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Business Health and Wellbeing/Training December 2019

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Fighting fit on the farm Exercise and farming go hand in hand for a Manawatu farmer

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Business Health and Wellbeing December 2019

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COVER Manawatu farmer Mark Olsen combines his passion for sports and exercise with farming.  Photo: Chelsea Miller

Door-to-door milk deliveries Employing migrants a good choice Innovating farmers

Fighting fit on the farm Exercise and farming go hand in hand for a Manawatu farmer

20 ISSN 2624-0939 (Print) ISSN 2624-0947 (Online)



December 2019

Contents NEWS 17 Milk Monitor Interesting developments in the dairy industry 18 Closed for business Massey University cancels enrolments for 2020 BVet Tech course 19 Search under way Dairy Woman of the Year nominations now open


8 Being better Manawatu farmer Mark Olsen finds daily exercise makes him a better farmer

20 Adding value Northland farmers Gav Hogarth and Jody Hansen are selling milk direct to the public



7 Guest column Mike Petersen

32 Dairy champion Mat Hocken

THEME 50 Health and wellbeing/training

REGULAR FEATURES 28 At the Grassroots – Chris Lewis

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An exciting future Special agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen says New Zealand leads the field in many areas but cannot rest on its laurels.


HESE are exciting but also challenging times for New Zealand agri-food and fibre. At a time when demand and prices for NZ food are at near-record highs the mood among farmers is subdued with new environmental policies being developed and fears about the impact from the brinksmanship being played out in the complex world of international trade. So, how should farmers and growers plan for the future in the face of mixed signals from markets and policy makers? I suggest doing as we have always done: face the challenges, develop solutions and prove once again the reputation of NZ for determination and innovation in resolving complex problems is well founded. It is important to recognise NZ farmers are running some of the most nutrient and carbon efficient businesses in the world of food production. These achievements have been hard earned over many decades, however, there is no time for contemplation. Others are catching up and claiming to be better than NZ in a number of environmental stewardship areas where NZ has traditionally led the field. Many of the concerns relate to the pace of transition to new environmental rules with regard to land use, water quality, nutrient management and climate change policy. I contend new Government policy in these areas is actually behind the rapidly growing consumer demand for environmentally and climate-friendly food. We must be sensible about transition and ensure farmers and rural communities continue to prosper but in many parts of NZ the policies of the last 30 years have incentivised land intensification, which has challenged the environmental ceiling. As we chase higher-value food


December 2019

New Zealand’s special agricultural trade envoy and farmer Mike Petersen has held the position since 2013. He will step down next month.

opportunities from global markets the international trading system is facing one of the biggest challenges in its history. For a small country that depends on international markets for a living any disruption that threatens to interfere in the pathway to our consumers is a real concern. The trade war between the United States and China and the impasse at the World Trade Organisation are two geopolitical events that go well beyond discussions about trade but the implications for NZ could be severe. The spillover of these actions and a creeping tide of protectionism, in the form of nationalist and inward-looking policies, is challenging the global value chain model that is the future of food. Among what appear to be chaotic times for international trade we are quietly getting on with efforts to secure our future. We do not have the size and scale to muscle our way into the geopolitical areas under debate. However, we are always sought out as an innovative, independent and constructive nation that can provide thoughtful leadership and ideas to help address these challenging issues. Armed with some of the world’s best negotiators and strategic trade thinkers, NZ is recognised as a world leader in

trade diplomacy, which adds to our global reputation. The good news for us is that in spite of the real risks to international trade we are seeing unprecedented demand for nearly all of our agri-food and fibre exports. The quality and integrity of our products is highly valued but it is the values of NZ and the people who reside here that now resonate strongly with consumers. The internet and social media provide a window through which personal connections are made, values are shared and value is created. The next iteration of our story needs to focus on telling this in a compelling way. As we look to a future where demand for food is strongly anchored to the way food is produced and the values of the people producing it, NZ’s future looks exciting and assured. However, we cannot be complacent about growing consumer demands for food that prioritise higher levels of environmental stewardship. Consumers have a choice and they are increasingly exercising it where products fail to meet their expectations. I have complete confidence the NZ agri-food and fibre sector will tackle head-on the domestic challenge of improving environmental stewardship and be able to capitalise on the exciting times ahead.  n


Mark Olsen bought the 94ha farm at Kairanga in 2016 where he milks 250 cows. Photos: Chelsea Millar 8


December 2019

One step at a time Kairanga dairy farmer and multi-sport enthusiast Mark Olsen is passionate about the positive effects exercise can have on a rural lifestyle. Charlie Williamson caught up with him to talk about his farming operation and the part sport has played in ensuring he enjoys what he does.


HERE’S a backwards culture in rural New Zealand with farmers thinking that looking after their animals and farm takes priority over

themselves. Farmers are undeniably the most important asset on a farm so when their own health and wellbeing are not taken care of it can quickly translate into a dysfunctional farming operation. Manawatu farmer Mark Olsen is passionate about exercising regularly and believes it should be a non-negotiable part of every farmer’s day. Since he introduced exercise into his routine not only has his overall wellbeing improved but the day-to-day running of his farm as a result of clearer decisionmaking and increased motivation is also better. “When you’re not having time off you’re not getting that outlet from your day-today work. For me it just had to become a non-negotiable if I wanted to see an improvement in my physical and mental health,” Mark says. “It makes me a better farmer and it probably makes me a better person so it makes sense to continue with it.” Mark milks 250 cows on 94 hectares just out of Kairanga, 10 minutes from Palmerston North. He has always had a strong farming

background, having grown up on a farm in southern Manawatu. From an early age he developed passions for sport and farming. He studied for a sports and marketing degree at Massey University but later decided that wasn’t the career he wanted. “I wasn’t too interested in doing a career in sports or marketing so in 2005 I went and did my OE for two and a half years through England and Ireland. I ended up playing rugby in Ireland and working three summers on a large cropping farm in England. “It was there that I thought this farming gig’s not too bad so in the space of those summers I thought I’d come home and give farming a crack so that brought me back to dairy farming. “It was just a case of how I can apply my business brain and progress this farming career as quickly as possible.” So in 2007 returned to Manawatu where he took the first steps in what was soon to be a rewarding dairy farming career. “I came back and my first job was as a farm assistant on a local farm. I finished that and then went straight into a 1200cow 2IC role in Hawke’s Bay and stayed on that farm for three years progressing to a sharemilking role.” A return to the industry meant he had to learn basically everything again. He spent a great deal of time meticulously studying DairyNZ’s best practice resources. They

FARM FACTS n Owner: Mark Olsen n Location: Kairanga, Manawatu n Farm size: 94ha effective n Cows: 250 Friesian and Friesian cross n Production: 201819: 100,000kg MS n Target: 2019-20: 105,000kg MS

helped him to gain an understanding of the industry and improved clarity around what he needed to do. “I eventually followed my feet down south until deciding I would head back home and try going out on my own. I chose to head south after searching all over for the best sharemilking opportunities at the time. They seemed to be in north Canterbury so I accepted a role there as it best suited what I was after.” Mark spent four seasons in the south, three of them sharemilking for Keith and Jenny Backhouse. He says they were hugely supportive, taught him a great deal and were key to him achieving farm ownership.

Continued page 10

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The farm keeps 20% replacements, which are weaned at 90-100kg then sent off farm to graze.

Through sharemilking he built up his equity and sold a 78ha drystock farm he owned to buy his dairy farm in 2016 with an outside equity partnership. He owns two-thirds and runs the farm. He bought the drystock farm in 2012 while he was sharemilking to keep his cashflow working for him. The income from his sharemilking business was used to fatten beef cattle on the drystock unit. That was also helpful in giving him a sound understanding of how the farm purchasing procedure worked so he’d be comfortable when the next opportunity arose. The road to farm ownership for Mark

has proved to be an eye-opener. The process uncovered the harsh realities of how farmers are pushing themselves to get the best returns and increase production. What he discovered is that does not always have to be the case. “When I started out I saw how hard some older dairy farmers were pushing without taking care of themselves and it just wasn’t sustainable. “They push themselves more and more and at some point something has to give. “I had this same approach when sharemilking.” He admits he adopted a similar mindset when starting out on his own dairy farm.

“In my first year I did the entire season on my own – calving, mating and the whole lot. “But I found that trying to do everything myself was not a good thing. I burnt-out and I felt that compromised my performance on-farm as well as in decision-making. “Through trial and error I came to understand that this wasn’t the best approach to farming. “When you’re young you have the energy and you think that you can just do everything. You aim for bigger and better without focusing on refining what you’ve already got.”


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December 2019

Mark was raised on a dairy farm in Manawatu but decided to pursue his passions for sports so did a sports and marketing degree at Massey University but decided to go farming instead.

The usual farm policy now is to employ one staff member to help him. Instead of putting his time and effort into increasing production he now focuses on his system and tweaking that to achieve maximum returns. He believes a large proportion of Kiwi dairy farmers are too focused on increasing production and tend to lose sight of what they already have. Upscaling does not necessarily mean an increase in profit, he says. He milks the herd through a 28-aside herringbone shed which is basic with no bells and whistles but it is an efficient system and he can put the cows through relatively fast. “Hopefully, down the track I’ll look to progress with some sort of gains in efficiency around the shed. “There’s no modern feature in it yet so there’s probably room to speed up the milking through the use of automatic cup removers or teat spraying. We might invest in something like that down the track but it’s just not really an option when you are starting out like we are. “I think the thing you learn most is you just have to be patient. I mean it’s my fourth season here and there’s all these things I want to get done but I realise it will take time and I need to be patient.” The herd produces 100,000 kilograms


December 2019

of milksolids each year and his target for this season is 105,000kg MS. It is achieved through careful pasture management and will be refined over time with herd improvements. Though he could produce more milk by increasing supplementary feed that would not necessarily be profitable or sustainable. Increasing input in and around on-farm pasture is proving to work for him.

Setting a budget and sticking to it helps to identify the gains I’m getting from a low-cost system.

“I believe the herd is capable of producing more milksolids, maybe 120,000 to 130,000kg MS per year but that would require a tractor, a mixer wagon and in-shed feeding, which means more work and expense.” The farm is a System 2 with a strong

focus on high per-cow and hectare production. He also has a strong regrassing programme with 15% of the pasture regrassed annually. That is done through grazing stock on crops such as fodder beet and chicory, all of it grown on-farm with 3ha of fodder beet and 11ha of chicory fed from summer to winter. Because of his reliance on pasture he uses only 20-30 tonnes of supplementary feed. It is kept to a minimum and fed only when pasture levels are low. “Ideally, we try to do weekly farm walks and prefer using traditional paper feed wedges to track pasture. I top paddocks to maintain quality in early summer but try to do only one round of this.” His decision to focus on herd management and a low-cost farming system has been heavily influenced by the experience he gained earlier in his career. “I think, essentially, I enjoyed the challenge of large-scale sharemilking because it enabled me to develop my professional skill set managing teams of people,” he says. “This taught me a lot about what I wanted in my own farm system, which was to be able to achieve some personal goals in sport in conjunction with farming.

Continued page 12 11

Mark has always been passionate about multisports and often competes in triathlons or Iron Man competitions.

“Being passionate about cows and grass I think the low-cost System 2 approach essentially helped achieve both personal and business goals.” About half the herd is grazed off farm in Hawke’s Bay during winter. He would not be able to run the low-cost system if they were wintered at home because of the extra feed costs and significant damage to pasture during a wetter than usual winter. The cows return home before the start of calving on July 20. He keeps 20% for replacements and all calves are tube-fed gold colostrum as soon as possible after birth then twice a day and they move to once-a-day feed from about 10 days old.

Target weaning is 90-100kg. They will then go grazing in December, returning as calf heifers. Mating begins on October 15 with four and a half weeks of AI using premier sire semen through LIC. Hereford bulls are run with the herd till early December. Over the years he has simplified his operation, freeing up time he uses to look after himself better, which, in turn, enhances the farm business and says most farmers could do the same. “I’m not too keen on overcomplicating it and have found that sticking to the basics seems to work well,” he says.

