of how different their induction to NZ could have been without the support of others along the way. Their vision is to be ultimate farmers. Producing high-quality food that is valued and satisfying to produce. Their mission is to surround themselves with the right people. Educate themselves and the next generation and be active in their communities. The pair are far from riskaverse. They’ve taken some big chances throughout their careers but are smart when it comes to their investments on and off-farm. If juggling multiple farms wasn’t enough, the brothers are also avid property investors and have a portfolio of land and houses in the Manawatū and Tararua regions. The goal here is to diversify their income streams and not put all their eggs in the dairy industry basket.


February 2022

Farm ownership is the next goal for the brothers and they aren’t far away from achieving it either. They have taken up a sharemilking opportunity on a 2000cow farm owned by Richard and Chrisse Wright in Mt Sommer in the South Island next season to get them that bit closer. It will be the first time they will just be working on one farm in a long time, but they are excited about the change. “We are at a point now where we want to relax a bit. We both have young families now, and right now, because we have two farms, we each have to be on-farm a lot of the time. The farm we are moving to means we’ll hopefully get some more time off to spend with our families,” Manoj says. They will be entering into this next chapter of their careers with the full support of their two farm owners, but will be sad to leave behind the community they’ve been part of for the last decade. “We owe a lot to everyone who’s been involved in our lives and careers in New Zealand so far. We’re excited for the challenges of next season and hope that we can show that farm ownership is still achievable in today’s climate.” n

The herd comes in for afternoon milking on Chessfield.

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One for the books By Gerald Piddock

Each month the milk monitor delves into the dairy industry and gives us the low-down on the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between.


ow. Three 4% GDT lifts in a row. It’s almost enough to make farmers forget about the impacts of the dry weather, worker shortages and rising on-farm costs that have impacted the season. It has seen the GDT average price jump 13.5% since mid-January, while whole milk powder (WMP) has lifted 16.5%, with both sitting at $US4840/tonne and $4503/t respectively. The result, of course, followed the previous 4.1% and 4.6% lifts that occurred on January 18 and February 1. NZX dairy insights manager Stu Davison called the February 15 auction “astonishing”. WMP was up 4.2%, skim milk powder (SMP) lifted 6%, while butter prices jumped 5.1% to a record high US$6686/t.

Whole milk powder prices have lifted 16.5% since the January 18 auction, now sitting at US$4503 a tonne.


Butter is now 17% higher in value than anhydrous milk fat (AMF), or $1200/t more. Davison says the GDT Price Index result is the third-highest result ever at 1516 and only 57 points below the record high set in April 2013, “The most striking difference of this result from the 2013 result is the balance of values across commodities. In 2013, WMP and SMP were the products doing the large gains. “This time around, the cream group has done all the heavy lifting over the last year and now the powder products are helping to bring up the total – if these price gains keep happening, we will be in overall GDT price record ground rapidly,” Davison says. That was a point ASB economist Nat Keall also made, saying it was broadbased across all product types. “That’s a positive given it continues to suggest underlying dairy demand is strong (i.e. recent price gains aren’t just a function of a shortage for one or two products). Westpac senior agri-economist Nathan Penny says the weaker dollar is also helping and he expected that to continue through the March and June quarters before increasing heading into the end of the year. At the time of the February 15 auction, it was trading at 66 cents relative to the US dollar, down from over 70c late last year. “We anticipate that Fonterra will be taking advantage of the lower NZD:USD particularly for the 2022-23 season. In contrast, there will be limited benefit to this season’s milk price as Fonterra will already be largely hedged for the season,” Penny says. The result saw Westpac lift its new season’s milk price by $1 to $8.50 and maintained its $9.50/kg MS for the current season. Keall says it further confirmed their $9.25/kg MS forecast for this season.

“We’ve long said that a record-high farm gate milk price for the current season is a certainty at this point; the question is exactly how high it will go?” he asks. The bank forecasted an $8.80/kg MS price for the new season, but admitted it came with a large margin of error. “We do think the futures market is getting a little bit overexcited expecting a milk price of $9.50+ for 2022-23,” he says. Over the longer-term, Rabobank’s Emma Higgins expects the global supply shortages to continue, which will underpin commodity prices. However, the massive cost pressures farmers are absorbing will take some of the shine off and it may not translate into record profitability. “Inflationary pressures driving up input costs, in addition to reduced production – particularly for the dairy industry – will likely degrade overall business profitability,” Higgins says. “Meanwhile, labour shortages are a very real and weighty challenge for the ag sector, causing stress on businesses and taking the shine off excellent returns. Horticulture and agricultural contractors will be most impacted in particular over the upcoming months, alongside an ongoing shortage of dairy staff.” The tough growing conditions have hit milk production throughout the country. Fonterra’s Global Dairy Update in January showed New Zealand milk production decreased 5.5% on milksolids in December, compared to December the year prior and 874.6 million kg MS or 3.1% behind last season. The good dump of rain and wind from the remnants of two tropical cyclones came as a blessing and a curse, as it warded off any drought declarations, but it also caused some damage to crops and power outages. But the fresh pasture growth it will provide should help keep production ticking along until it’s time to dry off the herd. n


March 2022


FE spore counts soar By Gerald Piddock


he hot, humid weather enveloping most of the North Island over the past month has sent spore counts for facial eczema (FE) soaring. Data on spore count samples collated by Gribbles Veterinary from most districts are above the 30,000 spores per gram threshold for treatment. The latest samples taken from the fifth week of monitoring showed spore counts spiking to over one million per gram from one area in Morrinsville in Waikato. In Whakatāne, the counts had reached about 225,000, in Franklin, Hauraki and Piako 200,000 and 100,000 in Waihi. In Waitomo, spore counts in the fifth week reached just under 300,000, about 125,000 in Taupō and about 240,000 in South Waikato. Further south in South Taranaki, the

counts reached 40,000 and just under 70,000 in Whanganui. In Gisborne, it reached about 150,000, 80,000 in Hawke’s Bay, 120,000 in Tararua and 50,000 in Wairarapa. FE is responsible for serious production losses estimated to be around $200 million annually with affected stock suffering liver and skin damage. The disease is caused by spores from the fungus Pithomyces chartarum, which grows in pasture and thrives on dead litter during warm humid summer and autumn months. Animals graze the toxic pasture and once in the rumen the spores release a mycotoxin sporidesmin, which then enters the bloodstream eventually finding its way into the liver and bile ducts. It’s important to note, FE is just like an infestation. If one cow has FE symptoms,

Humid weather has seen high spore counts for facial eczema in many parts of the North Island. it’s likely more are affected, even if they’re not showing signs. Some indicators to look for in your cows include restlessness, seeking shade, licking their udder and reduced milk production. With no cure, the best way to protect your herd is through prevention. Protection measures to reduce the risk of FE, outlined by Gribbles, include not grazing high spore count paddocks, feeding supplements, spraying pastures with fungicide, treating animals with zinc and breeding animals for tolerance. n

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Partnership to enhance GDT By Sonita Chandar


onterra is to enter into a three-way partnership with New Zealand’s Exchange (NZX) and the European Energy Exchange (EEX), which will see each take an equal shareholding in the Global Dairy Trade (GDT). The partnership, which is expected to be completed by mid-2022, is subject to several factors, including approval of the boards, clearance from European or any other relevant competition law authorities and finalisation of transaction documentation. Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell says the move to a broader ownership structure

marks the next step in the evolution of GDT. He says the partnership will enhance the standing of GDT as an independent, neutraL and transparent price discovery platform and will give it a presence in prominent international dairy-producing regions. It will also create opportunities for future growth. “This is good news for our farmer owners, unit holders and all dairy industry participants and is expected to lead to greater volumes being traded on GDT. It will bring more participants and transactions, stimulating further growth of risk management contracts

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available on financial trading platforms,” Hurrell says. “We all know that dairy is one of the most volatile traded commodities. “This partnership is another step in helping to manage this risk for everyone – from the farmer through to the customer at the end of the supply chain. A more liquid dairy trading environment allows for the growth of financial tools, which can be used by all participants to better manage price volatility. “Our focus has been about securing the best partners, and NZX and EEX share our vision for a stronger, more liquid auction platform that benefits all involved. We are also closely aligned on future possibilities for GDT as the world’s most trusted reference point for dairy commodity prices.” NZX chief executive Mark Peterson says the price discovery that GDT provides the international dairy industry is crucial for dealing with volatility and its associated risks. “We see the expansion of the physical trading environment as both further strengthening existing financial contracts and enabling the creation of new tools and opportunities for dairy processors and end-users to manage price volatility. These offer clear benefits for New Zealand dairy farmers and customers around the world,” Peterson says. EEX chief strategy officer Dr Tobias Paulun says that becoming a shareholder of GDT lines up perfectly with the EEX strategy of taking asset classes, which they already successfully serve to a global dimension.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell says the way strategic partnership take ownership of the GDT is good news for everyone, including farmers. “With our experience in operating Europe’s leading trading platform for dairy futures, but also with multiple spot contracts in the energy space, we believe that we can be of value supporting GDT’s growth vision,” Paulun says. “At the same time, we can create value for the global dairy value chain by further improving price discovery and price risk management instruments.” GDT director Dr Eric Hansen says that the addition of NZX and EEX as shareholders alongside Fonterra will enable them to build on their success in establishing a global brandand expertise and create more opportunities for their customers. “The strong alignment of all three shareholding partners to GDT’s purpose of credible price discovery will support initiatives to increase liquidity on GDT, attract new supply from prominent dairy producing regions and will strengthen GDT’s linkages to financial trading platforms,” Hansen says. n

ON FARM Grant and Anissa Boyde milk 175 cows on their 65-hectare farm at Stratford.

Keeping things simple In an effort to farm sustainably, the Boydes are producing more from less.

By Ross Nolly

A Taranaki farming couple say sustainability is much more than the environment and economics of a farm.


Taranaki farming couple, who have implemented strategies on their farm, are aiming to farm in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. Grant and Anissa Boyde operate a 65-hectare (60ha effective) farm at Stratford, milking 175 mostly crossbred cows. They say sustainability not only covers a farm’s financial and environmental aspects, but also the mental and physical wellbeing of the owners, family, staff and relationships. “Some farmers never leave the farm, but it’s not good to be continually burning yourself out. Even winter ‘down time’ is busy because you’re doing maintenance and preparing for spring,” Anissa says. Grant is concerned about mental health in the rural sector and has often raised the subject with politicians. “The Rural Support Trust does tremendous work in that area,” he says. “The reforms that have come into

effect over the last couple of years have put significant pressures on farmers, particularly the young farmers. You must have a good support network around you.” As part of their goal to be more sustainable, they are fine-tuning their system whenever the need arises. When they took over the family farm, Grant mentioned to his father that he could see the farm producing 80,000 kilograms of milksolids. His father didn’t think it was feasible. “We’ve got to be sustainable,” he says. “When we bought the farm, Mum and Dad were doing 53,000kg MS from 210 cows. We now winter 185 cows and achieve much higher production. It’s about doing the cows far better, but we’re learning all the time. It’s a case of finding your farm’s ‘sweet spot’ and I’m still unsure if we’ve found it yet.” Sadly, his father passed away before he could see that happen, but they


• Farm owners: Grant and Anissa Boyd • Location: Stratford, Taranaki • Farm size: 65 hectares • Herd size: 175 crossbreed • Production 2020-21: 83.825kg MS • Production target 2021-22: 80,000kg-plus MS

Continued page 22

Surplus grass is made into silage to get 25ha of pit silage and 30ha of silage wraps. The herd eating their breakfast. DAIRY FARMER

March 2022


The 300,000-litre Flexi Tank is a bladder system and has enough storage for a herd of 200 cows giving the Boydes the flexibility in herd numbers.

did celebrate with his mother to acknowledge the achievement. The higher production was achieved despite going on once-a-day milking (OAD) from February, so there was less stress on them and the herd during summer’s hottest months. They initially went onto OAD to protect cow condition during an exceptionally dry summer. “I was never an OAD believer until the weather forced our hand. Contrary to popular opinion, the cows didn’t drop off that badly. I’ve always believed that you have to make the bulk of your production from calving to Christmas anyway,” he says. “You must look at the season and determine how to extract the best value from your cows. It’s about making good early decisions and ensuring you take pre-emptive action as best as you can. For example, if your feed budget drops you must make some decisions. If you’ve been planning to cull some cows, then move them on earlier.” It is a decision that is paying off and they have seen benefits across the board. Last season was the first they switched to OAD during summer. As well as the welfare of the herd, they made the decision to improve their lifestyle. “We’re not getting any younger and find that we’re beginning to burn out around Christmas. OAD allows us to get away and refresh. If you stay fresh, you make better decisions,” he says. When Grant was doing his AI run a


farm adviser told him to ensure he took a break after calving to reset and refocus, even if it was for just a few days. During spring they get up at 4.30am and don’t finish their day until 6pm. They’re big days and it’s tough work. Doing OAD they found that they weren’t becoming as tired as usual.

“The reforms that have come into effect over the last couple of years have put significant pressures on farmers, particularly the young farmers. You must have a good support network around you.” Grant Boyde “We still get up at 4.45am because it’s nice milking in the morning when it’s cool, fresh and peaceful,” Anissa says. “You have happy cows too. It’s 1.2 kilometres from our hill to the shed. That’s a big walk for the cows. Hot weather puts a lot of stress on cows when they travel to and from the shed. “The cows are much happier now that they’re not walking to and from the shed during the hot part of the day and we have very few lameness issues.” The farm has been in the family since

Grant’s great-grandparents purchased the 40.5ha acre block in 1907. It has been developed through the years to reach its present size. Grant’s uncle ran it for two years and his parent’s sharemilked on a farm directly across the road before buying the family farm in 1973. Grant hadn’t planned on going dairy farming and was considering joining the RNZAF as a firefighter. He instead accepted a motor mechanic apprenticeship with Stanners Motors in Eltham. He completed his apprenticeship and worked there for six years before taking a service manager role at White Heather Caravans in Normanby. Anissa was brought up on a drystock farm and had never milked cows. Leaving school, she worked at the Eltham Pharmacy where she stayed for six years. “She went from iPads to cow pads,” Grant laughs. They moved onto the farm in 1993, worked for wages then went 50:50 sharemilking for a couple of years before buying the farm and herd. “Grant’s parents asked us if we were interested in farming. We thought that we may as well give it a go and see if we liked it,” she says. “Mum never believed that I’d become a farmer. I became very passionate about the history of our cows and enjoy getting up early in the morning during spring to see which cows have calved.” Purchasing the farm was a big step after having only farmed 50:50


March 2022

for a couple of years. “It was a big transition that happened very quickly,” he says. “In saying that, I was brought up on the farm and there were always jobs to do after school. That’s just the way it was.” And growing up on the farm, he knew the work involved. The couple needed a place to live on-farm, so bought and transported their home from the Moanui Co-op Dairy Company. It cost $38,000 to put it on the site and Grant and his dad dug the septic tank by hand. “When Dad became ill, we purchased the neighbouring 30ha block and then he and I dug every fencepost in by hand,” he says. “After Dad’s heart transplant he always said that the greatest gift in life is the ability to work. But the physical aspect of farming just about killed me after being a mechanic.” Last year the herd produced 479kg MS per cow, even though the herd went OAD from February 19. This year the herd is looking likely to produce more than 450kg MS per cow on the System 2-3 farm. Cow numbers have been reduced each year and production is currently about 4% behind last season, which was an exceptional one. “We’ll still produce over 80,000kg MS, which is good going from 175 cows and OAD. “We’re quite happy with that, but it’s certainly been a mindset change. OAD does save power and other costs, but it’s more about time. We feel far more refreshed and make better decisions,” he says.