“Starting out we were focused on debt reduction but I know heading into the coming years there will be some capital expenditure to make the farm run more efficiently and again to keep it compliant. “I’m milking 250 cows and trying to do that on the cheapest, most sustainable system I can. My focus is around cows and grass management. I really enjoy managing grass and getting that into the vat.” Having a good grasp of and keeping a close eye on financials has played an important part in streamlining the system. “Financial analysis of the farm is

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December 2019

The 250-cow herd is on target to produce 105,000kg MS this season.

learning what industry averages are for each farm working expense and always trying to make improvements to get ahead. Taking those learnings through to this farm has been key to keeping costs low.” His target is to consistently have farm working expenses below $3/kg MS. Using this low-cost system comes down to a financial decision for him because reporting higher stocking numbers and production doesn’t always necessarily mean an increase in profit. “Setting a budget and sticking to it helps to identify the gains I’m getting from a low-cost system. “I think we’ve probably overcomplicated farming and it doesn’t have to be. You can have a slightly lower stocking rate and do more per cow per hectare production to achieve good returns. “It’s also being able to really get in touch with herd management and pasture management. You can keep a really good watch on those costs when it’s at a smaller scale.” Mark gets contractors in to do larger jobs that involve heavy machinery. With his passion being around pasture and his animals he tries to steer away from


Mark works the farm largely on his own but has his trusty dog Tess to keep him company.

Continued page 14 December 2019


I’m not too keen on overcomplicating it and have found that sticking to the basics seems to work well. Mark gets contractors to do most of his work but does his own fertiliser spreading and some maintenance work.

Mark does weekly farm walks and uses the data to produce feed wedges to track pasture.

working with machinery as much as possible. “I will get contractors in to do pretty much everything apart from spreading fertiliser, which is our largest on farm expense. Though his road to farm ownership was a challenge at times he wouldn’t be where he is now had he not had a string of fantastic employers who supported and encouraged him in his career progress. His simple approach to farming also allows more time to focus on his sport, having now completed a coast to coast, an Iron Man and two half Iron Mans. “I’ve always had a passion for multisport and I’ve always wanted to do events like Coast to Coast and Iron Man. But chasing large-scale farming I didn’t engage with that but now I am involved I am finding the benefits are significant in terms of a healthy mindset and a sustainable approach to farming. 14 

“If I wasn’t sticking to this system it would lead to burn-out. I could still participate in some sporting events but not to the extent I am right now.” When he is not bettering himself through keeping fit and active he is passionate about trying to get other farming friends into sport. “I’m a massive advocate for it so I’ll encourage anyone who will listen to engage in exercise as a vehicle to becoming a better farmer and the best version of themselves.” The nature of farming has changed with the use of machinery and technology leading to less physical activity so farmers are developing more and more health issues. Physical health issues such as back problems, respiratory issues and farmrelated injuries have been reported as leading factors in causing mental health problems. Therefore a farmer who focuses

on keeping active is looking after his overall wellbeing. “We look after our cows and our grass and put that first above ourselves but that method is really backwards. You’ve got to look after yourself so you can look after your cows and grass to that higher standard. “It all just seems like common sense to me but I’d like to see more farmers have that mindset.” Throughout his journey to selfimprovement his partner Johanna Smith has been fully supportive. She has noticed improvement in the entire farming operation as well as his overall wellbeing. Johanna works as a territory manager for Seed Force and has a strong background in agriculture. She often helps him out on the farm so she has a very good understanding of how he is doing day-to-day. Mark says that though it was challenging getting to his current fitness level, enlisting a fitness coach helped speed up the process. “It’s not hard to get into it even just starting by going for a walk and progressing to running if that’s where your fitness level is. “Certainly, when you’re trying to achieve those bigger goals having a coach will shorten the process from starting out to reaching your end goal. “I enlisted the help of a coach and I aim to follow his programme to the best I can. He understands my career so he just tailored a programme to suit.” Another advantage of having a coach is there is an increase in motivation there when someone is constantly pushing you to do better. Given how frantic a farmer’s schedule can be it’s certainly worth having that extra drive to achieve your goals. However, he is plenty motivated to achieve his goals and says it has become a vital part of his day that cannot be pushed aside. “A common thing is people saying they


December 2019

Walking around the farm helps Mark get in his daily exercise while doing jobs. Mark locks the cows in after morning milking.

don’t have the time and energy for it. But the thing with exercise is that it gives you energy. “So from just making that exercise a non-negotiable part of your daily routine you actually find yourself having more energy.

“I now find to the extent that if I don’t exercise daily my body doesn’t function as well.” He believes the primary sector is in desperate need of a culture change when talking about health and wellbeing. He wants to see improvement and for

famers to take it much more seriously. “Everyone is talking about having a sustainable approach to farming but they’re not incorporating themselves into that overall picture of sustainability.” n >> Video link:

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Prices keep going up Each month the milk monitor Stephen Bell delves into the dairy industry and gives us the lowdown on the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between.


INANCIALLY things are looking good this month. So, apart from environment rules, compliance hassles, the threat of trees, gun laws, staff shortages, bank pressure and holes in socks farmers have nothing to worry about. Talking of holes I reckon the loss of the art of darning is responsible for the breakdown in the fabric of society. But enough of philosophy, let’s get back to the money. Despite caution being expressed by industry leaders the likely farmgate milk price for this season keeps going up. After the last Global Dairy Trade auction the NZX forecast lifted eight cents to $7.49/kg MS. It’s spot price, based on selling the season’s milk at the latest prices has gone even higher, to $8.07. Some might think that’s pie in the sky territory but given how far the forecasts have come already this season it’s not off the planet. The optimism is backed up by the NZX’s milk price futures September 2020 contract at $7.42 and Fonterra’s fixed milk price November offer settling at $7.38, before the co-op takes its admin cut of 10c a kilo after starting at $6.75 in June. Fonterra chairman John Monaghan did warn farmers not to expect too much when it set its latest forecast at $6.55 to $7.55 but the indications now are that it is firmly in the top end of that range. And despite Monaghan’s wariness Fonterra based its advance payments in the middle of the range at $7.05 so you can bet your boots it’s confident the price won’t go below that, so no need to expose those holey socks. Given recent events and its experience in Australia I’m sure Fonterra won’t want a bar of overpromising and underdelivering. And given the global market’s history of volatiliy it’s probably wise farmers don’t get their hopes too high. Despite the continuing upswing in prices here it’s not all plain sailing around the world. Farmers Weekly published


December 2019

The sun is shining on the Kiwi dairy industry as prices keep rising.  Photo: Paul Sutherland Photography reports of the British milk market being on the verge of collapse and Dean Foods, admittedly a domestic market producer, in the United States seeking bankruptcy protection and putting itself up for sale. However, there are no clouds like the European skim milk powder stockpile, on the horizon and, indeed, SMP prices have been performing well lately. Locally, we have seen what might be called the changing of the guard. Fonterra is shying away from value-add consumer products while Synlait, whose fortunes so far have been closely aligned to those of A2 Milk, buying Dairyworks, a company that specialises in producing consumer dairy products. While Fonterra wants to concentrate on business-to-business transactions and on supplying ingredients for food service and specialist products such as fitness and aged care products Synlait is going in the opposite direction. It says the Dairyworks acquisition allows it to get closer to consumers, a key part of its long-term strategy. And those doing some long-term thinking reckon Synlait might be right.

They say if laboratories can make real milk without cows then that is likely to be used more in the ingredients sector than being sold direct to consumers. That puts those making products with real milk from cows in the pound seats and could leave those making ingredients wondering how they are going to pay for their ticket. While Dairyworks isn’t taking on the world, as Fonterra tried to do, it has significant sales in New Zealand and Australia and strategic customers in the food service, quick service restaurants and export channels. So, if the sale gets Overseas Investment Office approval, Synlait will have the market covered and no longer have all its eggs in one basket. It supplies nearly half of New Zealand’s cheese and a quarter of its butter. It has a 9% market share in ice cream and a 19% share in milk powder. Its brands include Dairyworks, Rolling Meadow and Alpine. I’ll watch developments at Fonterra and Synlait with great interest in coming years.  n



Vet tech course in limbo SAMANTHA TENNENT


CORES of students have been left in limbo after Massey University temporarily closed enrolments in the 2020 veterinary technology degree course. The country already faces a veterinarian shortage and veterinary technologists were beginning to lessen some of that burden though there is a shortage of them too. Massey says the degree is not viable in its current form. From its inception it has been on the same government funding rate as science courses, compared to the higher rate Massey receives for veterinary science students. It is yet to apply for a funding category change to address the funding issues. In an email sent to course students while they prepared for end-of-year exams Massey’s vet school head Professor Jon Huxley explained the extent of the resources required. “Graduates from the BVetTech are highly valued in New Zealand’s animal health and veterinary industries, in part because of the substantial component of clinical training they receive in the school’s veterinary teaching hospital. “However, delivering hospital-based practical training requires considerable resources in terms of staff time and use of hospital space and equipment.” The programme was launched in 2009 and is the only veterinary technologist course available in NZ. About 100 students a year enrol in the pre-selection semester and have to compete for one of 48 places in the degree. The programme has a low attrition rate and a high employment rate among graduates. Vet technologists are working at senior levels in veterinary practices with


Massey University has temporarily closed enrolments for the veterinary technology degree, leaving dozens of students in limbo. multiple species. They have roles in biosecurity, food safety, animal welfare and research with various employers such as AssureQuality, DairyNZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries. Veterinary practices have been developing roles specifically for graduates. Vet technologists gain sound technical knowledge, practical skills and an in-depth knowledge of the veterinary and rural sectors. They also are trained in companion animals, including equine, large animals, wildlife and gain an extensive science background. Many are in educational and support roles in the sector and some work on farms. There is a different level of understanding a vet technologist can provide compared with other qualifications and many courses would be required to cover the same components as the BVetTech. Graduates obtain critical thinking skills and are equipped to help farmers and veterinarians with both routine work and investigating deeper problems. Veterinary technologist Hayley Squance was the driving force in establishing the programme in NZ. She got her qualification at Queensland University. “The core of the veterinary technology programme is crucial,” Squance says. “Foundational science underpins the knowledge required to understand the pathophysiology of the diseases

Veterinary technologist Hayley Squance gained her qualification from Queensland University and was the driving force behind the establishment of the programme in New Zealand.

and the pharmacology of medicines to understand how this will affect patients. It is learning about the diagnostic process and putting it into practice.” Alternative study programmes are different to the BVetTech. There is no direct alternative offered in NZ. She says as the value of veterinary technologists is becoming more understood it is gaining momentum internationally. “NZ has been world leading with their BVetTech programme and the uncertainty for its future imposes significant risk to many parts of the sector,” she says. “This closure will impact our agricultural sector and the closure poses a significant risk to animal welfare, biosecurity, food safety and rural communities.” n


December 2019


Top women wanted


CELEBRATION of women who make outstanding contributions to the dairy industry enters its ninth year as nominations for the 2020 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year are now open. The prestigious award, which celebrates the outstanding leadership of women in the business of dairy, was established in 2012 by the Dairy Women’s Network as a key strand in its support of women in their leadership journeys through providing inspiration, learning and education. Dairy Women’s Network chief executive Jules Benton said she was inspired by the high calibre of last year’s finalists and is looking forward to see who will be nominated for the 2020 awards. “Women on farms all juggle many multiple roles,” Benton said. “They need to be able to care for their animals as well as be anything from a financial planner and strategic thinker through to a mechanic and mum and there is no doubt women are being recognised as leaders in the dairy industry.” Benton said so many of their network members are humble about their efforts and just don’t realise how much they are actually doing and what a difference they are making so the Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award is a way of recognising and celebrating this effort and it gives others in the industry something to aspire to. Dairy Women’s Network trustee and awards judge Alison Gibb said it recognises a woman who has already achieved a great deal beyond the farm gate but has not yet reached her full potential. “We know that with support the winner will go from good to great.” Primary school teacher Trish Rankin from Taranaki was this year’s winner. She balances teaching part time at Opunake Primary School and being on-farm full time in South Taranaki with her husband Glen and their four boys. A passionate environmentalist, she has done the Kellogg Leadership Programme with the main purpose being a research project focused on how a circular


December 2019

Trish Rankin from Taranaki was this year’s Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year. economy model can be developed on a New Zealand dairy farm. An active Dairy Enviro Leader (DEL) and member of the NZ DEL network, Rankin is also chairwoman of the Taranaki DEL group. Last year she was elected onto the national executive for the Dairy Industry Awards and was selected as a climate change ambassador as part of Dairy Action for Climate Change. “Trish has been an outstanding Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year,” Benton said. “She has taken every opportunity offered to speak and present at events, has been greatly motivating as an inspiring leader in our industry.” The award has been supported by Fonterra since its inception with recipients receiving a scholarship prize of $20,000 for an approved professional development programme. Fonterra co-operative affairs managing director Mike Cronin said the co-op is proud to support the award because it’s a celebration of high performers in the dairy industry. “No other award in NZ specifically recognises and encourages the capability and success of women in the dairy industry,” he said. “While only one will be named

the winner, each year we see many outstanding women nominated – women who are passionate about the dairy industry, leaders across the sector and in their communities and networks and who are contributing to the frameworks that will enable the next generation of farmers to succeed.” The finalists for the awards will be selected by a judging panel of representatives from the Dairy Women’s Network, Fonterra, Global Women, Ballance Agri-Nutrients and a previous recipient. Nominations are now open and the winner will be named at the Dairy Women’s Network conference in Hamilton on May 6. Benton said anyone can nominate a network member for the award, stressing they do not have to be a Dairy Women’s Network member themselves to nominate someone they feel is worthy. “It’s clear those nominated will have a commitment, drive and passion for the dairy industry as a whole as well as being a positive role model for women in dairying.” n


Nominations close onApril 3 at 19


Gav Hogarth and his partner Jody Hansen run Bella Vacca Jerseys in the Far North and sell milk direct to the public in glass bottles. Symmie the fox terrier and Axel the Rottweiler keep Gav company on the farm.  Photos: Jenny Ling

Going green makes money


A Northland farming family is adding value and creating extra income by supplying milk in glass bottles direct to customers. Jenny Ling reports.

AR North sharemilkers Gav Hogarth and Jody Hansen knew they needed a plan B when Fonterra announced a forecast milk payout with a three in front of it. The couple had been milking their herd of pedigree Jerseys on a conventional, twice-daily milking system for five years at their Kawakawa farm when the dairy co-operative dropped the milk payout from $4.15 a kilogram of milksolids to $3.90 in early 2016. “At $3 you’re not making any money and farming is not sustainable at that level,” Gav says. “The options were either I went back to work or we would have to borrow money to feed the cows,” Jody says. “Every dairy farmer was in the same position. We couldn’t feed our families on what they were paying us.” Jody had returned to work as an

accountant in Whangarei when they decided to branch out and provide for a niche market, selling pasteurised, fullcream milk in glass bottles straight from their farm, Bella Vacca Jerseys. The couple set about making the idea a reality, which involved setting up a pasteurisation plant next to the cowshed to process some of their Jersey milk. Going back to glass bottles was a nobrainer. They wanted something with a point of difference that would also benefit the environment and reduce single-use plastic. They spent two years on the project, which involved getting the tick of approval from the Ministry for Primary Industries. Jody admits the new business venture was a gamble. “It was scary,” she says. “The banks didn’t want to know us. They’d say it was a great business plan

Bella Vacca Jerseys are treated like part of the family. Gav gives the friendly cow Daisy a scratch while out checking the herd. DAIRY FARMER

December 2019

FARM FACTS n Farm owners: Pat and Nin Goodhue n Sharemilkers: Gav Hogarth and Jody Hansen n Location: Kawakawa, Northland n Farm size: 81ha n Cows: 160 pedigree Jersey n Production 2018-19: 86,000 litres of pasteurised milk and 90,000 litres of raw milk n Target 2019-20: 220,000 litres

but didn’t want to put up the money because it was something so unique. But we got there eventually and now it’s really starting to pay off.” This is Gav and Jody’s ninth season on the 81ha dairy farm, which belongs to Pat and Nin Goodhue about 8km up the road over five one-way bridges from the small town of Moerewa. It’s where the Goodhue family have farmed for more than five generations and where Gav and Jody have farmed their 160 cows since June 2011. About half the milk from their herd is pasteurised and bottled as full cream milk in reusable glass bottles distributed to 34 shops from Houhora in Northland to Grey Lynn in Auckland. The rest is sold to Fonterra.   There was an initial outlay for equipment including a pasteuriser, chiller, processing plant to meet food processing requirements and a $10,000 Novalum Alkaline Phosphatase tester, which makes sure every batch is free from pathogens. The milk is piped directly into the

Continued page 22 21


Keeping things ticking along at Bella Vacca’s cowshed are, from left, Glenn Gray, Gav Hogarth, Jody Hansen and Amy Deal.

pasteuriser and heated to 69C for two minutes to kill pathogens before being piped through plate coolers and into another vat that keeps it chilled. Then it’s put straight into one-litre glass bottles, all within a few hours of the cows being milked. They sold raw milk for the first 18 months but found it was too expensive to test and audit. Once they started pasteurising in May 2018 most of their customers simply switched over. The business has taken off and now operates seven days a week. Customers pay $8.20 for the first bottle with refills costing $3.70. Glass bottles are a great product to work with and are definitely in demand, Gav says. “It’s amazing, some communities we get a real engagement with, like Kerikeri there’s a real engagement there and Devonport is another one. “We love the glass bottles and so do our customers. The feedback we get on our Facebook page is so positive, both 22 

about the glass and the taste. Customers are really happy about getting rid of the plastic milk bottles and our product reminds them a lot of the time when milk used to come in glass bottles.” The couple have come a long way since they started selling their milk to one shop in Waipapa, 6km from Kerikeri. They now sell to 20 shops in Northland and 14 in Auckland and have bold targets for the future, which will be rolled out over the next 18 months. In September they announced plans to extend coverage to include all of greater Auckland and introduce home deliveries to hot spots across urban Auckland, allowing customers to order online and get fresh, bottled milk delivered to their homes as far south as the Bombay Hills. The surge in demand for glass bottles means the rollout will have to be staggered, Gav says. They are also extending their product range so customers will have a choice of cream and low-fat milks. As the project moves forward they will

also roll out more distribution points around the Bay of Islands and further afield. To cope with the growth spurt a bigger pasteuriser vat is expected to be running by Christmas. The new vat will hold 1000 litres of milk, double what the first one holds. Ultimately, customers are getting a product that hasn’t had all the goodness sucked out of it, Jody says. “And they’re helping the environment. “If they can get 50 return trips out of a glass bottle then the cost to the environment is much less than that of manufacturing 50 plastic bottles. It’s about getting rid of single-use plastic. You can’t get rid of plastic completely but if we all do a little bit it certainly has to help and this is our little bit to help our environment.” Gav and Jody have diverse working backgrounds with solid roots in dairy farming. Brought up in Waikato and Taranaki, Gav’s grandparents owned a dairy farm in


December 2019

Customers are really happy about getting rid of the plastic milk bottles and our product reminds them a lot of the time when milk used to come in glass bottles. Gav Hogarth

Te Awamutu, which is where Gav did most of his schooling. He has dairy farmed in the King Country including Te Awamutu and was also a qualified telecommunications technician, building and maintaining cell phone towers and installing phone lines.  Jody is originally from Foxton and shifted to Hawke’s Bay when her son Cam was aged three. The couple met 14 years ago while Gav was based in Tauranga, working as a truck driver. When Cam was 20 they moved to Waikato where they sharemilked in Otorohanga.  Before they became sharemilkers at the Goodhue farm the couple lived in Takou Bay in the Far North where Gav was second in charge at Keripapa Dairy, a dairy farm at Waipapa, near Kerikeri. Jody did accounts for a company in Otorohanga, mainly working from home and going to King Country four days a month. 

Glenn Gray handles deliveries in Whangarei.

Continued page 24



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Daughter-in-law Amy Deal ensures the glass bottles are kept sterilised and clean.

Amy Deal, left, and Jody Hansen next to the pasteurising vat where milk is piped directly and heated to 69C for two minutes to kill any pathogens.

The Bella Vacca business provided the chance to combine their skills and become more hands-on as a couple working together on the farm. While Gav does most of the milking, Jody concentrates on processing the milk, rearing the calves and taking care of the office work. Daughter-in-law Amy Deal, who is married to Cam, helps out with the administration and milk processing. Cam and Amy are sharemilkers on the farm next door and their children Bella, 8, and Jackson, 6, also enjoy lending a hand, putting lids on bottles and attaching labels. The farm has three delivery drivers. Glenn Gray delivers to Whangarei, Barry Dick to Kerikeri and Loris Halliday to Auckland. Paula Lyndon is the creamery assistant, taking care of washing, sterilising and refilling bottles. The farm’s canine helpers, Flo and Chase, along with Axel the Rottweiler and Symmie the fox terrier have a variety of

roles, including moving stock and being, companion and guard dogs. Gav and Jody also nurture a small orchard on the farm, which keeps them in plentiful supply of apples, plums, pears and nashis. Last season they produced 86,000 litres of pasteurised milk and 90,000 litres of raw milk. They have a target of 220,000 litres this season. The Jersey cows are milked once a day and spend their time outside among rolling hills bordered by poplar trees providing shelter from the rain and sun.  Milk from the Jersey herd is predominately A2. The A2 protein is found in human milk and is easier to digest than milk that contains the A1 protein. While they haven’t had the whole herd tested, Gav says most Jersey cows produce A2 milk naturally and because they have used A2 bulls for the last six seasons about 95% of the herd is expected to be A2. And with Jersey milk known for

containing more butterfat and less water and lactose the result is healthy, creamy white gold. Jersey milk is also naturally higher in calcium.

A lot of people believe our cows are spoilt as we try and keep them in a very low-stress environment.

Jody Hansen

Another factor that ensures quality milk is the way the herd is treated. They’re like members of the family to Gav and Jody and most have names that

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December 2019

A crate of Bella Vacca’s finest pasteurised milk is popular among Northlanders and Aucklanders.

match their unique personalities. “A lot of people believe our cows are spoilt as we try and keep them in a very low-stress environment,” Jody says. “But a non-stressed cow is a happy cow and happy cows make more milk. They are treated more as members of the family than just a commodity. Cows are very similar to humans in a lot of respects as they have feelings and have amazing memories.” “They’ve got amazing personalities,” Gav says. “People don’t realise that. There’s one that will always be the first at the shed to get milked. Daisy will stand at the end of the pit because she gets pats all through the milking.” Another way they keep the farm sustainable is with extremely low drug use. The use of antibiotics is kept to an absolute minimum and there are many animals on the farm that have never had any. Gav says cases of mild mastitis needn’t

warrant immediate treatment with drugs. “A lot of farmers treat mastitis straight away but if they’re milked properly for three or four days and their teats are properly cleaned they’ll usually come right by themselves if it’s a mild case. “The vets love us because of the health of our cows but then they don’t because we don’t spend much money with them.” Most of the herd gets mated via AI and any that don’t get in-calf are run with a leased Hereford bull to tail them off. They have used mainly semen from Glenbrook Genetics, a farm in Taranaki with the highest producing Jersey herd in New Zealand. They are now looking to beef bulls, using the distinctive Speckle Park to produce calves for sale to lifestyle blocks. The next round will also use semen from Galloway and Highland, both native to Scotland. Both are hardy, adaptable and resilient and can cope with feed shortages and other adverse climate conditions. They are also known for their fertility

and mothering skills and are popular with lifestyle block owners. Gav and Jody don’t have any bobby calves. All healthy calves are reared on the farm by Jody. Many of the young bulls go to other farms where they are used for breeding and the healthy heifers stay in the herd as replacements with only a few being sold. After the couple start selling all their calves from new batches of Speckle Park, Galloway and Highland sires they will buy young heifer replacements as needed. To maintain a constant milk supply they have been calving three times a year, which also allows the cows to have a longer break each year as they prepare to calve. They plan to increase calving to four times by next year, in July, October, January and April. “It gives us two things, a continuous supply of milk and it keeps fat and protein levels consistent,” Gav says.

Continued page 26

Bella Vacca Jerseys is on 81ha of land owned by the Goodhue family in the Far North.


December 2019



Miss Linda gets the AI treatment from the LIC technician while Gav gives her a pat.