Switching to once-a-day milking during the hot summer months has been and Anissa Boyde have made.

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Grant never intended to go farming and considered joining the RNZAF as a firefighter. Instead, he became a motor mechanic before switching to farming. Grant begins hosing down the yards while the last of the cows are milked.

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Their aim is to produce more than 80,000kg MS every year and feel that they can achieve that sustainably and economically. Achieving that production would be easier if they bought in a large amount of supplemental feed, but they feel it would be unsustainable. “Grass is always the cheapest feed and we have to utilise it. We don’t want to be continually running out of feed because that puts pressure on people and the animals,” he says. Last year they decided to buy 100 hay bales from the Stratford A&P Association and they’ve done the same this year. They see it as a way to support their local community. Purchasing hay frees up paddocks in the round and keeps the round as long as possible in readiness for the dry summer months. Surplus grass is made into silage to get 25ha of pit silage and 30ha of silage wraps. They run a 32-day rotation, which can change when the silage paddocks are out. They feed 1.5kg of meal per milking through the in-shed feeder throughout the year.

Farming with a smile. “I used to spend one-and-a-half hours a day dusting minerals on the paddocks, which is one reason why we installed in-shed feeding. Now the minerals are added to the meal. We still dust the calving mob’s pasture with magnesium,” he says.

“Grass is always the cheapest feed and we have to utilise it. We don’t want to be continually running out of feed because that puts pressure on people and the animals.” Grant Boyde “We mix zinc into the meal so every cow gets its daily ration and we know they’re eating it. We have few animal health issues. Having your cows in good condition and not pushing them too hard reduces health problems and helps them cycle.” They say there are cows that always tend to lose weight as they mobilise body fat to put into milk production and they’re usually the top cows. Those cows are dried off at the end of March or April to give them a chance to gain weight before winter. “When we purchased the farm I made every paddock 2ha to standardise and

simplify everything. It makes it easier to manage feed budgets because you can plan from the shortest to the longest paddock, which helps determine your shortages,” he says. “And the 24-hour grazing gives the cows more area and the heifers have better grazing opportunities” Our goal has always been to tailor our farming style to suit our lifestyle and values.” Since introducing OAD in mid-summer and going away from CIDRs, their in-calf rate has risen to 92%. They try to maintain a tight calving spread. Calving starts on August 1 and finishes at the end of September. By early August they’re having big days of 14-15 calves a day. This season there were only 19 cows left to calve by September 1. “Our buyer takes all of our Angus calves. They’re not all four-day-old calves. Some are older, as he likes to pick up groups of calves. They’re fed colostrum and I ensure they’re drinking well and make the call whether they’re ready to go or not,” Anissa says. They had always been told that rearing calves and keeping them on-farm is the cheapest option, but keeping them at home puts pressure on the farm due to its size so they are sent to a grazier. “We mostly had great results when we sent calves out for grazing but one year we didn’t,” she says. “I rear the calves and am very passionate about them. I was extremely upset that they hadn’t looked after my babies properly.”

They buy in calves from Allen and Sylvia Topless from Stratford. “We have a very good working relationship with them and for the last five years we’ve annually bought 20-30 replacement heifers from them. We pick high BW/PW heifers. Their animals are always quiet and well-grown.” Instead of AI, they use bulls over their herd. The heifers are put to Jersey bulls and nine Angus bulls are used for the milking herd. The bulls go in on October 23 and are brought out on December 24. They say using bulls over their herd instead of doing AI frees up time and

Continued page 26

The herd is fed 1.5kg of meal per milking through the in-shed feeder throughout the year. Anissa Boyde puts the cups on the last row of cows while they munch away at their breakfast.


Grant and Anissa and a recent riparian planting. The entire farm has been riparian planted and all of the waterways have been fenced.

simplifies the spring management. “There’s no AI or feeding of replacement calves. We don’t have to draft, which substantially shortens milking time,” he says. “The period from the start of calving until Christmas is an exceptionally busy time. And it’s when you have to make your best decisions.” Grant’s parents’ herd was predominantly Jersey, but they wanted crossbred cows and aim for an F8J8 cow with hybrid vigour. “We source our bulls from Chris Craig. He separates our bulls from his mob 10 days before delivery and puts them together to sort out their pecking order before they arrive here. They’re very quiet bulls,” he says. It takes about a week to train them. During the first week the bulls come

into the yard and want to walk up the alleyway. But Anissa tells them ‘No, out you go boys, wait until the girls have finished’.” After the first week some of the bulls stay in the paddock because they know the cows are going to return. “The bulls have their inoculations before they arrive and return to the Craig farm when mating is finished. Hopefully, some return the following year because they already know the farm and our routines,” he says. They have made several improvements to the shed, which was a 10-a-side herringbone. They have increased it to 16 bails and it takes an hour and a half to milk. They still use hand pump sprayers for their teat spray. “I can buy a hell of a lot of Cambrian sprayers for the price of installing an

automatic teat spray system,” Grant says. The effluent system is a 300,000-litre Flexi Tank situated beside the cowshed. Flexi Tanks are an enclosed “selfsupporting” bladder that rises and falls in height depending on how much liquid is stored inside. Installing a permanent tank would cost $70,000-$80,000 for their sized-farm, whereas a Flexi Tank cost them $27,000. The farm has a 20ha effluent platform but the pump has the capacity to pump it further around the farm. Effluent can be stored for approximately 25 days until needed to suit the farm’s effluent management system. The Boydes are big believers in giving back to their community. They feel that community is vitally important and always do their utmost to help their neighbours.



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“The cows are much happier now that they’re not walking to and from the shed during the hot part of the day and we have very few lameness issues.” Anissa Boyde Grant takes a silage bale out for the herd.

Keeping things simple on-farm gave Anissa time to coach hockey for 11 years at Ngaere Primary School when their two children were young. During his first year on the farm, Grant found himself missing the human interaction that he was accustomed to, so he decided to become more involved

All paddocks are 2ha to standardise and simplify everything, making management of feed budgets easier. Grant measures a paddock with the plate meter

in the community. He became a Stratford Veterinary Clinic director and was elected onto the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council. He is also a Justice of the Peace, Stratford District Counsellor (SDC) and SDC representative for the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) Policy and Planning Committee. Those roles keep him very busy. It’s also why he feels it’s absolutely vital to be seen actively implementing all regulation changes. “I love being on the Stratford District Council. It’s really developed me which is why I’m standing again this year,” he says. “One thing I see in Stratford is that our parents instilled good values in our generation and we have to do the same for the following generations. “The people who volunteer in a small town make a fundamental difference to that town. Stratford is very fortunate to have that and we should never take it for granted.”

In the past, he has judged for the NZDIA and advises young farmers to back themselves. He worries that there seem to be fewer 50:50 jobs, which has always been the industry’s succession route to farm ownership. “There are farmers who are prepared to leave equity in their farms to help the next generation of farmers. There are some fantastic young farmers coming through. They are knowledgeable, think differently and challenge the boundaries. It’s concerning to see so many of them give up farming” he says. The farm is at a stage now where he can take the time off to pursue his council role. Anissa and their relief milkers run the farm to allow him to do that. Grant sometimes travels away to play hockey at the Masters Games and they also take an annual beach holiday. “It’s not really a holiday for Grant. It might be for me though,” she jokes. n

Last season the 175-cow herd produced 83.825kg MS and will produce more than 80,000kg MS this season.


March 2022



Mad about milking By Ross Nolly

Getting off-farm can be difficult for some farmers, especially if they don’t have a team they can call on.


mall farm owners or those working in a one-person operation can often find it difficult to get off the farm, especially as the herd needs to be fed, shifted and milked. And, a farm is a big asset to entrust to someone to look after while you’re away. More and more farmers are beginning to realise just how important it is for them to get away, even for the day, to recharge their batteries and experience some much-needed quality family time. Accounts of farmers going on holiday and wondering aloud repeatedly throughout the day, “I hope everything’s alright at home”, are commonplace. While farmers may physically leave their farm, mentally, they don’t or can’t leave it and enjoy their holiday. A reliable relief milker eases the mind and Taranaki farmers are benefiting from Stratford-based Moo Mad Relief Milking Services run by Scott and Jeanette Shaw. Over the past 19 years, they have been giving farmers the break they need and in the process have gained a reputation as reliable, knowledgeable folk for farmers to entrust their farm to.

“It’s important for a farmer to have complete trust in their relief milker.” Scott Shaw

The couple are better known as Mooman and Moolady, and when people mention Scott by name, they often receive a quizzical stare, followed by “Oh, you mean Mooman”. His iconic blue ute stands out around the district due to its signwriting and unique “4COWZ” number plate. Not to be outdone, Jeanette’s number plate is “M00MAD” and their runabout sports a “M0OMAN” number plate.


Taranaki couple Jeanette and Scott Shaw have been operating Moo Mad Relief Milking services for 19 years, giving farmers a break when they need it.

They enjoy the cows and milking so much, they chose a cowshed as the venue when they got married. Jeanette left school to pursue a nursing career and Scott was brought up on his parents’ 80-cow Stratford dairy farm, the Stratherrick Ayrshire stud. He began milking at the tender age of seven and 50 years later is still cupping cows. “I milked morning and night vowing I’d never be a dairy farmer. I wanted to be a sheep farmer. I left school in 1982 when the sheep industry was in a downturn and no one was taking on inexperienced staff. So I joined the Federated Farmers Farmer Cadet Scheme,” Scott says. Federated Farmers initiated the cadet scheme in the 1970s. It was a threeyear course where cadets studied for trade certificates, with practical training provided by approved farmers. The scheme was a general agricultural course, but mostly focused on dairying.

He spent six months at Polytech while being billeted on an Inglewood dairy farm and attended school during the week from 9am to 3pm, as well as milking to pay for his lodgings. “I did six months at Polytech, from January to June and was then taken on for the following 12 months as a first year cadet. I hoped a sheep farm job would come up, but nothing did, so I stayed on that farm,” he says. “At the end of that season, when the first cadet was due to take over my job, I still hadn’t found a drystock job. I took a dairy job in Manaia for a year and attended Polytech monthly to do my Trade Certificate theory.” Federated Farmers usually sourced jobs for cadets and kept an eye on how they were doing. But Scott found a job that didn’t work out and only stayed there for three months before Kath Corlett, the cadet scheme’s “mother”,


March 2022

found him a 350-cow farm manager’s job at Urenui. “I’d only done two years training, but worked there until finding another manager’s role at Motunui, where I stayed for two years. I then took on a 29% sharemilking job at Pukengahu,” he says. “Dad suffered a stroke so I left the job and leased the family farm for two years. I tried to find a handy 50:50 job to run in conjunction to raise equity and get ahead. I couldn’t find anything so I took a 50:50 job at Rongotea in Manawatū.” Nineteen years ago, after sharemilking on other Taranaki farms, they decided to take a year-long hiatus from farming and move to town before reassessing things. Scott decided to begin relief milking to make it easier to return to sharemilking. Jeanette returned to full-time work running the Taranaki Base Hospital’s day ward and endoscopy unit. “Six months later I applied for a recently vacated clinical nurse leader role. After being in that role for 12 months I became nurse manager of the day ward

Continued page 30

Accuracy. No Less.

Scott and Jeanette Shaw are better known as Mooman and Moolady.


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and endoscopy for 15 years. So Scott was pretty clever sending me back to work,” Jeanette laughs. The second and third seasons had very poor spring seasons and farmer stress levels were running high. Consequently, Scott had 27 sheds on his books and did four milkings a day. “I told Scott that if he was going to do that many milkings, he may as well be sharemilking,” she says. “He was working harder relief milking than if he was running a farm. The next season he cut back to 18 sheds.” Two years later he was approached by farmer Grant Boyde who was standing for the Fonterra Shareholders’ Council to enquire whether Scott would be available when needed. Boyde was on the council for five years so Scott cut his shed numbers back during that period. “After that I got started up again, but was voted in as president of the Taranaki Stock Car Club, which I did for four years, and the business suffered because of that. The two just didn’t work due to the hours I needed to spend at the track,” Scott says. “Farmers usually want you on weekends. But on Saturdays I arrived at the track at 9am and didn’t get home until 2 or 3am on Sunday morning. I was pretty busy milking during the week, but not to the extent that I should’ve been. I was fortunate that Jeanette had a fulltime job.” When his stint in the top job of the car club ended, they got the business up and running to its full potential again as farmers became aware they were back relief milking. “It’s important for a farmer to have

complete trust in their relief milker,” he says. He tells his clients, “If you can’t leave on Friday and forget about the farm until you return on Sunday, you may as well stay home.” Scott’s original business model was to have milking staff throughout Taranaki and he would “float” as needed. But he found it difficult to find enough reliable milkers. Jeanette left nursing in February 2021 and until November accompanied Scott to get “her hand back in”. In December she took on a casual job at a covid testing centre. “That 10-hour a week job turned into a 54-hour fortnight. But I love it. I feel like I’m contributing to help stem this pandemic. I’m a nurse and no matter what else I do, I’ll always be a nurse. There’s a pandemic occurring and I felt as though I wasn’t doing anything to help fight it,” she says. “I now work five days a fortnight and if we don’t have any milking jobs that I am needed for, I can pick up more shifts. My hours allow me to do morning or afternoon milkings.” Since the country came out of the first covid lockdown in 2020, Scott’s workload has gone through the roof. He’s unsure why, but since then more farmers seem to be taking time off. He also rears calves, does day work and feeding out. During the last two winters he shifted up to four herds a day. Cupping cows doesn’t bore him because he milks in so many sheds and no two days are the same. “The basics of cowshed operation are still the same. Even in the new-fangled

Scott and Jeanette relief milking at Dolly’s Fresh Real Milk, which sells raw milk direct to the public.

sheds the differences usually only amount to turning a few extra taps or pushing a few buttons. I usually do an initial milking with the farmer to familiarise myself with the shed before milking on my own,” he says. “Your herd is your livelihood and you’re entrusting that livelihood to someone else. You need a milker with the experience to circumvent any problems,” Jeanette says.