The vets love us because of the health of our cows but then they don’t because we don’t spend much money with them. Gav Hogarth

Calving more often also spreads out the workload, Jody says. “Rearing calves is a lot nicer because you haven’t got this huge influx.” The farm is run on a System 2 and the cows are fed mainly on grass and grass silage. Because sorghum grows well in Northland’s climate the cereal grain is grown in summer, with cows break-fed on 6ha. They’ll typically get two to three grazings out of each paddock and any gaps are filled using dried distiller’s grain along with tapioca and soy husks. Condensed distiller’s syrup is also

used with hay when the cows are dry. Paddocks are soil tested every second year to keep fertiliser use in check. Because Gav and Jody get more for their pasteurised milk they can lower their stocking rate, which means they don’t have to put as much fertiliser on. They plan to keep working hard at farming sustainably and keeping only a relatively small number of cows on the farm compared to the average dairy herd. But adding value to the milk and selling direct will ensure Bella Vacca Jerseys stays a financially viable. n



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Farmers’ green tinge growing

ARMERS are on a green binge recycling more waste and unwanted products through the Agrecovery scheme than ever before. Now the Government and agri manufacturers are working on a plan to make industry hitchhikers pay their way. Agrecovery’s waste collection rates rose 40% in the past couple of years, the animal health and agrichem lobby group Agcarm says. Agcarm chief executive Mark Ross said the voluntary returns amount to about 437 tonnes of products, including 11 tonnes of chemicals. The total collected was about half the product in the New Zealand market at any time. The aim for the next few years is to lift the pick-up rate to about 80%, comparable to international rates. The 13-year-old Agrecovery is a notfor-profit, charitable trust running 97 collection points for containers, drums and unwanted or expired chemicals. The owners and distributors of agrichemical, animal health and dairy hygiene products pay the Agrecovery Foundation fees to cover costs, which gives programme users free access to the scheme. Ross said some free-riders out there don’t pay the levy of 12c a litre of chemical to run the programme. About 85-90% of eligible manufacturers and distributors are part of Agrecovery. Most of the remainder are smaller businesses dealing in generic products but one or two of the companies are quite large. “Why haven’t they joined up? I guess they don’t see the value in it or they don’t want to pay the money. Twelve cents a litre could be quite a loss of profit to them if they’re operating on a small margin but we’re 100% about making everyone part of the scheme.” Depending on a company’s sales, participants might pay the scheme tens of thousands a year. Agrecovery’s total annual operating budget, the amount


December 2019

Farm waste being disposed of at Agrecovery’s mobile truck. lying around farms and nothing is been coming in from levies, is about $1.5m. done about them or they’ve been buried “If you go to drop-off points you’ll or burnt or something. see non Agrecovery member products The agrichemicals industry is pretty coming through the system and they’re much set up now and hopes to be sort of going through free. Sometimes operating under the stewardship scheme they’re taken out and they go back to the within three years. Veterinary supplier and they ask them for medicines are likely to take a charge. But there’s basically longer because of the type of hitchhikers in there.” packaging involved. To step up waste control “You’re dealing with and cut the freeloading the vaccines and antibiotics and Ministry for the Environment contamination. And nowhere is consulting industry groups else in the world is there like Agcarm on a co-design an animal medicine waste partnership to recycle or safely recycling scheme so we’re dispose of more products as going to be leading the world intended under the Waste Mark Ross in this.” Minimisation Act. Meantime, the waste The six regulated, priority collection trend is encouraging. products are set to include agrichemicals “It’s just farmers wanting to do and their containers, plastics(including something about environmental silage wrap and feed stacks and tyres. protection and management and The designation will also cover it’s just the programme getting more electrical and electronic products established,” Ross said. including lithium and ion batteries, Another agri waste scheme, Plasback, refrigerants and other synthetic deals with bale wrap, silage pit covers, greenhouse gases and packaging small low-density polyethylene, feed bags, including containers and single-use shrink wrap and pallet covers. Agrecovery packaging. works with Plasback to provide collection Ross said the recommended priority points. products are the most hazardous ones n



Chris Lewis has been employing migrant workers for more than 10 years and highly recommends it.

Migrant workers worth the effort Waikato farmer and Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says employing migrant workers isn’t always easy but is worth the investment.


’VE been employing migrant workers on my farm for more than a decade. My first worker from overseas recently left me after 10 years to go out contract milking. In the 10 years since I employed him I’ve changed my approach a great deal. Experience has shown me what works best. I could talk about this for hours but I will summarise some of the lessons here. Employing migrants is not the cheap option for New Zealand dairy farmers. In fact, generally, it will cost you more but it is worth it in the long run. Firstly, you might need some professional help dealing with Immigration NZ once you’ve found a migrant worker to employ. That will generally cost you $1600-$2000. Visa fees cost about $500 If you haven’t found a migrant and want an agency to do it for you it will cost thousands more. Nothing is cheap and the bureaucracy costs and the back and forth, repetitively dealing with paperwork with a government agency, is like a taxi meter going off on steroids in Auckland’s traffic. Then you need a house that’s semifurnished with bedding and towels, warm farm clothes to start in winter on a farm. And you might have to take them to a supermarket before starting their job because they will have limited dollars and need to eat before their first wage cheque comes in. 28 

So you need to allow a bit extra in your budget for all that. You will also need to pay average to above-average wages for the position offered to allow the bureaucracy to give them a work permit for a year. Then you need to repeat the whole exercise over again if unsuccessful with that. It’s a money-go-round. But those are the only negatives I will talk about in this article.

Employing migrants has been a good experience for our business, our people and our family and local community. The rest of the experience is very enjoyable once they are on farm, eager to learn and work for you. For it to be enjoyable I had to change the way I employed people. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back I shake my head at the way I used to do certain things, for example, how I instructed and worked with my migrants. Thankfully, I was well travelled in my younger years around the world and had

some insight into foreign cultures and what motivates/works for people from overseas. The first thing I learned was to buddy them up with a senior staff member to show them the ropes for our particular farm operation. Employers can be intimidating and/or the new worker might be too timid to ask the boss the question. They are more likely to confide in or question a fellow staff member on instructions or issues on the farm. Cars are another issue. They tend to save up for one quickly but driving here is different. A few of my staff have had a few bumps on their guards. Rural/gravel roads are not the easiest so monitor this and give some friendly tips – that goes for your farm motorbikes and tractors too. Generally, migrant workers look after vehicles better than Kiwis who think they are provided for the use of repeating the latest Crusty Demons motorbike show they just saw on Facebook. Another issue is they need a cell phone SIM card, bank account, IRD number, power on in their house. Power retailers don’t know who they are so you might have to have the electricity account in your name to start with and the same with other basic services. In NZ it is usually okay to speak to a boss in a casual or informal way. It is not seen as disrespectful. Migrants take some time to get used to this, quite often they address you to start with like Sir Chris or Mr Lewis. Our informal ways of doing


December 2019

things take some time to get used to. The way we give instructions can be confusing. The migrant might say after your instructions to put cows in paddock 19, “Yes, yes, yes”. Usually that means they didn’t understand your Kiwi slang. So always ask them to repeat instructions till you are confident they understand you. Our dairy farm slang is hard to understand as well. “Bobby calves, cow is crook, cows a bit dodgy, don’t muck around, I’m feeling knackered, no worries mate, smoko time, get the job done by arvo time, mate”. What does all this mean? Try to put yourself in their shoes. I’m at the end of my word count and I could carry on. I will say employing migrants has been a good experience for our business, our people and our family and local community. There’s lots of resources so please use them and make it an enjoyable experience for everyone. Migrants are keen to learn and hardworking. It might take a bit of time and effort to get them sorted and set up but they add value to my farm business and have become an integral part of our lives. n

Chris Lewis was raised on a sheep and beef farm but worked on a nearby dairy farm during the school holidays. He now owns a 360ha farm milking 1150 cows at Pukeatua in Waikato and a 140ha drystock unit.



Innovating Kiwis

Manawatu farmer Mat Hocken and a friend started the Rural Innovation Lab to help provide new ways to solve problems and get ahead of the changes and disruptions in farming.

When the call of the land became too strong, a Colyton farmer answered by swapping his business suit for overalls and gumboots to champion the agricultural sector and agricultural innovation. Samantha Tennent reports.


ANAWATU farmer and Nuffield Scholar Mat Hocken believes innovation will help the agricultural sector unlock some of the issues and concerns it faces. So when he received a Nuffield Scholarship in 2017 he chose agriinnovation as his research project. The scholarship is a prestigious rural leadership programme with a global focus, designed to fast-track the development of emerging leaders in the agri-food sector. Each year up to five scholarships are awarded to people who are expected to assume positions of greater influence in their field in the future. Scholars travel internationally for at least four months and participate in a Contemporary Scholars Conference with 60 Nuffield Scholars from around the world. 30 

They also attend a six-week Global Focus Programme with an organised itinerary through several countries with other scholars. During his travels Hocken visited 14 countries exploring how they make use of technology and innovation in agriculture. He learned about interesting things that could contribute to the sector in New Zealand. “I have been fortunate as part of my Nuffield experience to visit places were innovation is flourishing – people, businesses, small and large companies and universities – to look at why it’s happening and what we can learn from these places,” Hocken says. “I’ve seen farmers working with techies in Silicon Valley, the collaboration between Dutch universities, farmers and society and the focus in Chile on international competitiveness and research and development. “As farmers we are pretty good problem-solvers and have a good

entrepreneurial spirit.” But he believes some of the challenges the agri sector faces need a broader approach. That was a key motivator behind establishing the Rural Innovation Lab, a concept Hocken and fellow dairy farmer James Stewart launched with partners in Manawatu this year. Stewart and Hocken originally connected through their involvement with Federated Farmers and had been thinking and talking ideas for several years. Research through a regional growth study, Accelerate25, and an AgTech hackathon in 2017 helped speed up their thinking. Their aim is to help provide new ways to solve problems and get ahead of the changes and disruptions in farming. “Farmers are facing a myriad of challenges. How do we move from our existing systems and succeed in an uncertain and challenging future?” Hocken says.


December 2019

“The best way to get ahead of disruption is to innovate. “We need new ideas of how to meet the challenges of producing food for the world sustainably and combat climate change. “Our focus is bringing farmers and growers into innovation ecosystems and engaging with collaborative networks.” The key take-home from his Nuffield Scholarship was the process farmers and growers go through to uncover requirements and define challenges as well as work with partners. It was not a piece of technology or equipment that other countries were using that could be applied in NZ, it was the process of how they would come together to inform and elevate the discussion. “It’s not just about new technology and ideas. Sometimes old technology can solve an issue but it’s bringing those challenges to light and working through the process. “Innovation happens in a social and cultural context. What works in other countries may not necessarily work in NZ.” The Lab got $400,000 in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund and worked with more than 150 farmers, growers and Maori landowners to identify the key challenges they face and develop solutions. They also formed partnerships with Massey University, Federated Farmers, The Factory, Maori agribusiness in the region and Microsoft. The lab has a continual focus on generating new ideas and what can be taken onto the farm. They work across sectors, looking at good ideas and crosspollinating. “We have had a lot of support from a number of organisations. There are a lot of companies and start-ups that are interested in engaging with farmers and growers. “It’s a platform for people to come and test their ideas and trial things. We are only at the start of the journey.” This year was the pilot and they have just completed the first cycle of grants to four rural innovation projects. Earlier this year they put out a call for people to submit ideas to help solve burning issues in the rural sector, as identified by farmers and growers. The four innovation projects were selected from a pool of 50 applicants. The successful projects include a 14-year-old entrepreneur looking to provide broadband access to isolated


December 2019

Mat and Jana lead busy lives with Mat working on several initiatives including the Rural Innovation Lab while Jana works as a consultant and developed the Lean Management programme.

rural communities, a carbon calculator co-designed with farmers to estimate on-farm emissions, an online platform for farmer-to-farmer rentals and the development of a Maori agribusiness collective. “We also have 80 third-year Massey University students working on another 10 projects.”

Our focus is bringing farmers and growers into innovation ecosystems and engaging with collaborative networks. The projects received a support package from the Rural Innovation Lab and are being facilitated by start-up and company development experts through The Factory. They have access to the partners in the collaborative network the Rural Innovation Lab has established as well as mentoring from leading farmers and growers in the Manawatu-Wanganui region and a contribution to project costs. “We’ve been supporting the four project teams to engage with farmers

and growers, to help shape their ideas and innovations, facilitating their development and providing them with mentoring.” They see Manawatu as a real key in the process. “There is a lot of energy here. In October the region launched an agtech strategy which sets a hub of opportunity and connections. As the power of the network expands we’ll be pulling from further afield.” The Lab aims to generate outcomes on top of the projects it directly supports. It wants to establish networks that can overcome barriers that form in agriculture such as communication silos and ease friction points such as reducing the time to engage farmers. Hocken spends one day a week working on the Rural Innovation Lab and has recently concentrated efforts to secure funding for next year, applying to the Provincial Growth Fund again. The strategy for next year is to embed the lessons from the pilot and improve processes. It will build the network with others involved in rural innovation in NZ and internationally. It met Government representatives to report on progress from this year. The Provincial Growth Fund was the cornerstone to enable the work though the Lab did secure funding and other resources from the local network. “We worked with Central Economic Development Agency, Palmerston North

Continued page 32 31

Mat received a Nuffield Scholarship in 2017 and chose agri-innovation as his research project. Mat and daughter Gabrielle in the shed.

City Council, Accelerate25 and we kept track of hours from our partners.” The Lab also got $750,000 from outside investment and in-kind work. “This demonstrates to the Government the value in our work and they have been supportive of our progress.” They held a muster in the square in Palmerston North at the end of November with several workshops and a dinner. “It was a celebration of what has happened this year and who has been involved and a sum up of where we’ve got to.” As a farmer and a past Federated Farmers provincial dairy chairman,

Hocken knows full well the challenges the rural sector faces and is confident it can find solutions to address them. He grew up on the family farm, Grassmere, at Colyton near Fielding. The farm has been in his family for more than 125 years. His parents encouraged him and his sister to get a good education before deciding their career paths. Leaving school in 1996 he enrolled in a double degree in law and commerce at Canterbury University. But after graduating and working in a law office he decided it wasn’t for him. He won a scholarship to Cambridge University so

decided to further his studies and did a masters degree in politics. He moved to Brussels in 2004 where he put his degree to use and worked for a public affairs and communications company specialising in European Union policy. He met Jana, who was also working in Brussels, in 2006. The couple moved to Sydney together and worked there for four and a half years before Mat felt the urge to head home. “I decided I needed a new challenge and Jana was backing me. “It was a big change for her, she was a city girl.”

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I decided I needed a new challenge and Jana was backing me. It was a big change for her, she was a city girl. Despite his rural upbringing he claims to be the least qualified member of the farm team and has had to work his way from farm assistant to herd manager. There are two dairy farms, neighbouring each other, with 1000 Friesian cows supported by a nearby support block. The three farms total 450 hectares. The couple have since bought part of the farm, lease the rest of the dairy block and sharemilk on the family’s second dairy unit. He wanted to get up to speed as fast as he could so he read a lot and did some courses. And his dad, Ross, has been a good sounding board passing on skills, wisdom and the history of the farm. “Even though my studies weren’t in agriculture I can apply a lot of the skills I learned. “Law helped me read a lot and read quickly and how to put things into context to understand.”

Mat believes innovation is the key to unlocking issues and concerns in the agricultural industry.

The communication skills he picked up come in handy and being able to work with others, his studies help him understand a broader perspective. With the challenges farming faces from the government and regulatory change, his studies give him a different way of understanding. “You can understand what other people around the table are wanting to get out of something. And how you can position your message to resonate with them.” His background has supported his work

Mat and his dad Ross who has been a good sounding board passing on skills, wisdom and the history of the farm as Mat worked his way up to sharemilker. DAIRY FARMER

December 2019

with the Rural Innovation Lab through the writing skills he developed and his experience working with government. He appreciates being able to talk with the collaborative partners and understand the broader perspectives others have. “A successful ecosystem has outcomes that generate wins for everyone.” He has concerns around the future of agriculture. “Farmers are on board with the changes that need to happen, but they want to work out how we can do it in a way that allows businesses to be sustainable. It affects more than the farmers alone.” The couple have two young daughters, Annabelle and Gabrielle, and he focuses on what a future farm could look like. One that would attract his girls to come back and work in. Outside of the Rural Innovation Lab and the farm, he is involved with MyFarm. He sits as a director on a few syndicates across various sectors and is on the Massey University Business School advisory board. He got a lot out of his Nuffield Scholarship and says it gave him the opportunity to learn from the best worldwide and that the learning continues to grow each year and he continues to benefit from his experience. “I see the Rural Innovation Lab playing a big part in updating technology and innovation in the NZ agriculture sector. “New Zealand is an innovative country. We are also a powerhouse primary sector producer and this a great opportunity to build our agri-innovation sector.” n 33


Less is best for Miraka


ESS is best for Taupo-based milk company Miraka, which has joined Gen Less as part of its vision to become the world’s most sustainable dairy producer. Gen Less, an initiative from the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA), includes bringing together leading New Zealand companies actively reducing their energy use. The campaign aims to inspire collective action by New Zealanders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all forms of energy use. Miraka, produces 300 million litres of premium milk products a year with milk from 100 farms. The company’s approach to sustainability is comprehensive. All Miraka farms have tailored environment management plans, greenhouse gas emissions reporting, world-leading

The small central North Island milk processing company Miraka iaims to become the world’s most sustainable dairy producer. nitrogen and effluent management systems and all farm waterways are fenced. The factory is powered by renewable geothermal energy and the organic waste is processed through an industrial worm farm. Chief executive Richard Wyeth says, “We already have one of the lowest dairy carbon footprints in the world but are constantly looking for opportunities to do

more. “It’s great to have innovative companies like Miraka partnering with us,” EECA chief executive Andrew Caseley says. “Their geothermally-powered dairy processing plant is a superb example of harnessing renewable energy sources in manufacturing. By sharing the story of companies like Miraka we hope to inspire others to make positive changes.” n

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Four steps to protect your farm with DairyNZ

Nita Harding DairyNZ Technical policy adviser

recommends you check the livestock movements have also been captured in Nait. This is critical for effective traceability. Biosecurity during grazing If you’re sending calves to grazing make sure they’re tagged and registered and that their movements are recorded. To protect the calves’ health while they’re grazing check with your vet to ensure all animals have had recommended vaccinations before leaving.


IOSECURITY isn’t just about border control at the airport or ports. Once pests, weeds and diseases are in our country the border becomes your farm fences and gates because incursions can easily be transmitted from farm to farm. Here are some simple steps you can take to shore up your border to protect your farm and the animals and plants inside it from a range of risks. Your farm is an island A good way to start thinking about biosecurity on your farm is to see your farm as an island with your boundary as the border. Ensuring your boundary fences are secure helps to protect your stock, limit contact between your stock and the neighbours’ animals and reduces biosecurity risks. Many farms also limit the number of entry points to the farm so it’s easier to control who’s going on and off the property through a single entry and exit point. Clean-on, clean-off We encourage farmers to adopt a cleanon, clean-off policy wherever possible. It’s an easy and quick action to provide visitors with a footbath, scrubbing brush and somewhere to wash their hands. It also helps to encourage visitors to arrive clean and have clean equipment then clean off again when they leave so they don’t carry anything to the next farm. Many farms have a sign-in and signout process that provides a record of who’s been on-farm. It also provides a


December 2019

We encourage farmers to adopt a clean-on, clean-off policy wherever possible. Biosecurity is vital to protect our borders from overseas pests, weeds and diseases.

chance for you to tell visitors that you’re a biosecurity-aware farm and share any requirements they need to comply with. The more we talk about biosecurity, the more it encourages other farmers and those involved in the farming sector to become more biosecurity conscious. Traceability is key Tagging your animals is only half the job. You must also register your animals online and tell Nait which tags you’ve used. Farmers need to record and confirm all livestock movements within 48 hours of the animals going off-farm or arriving onfarm. If you use an information provider, such as Minda or CRV Ambreed, to record movements in the first instance, Ospri

You’ll also want to discuss your expectations with your grazier. It’s preferable for animals from different farms to be managed as separate mobs during grazing. Find out more at dairynz. It’s also best if mobs from different farms aren’t mixed when being transported to off-farm grazing. For more on how to help protect your farm, business and animals go to biosecurity n

KEY POINTS • Think of your farm as an island to prevent biosecurity incursions • Have a clean-on, clean-off policy • Ensure animal movements are recorded • Talk to your grazier about biosecurity



Climate change: The upside


Climate change is making headlines across the world but it is not all negative news as Tony Benny found when he attended a seminar at the New Zealand Agricultural Show.

IGHER average temperatures, longer growing seasons and a the ability to grow a greater variety of crops because of climate change will present new opportunities for New Zealand agriculture. “With the right technologies, the right science and the right education climate change adaptation is a massive opportunity for us,” AgReseach senior scientist Robyn Dynes, one of six expert speakers, told people at the NZ Agricultural Show in Christchurch. Along with the forecast downsides of climate change, including more extreme weather, there are also potential advantages for farming. The country will likely have to cope with rising sea-levels, droughts on the east coast, more frequent floods and average temperatures up as much as a degree by 2040 and three degrees by 2090. “We are going to have a greater fire risk and we look to the Port Hills last year and with absolute horror to what’s happening in Australia now. We’re going to have more pests and weeds too,” she said. But with up to 35 more days a year greater than 25C and 38 fewer frost days farmers will be able to try new crops. “We will have a longer growing season, more growing-degree days, earlier crop harvests and these are real opportunities for us in Canterbury. “We already produce horticulture and vegetable crops here so we know we can do these things.” Much of Canterbury is now under dairy farming but Dynes predicts land-use change will occur in future as it has in the past and points to Canterbury farming pioneer John Griggs at Longbeach Station as an example. “He responded to the steel plough, he responded to refrigeration and he 36 

With the right technologies, the right science and the right education climate change adaptation could be a massive opportunity for everyone, AgResearch scientist Robyn Dynes says.  Photos: Tony Benny

changed that entire system back in the late 1800s. That was technology, that was agility in our farmers and they’ve been doing that ever since.” Dynes acknowledged the pressure farmers are under because 50% of NZ’s emissions come from farming but said that has to be kept in perspective. “Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of people live in NZ and we don’t have a lot of industry so let’s remember that when we think about why agriculture is such a big percentage.” And rapid progress is being made finding ways to maintain operating profits while reducing farming’s effects on water quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Lincoln University Dairy Farm is a great example of what’s possible. “They targeted the efficient use of nitrogen fertiliser, reduced fertiliser inputs and reduced supplement inputs.

They reduced nitrogen leaching by 25% and greenhouse gas emissions by 20% so that business future-proofed itself for where regulation is taking us in the future. “Our climate is changing, yes. However, we farm in a highly variable environment. “We’ve already experienced variation in the seasons, it’s just they’ve been one-offs in the past but we know how we dealt with that, we know how to get there.” Lincoln University vice-chancellor Bruce McKenzie said as much of the world moves to flexitarian diets that, too, presents farmers with opportunities as increasing average temperatures make it possible to grow a wider range of crops. “Virtually all the grain legumes grow extremely well in Canterbury and we’ve done a lot of work at Lincoln University on a wide range of legumes, peas, fava beans, chick peas and with another few degrees of temperature increase we’ll be


December 2019

able to grow soya beans consistently and at high yields,” McKenzie said. “I’m not saying temperature increase is good, I’m just saying it’s going to happen so we might as well use it.” ANZ agricultural economist Susan Kilsby said the big message farmers have to take on board is the importance of showing the world the positive side of NZ agriculture. “How we produce, not what we produce will be the value-add in the future and by that I mean we will be paid different prices at the farmgate level based on what we’re doing on our farms,” Kilsby said. “Traditionally what we’ve done on our farms we typically see as our own business but now we’re seeing far more eyes on how we’re doing things. “Are we running our farms in a sustainable manner?” Regulatory actions are driving this but, more importantly, customers want to know what they’re buying and that it is not just nutritionally good for them but that it isn’t having a negative impact somewhere else along the line. “Understanding and connecting with our customers is really important if we want to think the way our customers think about how we are operating.” This was brought home to Kilsby when she had a German girl staying on her small sheep and beef farm. “She said to me ‘I don’t know why anyone would be a vegetarian in NZ’ and I asked why she said that. She said, ‘I get it in Germany where the animals are all locked up, you wouldn’t want to consume meat there, but when these animals are

Lincoln University vice-chancellor Bruce McKenzie says increasing average temperatures make it possible for farmers to grow a wider range of crops.

happy and they get to run around, why would you want to be a vegetarian?’” Kilsby questioned whether NZ is doing enough to sell stories like this in foreign markets. And she said a recent visit to a large indoor dairy operation in the United States showed another notable difference between farming here and overseas. “One day the cows on this farm escaped and ran 2km down the road before the farmer got them back in again. He said they lay down for two days, they were exhausted. He said they learnt their lesson and never tried to get out again,” Kilsby recalled. That NZ cows are much fitter than their