“There he was, draped over a barbed wire fence holding a calf. I asked him what he was doing and he replied ‘Waiting for you to come for the calf’.” Jeanette Scott Farmers look for reliability and a solid knowledge base in their relief milkers. But there is a nationwide shortage of relief milkers. On a farm where he’s regularly worked for 19 years, he once began relief milking when there were only six cows in at the start of spring. When the family returned there were only six left to calve. He also worked through the beginning of AI one year. “That’s a big responsibility because I was entrusted with the farmer’s next season,” Scott says. He prefers working with smaller herds and most of his sheds are single-milker operations. He enjoys getting to know the cows and seeing the herd development occurring over the years. “We’ve been fortunate to have had very good clients. Many aren’t just clients, they’ve become friends. Of the clients we’ve lost, the vast majority have retired. Word of mouth has been our best advertising,” Jeanette says. “It’s a balancing act getting the correct number of sheds. We don’t want to be run off our feet or let farmers down. January to March was always the busy period, but last winter we worked for two-and-a-half months without a break. We milked until June and started again in August.” Many of their clients are young farming families. Often, one parent works full-time and the other on-farm. They need a relief milker to enable them to attend events and spend time with their kids. There’s a growing trend for farming families to try to spend more off-farm time with their

children, and Scott thinks it is a positive trend. He has three words of advice for farmers using relief milkers: keep it simple. One thing he finds frustrating is taking on a new job only to find that the cows are at the back of the farm. Yet he could see that the close paddocks had recently had cows in them. He doesn’t mind getting cows in, but the extra time it takes has led him to sometimes charge per hour instead of per milking. Next time he will arrive to find the cows are in the close paddocks because the farmer doesn’t want him spending an hour on the bike. “I’m sometimes told that milking takes two hours, yet it took me three. But when talking to a neighbour they’d tell you that there were usually two milkers and it always takes two-and-a-half hours,” he says. “You then know that they just want the cheapest price. If the farm is some distance from Stratford, I’ll charge an hourly rate from when I get into the ute until I get home.”

When you work on so many different farms, “situations” can occur, Jeanette says. “I was still a newbie, sitting on the bike when Scott went behind a hedge to catch a calf. I thought it was taking a while, so went to find him,” she recalls. “There he was, draped over a barbed wire fence holding a calf. I asked him what he was doing and he replied ‘Waiting for you to come for the calf’.” “The calf had raced off through the fence, so I’d straddled the fence to catch it because you only get one chance to catch them. But the fence was high and tight, so I was left stranded holding the calf,” he says. Although Scott has an agricultural trade certificate, more important is his decades of experience. “Farmers know their cows are in good hands,” she says. “I’ve lost count of the times that Scott has spotted an issue. He has the knowledge to deal with it at the time. We’ve been there and know what it’s like trying to find a reliable relief milker.” n

Scott grew up on the family dairy farm and has many years of milking experience. Scott carting buckets of milk to the storeroom.





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For the love of cows By Cheyenne Nicholson

With ownership of a full-size dairy farm being out of reach, an Otago farmer took the bull by the horns and now has a small farm and herd to supply raw milk.


itting in a restaurant enjoying a nice Valentine’s Day dinner, talk turned to the future of their farming careers and business, which sparked an idea that has since become reality. Otago farmer Michelle ‘Shelli’ Mears, husband Steve and daughter Katie started their Otago Fresh Milk company in 2020, supplying local customers with fresh, raw milk from their 24-hectare dairy block. Due to overwhelming support, the business has since expanded. “When we first started doing deliveries, we only had enough to fill a chilly bin. In 18 months, we’ve outgrown the chilly bins – we had quite a few going at one point,” Michelle says. “We’ve now upgraded to a refrigerator truck, which makes it easier to tick some compliance boxes like temperature tracking and means we can do more deliveries in one go.” Michelle’s journey to farm and business ownership stems from a love of cows, which started at an early age. She grew up on her mum and stepfather’s dairy farm in Yorkshire, England. The farm was home to 70 pedigree Friesian cows. “At 13, I very quickly figured out that if

I worked at home, I had to do it for love. If I worked for the farmer across the road, I got paid. So I started rearing calves and gradually built up to being able to look after the farm for a day to give the farmer a break,” she says. “It never felt much like work. Cows and farming are my passion.” Fast-forward a few years, at the suggestion of her father, she took an eight-month trip to New Zealand to get a taste of farming here before jumping into her university studies. She quickly fell in love with the Kiwi way of life and farming. “I worked on a dairy farm in the Rai Valley. That farm had an 18-year-old Kiwi bloke (Steve) working there. And I being an 18-year-old Pommie girl. Well, it didn’t take long for us to match up,” she says. Steve followed her back to the UK for two years to work on a dairy farm before the couple got married and decided it was time to move back to NZ. Knowing they wanted to dairy farm together, the pathways to farm ownership in NZ were more available than in the UK. She emigrated in 1991 and they followed the traditional pathway from herd manager to 50:50 sharemilkers.

“I suggested a raw milk business because no one else in Otago was doing it. It’s such a shared passion for us that it snowballed quickly, and here we are.” Michelle Mears “During that time, we had three children, Robert, Matthew and Katie, and did the normal thing of growing our herd. Our first sharemilking job, we had a 150-cow herd, 30 of which we owned, and we leased the rest. Our first goal was to have ownership of the whole herd,” she says. They took great care of their cows, spending years breeding top quality cow families and hitting the show ring with their pedigree stock. After a threeyear stint on the West Coast, which was marred by drought in the first year, the couple returned to Southland for a while before they sat back to take stock of what they wanted for their future.

The Mears family have invested a great deal of time in breeding pedigree stock and often showed them. Michelle takes a break from the show ring.

“We were approaching 50 and we knew we wanted to own land. But owning a full sized dairy farm wasn’t looking like something that would happen anytime soon. We went out for Valentine’s Day dinner and were bouncing around ideas. I suggested a raw milk business because no one else in Otago was doing it. It’s such a shared passion for us that it snowballed quickly, and here we are,” she says. Armed with an idea and having found the perfect farm for sale to operate their business from, they went to the bank. After meeting with various bank managers who didn’t quite see or share their dream, they kept going until they found one who did. The first big job was converting the 24ha property from sheep to dairy, which was quickly followed by the reams of paperwork, checks and triple checks required to get the right consents and licences to run a raw milk operation. “While the compliance side of things was difficult, the hardest part was the cows. We knew we had to downsize cow numbers when we made this move. The

only difficulty is we love all our cows. So we sat down and made our own lists of cows we couldn’t part with and crossreferenced them. In hindsight, not the smartest move,” she says. “We ended up with 79 cows on the list and we brought them all with us. Needless to say, the first 12 months of feeding cost us a lot in imported feed. Over time we’ve parred the numbers down to our current 35.” The 35-cow herd is milked once-a-day (OAD) in the middle of the day. Despite having a herd heavy in American and Canadian genetics, well designed for twice-a-day (TAD) milking, they adapted well to the OAD system. “OAD is by necessity, really. In order to pay the mortgage and keep the bank happy Steve and I both have jobs offfarm. Myself with Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) and Steve with Oceana Gold, so we simply don’t have time to milk TAD, do our day jobs, do our deliveries and everything else in between,” she says. From the start, a core part of their

Continued page 34

Unable to purchase a full size dairy farm, Michelle Mears and her husband opted to go small and run a raw milk business, For the Love of Dairy, in Otago.



For the Love of Dairy raw milk was launched in 2020 and due to high demand, quickly grew from a chilly bin business to a refrigerated truck.


business has been letting the public see what they do. The cows are milked in a one-sided herringbone that has a viewing platform on one side. When covid restrictions allowed, they held several open farm days where members of the public could visit to see and learn about their operation. “Because of this, we have a policy to not do anything on-farm we can’t comfortably and happily explain to the public. So we have a zero bobby calf policy and are as open about how we run things as possible,” she says. “One of the coolest things we learnt was that not everyone knows that milk comes out of a cow warm. It’s a real treat getting to educate people and share our love of cows with people.” When not busy milking cows, showing people around the farm or marketing their business, she is busy in her role with DWN. she is the regional leader support manager and has been involved in DWN for many years. “I’ve always valued the organisation. Throughout my career I’ve gone to events and been involved. I really love making connections with people and DWN has been a great way to do that,” she says. When a job opportunity came up with DWN she knew she had to jump on it. Four years later, she’s in her element supporting her team of volunteers,

Michelle Mears in the show ring with one of her champion cows.

Michelle and daughter Katie milk the 35-cow herd, which is milked once-aday to supply raw milk for the business. representing DWN at various dairy industry meetings like the Rural Advisory group for Covid Response and much more. “Dairy Women’s Network fills my cup. They’ve all been so supportive of what Steve and I are doing and have allowed me the flexibility to do everything I do. Covid has helped that even more, I think, and as we’ve shifted to online meetings, I have not needed to be travelling as much

for face-to-face meetings, which has freed up some time for other priorities. She says that she couldn’t do any of it without Steve. “Our values and ambitions have always been closely aligned. That’s what makes everything work so well. We have this shared passion of our cows and raw milk, and it’s that shared passion that’s really given momentum to everything,” she says. n


Extra time for emissions By Gerald Piddock


armers have more time to have their say on how pricing options for emissions are designed after the Government extended its timeframe by a month. DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand pushed for the Government to extend the consultation timeframes for the alternative agriculture emission pricing options as an alternative to these emissions going into the ETS. Consultation will now close in late March rather than the end of February. The Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership – He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN), which includes DairyNZ and B+LNZ, will report its recommendations to Ministers by May 31 (rather than April 30). DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel strongly encouraged farmers to have their say at the roadshows being held throughout the country. “Our consultation also has a strong online component, with online webinars and full information on our websites to give farmers options,” Van der Poel says. “Farmers can give feedback, including filling out a feedback form, both at the roadshows and via the DairyNZ and B+LNZ websites.” These options would deliver more positive outcomes for farmers and NZ than the ETS. The options (a farmlevel levy and processor-level hybrid levy) are more practical and reward positive change, while still achieving

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel says farmers need to have their say on how agricultural emissions are priced by attending the roadshows being held throughout the country. environmental outcomes. “Some of the money raised will be invested back into R&D and on-farm work to reduce emissions,” he says. Following initial farmer feedback in December, the partners are also putting forward a two-phased approach, starting with the processor-level hybrid levy option and transitioning to a farm-level system in future. B+LNZ chairperson Andrew Morrison says doing nothing is not an option. “If we don’t move on this, the Government will put agriculture in the NZ ETS. They have already put this into legislation, but have agreed to listen if we

come up with a credible alternative. “We know this is a challenging and uncertain time for farmers, but we need to keep going with this consultation and find the right solution.” The importance of accurate and fair targets and metrics for methane is also expected to come up at the roadshow. Climate change decisions need to account for methane’s different warming impact in the atmosphere compared to long-lived gases. HWEN pricing already recognises that methane is different to carbon dioxide through the split-gas approach. DairyNZ and B+LNZ believe both the 2030 and 2050 methane targets need to be continually reviewed as the science evolves. The next formal review by the Climate Change Commission is set for 2024. DairyNZ and B+LNZ will listen to farmer views and advocate for targets that are science-based and work for farmers, while meeting consumer and public expectations. The roadshow complies with all requirements of the covid-19 protection framework and attendees will need to show their My Vaccine Pass.


Registration is essential and attendees will need to show their My Vaccine Pass on the day. Dates and times can be found on DairyNZ’s website.

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True cost of soil-borne disease By Tony Benny

Research conducted by AgResearch, shows soil-borne pathogens cause extensive losses to agricultural production.


oil-borne plant pathogens could be costing some dairy farmers more than 200 kilograms of milksolids per hectare a year in lost production, a potential loss of $909 per hectare, according to a recently published paper by AgResearch. A research team from Ruakura research centre took samples from 30 dairy farm sites in Waikato, Canterbury and Southland and compared the growth of clover, ryegrass and plantain sown on untreated soils and samples that had been microwave pasteurised. The paper states that “Before sampling, no obvious root disease had been reported on any of the farm sites selected”. But the scientists found a variety of soil-borne fungal and oomycete pathogens and plant parasitic nematodes that were affecting pasture growth, particularly of clover and ryegrass. “Soil-borne plant pathogens cause extensive losses to agricultural production globally. These pathogens cause diseases such as root rots, damping-off and wilts that have a

A sample showing a healthy, unaffected clover plant against one being affected by pathogens in the soil.


March 2022

direct cost to plant growth and survival, and reduce the efficiency of water and nutrient uptake,” the paper states. Each sample taken was split in half. One half was pasteurised and the other half left untreated, and then seed was sown on all samples under laboratory conditions. “Ten seeds were sown onto the surface of each pot (one plant species per pot) and covered with 5g of the respective soil. Pots were adjusted to and maintained at 75% of the soil’s MWHC (maximum water holding capacity) by watering to weight with ‘Thrive AllPurpose Soluble Plant Food’ fertiliser every three days, to ensure that nutrient was not limited for plant growth,” it says. Aboveground plant material was harvested at six weeks and dry matter (DM) yields per plant recorded. White clover yields increased significantly on pasteurised soils (i.e those where pathogens had been eliminated) on six samples from Waikato and one from Southland and a similar effect was found for ryegrass on soils from Waikato, Southland and Canterbury. “The statistically significant increases in DM yield with soil pasteurisation ranged between 26% and 74% for white clover and 8% and 38% for ryegrass at individual farm sites,” the scientists found, it says. The results were less clear for plantain. The effects of soil-borne pathogens were greatest in Waikato overall, but samples from some individual sites in Southland did show white clover production increased by 52% following pasteurisation and on one site in Canterbury by 22% for ryegrass. The economic cost of soil-borne root pathogens to white clover production was determined to range from $700/ ha/year in Canterbury and Southland to $1500/ha/year in Waikato. On individual

Soil-borne pathogens greatly affect growth in clovers. Researchers found white clover yields increased significantly on pasteurised soil where pathogens had been removed.

farm sites, clover root diseases were found to reduce potential pasture DM production by more than 60%. “Collectively, our findings suggest that soil-borne disease constraints impose substantial costs on pasture production in New Zealand dairy systems. These are most prevalent in the Waikato region, although still present and potentially damaging at individual sites in Canterbury and Southland.” The scientists say given the scale of these costs, targeted management of soil-borne disease could present an economically viable approach to improving the resilience of the multiplant, multi-pathogen ecosystems. n



Prevention over treatment By Samantha Tennent

The way people behave and treat cattle has a profound effect on their well-being and research is underway to improve their welfare.


he second stage of a project is underway to understand human behaviour and its impacts on cattle wellbeing. The project involves gathering information from veterinarians and farmers from around the world on farming practices and routine pain management interventions. “To be able to improve animal wellbeing, we first need to understand the needs of the animal and how they are affected by human behaviour,” project leader and senior global marketing manager for ruminant business at Boehringer Ingelheim Dr Laurent Goby says. “But to effect change, we ultimately need to understand the behaviour of people.”

“We can play a big role in influencing the outcomes for animal well-being and behavioural science will help us on the journey.” Dr Laurent Goby

Behavioural science is the understanding of how and why people behave in certain ways. And in the context of farm animal well-being, it can help get to the root causes of what people do and why they do it. The behavioural science approach helps people select the right types of interventions for the problem they are trying to solve. “Interventions are likely to be ineffective if they are targeting the wrong barriers,” he says. “And trying to change multiple


behaviours at once is hard, (and) trying to do so often leads to unfocused and ineffective solutions. “But by utilising behavioural science, and specifying the target behaviour, we can design a framework to think systematically about the barriers and promoters. “For example, should the intervention be educational or persuasive? Or a combination of both? “And single interventions rarely work in isolation, so we need to develop multiple interventions that work in harmony with each other, to give the highest likelihood of changing behaviour.” The project is being driven by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health in partnership with Innovia Technology, a human psychological research firm based in Cambridge, England. They are expecting to better understand farmer behaviours and motivations and analyse how their choices can affect cattle well-being, which will lead to designing feasible interventions that target the reasons behind different behaviours. Stage one of the project was to select a target factor that impacts cattle well-being to focus on for the remainder of the project. They took a ground-up approach with findings from the 12th Expert Forum on Farm Animal Well-Being that took place in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2019, combined with previous research from Innovia. At the end of stage one, the team selected the target focus for the next step of the project, which was the detection and treatment of pain, with a focus on mastitis, respiratory disease and assisted calving. They eventually refined the target factor further to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with assisted calving. And the associated target behaviour being that farmers comply

Senior global marketing manager for ruminant business at Boehringer Ingelheim Dr Laurent Goby says the research is to better understand farmer behaviour and analyse how this affects cattle well-being.

with best practices for minimising pain and discomfort associated with assisted calving, which is what needs to happen to achieve the target factor. The project is part of a larger global engagement initiative by Boehringer Ingelheim called Cattle First. Through specific projects and case studies, Cattle First aims to work with farmers and veterinarians to best support them and the animals they care for. Boehringer Ingelheim is the secondlargest animal health business in the


March 2022

world, with net sales of almost four billion euros in 2018 and a presence in more than 150 markets. At the core of their work, they believe in prevention over treatment, which drives the development of innovative solutions in the field of vaccines, parasiticides and therapeutics. They organise the Expert Forum on Farm Animal Well-Being annually, which brings together industry experts from around the world to discuss the latest trends, challenges and opportunities in the industry, while also striving to raise the focus on cattle pain and well-being. And recognising people are at the heart of farm animal well-being as they care for them, design the environment they live in, consume animal products, and set policies about welfare standards. “We can play a big role in influencing the outcomes for animal well-being and behavioural science will help us on the journey,” he says. Learn more about the project at www.farmanimalwellbeing.com n

Research is underway to study how human behaviour affects cattle.














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Research is underway on composting shelters and their benefits. The project team listening to the Canterbury farmer discussing the composting process in the bedding.

Studying composting shelters By Cheyenne Nicholson

NZ’s first composting shelter was built by chance about eight years ago, and since then, shelters built specifically for composting have been growing in popularity.


hile there is growing interest in composing shelters and a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest they can positively impact many parts of the farm system, there is very little research on them. A team led by Rachel Durie of Perrin Ag is looking to change that. As one of 12 projects to get the green light under round two of the National Science Challenge Our Land and Water Rural Professionals Fund, the project aims to take a whole systems focus on evaluating how a composting shelter could be integrated into a farm system. It is also seeking to quantify the impact on all areas of the farm business from environment through to production.


“They’re not common in New Zealand,” Durie says. “The first shelter locally was built in the Waikato completely by accident. It was built to provide shelter to the cows both in winter and summer but soon found that the wood chip bedding was heating up and composting.” “And with changes farmers are facing like winter grazing rules, I think that’s (building composting shelters) going to continue.” The project team is interviewing farmers who have composting shelters to identify the different ways farmers are incorporating composting shelters on farms. The shelters are specifically designed for composting, which means there are

a lot of design elements to get right. Typically there are no sidewalls, so are designed to ensure good ventilation. While the size of the shelter depends on how many cows and how often it will be used, the ability to mechanically till the bedding is critical. The composting process keeps the bedding warm, dry and clean for the cows. If you get it right, depending on the level of use, the bedding can stay in the barn for one to three years before it needs to be replaced. While wood shavings are a common bedding source, some farmers are experimenting with other plant-based materials for bedding. Canterbury farmers involved in the project are trialling miscanthus. Its high lignin


March 2022

content gives it good potential as a bedding material. Through a combination of incorporating a composting shelter, decreasing cow numbers, and trialling miscanthus bedding, one farmer has been able to shift towards a more self-contained system. They now have the ability to rear all replacements and winter all stock on farm and are growing the bulk of their feed on farm as well. “The neat thing about this research is there is so much we still don’t know, and a lot that we are learning from innovative farmers that have already adopted the system,” she says. “We are still learning about different bedding types, the impact these have on the composting process and the different compositions that come out the other end. “Similarly, we’re still learning in what ways the shelter can be incorporated into the farm to maximise beneficial impacts for the environment, animals, people and business – and that’s what this project is about.” Research to date shows a number of benefits of composting shelters when the design and management of the shelter is done correctly. No liquid effluent comes out so there is no need for the effluent systems required for other types of barns. “Several farms are looking at composting shelters as a way to meet environmental restrictions around nitrate leaching. Having the cows in the shelters in the late autumn and winter period can have a considerable impact on reducing nitrate leaching, with the potential reduction dependent on the system operated. I’ve completed Overseer modelling for a few farms around this, and so far, it’s looking promising,” she says.

Tillage in the composting shelter with steam rising as moisture escapes the bedding.

On the animal welfare front, cows are warm and comfortable when in the shelters. One farmer involved in the project noted their winter feed requirements dropped by a third, as a result of less wastage and requiring less energy to keep warm. “Anecdotally, farmers have also observed increased health and welfare of animals, lower mortality and potential for increased production. These are all points we are wanting to put some evidence against,” she says. There are also some benefits on the human side of the business. Staff on farms with composting shelters have noted that the working environment is more pleasurable and satisfying with less time spent outside in the elements in the middle of winter and animals seeming to be far more content. A common misconception around the composting system is the use of the term ‘composting barn’. People hear the word barn and think of a fully enclosed shed that conjures up many animal welfare concerns. Composting shelters, in principle, have no sides, just a roof, which is an important

part of their design to facilitate the composting, and the flooring is a soft plant-based material as opposed to concrete. The composting process generates a warm and dry environment which the cows seem to love, Durie says. “There are some people out there who think they’ve got composting shelters, but they weren’t built for composting. They’ve never tilled it and the ventilation isn’t right, so they get steam coming out of the compost, which comes down as condensation when it hits the roof. Things get wet and smelly, which can put people off the system. In a true composting shelter, you can pick up the bedding, and it’s clean, dry and doesn’t smell at all,” she says. The biggest question most farmers have around composting shelters is the cost. Because of the variety of different ways they can be incorporated into a farm business, the answer is, it depends. Over the coming months, further interviews and modelling will be completed with the project due to wrap up in June and plans for further research to continue afterwards. n

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Students lead the way By Tony Benny

Lincoln University is taking the steps it needs to be a sustainable institution and is incorporating sustainability into their courses.


incoln University is practicing what it preaches about sustainability, thanks in part to a group of environmental science students who three years ago produced their own sustainability plan for the agricultural education institution. “In somewhat an embarrassing state, our senior management at that time realised we weren’t well advanced in our sustainability strategy and that the students were actually leading the way for us in the key actions that the university should be taking as an exemplar of sustainability and how we could actually approach education and research around sustainability,” Lincoln’s vice-chancellor Grant Edwards says. Speaking at an event hosted by the university’s B.Linc unit, which exists to foster connections and collaboration in agribusiness, Edwards told an online audience that the students’ efforts inspired the creation of a taskforce to act on their recommendations. “Two themes emerged for what we would really like to do: one around

Lincoln University has two sustainability goals: to be sector leaders in education, research and demonstration of sustainability; and to become carbon neutral by 2030 and carbon zero by 2050.

the university being an exemplar of sustainable practices, whether that’s in carbon, emissions, energy, water or biodiversity; and the second was around how our education, research and demonstration could contribute to the really important issues of sustainability both nationally and globally,” he says. A former Lincoln student and lecturer, Edwards was appointed vice-chancellor late last year and has bold plans for the specialist land-based university, including increasing the number of full-time students from 2500 to 3500. He’s also committed to the university’s sustainability goals. “I was intimately involved in the establishment of the Lincoln sustainability plan and that’s why I was very keen to continue in this role as chair of the taskforce,” he says. The strategy has two goals: to be sector leaders in education, research and demonstration of sustainability; and for the university to become carbon neutral by 2030 and carbon zero by 2050. Now the plans are being put into action.

A recent carbon audit shows Lincoln has total annual emissions of around 8500 tonnes of CO2 equivalents, more than half of which comes from the coal boiler that provides heating. It’s now planned to decommission the boiler by 2023 and replace it with a range of diversified, renewable energy sources and new infrastructure across the campus. “We’re putting PV (photovoltaic) panels on many of the roofs and we have plans for a large solar farm associated with the university to greatly increase our own supply of renewable energy,” he says. There are also plans to use space better with the right-sizing of Lincoln’s building programme, removal of poor and aged facilities and installation of lower energyusing LED lighting. “We have major building going on, which presents an opportunity to demolish old buildings but also to look at opportunities around water retention solutions for water and biodiversity on campus,” he says. A 74% reduction of waste is targeted, along with getting rid of all plastic

packaging and Lincoln’s vehicle fleet will be changed over to 100% electric within the next two years. A more challenging target is reducing the nearly 3000 tonnes CO2 equivalents associated with transport to the university by staff and students, as well as across the country on business, about the same amount of emissions which come out of one of the university’s dairy farms. “That’s challenging because although we do have extensive accommodation within campus, about 500 students, a lot of our students live in wider Canterbury and that means there are travel requirements.” Sustainability will also be more built in to the courses and qualifications provided by Lincoln University, with a move to make it part of graduates’ attributes. “We often think of those in terms of employability and innovation and that they have an understanding of some core disciplines. Well, sustainability is one of those core competencies that we in the future expect every university graduate to have an understanding of too,” he says.

The university is working on its graduate attribute profile to include sustainability alongside aspects such as innovation and bi-cultural competency. “What it means is we can put a greater value on the quality of the graduates that are coming out of the university,” he says. Lincoln is already a leader in research on ways to mitigate agricultural methane emissions as well as nitrogen leaching, but Edwards is keen to highlight that work using a case-study approach. “Our farms are central to that, including Lincoln’s demonstration farm, which has for the past two decades been one of the shining lights in the demonstration of sustainable practices both financially and environmentally,” he says. “That will continue and we’re also looking to branch out into other areas such as an energy crop farm, with energy and crop production conducted simultaneously on the same farm. “We focus on land, people and ecosystems and that defines how we talk about sustainability and the things we find really important on campus in our sustainability plan.” n

Lincoln University vice-chancellor Grant Edwards says students’ efforts have led the way towards advancing the campus’ sustainability plan.

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No need to struggle alone Dairy farmer Graham Berry milks 240 cows on a 145-hectare West Coast farm near Franz Josef. Farmstrong caught up with him to get his thoughts on living well to farm well.


ou’ve been farming for a long time. Tell us about your operation. We’ve been here 17 years. We milk 240 cows, we’ve got some yearlings on, calves and a few beefies. How’d you get into farming? I was brought up on a sheep and beef farm in Atarau up the Grey Valley. Then when I left school, I worked on the neighbour’s dairy farm. What do you like about dairy farming? I like working outside and the fact that you get to do a bit of everything. You’re always multitasking. How I feel about it on any given day depends on things like the weather, but every job has its perks and downfalls. I just enjoy getting outdoors among the cattle. They don’t argue back, unless they kick you. You’re heavily involved in your local community too, aren’t you? I was on the Franz Josef Community Council for a number of years and I’ve been part of Civil Defence here for the past seven or eight years. I’m also chairperson of SERF (South Westland Emergency Relief Trust for Families) working with families from Ross down to Haast. We’ve been busy helping people who’ve lost jobs due to the impact of covid on tourism in this area, or people that are just having a bad run and need a yarn. Why do you put your hand up for these things? I enjoy getting off-farm and connecting with other people. This is a one-person farm. I get staff in to help me through spring and use relief milkers, but I’m mostly here by myself all day so getting off-farm is important. I also find it rewarding to be able to contribute my skills to the community. I was raised in Grey Valley where people


West Coast farmer Graham Berry has been dairy farming for a long time and says while he enjoys it, getting away off-farm is important. Graham with the hydropower system he installed on his farm.

always dropped what they were doing to help each other. You coach sport too, don’t you? Yes, I used to play rugby and rugby league, actually anything sport I would give it a go. Now I coach some South Westland rugby and over the past seven years I’ve really got into coaching kids’ badminton. I’ve played badminton for most of my life. I regularly head away to tournaments and training camps for kids that get selected for the Mainland Team. That’s another big commitment. Yes, but it just gives you that wee break from the farm, which is important. It’s good for the brain, it’s good for your mental health and wellbeing. The reward I get from doing

the coaching, seeing the kids grow as people, is also huge. And the friendships I’ve made with other coaches around the mainland and NZ have been great too. They’ve kept me learning. One of my mottos in life is that I want to keep learning. Learning keeps you fresh. Has that philosophy carried over into your farming? Definitely. For example, in 2015 we built our own hydropower system here and set up a 55 kilowatt power scheme on-farm. It runs the farm and any power we don’t use, we sell back to the grid. That was a really cool project. How do you manage the workload onfarm?


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This size of the farm is a bit more than a one-person job and not really a two-person job, so I shifted to milking once-a-day two years ago. That seems to work nicely and allows me to do the other things. The to-do list on a farm can be endless. How do you prevent burnout? That’s where the sport comes in handy for me. Farming can be isolating and tough going at times. The payouts are reasonable at the moment, but I remember some harsher times too. You also have those days when things just go wrong. I always just stop, breathe in, breathe out and remember that things are never that bad. There’s always people worse off. It can be hard to keep that perspective when you’re working alone though, can’t it? That’s why rural communities need to look after each other, whether it’s sport or organising a barbecue or a potluck dinner, or dropping in on a mate who’s struggling and putting on a brew. Anything that gets people out and meeting others is a good thing. The community here is amazing. There are some great farming families here who are happy to help. There’s no need to struggle alone. What are your go-tos? If I’m feeling frustrated, I make sure I get away from the farm and do something social, whether it’s badminton, or just going down to the local pub for an ale and a yak. That’s my get out of jail free card. You need to make that effort to get off-farm. Do you think attitudes are changing to looking after yourself on-farm? Yes, I think they are. It is still possible in farming to get up at five in the morning and work till 10 at night, but what’s the point of working like that? If you have a more balanced lifestyle, you’re going to be a lot more

Graham Berry has played badminton for most of his life and for the past seven years, has been coaching kid’s badminton, which regularly takes him away to tournaments and training camps. Graham with his team at the South Island Badminton Tournament in 2020.

productive and effective when you are farming. It’s about having a plan for what you want to achieve each week and being realistic. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

“That’s why rural communities need to look after each other, whether it’s sport or organising a barbecue or a potluck dinner, or dropping in on a mate who’s struggling and putting on a brew.” Everyone has days on-farm when nothing seems to go right. Any advice? If I’m having a bad day and feeling overwhelmed, I just go and have a 20-minute nana nap to reset. That makes a hell of a difference. You wake up a different person and get things done much more quickly afterwards. It just clears the mind and gives you a chance to think, ‘is there an easier way to do this job’?