ANZ agricultural economist Susan Kilsby said the big message is the importance of showing the world the positive side of New Zealand agriculture. DAIRY FARMER

December 2019

US counterparts is another attribute we fail to market, she said. “I mean 90% of the people around the world are living in polluted cities. “We’re not marketing the fact that the milk produced in NZ is from cows that are breathing fresh air. Milk produced in India, the biggest milk producer in the world, is of considerably lower quality that what is produced here.” NZ agriculture not only has to recognise and market what is unique and special here but also start thinking differently in terms of maximising output relative to inputs and negative outputs so farm discussion groups need to evolve from talking about production and nothing else. “I went to one last week and sure enough the first thing they talked about was where their cows peaked at and then they talked about some profit measures but we need to evolve to talking about how much meat and milk we’re producing relative to our greenhouse gas emissions or relative to our nitrogen and phosphate run-off.” Once NZ farmers start thinking this way and telling the world about it, they’ll be better placed to take advantage of the opportunities that climate change could present. “A lot of customers buy on emotions and stories and things that really connect with them are a little bit more exciting than just data and numbers. “The future of agriculture is really going to reward how we produce and those that produce efficiently relative to the inputs and the negative outputs.” n



Rivals can co-operate TIM FULTON


ROSS-CONTINENTAL plant breeder Barenbrug Agriseeds recently brought together its reasearch and development leaders for their first global conference in New Zealand. The Dutch-owned Royal Barenbrug, owner of the NZ-based Barenbrug Agriseeds, has breeding operations in Brazil, Argentina, the United States, France, Romania and the Netherlands. The company is a big operator in a fiercely-competitive global business but in NZ seed companies and the government could work more closely for mutual benefit, NZ Agriseeds research and development manager Courtney Inch said. NZ Agriseeds is talking to state-owned AgResearch about the potential for competitor duopoly projects, similar to the institute’s work with Ravensdown, Ballance, LIC and CRV Ambreed. Seed companies are too small and don’t generate enough margin on seed sales to fund those sorts of projects alone, Inch said. “The end benefactor is NZ, right? “I mean, our GDP is 50% from agriculture so that’s what the government think or has done in the past, that’s pretty important. “There’s no reason as competitors that you can’t work together for the benefit of the farmer. Definitely it’s a model that, we’re saying, we think works for NZ.”

Barenbrug international breeders met in New Zealand for the first time to discuss collaboration in the industry.

New Zealand Agriseeds research and development manager Courtney Inch.

The NZ seed industry already has Pastoral Genomics, a research consortium for forage improvement through biotechnology. The partnership is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb, DEEResearch, Grasslands Innovation, Dairy Australia, NZ Agriseeds and AgResearch. Inch said farmers need such

partnerships as they faced a growing array of pressures, like climate change legislation and greenhouse gas emissions targets. “Farmers still have to remain profitable and you come across farmers who are quite concerned about the speed of change. “And the worst situation would be that the speed of change is so fast that they can’t remain profitable and they just decide to get out of it altogether or until the land use changes in the right direction.” Inch’s colleague and science manager Colin Eady said a compromise is needed between uncomplicated, manageable farming systems and the development of advanced, highlyadaptable products. “So, instead of a silver bullet you have some silver systems where you’ve got lots of different processes working together in a pasture to address those concerns in multiple ways.” n



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December 2019

AgResearch to get new facility TIM FULTON


GRESEARCH is moving on from a knockback on teaming up with Lincoln University and other academic and industry partners. The state-owned science institute has received a preliminary tick from the Government to design and build on its own land in Springs Rd, beside Lincoln University near Christchurch. AgResearch has a conditional agreement to buy a parcel of land for the centre from Lincoln. Research, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Megan Woods has approved a business plan allowing further work on the building’s design. The Lincoln building plan is yet to get final Crown approval but AgResearch welcomes it as it mounts a multi-campus upgrade at its campuses around the country. Until a few months ago AgResearch and Lincoln University hoped to jointly fund and occupy a single teaching and research facility housing hundreds of agri-industry professionals. The long-standing plan fell over after the Government pulled funding. AgResearch chairman Paul Reynolds says the facilities proposed in the new plan will help it to collaborate with its tertiary education and other land-based research partners around Lincoln. Ministerial support is a welcome step towards the science institute’s vision to transform the land-based research sector, he says. “Agri-business is evolving rapidly and transformational change is required to ensure farming in the future is able to harness the power of new technologies and remain environmentally and financially sustainable. “We believe a new education, science and innovation precinct that fosters co-location with our commercial partners and the tertiary education sector will help us all meet this challenge together.” Earlier this year Reynolds formally briefed Woods on its fourcampus model of investment in facilities at Lincoln, Massey University, Ruakura and Invermay. He said the AgResearch board is completely aligned with her views that achieving the Government’s priorities means an economy that produces and exports higher-value goods, one that protects the environment, supports the regions to grow and makes sure all New Zealanders share in the rewards of economic growth. Agri-food production and food processing are important drivers of NZ’s export receipts, regional and national economic


December 2019

An education, science and innovation precinct with AgResearch near commercial partners and tertiary education will help everyone meet the challenge, AgResearch chairman Paul Reynolds says.

performance and the national environmental scoresheet, Reynolds said. One of AgResearch’s priorities is science-led innovation to improve freshwater quality and a national transition to a lowcarbon economy by 2050, Reynolds says. Under its four-campus plan the institute expects to this summer open a new building on Massey University’s Manawatu campus called Te Ohu Rangahau Kai. The name means a cooperative community of food researchers. New glasshouse containment facilities at Grasslands are already in use. At the Invermay campus, near Dunedin, where the institute has surplus offices and research labs, it is leasing space to nearly 20 ag industry tenants. Its own work will focus on sheep genomics and genetics and support for Otago and Southland, including water quality. Ruakura will lead important research into land-use and environmental issues in the upper North Island focused on water quality centred on the Waikato River, regional biosecurity, dairy food systems and iwi interests in niche dairy (sheep and goats). Work at the Palmerston North Food Science Hub will focus on food science and food safety with AgResearch’s Food HQ partners Massey University, Plant and Food Research and Fonterra and support the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre. The new AgResearch-Massey University Joint Food Science Centre is well on its way to completion and the $45m facility will open in the first half of 2020. Meanwhile, under a recently-approved digital agriculture investment strategy AgResearch will do more to encourage bold, risky and transdisciplinary science. The institute will also continue to be heavily in involved in research on mitigating the effects of climate change. AgResearch hosts and is a partner of the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and a partner in the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium. n 39


Massey University third-year science student Victoria-Jayne Reid did a Fonterra internship over the summer, which has affirmed her choice of a science career.


Fonterra leaves impression

N INTERNSHIP at Fonterra proved to be just as valuable to Massey University science student Victoria-Jayne Reid as it was to the dairy co-operative with the development of a new testing regime. The third-year science student spent her summer at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre across the road from Massey’s Manawatu campus helping to validate a new test for fat content in milk products that has proved to be robust and simple. “The old reference method was highly laborious, it involved hazardous chemicals, manhandling and it took a long time,” Reid says. “You also would not know if your results were accurate for two days. 40 

“The new method is more efficient, involves no hazardous chemicals and you know right from the get-go if your results are accurate. “Validating the new technique involves running samples of a product, like cheese, through both the old method and the new to compare results. Now that they have the data I helped collect, the new method for fat testing is now an option for clients and is becoming part of routine lab tests as the reference method starts to phase out.” She says working at Fonterra was an awesome opportunity and one she got a great deal of value from. “I was also helping perform other tests in the lab I was working in,” she says. “I learnt more about the dairy industry and its products by working on online modules and I helped with some of the

daily workload received in the lab. There was a great atmosphere and it was really cool having updates on what other parts of the company are doing. “It felt really nice being adopted by this company as I felt like I was part of a greater network and that the work I did mattered and was important. “It would be great to be able to work with Fonterra again and I now know that I definitely want a career in the science industry. The world’s understanding of science grows every day and I want to be a part of that growth.” Reid says the internship gave her a valuable insight into working life and she found the experience to be completely different from studying. “Going into the workplace was a big adjustment from studying. The days felt longer as I was working for eight hours,


December 2019

Going into the workplace was a big adjustment from studying. five days a week and I was working on the same project most days. “The most valuable thing I learnt was what a real job is really like. Internships teach you valuable skills that can be relayed into your university work, such as time management, multitasking and possibly more refined skills, such as scientific techniques. “I also learnt how to enjoy what I did rather than just work because I had to, which it can feel like sometimes at university. I learnt that I would happily get a job working in a lab once I finish my degree. “I would strongly advise anyone to do an internship if they are given an opportunity to because it gives you valuable skills that can be translated into other areas of your life.”  n

Victoria-Jayne Reid says the internship at Fonterra gave her a valuable insight into working life and she found the experience to be completely different from studying.

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AgResearch is collecting data from multiple sources to collate in one place to get a better picture of what is happening with stock.

Surfing the data tidal wave

Big data is taking state-funded agricultural science into new territory. Tim Fulton reports.


ASTORAL and animal science tends to be a long-haul exercise requiring vast amounts of time and human toil but now a digital technology strategy at AgResearch is speeding up the process.

Using big data the Crown-owned institute is exploring a different way of working, AgResearch senior data scientist Jeremy Bryant said. A digital strategy for developing technology will help researchers fail fast or find early wins, Bryant said. “We’ve had longer horizons for

research whereas this is leaning a little bit more on the technology, where you’ve got this agile development.” The increasing amount of computer grunt and data storage available to scientists makes it possible. “You’ll be familiar with gigabytes and megabytes. Big data is getting into the

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range of what they call peta and exabyte. It’s huge data – it might be billions or millions of records.” The information can be web, sales, social media or mobile data and it doesn’t necessarily land in neat packages, Bryant said. “It’s really data that’s hard to organise and analyse without some big data technology. So it needs a lot of computing power.” Larger data pipelines are useful onfarm,where sensors are storing and sending an array of information. New technologies like virtual fencing rely on that computing capacity, drawing on data from sensors not only to track stock movement but also monitor behaviour. Technology already being tested on farms includes implanted rumen boluses and calculations of body condition score and milk production. In one project, they are combining that data with records of past reproduction records and sickness to predict when an animal is at most risk of failing to cycle before mating start date. “So, instead of getting to mating and finding the animal hasn’t cycled you may be able to get a prediction two or three months out and make some sort of management intervention. Whether it’s once-a-day milking or different feeding to try and stop it from going over the cliff of reproduction.” AgResearch is also using a sensor that can tell whether an animal has its head up or down. “It can then predict when they’re eating, when they’re walking, etc.” By pulling data together it is possible to conclude, for example, that an animal ate 10kg of feed over five hours in a certain part of the farm. In that instance a farmer only really wants to know that the animal ate 10kg of feed and where the most feed was consumed in a paddock. “You don’t really want to know where exactly they were every single minute of the day but you want to capture some sort of combined characteristic on that animal or paddock, where you turn it into something useful.” Bryant said while capturing data is one thing, it is another thing to make sense of it. The amount of data streaming from New Zealand farms isn’t nearly as much as on a platform like Google or Facebook but the load is still significant when it comes to using tools such as GPS sensors for livestock.


December 2019

A sensor might be sending a relatively small packet of data every minute but the volume could become huge over time because a device is pulsing so frequently. Large volumes of data generated by video and still images only add to the potential system overload.

Typically, it comes in like a tidal wave and you can’t stop it. Bryant said while regular satellite tracking might make it possible to capture numerous images and associated data pulses a farmer probably wants only snapshots in time. “Typically, it comes in like a tidal wave and you can’t stop it. “You’ve then got to say, okay, we’re getting this information every minute so, really, I only want to aggregate it for an average for the day. That’s giving me the best insight for what’s happening

for that animal at that time or for the pasture.” Bryant said it will still be difficult to send and receive data in more remote places – and even remote parts of a farm – but it is possible to work around that. Typically, you still might have to go to the shed to get that data to transfer it to the cloud, for example. The introduction of 5G communication and unused spectrum will also help connectivity. AgResearch’s push into digital technology was financed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), through a strategic investment fund. The research spanned a range of disciplines in the institute and involved outside partners including Melbournebased Agersens, designer of virtual fencing collars. Agersens provided the equipment and AgResearch generated the insight. More traditional partners included levy-funded industry groups covering dairy and drystock farming. Bryant said the initial MBIE funding was to develop a proof-of-concept for particular projects aimed at finding those early technology wins as soon as possible. n

Researchers are using digital technology to analyse on-farm data. 43


The Manawatu Agritech Strategy has taken out a top Economic Development New Zealand Wellbeing and Prosperity Award. With the award are, from left, CEDA business development manager John Morris, CEDA chief executive Linda Stewart, EDNZ chairwoman Pam Ford, EDNZ deputy chairman Mark Rawson.