What advice would you offer someone starting out? The best thing I did when I was young was work on four different farms for a season each. I just learnt so much from other people. All the bosses were different and each of them taught me a lot. It’s like badminton coaching. There’s always something you can learn from another coach. I learnt early on how some farmers still kept involved in their sport and did other things, as well as farm. That’s the best thing about farming – we all have the same goals, but everyone farms differently. It’s about finding out what works for you and putting your own spin on things. If you just listen, learn and really go for it, it’s still a bloody good industry to be involved in. n


Farmstrong is a nationwide, rural wellbeing programme that helps farmers and their families cope with the ups and downs of farming. To find out what works for you, check out farmstrong.co.nz

Under the pump? For tips and ideas, visit farmstrong.co.nz


March 2022



A winning combination By Samantha Tennent

A small innovative start-up is helping farmers install upgraded technology in their cow sheds without having to replace the entire system.


inding technology solutions for older style dairy sheds can be challenging and although there is an abundance of products available, these are mostly designed for new builds or replacing entire systems. The team at MilktechNZ could see the challenges and wanted to make technology more accessible for dairy farmers with older gear. “We knew there were sheds built around 25 years ago that were due for some upgrades but there weren’t many suitable options on the market,” MilktechNZ founder Gustavo Garza says.

“Modern electronics have created so many improvements and we knew there were a lot of systems that could do with some upgrades. “We wanted to create a product to upgrade existing systems, without having to remove the steel rams and a lot of the hardware, basically just replacing old manual parts for electronics.” So that was where they started, with a system to upgrade cup remover systems for farmers. And they extended to build an entire automatic cup remover system in response to labour shortages and supporting efficiencies on farm.

“The pressure on farmers for labour efficiencies has become immense and it’s an area banks have been willing to support.” MilktechNZ has a strong focus on research and development and with extensive experience among the team, they have been able to develop other products for farmers. “Farmers want things that are easy to install, easy to service, modestly priced and robust, and we can design and build what the New Zealand market wants, which is different from where technology usually comes from,” he said.

As well as cup removers, an in-bail teat sprayer, cluster washers, a milking cluster, and a pulsator have been developed by MilktechNZ for older sheds.

“We are strong on innovation and sales and always keep it New Zealand-centric.” On the back of the cup removers, an in-bail teat sprayer, cluster washers, a milking cluster, and a pulsator have been developed and the company is working on a lighter cluster design to be released this year. Farmers can monitor and adjust milking parameters through an app and it all works off a wireless system that can be fitted to any type of shed in modules. “Once farmers try our equipment they tend to come back for other parts to add to their system,” he says. The team has maintained a focus on conventional milking and they are continually exploring how to keep things simple and efficient for farmers. “We’re starting to look at how we can get more data out of milk meters and integrate with other systems too,” he says. Garza has an extensive background in milking machine equipment and set up MilktechNZ in 2018. He approached the owner of ES Plastics, Jeff Sharp, knowing his manufacturing experience would be valuable, particularly around milking equipment. Not long down the track they bought some first-hand farming experience into the mix with Alan Morris joining the business relationship. Morris has been a farmer himself, as well as a number of connections with farming businesses internationally. “The three of us together bring a lot of experience from our respective fields, which has proven to be a winning combination,” he says. When they first started there were some challenges in getting established.

MilktechNZ has been developing upgraded technology designed to be fitted into older sheds. Founder Gustavo Garza with a farmer who upgraded the tech in his shed.

They were a new company up against some established big name brands. “There were questions around our credibility, being a new company, people weren’t sure if we’d be around tomorrow,” he said.

Upgraded technology can be fitted into rotary sheds without farmers having to spend a fortune ripping out the old system.


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“But our experience and the fact we were offering a product that was 100% New Zealand designed and created helped gain trust from farmers.” As a result, there has been rapid business growth. “We originally set out with the vision of solving challenges with retrofitting upgrades to cup removers, but there was a list of products farmers were crying out for to be modernised and kept simple,” he says. They are always looking at innovation and regularly take feedback from farmers on what they would like to see. And although they are a young company, they recognise the value across the team. From sales through to technical, everyone has been in the industry a long time. International growth is also on the radar and earlier this year, they launched their products in the United Kingdom. “We really enjoy what we do. Customer satisfaction is key and we really just want to keep things simple and easy with innovative products,” he says. n



AgriSmart was created by Australian Charles Morgan after he got stuck in New Zealand during the covid lockdown in 2020. The AgriSmart team.

A smart solution By Samantha Tennent

A new software programme will enable farmers to manage their businesses and teams better, as well as meeting various rules and regulations easily.


fter being stranded in New Zealand during the 2020 lockdown, Australian Charles Morgan and his partner decided to stay put and started looking for innovative software companies for potential work. He was keen on the agricultural sector and came across AgriSmart during his search. “We were on our way to France when covid struck and changed our plans,” Morgan says. “But I knew New Zealand had a strong primary sector driving its economy and I had been looking at global trends where I found a common theme between managing costs and increasing insights into ground-level business, as well as the growing interest in employee welfare.”


He has a background in software from previous roles in Australia and could see the potential software could offer to combine those elements from the global trends. “I was keen to explore something technical that combines a few different aspects within a business,” he says. “Things like payroll, finance, workforce management and health and safety, because it’s not just about paying staff correctly anymore – we need more information for the full management of employees. “How do we manage their pay, their costs, their tasks, their health and safety, their welfare? And, it needs to be easy, managing in a single platform instead of being paper documents or a mixture of different logins.”

The AgriSmart concept made sense to him; it consolidates the different people management elements into one place, to help create clarity and drive efficiency for farmers. He also advocates for understanding the why behind things, particularly with more compliance hitting farmers. “There’s a lot of frustrations around regulation and meeting compliance, but I think sometimes we need to remember it’s the consumers and supermarkets within the supply chain that are driving these global shifts – and it’s not just happening in New Zealand,” he says. “Customers want a better understanding of who is supplying products and we need better systems and software to meet those requirements.”


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He talks about utilising things we need for compliance, like timesheets, and how they could add further value to a business. “Timesheets are created to pay people correctly, but when we combine them with a cost management system then people are tracking more than just labour costs, it helps them understand what is happening in the business,” he says. “And it’s evolving from there; farmers need to think about what information they need to be collecting and managing and how they can empower their employees to collect the data for them.” The AgriSmart system simplifies things for farmers. Rather than having six different tools to use, it is one platform to manage the employee workforce. And it is a simple solution for Fonterra suppliers to help satisfy their requirements within the Co-operative Difference, as Emily Eder has found.

better when they’re written down, so that’s been a huge benefit for us. “We can add tasks and notes for our team (and) if they come back from days off it’s clear what they need to be doing. “And if they finish a task early they can see what the rest of the team are doing and find someone to give a hand, which is great because our farm is so big you don’t always know where everyone is.” She originally joined the programme after frustrations that no other software seemed suitable for the dairy sector. “The average payroll system doesn’t cater for the uniqueness of dairy farming, we don’t work nine till five and rosters can be a bit all over the show,” she says. But she raves about the suitability of

AgriSmart and how much time it saves and keeps things simple. The team enters their own timesheet information, which shifts some of the responsibility from the employer to the employee and there are no excuses for health and safety as all the information is easily accessible. “It keeps communication clear and open so there is no confusion,” she says. “We had a complaint once about how a staff member was getting the cows in and since we had everything logged in the system, we could work out who it was and were able to have a discussion with them about it.” She really appreciates the ease it creates for people management. “We are really busy so tools like this are key to help us juggle everything,” she says. n

“There’s a lot of frustrations around regulation and meeting compliance, but I think sometimes we need to remember it’s the consumers and supermarkets within the supply chain that are driving these global shifts – and it’s not just happening in New Zealand.” Charles Morgan “Some dairy farming friends had me worried that it was really hard to meet the people element within the Cooperative Difference,” Eder says. “But when it came to it I realised everything was in AgriSmart. “The questionnaire was asking if we could provide evidence for various things to do with our staff and I can prove everything from the system; there are heaps of reports I can print if I need to.” Along with her husband Gerard, they sharemilk 1000 cows near Mangatainoka and have large numbers of staff to manage. “A lot of our team are from the Philippines so it’s helped a lot with visa requirements,” she says. “And although their English is reasonably good, they understand things


March 2022

Charles Morgan has developed AgriSmart, a new software programme that will make administration on farms easier. Charles, Briar and Daisy Morgan from AgriSmart. 51


Finding the right connection By Tony Benny

Adopting technology in agriculture is not always easy as connectivity issues continue to be a problem.


he adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) in world agriculture is being hampered by unreliable connectivity, according to a recently published report. The “Industrial IoT in the time of Covid-19” report says 72% of agricultural organisations globally experience connectivity challenges when trialling IoT projects and 70% don’t feel that public or terrestrial networks are completely suitable for their IoT needs. The research was carried out by Inmarsat, a multi-national satellite business, which previously reported a rapid increase in the adoption of IoT, with 80% of respondents to a 2021 survey saying they had employed an IoT device compared with only 26% three years earlier. IoT’s been quietly spreading through New Zealand agriculture for years, one of the earliest adoptions being auto-steer tractors and now there are thousands of weather stations, soil moisture probes, animal tracking and robotic systems and the like beaming out data. But Inmarsat director of Market Development Steven Tompkins says the latest findings reveal struggling to find the right kind of connectivity is a key barrier to successful agricultural IoT adoption. He suggests satellite services such as Inmarsat could solve that problem.

“Satellite is increasingly enabling farmers to adopt automated infrastructure, including water pumps, gates and grain storage temperature control, as well as the latest precision farming technologies, where consistent and reliable connectivity is fundamental,” Tompkins says. And with hundreds of satellites being launched every year – Starlink alone now has 1500 orbiting Earth and plans to increase that to 42,000 – the reliable connectivity Tompkins aspires to, is becoming ever more accessible. Though the new report doesn’t include any information specifically about NZ, connectivity is an issue for IoT developers here too. But satellites aren’t the only solution, Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) chairperson Mike Smith says. He believes the connectivity needed for IoT in NZ could be provided by a groundbased network. His organisation represents 37 independently operated networks that provide wireless broadband in areas not covered by the big telcos and he says that coverage could be harnessed to provide connectivity for IoT devices too. A new company WISPA Networks has been formed with the intention of adding long-range wide area network (LoRaWAN) services over the whole country. “What we see as the future is we have Connectivity issues are stopping many farmers from adopting technology to use on the farm.

Inmarsat director of Market Development Steven Tompkins says the latest findings reveal struggling to find the right kind of connectivity is a key barrier to successful agricultural IoT adoption. a network of networks, 37 networks throughout the country who have coverage that covers more areas that mobile operators don’t get to where there is nothing else. The intent is an IoT broadband network that’s available throughout New Zealand,” Smith says. He says WISPA has a rural focus and members have networks throughout NZ. “Our coverage is humungous and we have local relationships and work nationally. Every one of our businesses has relationships with farmers. We’re building new infrastructure throughout New Zealand and an IoT network based on LoRaWAN long-range wide area networks that allows us to connect anyone,” he says. “The intent is an IoT broadband network that’s available throughout New Zealand. “WISPA’s already in 75,000 rural homes and businesses so we have a massive footprint and we want to take that to the next step.” n


Connecting with other farmers or upskilling yourself at events is a good way to build your skillset.

Set yourself up for future success Paul Bird


DairyNZ solutions and development lead advisor

iith 50,000 people working in dairy, the sector is one of New Zealand’s largest employers and offers exciting opportunities to progress your career. Whether you want to move into farm management, contract or sharemilking, or own a farm, taking the time to plan how you reach your goals will help you avoid common pitfalls and get there quicker. DairyNZ’s Quick Plan is one resource you can use to help you identify your future goals and steps you can take today to get on the right path. The plan covers a wide range of areas like training, mentoring, financial and family goals and has links to helpful resources. Once you’ve decided on your future


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plans, you’ll need to focus on developing any new skills required. Chat with your manager about how you might do that. For example, can they or another farm team member mentor you? Can you attend some training? Then record what you’ve done to develop new skills, so you have evidence of what you’ve learnt at a job interview. Having a great reference from your current boss will make it easier to get the position you want. Reliability is something farmers often say they want to see in staff, along with a great attitude. Think about any areas for improvement your boss has mentioned and whether you can take steps to address these issues. Surrounding yourself with people who can support and guide you makes it easier to stay focused on achieving your goals. Your local Young Farmers Club might be a good place to meet other people who share similar goals to you. It’s also helpful to find someone who has achieved similar goals and ask their advice. If you don’t know anyone in this role, DairyNZ may be able to suggest local events you could attend or connect you to support.

with DairyNZ Saving to achieve your goals is also vital, but it takes discipline and planning. It helps you set out all your expenses and decide how much you can save each month. It can be tempting to spend your money on the latest technology or vehicle, but saving or investing your money will help you achieve your goals faster. Investing in KiwiSaver is also a good option to build up money to buy your first home or for retirement, as the Government and your employer both contribute funding. With good planning, persistence and support from the right people it’s possible to achieve your dreams. Now is a great time to start. n


Download the DairyNZ Quick Plan at www.dairynz.co.nz/quickplan DairyNZ also has a personal budget template online at www.dairynz.co.nz/ personalbudget




The pillars of sustainability

n 1814, New Zealand’s number one sector started with dual-purpose Milking Shorthorns. Demand for butter grew globally, so NZ brought in Jersey genetics and butter became our largest export. The demand shifted to protein, and Holsteins became the solution. Now with animal welfare and anti-microbial pressures, it’s again time to bring in new solutions from abroad. As we look into the future of our industry and megatrends happening overseas, sustainability and efficiency are often at the roots of the discussion. But what are the pillars of sustainability for NZ? Mastitis In NZ, the opportunity of managing mastitis through genetic strategies is one key to our industries future. The cost of mastitis impacts the bottom line of every farm. DairyNZ estimates the industry loses $180 million a year to treatment and production losses and Fonterra measured clinical mastitis at 11% within their suppliers. “Our goal, by 2030 New Zealand will not need antibiotics for the maintenance of animal health and wellness”, NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA) says. Despite NZVA’s goal, mastitis resistance has no direct breeding value in NZ. International genetics offer the possibility to rapidly decrease the need for antibiotics through robust breeding values for mastitis resistance, helping reach the NZVA goal.

weeks of mating. Currently, we average 66%. DairyNZ’s NZAEL Farmer Survey highlighted that the farmer’s key area of concern is udder conformation and fertility, with a majority of stakeholders believing fertility is underweighted in NZ. Across the world grazing indexes typically weigh fertility four to five times higher than NZ, to account for its importance in seasonal calving.

and lifetime efficiency (total lifetime production). Focusing on maintenance efficiency can produce cows with a shortened total lifetime production. A cow with a higher live weight may produce less per kilogram of live weight, but may produce more per kilogram of food, and/or last an extra lactation, therefore, her overall efficiency could be higher.