Manawatu strategy wins award


HE Manawatu Agritech Strategy, created by the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) and Sprout, has won the Best Practice Award for Integrated Planning at Economic Development New Zealand’s annual Wellbeing and Prosperity Awards. The award was presented at the Economic Development New Zealand delivering inclusive growth conference. Ten organisations were recognised for their outstanding contributions to the wellbeing and prosperity of their communities. “Having the Manawatu Agritech Strategy recognised for integrated planning is a testament to the leadership, people and organisations in the region who were involved in its creation. This is a win for all of us,” CEDA chief executive Linda Stewart said. Agritech was recognised as a strength and point of difference for the region through CEDA’s work with McKinsey and Company in 2017, given the cluster of businesses and organisations based in Manawatu. They include Massey University, UCOL, FoodHQ, Crown research institutes AgResearch and Plant and Food and the Ridddet Institute, Fonterra’s research and development 44 

centre, Sprout, and now the Rural Innovation Lab. Representatives from those organisations and iwi were involved creating the strategy, which is a coordinated approach to growing the sector for the benefit of the food industry.

Agritech has emerged as a strong point of difference for the Manawatu region. Pam Ford

“Successful and sustainable economic development builds on the strength of a region and its comparative and competitive advantages,” Stewart said. “This strategy and those involved in its creation demonstrate collective commitment to all playing a part in creating growth, expansion and investment opportunities and quality well-paying jobs that offer training and career pathways in Manawatu and beyond.”

Economic Development chairwoman and judge Pam Ford says the award winners reflect the importance of an inclusive approach and were honoured for initiatives that have had a real and positive impact on the wellbeing and prosperity of communities and regions. “Agritech has emerged as a strong point of difference for the Manawatu region. “CEDA and Sprout have built on that difference to create an agritech cluster strategy that achieves a virtuous, dynamic cycle of attracting top academics, researchers, students, venture capitalists and businesses. The strategy was launched in October and is the first regional strategy of its kind focused on agritech. The strategy is underpinned by four pillars that will drive the region towards achieving its goal of being recognised as one of the top three agrifood hubs in the world. Initiatives already under way include the Rural Innovation Lab, FoodHQ’s Provincial Growth Fund application and AgriFood Week. Initiatives include an agritech section at the Sort It Careers Expo, an agritech PR fund established between CEDA and industry and local restaurants being connected to future of food, endorsed by FoodHQ. n


December 2019


Flux tower to measure gases TIM FULTON


TANDING a modest two metres tall, a flux tower in Central Otago is set to give insights on greenhouse gas movements from an area as small as a single paddock. The NIWA unit measures eddy covariance – in this case the exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and pasture immediately upwind. The science agency’s research at Lauder is part of a broader CarbonWatch NZ project, which includes researchers Landcare Research, Waikato University and GNS Science, looking at greenhouse gas exchange in forests, pasture and urban environments. NIWA scientist Dr Sara MikaloffFletcher said the Lauder tower will help answer key questions about the amount of carbon absorbed or emitted by pasture. It is the first time NIWA has fixed a flux tower beside its other atmospheric monitoring units, some of which are fixed on towers up to 10 metres tall. Once data is brought together with measurements across the country and models, NIWA hopes to reveal important insights on the balance between daytime photosynthesis and night-time respiration from the soil and plants. Importantly for farmers, its set to be a research tool as agriculture soon faces reporting greenhouse emissions at farm scale. NIWA, Landcare Research and Waikato University have previously collected a large amount of data at tests farms around the country. Mikaloff-Fletcher said once data from Lauder is compared to other test sites it will be easier to understand how, where and why greenhouse gas emissions are absorbed or emitted in particular areas. “We have all these individual sites that tell us something important locally. “The idea is to bring them together and analyse them together across all of the people in New Zealand who are doing this work and to be able to use them to inform a national-level model of what’s going on.” One of the most pressing inquiries is a comparison of carbon exchange on intensively-managed pasture, like an irrigated farm, with low-intensity pasture. There is some evidence to suggest


December 2019

A flux tower in Central Otago will give NIWA and insight into greenhouse gas movements.

intensively-managed, irrigated pasture is a low-level source to the atmosphere. “But there’s been at least one paper published in NZ that suggests it could be a sink.” Mikaloff-Fletcher said the Lauder data will form part of research to give a clear picture of what pasture is doing in NZ’s carbon cycle and fill in some gaps about how different types of land-management practices, over large scale, can impact NZ’s net carbon loss.” Farm boundaries are irrelevant to gas movements and biological processes so NIWA will now be able to use the flux tower, other on-site monitoring equipment and data to better understand the content and movement of well-mixed air over an area, say, as large as central Canterbury. NIWA will establish a new atmospheric monitoring site in the area, which is dominated by irrigated farms, most of them dairy, arable or mixed livestock farms. During some wind conditions the new greenhouse gas observation site will sample air flows from the sea that have moved across pasture, Mikaloff-Fletcher said. “You have air that’s travelling all across a landscape before arriving at an observatory station. And now, instead of one paddock, you see quite a broad perspective. So, we’re also going to bring in these atmospheric measurements in places where you have a dominance of particular types of land use.”

Local wind is only one factor in atmospheric research. High resolution atmospheric models allow scientists to account for the movement of air for several days before arriving at the observing station. Using NIWA weather models researchers released carbon dioxide particles from observing stations and those carbon dioxide particles basically ride the wind backward in time, to describe all the places that the air came from, to inform that measurement. It’s telling you where the wind’s been, basically, before it arrived at your station, over several days.” Mikaloff-Fletcher said all types of atmospheric measurements will continue to be important for NIWA research, not least because eddy co-variance sites can be installed only on flat land. The observations in the atmosphere need elevation so NIWA can measure well-mixed air that has moved across large areas of land. The heights of the towers varied, based on what land is available for a site and the natural height of the landscape. “One of the quite cool things about the atmospheric measurements is that one of the big unanswered questions for NZ is what’s going on in the hill country. “Our atmospheric greenhouse gas measurements can sample air coming from the hill country as well as flat lands.” Atmospheric data from test sites around the country are filling in those knowledge gaps, she said. n



Avoid common strains and niggles


ARMING is a physically demanding job and can cause a lot of wear and tear on the body if you don’t look after it so Farmstrong has teamed up with VetSouth to make a series of short injury prevention videos for farmers. VetSouth director and large animal vet Neil Hume is based in Winton. He and his team have been working with local physiotherapist Dennis Kelly to help staff avoid injury. “A lot of the work vets do is repetitive,” Hume says. “You are using the same muscle groups and doing heavy lifting. You’ve really got to look after your back, shoulders, elbows and wrists. You can wear away in places if you don’t do something about it. It’s the same for farmers too. “Dennis has given us exercises that all our vets can do before they start work and during breaks. “We warm up just like rugby players do to help them get into the game. We stretch the back, we stretch our shoulders. It makes a big difference.” Kelly has been working with the rural community for over 20 years and has seen a lot of injured farmers. “By far the most common injury I see is lower back pain and lower back injuries followed by necks and arms,” Kelly says.

Mark Tree shows how even the busiest farmers can fit stretches and warm-ups into their day.


“Then there’s seasonal stuff like wrists for shearers and people milking. “All these injuries mean a loss of productivity for farmers and often farmers leave it very late to see their physio so it takes us even longer to get them right. “I see a lot of farmers who come back with recurrent back pain every year because their core isn’t strong and their back isn’t ready for heavy lifting or prolonged bending in ditches or calving. “Four or five minutes of exercises a day would probably be enough to start strengthening those muscles for farmers. It’s about making it a priority.” To help farmers get started Kelly and local teacher Mark Tree have made a series of videos with Farmstrong demonstrating how even the busiest farmers can fit stretches and warm-ups into their day without ever going near a gym. Tree was born and raised on a farm near Riversdale and knows how tough farming can be on the body. “Farming’s a really physical job. There are a lot of body positions you’re in for extended periods of time that are not normal, whether it’s picking up calves or lambs or shearing or milking. Most farmers would’ve had some type of injury,” he says. “There’s lots of things you can do to prevent them and it doesn’t take a lot of time. Little and often is the key. “The main thing is attitude – think about exercise as prevention. “If you’ve got five minutes to spare in the morning get your body ready for the day. There’s no point waiting to get an injury, going to your physio and getting rehab. That’s all downtime. So if you are time poor this is going to save you time.” Contract milker and agribusiness student Cheyenne Wilson says “I think looking after yourself is hugely important when it comes to being able to handle the physicality of the job. “Going out hunting or walking in the hills and getting some kilometres under your belt also definitely helps with keeping your body fit.” Southland contract milker Tangaroa Walker is onto it too. “We’re lifting heavy things all the time in dairy farming, buckets that weigh over 20 kilos, carrying posts. A lot of the time you end up literally only using your forearms and need to strengthen other areas. That’s why I like making the effort to work out. It definitely gives me an


December 2019

Sam Whitelock and Fit4farming founder Ian Handcock stretch before pulling on gumboots.

advantage when I come back to the farm, especially for going long distance during the calving season.” Canterbury dairy farmer Tony Coltman says “Keeping well and keeping fit are absolutely crucial. “If I’m not well or I’m tired or not functioning I don’t respond well to things. I don’t make the right decisions. I’m not as efficient in my day.” In addition to doing warm-ups Coltman tries to walk as much as possible during his working day. “I try not to sit on the bike too much. I use it as a crucial piece of machinery for running my business but if I have an opportunity to jog or to walk then I do. “If I’m setting up an electric fence I’ll leave the bike at one end, brisk walk or jog rolling the reel out and I’ll put the standards in. “If I do that three or four times a

day that’s an extra few kilomentres of exercise.” Farmstrong ambassador Sam Whitelock, who appears in a series of body-conditioning videos on the Farmstrong website, says “By doing warm-ups and stretches you wake up your body and give yourself that full range of movement instead of just working within a narrow range of movement all day. It makes farming a lot easier on the body.” “So, if you’re waking up in the morning with a stiff back or hips, do your warmups. You’re going to feel much better very quickly and a lot of those niggles will go.” n


To see the Farmstrong injury prevention videos or find out what works for you and lock it in go to 47


Put idle machines to work Hiring machinery for odd jobs around the farm might become easier for farmers. Samantha Tennent reports.



December 2019


DO-IT-YOURSELF project can be hugely satisfying and rewarding and at the very least farmers learn a lot in the process. Setting about the job requires tools and equipment, some of which they might not have so must either borrow or buy it. Buying machinery can be expensive and if it is needed for only the odd job there might not be much return on investment. On top of that machinery begins to depreciate as soon as it’s bought and as most is required only for specific jobs at specific times it can be a costly exercise. If they do not buy it farmers need to hire it but many hire places are miles away from farms and their range can be limited. Borrowing it from a neighbour or friend is fine but there is a risk the relationship could sour if something goes wrong with the machinery. Two budding Manawatu entrepreneurs have put their heads together to create a solution that supports both machinery owners and lenders. They have created a peer-to-peer platform for machinery and equipment rental, called Gear Hub. Like Airbnb, owners can list equipment available for hire and borrowers use the platform to book equipment as they need it. They pay the platform the hiring fee, which is passed on to the owner after covering the listing fees. Owners can block dates when they need the machinery and accept or decline bookings. Gear Hub will provide insurance to ensure machinery is returned on time and in the same order. It is there to support the relationship between owners and

borrowers with confidence things will run smoothly. Alexandra Tully and Scott Cameron came up with the idea when they moved into their newly built house in Palmerston North. They needed various pieces of equipment to develop their property and discovered it was hard to get what they needed. “We needed several bits of equipment to develop our section – a roller, rotary hoe and a small digger. Some of it we needed for a weekend but other stuff we needed for an hour,” Cameron said.