Polled Fonterra’s Animal Wellbeing Plan includes polled as a key genetic strategy. The polled genetic progress around the world has opened up exciting opportunities for NZ dairy farmers, to include polled in their genetic selections.

Dairy-beef A solution for improved sustainability and a profitable return. Beef+Lamb NZ reports that 52% of beef production comes from dairy and dairy beef cross animals in 2021. Dairy-beef has significant efficiency benefits compared to traditional beef production. With a growing number of trials, proven results and the innovative development of the dairy-beef coordinator role, dairy beef solutions are quickly becoming the future of the beef industry.

Total Feed Efficiency NZ is focused on maintenance efficiency, but total feed efficiency is measured in three parts: maintenance efficiency (ms/kg of live weight); metabolic efficiency (ms/kg of food);

Udders NZ Animal Evaluation Limited’s (NZAEL) Farmer Survey returned both udder conformation and health at the top of the list of traits farmers want to see prioritised. The NZ Index (NZI) puts significant emphasis on the improvement of udder overall. Fertility One of the key pillars of a profitable dairy farm. The NZ target is to achieve a 78% pregnancy rate in the first six


The daughter of high ranking NZI sire, Joppolo PP is a prime example of good udder conformation.


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“As we look into the future of our industry and megatrends happening overseas, sustainability and efficiency are often at the roots of the discussion.” New Zealand Index (NZI) Based on farmer’s feedback, the development of the NZ Index (NZI) has utilised economic values that aim to better represent the true cost on farm. It also ensures traits have sufficient weighting to make gains or prevent a genetic slide in farmer’s key areas of concern. While the NZI emphasises udders, udder health and fertility, it continues to weigh all the key traits in the national index with an 87% correlation. n


Implementation of these pillars of sustainability has been made easy with the 2022 Samen NZ Breeding Guide.

Jersey Blue is a high yield beef solution for farmers looking for great profitability and sustainability.

The New Zealand Index (NZI) is based on farmer feedback on the economic values aiming to better represent the true cost on-farm, ensuring traits have sufficient weighting to prevent a genetic slide in farmer’s key areas of concern.

New Zealand Index The Whole World Wants A Balanced Cow 2022 has arrived and brings with it a market-leading line-up that simply cannot be missed. Selection is based on farmer feedback, you will find solutions dedicated to breeding well-balanced healthy cows that perform on New Zealand pasture-based dairy farms. Liveweight Litres Penalty Fertility Somatic Cell Udders

Building Better Herds | 0800 220 232 | www.samen.co.nz

Residual Survival Body Condition Fat and Protein More


Sexed semen is an effective tool to drive the rate of genetic gain in herds across the country.

Sexed semen adds value By Cheyenne Nicholson

Sexed semen is driving genetic gain in both on-farm herds and the national herd leading to better quality animals.


hen it comes to breeding decisions, farmers need to make the most of the value proposition at both ends of their herd, LIC general manager NZ markets Malcolm Ellis says. Utilising sexed semen for the top 15-20% of a herd accelerates the rate of genetic gain by focusing on generating replacements from your top cows. Farmers can then consider alternative beef AB or short gestation options for their poorer-performing animals, enabling them to either significantly reduce the number of bobby calves leaving the farm or capture additional milking days, both options adding to the value obtained from the bottom end of the herd. “If farmers used short gestation semen on their bottom end, you get more days in milk, which is money in the bank,


particularly given the current milk price,” Ellis says. “The alternative beef option opens other opportunities; there’s value to be had there as well. It’s important to look to make gains at both ends of the herd.” Typically in a herd situation, the BW differential between the top 20% and the bottom 20% is in the order of 100-150 BW. Even at 100 BW, if farmers can obtain more of the required heifer calves from their top cows, and by using dairy beef or short gestation options for the bottom end, those heifer calves from higher ranked cows will be 50 BW superior to the expected outcome of breeding from the poorer-ranked portion of the herd. “When I talk about this example, that’s the ‘aha’ moment for a lot of farmers,” he says.

“When we were in the cow growth years, no one cared much about this sort of selection pressure, but now as a consequence of that, we have a big range of BW within individual herds and in the wider national herd. Sexed semen is an effective tool to drive the rate of genetic gain.” The technology for sexed semen has been around for a few decades, but since the country hit ‘peak cow’, interest in the technology has been rising. He says the increased demand is driven by a deeper understanding and realisation among farmers that if they aren’t going to be milking more cows in the future, they will need to be milking better cows. “Since hitting peak cow in 2015, cow numbers have started to decline, and farmers are recognising the need for fewer but better-quality cows and


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retaining offspring from the best cows. We’re heartened by the fact that the majority of our farmers that are using fresh sexed semen, say their main driver is the positive impact on genetic gain they’re getting,” he says. Ellis says that herd improvement will do a lot of the heavy lifting to offset cow number and milk decline. Average cow production has increased by around 5.9kgMS each year over the last 10 years. It is estimated that 40% of this is directly attributed to genetics.

“When we were in the cow growth years, no one cared much about this sort of selection pressure, but now as a consequence of that, we have a big range of BW within individual herds and in the wider national herd.” Malcolm Ellis

“If national gains in the rate of genetic gain increased from 10 to 1520 BW points per year, the associated productivity gains would go a long way to counteract declining cow numbers and overall milk production,” he says. Otorohanga farmer Marian Numan used sexed semen for the first time

last season, to help reduce the number of bobby calves their herd produced. “It was always disappointing to see some of our lovely crossbred bulls going on the bobby truck. Using sexed semen across our top-tier cows has allowed us to produce roughly 30 heifer calves that would have otherwise been bobbies. It’s a win-win. We can retain more of our good genetics with less waste overall,” Numan says. Prior to the current upward trend of sexed semen, there was a degree of negativity around the associated non-return rates. In a 2017 blind trial comparing frozen sexed semen with frozen conventional semen, the differential came in at -13.4%. When Ellis first came into his role in 2016, he says he knew the potential of sexed semen and hoped gains could be made to improve that non-return rate figure. “Getting cows in-calf is one of the most important parts of any dairy farmer’s seasonal focus, so it’s critical we deliver a sexed semen option that doesn’t notably compromise that goal,” he says. The breakthrough was in using fresh sexed semen where the differential can be significantly reduced to -5%, with LIC’s most recent data for 2021 spring mating’s sitting at -4.7%. For the 2021 mating season, a staggering 201,700 cows were mated using sexed semen, up on the previous years 110,000 and 33,000 the year before that. “Next season, we are projecting growth

A new state-of-the-art lab, which sits alongside LIC’s bull farm and semen processing lab, is the world’s biggest fresh sexed semen sorting facility.


March 2022

LIC general manager NZ markets Malcolm Ellis says demand for sexed semen has increased as farmers realise that if they are milking less cows, they need to be milking better cows.

to 300,000. We have to be really clear in our projections to ensure we’ve got the daily processing capacity,” Ellis says. To meet the increasing demand, LIC repurposed an area within their Hamilton headquarters to accommodate a new laboratory facility solely for the production of sexed semen. The state-ofthe-art lab sits alongside LIC’s bull farm and semen processing lab and is the world’s biggest fresh sexed semen sorting facility. The lab hosts Sexing Technologies, a US-based company who is contracted to sex-sort semen from LIC’s top dairy and beef artificial breeding bulls. “It means we no longer need to transport semen offsite to be sex-sorted, so the time between collection and insemination is reduced, enabling longer use in the field, which ultimately allows more farmers to tap into its value,” he says. “While any big investment like that comes with risks, we knew that we needed to increase capability and capacity because of where the market was heading. It’s been a big couple of years in this space and it’s only set to get bigger as more farmers realise the potential of sexed semen within their herds.” n


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There's always room for improvement


Joyclas bags top award at NZDE By Dianna Malcolm


he overwhelming response coming out of the New Zealand Dairy Event (NZDE) was exhibitor relief that the show went ahead. The timing of the government moving New Zealand to a red traffic light covid-19 protection framework couldn’t have been worse, with exhibitors either already at the show at Manfeild Park, Feilding, or on the way. Exhibitor numbers were immediately limited on-ground to 100 (plus event staff), and any hope of spectators being allowed onto the showgrounds were dashed. Part of the solution came in the form of bidr®, NZ’s online selling platform, which stepped up to livestream the event. It is the first time that’s happened in NZ. Owner of the Ayrshire Champion and NZDE committee member Selwyn Donald says the organisers were put in a tough situation, but the positive exhibitor response has been deafening. “So many people have come to me and thanked us for pushing on with the event under trying circumstances,” Donald says. “We could have pulled the pin and sent everyone home, but if we did, everyone would have spent a lot of money getting cows ready and not know where they fitted amongst their breeds. “It was a huge call. But we also must congratulate and thank the exhibitors for also doing their part to make it possible, and the livestream was brilliant. I had messages from South Africa, the UK, the US and Canada congratulating us on our win [Ayrshire Grand Champion with Aaron Rondo Lohnro, whose lead-up was hampered by Theileria and mastitis]. That probably wouldn’t have happened if it had been open to the public. The livestream was a definite positive to come out of the week. “Across all the breeds the championship line-ups were pretty outstanding. That was the best Holstein show I’d seen for a while.”


March 2022

Owned by Lawrence and Judi Satherley of Manawatū, Joyclas Sammy Moo was named Supreme Champion of the New Zealand Dairy Event 2022. Isacc Kelson leads the Supreme Champion Joyclas Sammy Moo in the ring Photo: Mud Media. It was the Holsteins that won the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Supreme awards of their ages after the scores were collated from the five interbreed judges who awarded a black Holstein, Joyclas Sammy Moo, the Supreme individual title of the show. Lawrence and Judi Satherley got the chance to watch their daughter and sonin-law, Robbie and Anna James win with Sammy Moo in a triumph they could never have imagined. The last time Joyclas Holsteins won Champion Holstein was at the Hastings Royal Show in 1993. Since then, the herd has passed through some family members’ hands, and while some cows have had to be retraced the herd today is run by the James’. They milk 300 cows on 150ha at Linton in the Manawatū. This year was their second outing at the NZDE. Charbelle Tatoo Pix, owned by Charbelle Farms, in Hamilton won Best Supreme Udder of the Intermediate Show. This was their third NZDE. The two-year-old Holstein was last

year’s Holstein and All Breeds Junior Champion. In a one-two for their team, Tatoo Pix’s four-year-old dam won the four-year-old class in the Holstein show. Larkspur Lauthority Whip from Fusion Genetics was the Junior Supreme of the show and the combined breeds Grand Champion was a nine-year-old Brown Swiss, Thurvalley Wm Rosey, sired by Top Acres C Wonderment, and owned by the Thurvalley partnership, at Rotorua. Ferdon Genetics, NZDE’s most successful show string, which had not shown for three years reintroduced itself to the winner’s circle. Ferdon Genetics had won Champion Jersey seven times at the NZDE, Grand Champion Jersey six times, Supreme Champion All Breeds four times, and Premier Exhibitor 10 times (every year it had shown). This year it reclaimed the Grand Champion Jersey, with Ferdon BS Vienna-ET and bred and showed the Junior Champion Jersey, Ferdon Ribbon Eliza, who was owned by Frenchman Clement Illand. n



Using sexed semen will see better results in genetic gain in herds.

Sexed semen on the rise By Samantha Tennent

More and more farmers are using sexed semen across their top cows to produce better cows with better genetics.


he pressure to drive herd efficiency has led to an exclusive relationship between CRV and Genus. The new sexed semen laboratory at the CRV facility in Pukemoremore, near Hamilton, began producing their first units last month. “Since we are in peak cow numbers, we know as a sector we are going to have to do more with less,” CRV managing director James Smallwood says. “Cows are going to have to be as productive as possible and to achieve that we need to produce heifers from mating the best cows to the best bulls to increase our rate of genetic gain.” By having access to their own facility, CRV can ensure they will be able to provide sexed semen from the best genetics they have on offer. “Sales of sexed semen have been growing rapidly as farmers are gaining more confidence in the product,” he says. “Our relationship with Genus came as a response to the demand, we need to be able to produce larger quantities of sexed semen as efficiently as possible and from our top bulls.”


With pressures on the sector to manage stable or declining cow numbers and look for solutions to minimise bobby calves, farmers are looking for ways to continue to drive their herds forward without compromising on productivity. “We are trying to get better cows faster and we know the pressures from the customer and consumer mean we need to address animal welfare concerns, sexed semen will help,” he says. He explains how many farmers have been using sexed semen on their top cows to get their replacements and then they have the flexibility to use more beef semen in lower cows and target the dairy beef market. “Farmers are using all of the technologies that are available to drive their genetic gain and precision breeding decisions. “Tools like DNA testing and herd testing are utilised to rank animals and the various semen products are used strategically across the herd.” Although the New Zealand market is their primary target, because their facility is at EU standards, opportunities to

CRV managing director James Smallwood says sales of sexed semen have grown rapidly as farmers gain more confidence in the product.


March 2022

export semen are available as well. “Sexed semen is already widely adopted around the world. Statistics show in places like the United Kingdom over 60% of their semen market is sexed, 47% in the United States and even 17% in Australia,” he says. “Where in New Zealand only 5% of our semen market is sexed currently, but that’s going to grow a lot faster now. “And with other countries developing interests in pasture-based systems there will be demand for our straws internationally too.” Genus is connected to the largest bovine genetics company in the world, ABS Global. They are based in the United States and their bovine sexing technology is one of only two in existence. With the Genus equipment sexing the semen is performed by laser, the males and females are identified and the laser deactivates the male cells. “The laser is a gentle method of sexing semen, the cells are already fragile and we want to look after them as best as we can throughout the process,” he says. The team stress that meeting general


A lab technician looks at a bull semen sample through a microscope, while the bulls in the background are being prepared for semen collection. Photo: Paul Sutherland Photography

best practices on-farm are paramount for the success of the product, particularly around heat detection. “Cows need to be given the best chance to get in-calf; farmers don’t want to be wasting the cost of a premium product or risking a top cow ending up empty,” he says. This is the time of year when the team

on the ground are working with farmers to identify their breeding objectives and formulate their breeding strategies for next season. And CRV are excited to have more sexed semen available to help farmers meet their goals. “The demand is going to continue to grow and we are pleased to provide a sound solution for our farmers.” n



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Growing NZ’s genetic pool By Samantha Tennent

A genetics company with a firm base worldwide is now set to make a splash in New Zealand and help farmers achieve their herd breeding goals.


xcited by the opportunity to have a direct influence on the product offering for farmers, Brett Fitzhenry is looking forward to getting stuck into his new role as product manager at ST Genetics. “When they first contacted me I thought it was a sales role but once I understood a bit more and discovered it was a role with a lot of autonomy and a massive amount of learning and development opportunities that really inspired me,” Fitzhenry says. “I felt like I have achieved a lot in my previous role and to be presented with an opportunity to help develop the business in New Zealand and support the dairy industry really appealed to me.” The new venture will mean he can help shape the genetics on offer to New Zealand farmers. The business is well-established globally and is steadily building here now too. There is a team of 15 scattered across the country and Fitzhenry will be based in Hamilton. “I am looking forward to increasing my knowledge of genetics on a global-scale. The New Zealand dairy industry is wellknown and well-established, but there’s always room for improvement,” he says. “One example is how we have a national herd of 5.5 to 6 million cows, but a relatively small genetic pool in comparison. “I’m keen to help grow the diversity of the genetic pool and develop our product with a balanced view of value on-farm as well as on paper.” He wants to help farmers get to their breeding objectives as quickly and efficiently as possible by making precision breeding plans as simple as possible. He will provide technical support for the sales team and try to get out in the field when he can. “I want to support my team to improve farmer knowledge and interest in genetics, as well as seek feedback from farmers about what they are keen to improve within their herd,” he says.


He describes ST Genetics as a progressive business that caters for the changing needs of the industry. “One example is the work they have been doing into dairy beef to help facilitate the movement away from bobby calves, they have the agility to respond to the market,” he says. Traditionally they have been importing genetics but as they develop the business further they will begin sourcing genetics internally as well. “I’ve still got a lot to learn about my role and responsibilities, but I am planning to focus on bulls with a balanced view of breeding worth, longevity and conformation to support production and productivity targets but try to keep the animals around for a long time as well,” he says He wants to emphasise what the farmer wants. “The farmer will always understand their business and what they’re trying to achieve more than any rep or consultant and it’s important we listen to that, take their feedback and ideas on board and shape our products to meet those needs,” he says. Fitzhenry hails from an agricultural background in South Africa. He was inspired by the All Blacks and had met a couple of Kiwis in his early teens when he decided he wanted to move here one day, despite never visiting prior. He emigrated in December 2016 and has never looked back. During his studies he completed a Bachelor in Science in agricultural economics with animal science, as well as a Masters in meat science before moving over. And once he arrived he went straight into a dairy assistant role in Waikato, which he describes as a real eye-opener. “I grew up in the drystock industry and had worked on a drystock farm for six months before heading to New Zealand, but there was a big difference in farming in both countries,” he says.

ST Genetics have been sourcing their genetics from overseas, but are now looking at New Zealand cattle genetics. Brett Fitzhenry checks out a herd. “We had a lot more staff back home and I couldn’t believe how much green grass there was here.” He had a crash course in dairy farming and the different lifestyle but through a connection he made through a NZ Young Farmers District Contest he landed a role as a sales consultant with CRV that he held for the past four years. “I learnt a lot in that role, particularly around genetics and relationship development and I have built my confidence to talk to farmers,” he says. “I had reservations about taking on this new role because the depth of my knowledge isn’t as sound as I would like, but when I’m interested in something I learn quickly. “And the business growth here in New Zealand with the established global support is exciting, I’m pleased to be part of it.” n


March 2022


A lot going for NZ genetics By Samantha Tennent

A newly created role will see more Kiwi cow genetics exported across the world to give overseas farmers more diversity in their herds.


atching the farming and genetics bug early in her career, Jo Burton knew she wanted to position herself to make a difference in the dairy sector. Not only to farmers themselves, but the sector as a whole. “Early on I realised what a difference it can make when farmers have the right information,” Burton says. “With my own farming experience, and being one of those ones always asking lots of questions, I know how hard it can be to find what we need.” She has just started a newly created role at CRV as export genetics product manager. “I’m excited to expand my knowledge on a global farming-scale and learn how people are adapting grass-based systems around the world, but also sharing learnings that could benefit New Zealand farmers too,” she says. “For example, in South Africa, they are utilising technology extensively in farming and there are some great examples for our farmers.” She has been in a discovery phase, meeting a range of potential international customers through digital meetings. She will eventually travel to build those relationships face-to-face and provide technical support, but at least under the current climate everyone is very conditioned to using digital platforms. “Covid is certainly creating challenges I hadn’t even considered, like the lack of flights available to export semen and some routes don’t have direct flights at the moment,” she says. “It’s a logistical challenge to get product from A to B, but it’s a good sign the demand is there. “It’s a testament to New Zealand’s position in the world. Farmers are looking for the best way to make food with the lowest impact and lowest footprint, and they recognise the benefits of New Zealand genetics towards that.”


March 2022

CRV’s new export genetics product manager Jo Burton says there are opportunities in the export market by supporting herd health and efficiency, and providing precision breeding tools.

She sees the competition the dairy industry both here and internationally, is facing through alternative milks and lab based protein and hopes we can support each other to navigate some of them. Her role combines sales and in-market technical support being a dedicated resource to help farmers who are keen to learn and it is part of the three-year strategy refresh at CRV. “CRV are keen to position themselves as market leaders and can see the opportunities in the export market by supporting herd health and efficiency and providing precision breeding tools,” she says. “Farmers want cows performing at the right level with the right footprint, balancing easy care, health and production and we believe New Zealand genetics have a lot to offer to support farmers around the world.” Burton comes from a farming background on the Hauraki Plains with her parents and two brothers on the

family farm. She went to a bilingual primary school, which has given her a good understanding of multicultural farming and the importance it plays in the agricultural sector. She studied a Bachelor of Communication Studies through Waikato University, which included a 12-month exchange to Otago University to experience life a bit further from home. She has also completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Management and is just finishing her MBA. Her first role was in the Genemark lab at LIC in case management and after a couple of years she moved into a farmer-facing role where she spent three years as a farm solutions manager, now known as agri managers. She kept connected with head office through some project work and eventually moved into a genetics product specialist role supporting the sales team. After a couple of years she moved across to Fonterra as an area manager, which covered some of her old patch. She held that role for five and a half years, finishing at the end of 2021. “I enjoyed picking up some of my old clients and working with them in a different way. The payout was in a dip when I first started and that always makes people look at things differently,” she says. “I always feel privileged to be part of a farm business.” Her new role moves her away from the direct connection with NZ farmers, but she has been pleasantly surprised to encounter so many NZ farmers are connected with other countries either on farms directly or with some connection to the business. “It’s been a great initial learning period and I am really thinking about how we can help farmers achieve their goals and what they want their future cow to look like,” she says. “Customer wants and needs are the focus and the ultimate goal is having an efficient herd ready for the future.” n



Forage bananas tick most boxes By Hugh Stringleman

A Northland trial of growing bananas as a forage crop and use of green water, has shown better than expected results.


he use of bananas on dairy farms has shown strong potential as a new forage system and for taking up nutrients from effluent water discharge, especially potassium. AgResearch has reported on the first 18 months of a trial of bananas on a Northland dairy farm, funded by the Our Land and Water Science Challenge. The research team said no major red flags were identified in this short investigation. More work is now needed on the understanding of nutrient cycling, including estimates of nitrogen loss and the grazing and harvesting strategies. Most importantly, will cattle eat banana leaves and stems as a regular summer forage supplement to mitigate drought?

Researcher Grant Rennie shows his cutting and nutritional trial of bananas as a fodder crop.

New Zealand cows do seem to like fruit and leaves of banana plants, as reports from overseas indicated they would. Graeme and Carol Edwards have a 125ha effective farm at Opouteke, near Pakotai in mid-Northland, running 250 high BW cows on once-a-day (OAD) milking, System 2. In late 2018, a small banana plot of 70 stems was planted alongside the effluent storage pond, which had been recently upgraded with a weeping wall. The Misi Luki variety banana stems, now being grown around the north for their fruit, were irrigated by the pond green water with a drip delivery over the summer months. Graeme and Carol’s son Paul Edwards, a dairy scientist, alerted AgResearch to the trial plot and suggested that

measurements and basic management for forage be undertaken. Graeme says the possibility of replacing or supplementing turnips with a nutritious green feed would address the drier and warmer summers. It would also require less cultivation, lower soil carbon losses and reduce the risks of effluent irrigation. Potentially just 4% of the farm planted in bananas could use all the green water, optimise effluent storage and avoid unconsented discharges and provide a large supplementary fodder source. Grant Rennie, from AgResearch Ruakura, says banana plants grow quickly at the peak of summer and are relatively deep-rooted and drought tolerant. The funded research measured the rate of growth and the quality of the existing plot, tested whether leaves and stems are nutritionally appropriate as cattle feed and if the plants can take up nutrients from green water. The dry matter percentages of petioles and leaves and of stems, were measured at an average of 16.3% for petioles and leaves, with a standard deviation of 5%, and 8.3% for stems, deviation 1.3%. Two groups of 15 plants were measured in a cutting trial, to see if cutting out large central stems would result in increased growth in the remaining stems. They may also send up new stems and increase total growth in the plot. The total number of stems in the cut group was similar to the uncut group, suggesting the cut plants only replaced the cut stems. Cut stems that had not yet begun their reproductive cycle also regrew quickly from the centre between September and January.

Green water from the effluent system is pumped to a trickle system for the bananas.

Future longevity of plants under cutting and/or grazing needs further investigation but the regrowth potential is 10 tonnes-plus of dry matter when planted at 1600 stems a hectare. Tropical plantations of bananas in Queensland have annual fruit harvests of 30 tonnes or more, so there is room for more growth and production in subtropical Northland. Samples were taken and tested for feed quality, which show banana plants are low in protein, much like maize or fodder beet, low in fibre and high in water soluble carbohydrate. The weighted average metabolisable energy was estimated at 10.4 megajoules per kilogram of dry matter. The digestibility at 64% is similar to various silages and the non-dietary fibre is encouragingly low. Graeme says cows were happy eating the leaves but struggled with the stems, which may have to be cut into chunks to assist the cows. Soil samples at four depths were taken to see how minerals were moving through the soil profile after a season of

green water application. Potassium was 20 at the surface level, reducing to 2 at the 30 to 45cm depth.

Total nitrogen began at 0.49% near the surface and fell to 0.20% at depth. “Without being able to estimate a mineral mass balance (amount applied less amount taken up in plants) these results give some confidence that there is nothing unusual occurring”, the AgResearch report said. “There doesn’t seem to be any unexpected accumulation of nitrogen or potassium but it warrants further investigation, particularly under harvesting or grazing where significant amounts of nutrients will be removed from the site.” Two minor matters were flagged for more investigation – damage to the growing corn by toppling the plant during grazing and some pest damage at the base, probably by pūkekos. n

Northland dairy farmer Graeme Edwards has a small banana plot nourished by effluent water.




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When engine-driven pumps are best By Michael Prestidge


hoosing the right pump for your effluent management is an important decision. After all, the pump plays a key role in the whole operation. If you’re wanting a mobile option, or you don’t have electricity running to the pond/ storage, then it narrows your choice to PTO or engine-driven pumps – so when are engine-driven pumps best? And what should you look for in an engine driven pump? PTO vs engine-driven Both PTO and engine-driven pumps can be great mobile options for managing your effluent. Engine-driven pumps are most efficient for contractors and farmers who use them often and pump large volumes. Here’s why: • Having a dedicated engine is a good idea when it’s being used frequently, so it doesn’t tie up the tractor • There will be less transmission wear • There will be less depreciation on your tractor • The pump can be moved from farm-tofarm towing it with a ute • Engine-driven pumps can be automated, so you can monitor them while getting on with other jobs. If you only have one or two farms and are not pumping large volumes, a PTO pump is likely to be more economical. What to look for in an engine-driven pump Make sure you’re getting an effluent pump designed to handle thicker slurries. There are a lot of engine-driven pumps which are only designed for water. These transfer pumps have large engines with large inlet and outlet pipes, so it’s easy to think these would handle effluent. However, transfer pumps are designed to shift large volumes of water over a short distance, where effluent pumps need to handle thicker slurries and solids travelling over a longer distance.


Engine driven pumps are the most efficient for pumping large volumes of effluent.

Bigger is not always better Don’t judge a pump by its horsepower. Like the point above, not all engine-driven pumps are designed for the same purpose. Just because a pump has a high horsepower, it doesn’t mean it will do the job better. The effectiveness and efficiency of the pump will come from the pump design coupled with how it integrates with your effluent system. For best results, match it with your pipes and irrigator The pump is just one component of an effluent system, so it stands to reason the pump can’t perform at its best if the pipes and irrigator don’t match. In fact, attaching a powerful pump to pipes that are too small to handle the volume and pressure being pumped through can have catastrophic consequences. No one wants a burst pipe, and it’s just a waste of energy for the pump. Self-priming options A pump that self-primes will make the job a lot easier, so we’d recommend looking for engine-driven pumps with self-priming options. Covered body You’ll want to make sure the body of

the engine is covered and lockable. Not only is it good to protect the engine from unnecessary damage, but it keeps the user safe and your asset secure. Automation There are often automation options available for engine-driven pumps. These allow you to control and monitor the pump from an app on your phone. While this functionality might not be to everyone’s taste, it can be very useful for contractors – allowing you to monitor the pump running remotely while you get on with other jobs, or for operators wanting to work remotely while looking after staff. A more simplified option is a remotecontrol diverter. This can work on PTO or engine-driven pumps allowing the operator to remotely switch valves via an app. Soundproofing Some engine pumps have options for soundproof enclosures. This can be a useful option when needing to operate close to neighbouring properties where noise could be an issue. n


Michael Prestidge is a Nevada Effluent management specialist


March 2022


Get ‘em low now By Logan Bowler


eaving the task of emptying your effluent ponds until later in the season is not the smartest of decisions for a few reasons. Firstly, it is taking a risk that you need to take note of soil conditions becoming unsuitable for effluent application, secondly, dry soil conditions over the summer months will be impacting on pasture growth and the effluent in the ponds will be well-received by the pasture, and thirdly the nutrients in the effluent will have the opportunity of being well-utilised by pasture before conditions get wet and cold. As with most things on-farm, good management is extremely important and the same applies to your effluent pond to ensure you always have adequate storage available when you need it most – it’s a task that requires constant attention. Regardless of the time of year, we should always be taking advantage of good soil conditions to lower our FDE ponds. As an example, we had 192mm of rain in December 2021 on our dairy farm at Marton. If we had not focused on lowering our ponds as soon spring conditions allowed, we would have been struggling to cope. Now is a good time to be pumping your effluent pond down as often as

Farmers should be starting to empty effluent ponds now to ensure they are easier to manage during autumn and winter.

possible, while the warm weather ensures soil conditions are dry enough to mitigate the risk of run-off or leaching into waterways. The added bonus with irrigating your effluent this time of year is that it will help with pasture growth and reduce the amount of fertiliser you need to apply. Aim to irrigate whenever weather and soil conditions are suitable to get your levels down before autumn and winter. If you haven’t started this job yet, then now’s the time to be thinking about it. I recommend making this a priority over the remainder of summer before wet weather limits your opportunity to do so. After all, we never know what autumn has in store for us. If it’s a wet one and you haven’t kept on top of emptying your effluent pond, you’ll be on the back foot heading into winter, risking the need to irrigate in less than favourable conditions. Let’s look at the numbers It seems to be commonplace that farmers think they have lots of time for this task, so what’s the rush? The rush is early autumn and winter rains can make the job quite difficult. The example below tries to put this into perspective. A farmer with a 400-cow farm, with average effluent pump rates, would need

about 30 days to empty a two millionlitre effluent pond (40m x 35m). However, this doesn’t include effluent continuing to be generated in the milking shed. If we factor that in, that’s another 1.2 million litres on the average farm, which when added to the 30 days now becomes 42 days of pumping. Build in rainfall of 100mm over the 42 days preventing irrigation and adding another 0.25 million litres to the effluent pond and we’re up to 48 days. That’s seven weeks we need available to be safe. You can see how the situation can quickly escalate. If that farmer left it until early March to start emptying their effluent pond, the process would take until mid/late April – and that’s only if they had the right weather conditions. If they waited until the beginning of April, the chances of getting their effluent pond empty before late autumn rains hit is extremely remote. So, make emptying your pond a priority this summer so you’re prepared for whatever winter throws at you. n

MORE: Logan Bowler is the owner of Agblution Solutions Ltd offering common sense, independent advice on effluent systems.


Irrigation at your fingertips By Ross Nolly and Sonita Chandar

Effective effluent management is a sophisticated task that requires a well-designed system and processes in place that ensure effluent is collected and stored correctly.


eeting environmental rules and regulations can be a major issue for dairy farmers, but many are now finding peace of mind with their effluent monitoring systems – even if they are on the other side of the world. Matamata farmer Ryan Wilson has a HALO Farm Effluent Monitoring System installed on his dairy farm, which he can control from his cellphone at any time of the day or night. “HALO is monitoring our milk, effluent and water. It measures how much effluent we’re putting on and where we’re putting it on. It’s also got movement sensors, so it knows if the irrigator has stopped moving,” Wilson says. “I can turn the irrigator off and on from my phone from anywhere in the world, which is handy. “We’ve had good labour savings because staff don’t have to go back to the cowshed to turn it off and on. They’re able to operate it from their phone, check to see if the irrigator is operating correctly and get on with the rest of their jobs.” Another Waikato farmer, Rod McKinnon, who uses the system, says he has complete peace of mind that his effluent system was working as it should, even if he is away from the farm. Several years ago, he and wife Sandra were holidaying in Egypt and while walking around the great pyramids, he pulled out his phone and was rewarded with a dirty look from Sandra. After all, they hadn’t travelled thousands of miles from home for him to look at his screen. But he wasn’t checking for messages or alerts on social media. He was in fact checking on how things were running


back home on the farm. “It was hot, dry and the pyramids were absolutely amazing,” McKinnon says. “But back home I could see it was really wet and with just a couple of clicks of a button, I could see where the irrigator was and see exactly what was happening with the effluent system.” He says he had complete peace of mind that nothing was going to go wrong – the spreader was not going to stop and pond in one place, or go crazy and dump an excessive amount of effluent on the paddock. “I knew 100% that if anyone visited from the regional council, I could give them complete assurance of what was pumped and exactly where on any given day and down to the hour and know it was correct,” he says. McKinnon says HALO monitoring gives them the ability to know what is going on, where it is going and how much. “It doesn’t matter where in the world I am, I can still keep an eye on the entire operation through my cellphone,” he says. “Parts of our farm are geo-fenced and monitored through HALO, which means the irrigator cannot operate on certain parts of the farm.” An accurate and reliable effluent control and mapping system is important to protect farm waterways. Farmers can geo-fence low-lying areas or waterways to ensure they remain compliant. Geo-fencing is a geographical boundary around the area where a travelling irrigator is allowed to operate. If the irrigator deviates outside the designated area, the system automatically shuts it down. HALO Systems managing director

HALO Systems managing director Josh White says most farm effluent systems are unique and the system is customisable to each farm’s individual requirements.

Waikato farmer Rod McKinnon says the HALO system gives him peace of mind his effluent system is working as it should.


March 2022

Josh White says the effluent system incorporated with their geo-fencing and nitrogen mapping allows farmers to determine their paddock N loadings. “We can GPS map the farm but if it’s already been mapped, the farmer can give us that shapefile, show us the designated area and we load it into our system. If they haven’t, we can work with them on that too,” White says. “With GPS on an irrigator you can identify exactly where they are and how much effluent they have spread over a certain date range.” If an incident occurs, such as ponding, a broken travelling irrigator or a split hose, the system stops, which prevents the farmer from being in breach of their consent. A farmer’s need for an effluent control system is driven by compliance. Most farm effluent systems are unique and the

HALO monitoring systems can be operated via smartphone from anywhere in the world.

A HALO above ground effluent storage tank. system is customisable to each farm’s individual requirements. “The command and control system not only monitors the effluent system, it has the ability to turn it off. It can be programmed to make decisions based on certain events that may occur. It’s fully scalable and not a “one-size-fits-all solution,” White says. “It’s simple to use depending on the amount of control needed. You can have settings that turn on the travelling irrigator pump, or you can delve right down into it to view the graphs and other data.” The system can provide labour savings because the system can be turned on or off from the irrigator. This is especially important if the effluent system does multiple runs a day. The ability to track the amount of effluent that has been applied to a pasture and the annual grass yield results, enable farmers to determine the amount applied to the pasture and reduce fertiliser use. “Farmers send their effluent samples off for testing and forward the results to us so we can do the calculations. Farmers often find that they can apply less effluent to a pasture, which enables

them to spread it across other paddocks and save even more on fertiliser,” he says. The system is fully expandable. If a farmer buys the neighbouring farm, installs a feedpad or increases the size of their herd it usually increases the amount of effluent. When farmers install effluent management and control systems they often find that they can expand their irrigation platforms after discovering that they were applying more effluent than needed to some paddocks. Often they only need to add trace minerals to balance nutrients. “We’re working on the AI of the machine learning space. We’re a long way down the path of predictive analytics, which will enable us to make smarter decisions about when system failures may occur. For example, preempting pump failure because we’ve shown that its performance is dropping,” he explains. “We have the data coming in and are and are looking at ways to package it and give it back to our farmers with more insights into what we predict may happen. Because you can guarantee when things break down, it’s on a Sunday afternoon or when you’re on holiday.” n

Remote monitor and control your important farm infrastructure.


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Keeping score By Chris Balemi


s we move into a new season, you are no doubt at the point where you are checking your herd’s body condition scores (BCS), which contribute towards key decisions for your cows. Body condition refers to the amount of subcutaneous body fat in the cow, otherwise known as energy reserve. By determining your cows’ BCS, you’re able to provide accurate feed requirements for the season ahead, regulate which cows to dry off, and gain insight into reproductive performance for the year ahead. It is an important management tool for dairy cattle when it comes to maximising milk production and reproductive efficiency, while simultaneously reducing the incidence of metabolic and other peripartum diseases. The body condition score is evaluated on a range from one to five, with three and below considered under conditioned. While the over-conditioning of cows (with a BCS of four and above) at the time of calving can often result in reduced feed intake and increased instances of peripartum issues, underconditioning cows (with a BCS of three or below) can result in lower peak milk

and less milk for the entirety of their lactation. Additionally as a rule of thumb, dairy cows should not lose more than one point from their BCS during early lactation, as this has been proven to reduce reproductive efficiency. This April, farmers will be looking to dry off cows with a BCS of three-pointfive or lower, and plan for a strategic early dry off for light cows to ensure they can reach their calving targets. The body condition scoring process is relatively straightforward. You can have a certified BCS assessor come to complete the process for you, however, it is also recommended that farmers are able to carry out BCS for themselves when needed. You can find resources online to test your BCS knowledge, as well as tips and tricks on how best to undertake body condition scoring amongst your herd. To calibrate the difference in BCS of your cows, you will need to check approximately a dozen cows with a variety of body condition scores. This helps you to see and feel the difference between the cows prior to scoring out in the paddock. You will need to feel the amount of fat covering their various

Body condition refers to the amount of subcutaneous fat in the cow and can help in drying off, feed and other management decisions. 70

body points and record the difference between them. Depending on whether the cow has a full gut or not can conceal the visual of coverage, especially in places such as the ribs, so it is important to feel the amount of fat cover with your hands for a conclusive measurement. For optimal results and to easily manage your herd, body condition scoring is recommended to be carried out three times per year. Here are some tips on what to look out for and how to calibrate a low to high body condition score. • Cow has prominent pin bones: their loin is sharp and ribs are sticking out • Cow visually looks conditioned: their pins well-fleshed and loin/ribs are not sharp • Cow has well-fleshed pins: has good covering over backbone and ribs. Body condition score loss is mostly influenced by a cow’s genetics and their BCS at calving, as op-posed to their nutrition or milking frequency during this same period. Having said that, by strategically increasing a cow’s nutritional intake and reducing their milking frequency after calving can still have an effect on their BCS. By managing these variables, you can help to adjust the point at which their BCS lowers, as well as the rate at which they then gain back units of their BCS after this point. Most dairy cows are genetically inclined to produce milk at the cost of their own body reserves during the postcalving season. A cow should ideally not lose more than one unit from their BCS from calving season through to mating season, with the goal to have the cows at a minimum body condition score of four units by the start of the planned mating season. By strategically managing your cows’ BCS profile now, you will ensure their reproductive health is not at risk while their milk production is optimised. n


Chris Balemi is the managing director of Agvance Nutrition Limited


March 2022

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One last word …


hings should be starting to get easier on the farm as we head towards the end of the season, but Mother Nature seems to have other ideas. One farmer I spoke to in Taranaki reckons the early part of the season was good. Calving went well, good pasture growth and no extreme adverse weather. I have been keeping an eye on growth rates in my region and let’s just say the grass was bolting away and crops that were sown in November and December were looking great and farmers were flat out making supplementary feed. Then January arrived and with it, the hot dry weather, which saw many regions frizzle up and dry out. The grass stopped growing and those crops I had been watching stalled. “We prayed and prayed for rain but it never came,” one farmer from Northland says. They had to quit a large number of animals and all but dried off their herds. “Our prayers were finally answered, but it was a bit extreme,” he says. The arrival of the ex tropical cyclone delivered the much-needed and prayedfor rain, but in the end it was just too much, especially after a weekend of heavy rain in some parts the weekend prior, which also delivered some relief to other areas, including my region, where the grass greened up and those crops looked lively again. West Coast farmers copped it worse than other regions and experienced flooding twice in a week. One farmer told me that a good chunk of their farm was under water and when the floodwaters finally receded it was a mess, with trees and branches strewn over the farm. He says it is still drying out. The Taranaki farmer who also experienced flooding twice initially said he shouldn’t complain as it was desperately needed. Although, the following week was a bit different and when I caught up with him, he asked me, “Can I complain now?” “This half of the season has turned to rubbish, but at least the payout is still looking really good, so that’s a bright spot,” he says. And not only is the payout looking


like it will be record payment, the Global Dairy Trade is also performing exceptionally well, with four rises in a row. Hopefully, as we head towards the end of the season, they continue rising. Thank you to Alesha Jane from Maolla Farms in Ōpunake, Taranaki, for sending in this month’s pic of her girls after the

rain. She is hoping there will be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


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March 2022

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Dairy Diary March 2022 March 2 and 8 – Dairy Women’s Network The Challenge of Change webinar. Resilience can have a huge impact on your personal and professional lives. Join us to learn four proven steps for building resilience and managing yourself in stressful situations. Info at www.dwn.co.nz/events March 2 – DairyNZ Let’s Talk: Farm, Plantain & Horizons Field Day, Pahiatua Join us on farm with hosts Troy Hughes and Murray Holdaway. Sharemilker Troy, milks 435 cows for the Holdaways. Key goals of the business include maintaining an efficient and profitable system by focusing on utilising available feed, while reducing the environmental footprint of the operation. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz March 7-10 – Dairy Women’s Network How to Build a Bloody Good Business webinar series. Strong and resilient dairy farming businesses are more important now than ever before. We are facing significant change, and making sure our business can survive these changes and come out thriving is critical. Info at www.dwn.co.nz/events

March 15 – DairyNZ Let’s Talk: Farm, Plantain and Horizons Field Day, Dannevirke. Join us on-farm with Thomas and Jennifer Read. We’ll discuss their journey from 50:50 sharemilking to multiple farm ownership. We’ll also cover the latest news and what’s happening in the Tararua Plantain Project and how and why plantain can be considered as a viable environmental mitigation tool in a productive pasture system. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz March 22, 23 and 24 – DairyNZ Wearable Cow Tech Field Day, Taranaki. A field day for farmers in Taranaki thinking about investing in wearable technology for their herd. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz March 22, 23 and 24 – DairyNZ Ag Emissions Pricing Feedback Roadshow, various dates and locations We want to hear from you to make sure the Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership – He Waka Eke Noa is developing the best possible emissions pricing framework, before recommendations are taken to the Minister for Climate Change and Minister for Agriculture in April 2022. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz

March 9-10 – FARMAX Farmax Conference, Hamilton. The Farmax Conference provides a platform for thought and discussion around advancing New Zealand’s pastoral system into the future. Info at http://www.conference2021.farmax.co.nz/

March – New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Regional awards dinner, various dates and locations. Join us to celebrate the best of each region’s share farmers, dairy managers and dairy trainees, with the winners of each category progressing to the national finals in May 2022. Info at www.dairyindustryawards.co.nz/

March 9 – DairyNZ Jersey Breeders Discussion Group, Waikato. Join us on-farm and find out how everyone’s calving went, discuss rotation lengths and talk about how everyone has managed through the covid-19 lockdown. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz

March 29 - April 29 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Regional winner’s fieldays to be held on-farm. This is an opportunity to hear the 2022 regional share farmer, dairy manager and dairy trainee of the year winners speak. Venue TBC after the winners were announced. Info at www.dairyindustryawards.co.nz/

A note from the editor: With New Zealand currently operating under the red setting in the covid-19 Protections Framework, many events have been cancelled or shifted online. Please check individual websites for any event changes and requirements.



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