Most hire shops are too far away from farms and they have diggers but not farm machinery. Scott Cameron

“We didn’t know many of our neighbours and we knew both of our parents had the gear but they lived too far away. “When we were talking to our parents about our challenges it was obvious they have the same challenges on their farms. They need stuff but can’t get it.” They talked to more farmers and it became apparent it is a widespread problem. “Most hire shops are too far away from farms and they have diggers but not farm machinery.

Gear Hub is one of four rural innovation projects that has been kick-started with money from The Rural Innovation Lab. At the launch were, from left, Scott Cameron and Alexandra Tully with Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor. DAIRY FARMER

December 2019

“You either have to hire a contractor or ask neighbours but not many people like to ask for things and timing is an issue. “And then there’s the risk of breakage.” Cameron and Tully continued to research, talking to large numbers of farmers. They employed business mentor Michael Voss through a programme offered by the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA. Voss challenged their idea, he pushed them to refine it and find their niche market and supported them to explore what is already available. After six months of research they felt there was strength in their concept and pitched it to the Rural Innovation Lab. They secured a support programme to help kick-start the idea. “It’s been great working with the Rural Innovation Lab. We appreciate the confidence they have in our idea and us. “We have a group of people to bounce ideas off, quickly. “It’s a massive pool of networks who are sitting there ready to be used,” he said. Before working with the Lab they spoke to various website developers who had good ideas but also a sales agenda. Through the lab they sat down with a developer who helped steer them with an unbiased view. They validated their idea through a farmer workshop and have been getting input from a farmer focus group. “We are trying to make it as userfriendly as possible. And we know the biggest thing is we need to protect the owner of the gear.” They see a huge opportunity with lifestyle blocks because they are small farms without much gear and need things to get jobs done but do not have the capital to buy it. The target market is farmers and agriculture but anyone with equipment can use the platform. “You will make money off a machine that is depreciating anyway.” Cameron has a background in agri science. He spent five years with DairyNZ, which helped build the idea as he was working with and talking to farmers. Tully grew up on a small farm in Hawke’s Bay. She has a masters degree in dietetics and her parents own a digger business in Waipukurau. They had explored many ideas in the past but are confident Gear Hub will provide an easy solution for machinery owners and borrowers alike and hopefully they will develop an app to sit alongside the website soon. n



Pete and Marg Dalziel own Dolly’s Milk in Stratford where they sell raw milk direct to the public. Photos: Ross Nolly

Raw milk goes down a treat When most people contemplate retirement they usually look at it as a chance to slow down after a lifetime of hard slog. Ross Nolly caught up with a Taranaki couple who did no such thing.


HEN Pete and Marg Dalziel from Stratford retired in 2011 they didn’t turn their attention to gardening or settling on the front porch with a book. Instead of putting their feet up and taking it easy they started a new business, Dolly’s Fresh Real Milk, selling direct to the public. Dolly’s Milk is a self-service operation using a vending machine to fill

customers’ bottles with freshly produced milk. Their loyal and regular customers hold a Dolly’s Card that allows them to buy milk at a cheaper price. Though they both had rural upbringings they had been living in Sydney. Pete worked in banking for 43 years and Marg managed a retail jewellery store. They always dreamed of returning to rural New Zealand in their semi-retirement. They bought their 43ha farm in 2004, sight unseen. “We were still living in Sydney when

we were alerted that the property was for sale,” Pete says. “Our agent had told us that we needed to be quick and as we weren’t due home for another six weeks we signed up for it. We weren’t sure what we were going to do with the land.” Pete was tired of the banking world and wanted another challenge away from the corporate world. His interest in raw milk supply was piqued after friends Kevin and Cindy Death read an article about it. They were also interested so bought land at Bell

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December 2019

Block, which is a separate business but under the Dolly’s Milk brand and market. The more Pete studied it the more it seemed to be a viable business opportunity. First, they researched the equipment needed to dispense 24/7 and file all the necessary paperwork to meet regulations. Dolly’s Milk now operates under a regulated control scheme issued by the Ministry for Primary Industries and is subject to an annual audit by Eurofins as well as an annual shed inspection. They came up with the name Dolly’s Milk over dinner one night “We were having dinner with Kevin and Cindy and trying to think up names. We’d had a few wines and the creative juices started flowing when Kevin said what about Dolly’s? He was referring to Dolly Parton,” Marg says. “Immediately, I visualised a glamourous looking cow standing there with beautiful eye-lashes and big udder.” Pete had to learn the ropes so milked with Kevin for a few months. The couple say they had a lot to learn and even now they find that they are still continually learning. A year after buying the property they built a barn with a 90 square metres selfcontained accommodation studio above it. They lived there while they moved a 120-year-old villa from Central Hawke’s Bay onto the property. Then had the idea of using it as a farmstay operation for another venture, Barberry Hill. Two years later the operation was expanded when they built another shed with upstairs accommodation. Barberry Hill is run by Marg who spoils her guests with a breakfast basket containing eggs, homemade muesli, bread and spreads, fruit and, of course, Dolly’s Milk. “The studios work in well with what we’re doing,” she says. “Like Dolly’s it’s a boutique business. Each studio apartment is fully selfcontained with a wood burner, washing machine and drive-in parking.” They say the property required a lot of development with fencing, gates and the water supply needing work. They have since sold part of the farm to bring it to its present size of 17.5ha. Over the last few years the farm has been subdivided into smaller paddocks. The original paddocks were too big and they seemed to be forever putting fences up when break feeding the cows.


December 2019

Dolly’s Milk is a boutique business milking 30 cows at various times throughout the year and also offers farmstays.

The Dalziels run 30 cows with 15 to 20 milking at any given time. They are milked once-a-day in the morning through their 12-a-side herringbone cowshed. Individual cows are rotated into the herd throughout the year to replace those that are slowing down. Each day they spend a combined total of three hours in the shed. Marg cleans the shed while Pete cleans and sterilises the machines and fetches the cows.

When you milk once a day it’s difficult to determine when a cow is on heat. Pete Dalziel

The cleaning is the most timeconsuming task as they have to be very particular to meet the stringent raw milk hygiene standards. The somatic cell count (SCC) can be difficult to manage in a small herd but each cow is checked a week after it enters the herd. If the cell count is acceptable she goes into the supply. “We test the entire herd every day or every second day depending on how the SCC is tracking. If we see any rise in the count, we paddle test and identify the cow straight away,” Marg says. “That cow is removed from the supply

until her count comes down. Our milk is lab-tested three times a month, which gives us a good overview.” Each morning they remove the previous day’s milk from the vending machine and replace it with the fresh morning’s milk. Leftover milk is fed to their beef calves or given to other farmers for their stock. Supply of fresh milk never runs out either with new cows entering the herd throughout the year. “We’re ticking along nicely with the volume. Our best cows are producing about 25 litres per milking,” Marg says. “We’ve got enough rotating Dollys to keep the supply steady.” They haven’t bought a dairy cow for a long time because they have bred most of their replacements. They plan to buy the occasional heifer when needed. They previously used AI, which proved difficult in a small herd. “When you milk once a day it’s difficult to determine when a cow is on heat. “We had a great technician who was happy to come out and do a single cow. But after he retired we switched to bulls,” Pete says. “We might get seven calves in a row and then have none for three or four weeks. We let the calves stay on the cows for two-days. We fatten them and then sell them when they are over 100kg.” Their mating is staggered so they don’t get a flood of calves or cows coming into the shed. They need a steady stream of cows coming into their herd throughout the year so can often go up to five weeks without running the bull with the herd. Dolly’s Milk is not certified organic but does use organic principles. The Dollys are grass fed with supplemental silage and a grain extract during winter. “We want our customers to know how the Dollys have been treated and what they’ve been eating,” Pete says. “We like knowing that our customers are buying safe milk. And they in turn tell us the amazing results they’ve had from drinking it.” Customers tell Pete and Marg of the beneficial effects the raw milk has had for their acne, eczema and reflux but most of all they love the taste, that it is not processed and the bulk use glass bottles. They often hear stories about how much better their customers sleep after drinking the raw milk. It is common for Marg to hear the words “Here’s Mrs Dolly, how are the cows?” when she is in town. n



Home stay changes perceptions It’s easy to take the everyday things in your life for granted. They are normal but to others they are a source of wonder and a new experience. Ross Nolly talks to a Waikato couple who have opened their farm and home to the public.


NE night after hearing voices outside Waikato farmers Grant Wills and Karo Preston peered out and were surprised to see their guests standing in the dark gazing towards the heavens. The couple run Tremeer Farm Stay on their award-winning 800-cow, 244 hectare dairy farm at Walton near Matamata. Turns out their guests were looking at the stars, something they had never seen before because many came from big cities. Stargazing was a new and exciting experience for them. In 2017 they found themselves with an empty nest, which gave Karo the idea of turning their historic farmhouse into a bed and

breakfast. It would also allow her to indulge her other passion, cooking. Opening the bed and breakfast was a chance for Karo to pursue a new direction after she stopped teaching. Karo began her career as a secondary school teacher at New Plymouth Girls High School but had taught new entrants at the local Walton Primary School for the last 20 years. “We thought that our beautiful, big, old farmhouse could be a niche place for overseas visitors along with urban Kiwis wanting to see the real New Zealand,” Karo says. “When I finished teaching I started a catering job at Walton Golf Club where I learnt how to cook for large numbers of people. “The bed and breakfast gives me that platform to put an extra dash of personality into the cooking. I love seeing people enjoy my food.” When they opened Tremeer Farm Stay their aim was to give local and foreign tourists the chance to stay on a working dairy farm and have an authentic farm experience. The farm has been in Gant’s family for three generations and was a sheep and beef unit till it was converted to dairy in the late 1980s. Before they started the business they had been hosting group tours of the farm so it was a natural progression to add farm tours to the farmstay. Grant looks after the farm tours and enjoys telling visitors

Tremeer Farm Stay runs tours for groups where people can see first-hand cows being milked and feed calves, sheep and chickens. A tourist group sits down for question and answer time. 52 


December 2019

about the farm’s history and development, imparting his dairying knowledge and talking about the Kiwi way of life. For the past three years they have hosted month-long bus tours to China run by C R McPhail Tours. It has given them a good understanding of the Chinese market and their Chinese visitors’ lifestyle. “We get many Chinese visitors and plenty of locals, too. Tours are a good way of getting the rural message out to people who don’t always have access to it. When they leave they’re fascinated and quite surprised about what goes into running a farm.” He customises each tour to their guests’ level of understanding, language and whether they have children with them. A recent visit from an English agricultural university professor led to many in-depth conversations about their farming operation. “For families with young children it might be as simple as this black and white cow is a Friesian,” Grant says. “Last year we had a group of French rural professionals visit. We sat under the elm tree for two hours before the tour because they asked a lot of questions. They were fascinated with our milk price system and co-operative structure.” Karo runs the bed and breakfast and enjoys spoiling her guests with home-made smoothies, muffins, honey and muesli. Succulent farm lamb roasted in rosemary, traditional pavlova topped with berries and lemon curd cream or a barbecue with farm-bred, marinated steak are also on the menu. She often puts on a large buffet for the farm tour visitors under a large elm tree in the picture-perfect rustic setting. And she uses fresh produce from her large vegetable garden and says their guests love seeing where their food has come from. “Our guests live and eat with us in the house. We have some great discussions in the kitchen on all manner of farming related topics as I prepare breakfast,” Karo says. Guests are given a one-hour farm tour whereas others might spend longer on the farm looking at cows being milked or feeding sheep and chickens. “We put a stock crate on the truck to take our visitors across the farm. Heading off across the pasture on the back of a truck is often a new and really exciting experience for them,” Grant says. “We milk all year round so there’s a good chance that there’ll be some young calves around. Our visitors love to feed them and have the calves suck their fingers. All things that we take for granted.” Grant often takes a jug of milk from the farm for the tour visitors to try during their breakfast and says sampling food grown on the farm is indeed a fascinating highlight for guests. Visitors not only enjoy seeing the farm and animals, they are fascinated by the technology such as the scout collars that detect when a cow is on heat and any animal health problems, like a Fitbit. “A couple of Auckland lawyers stayed with us and were astounded at the farm’s technology and sophisticated level of operation,” Grant says. They are firm believers in the age-old premise of farmers leaving the land in a better state than when they took it on and say dairy farmers are often portrayed as destroying the environment. Over the years they have done a lot of environmental work including planting 10,500 native plants in riparian plantings. “We’ve tested the water coming on and off the farm and


December 2019

Grant Wills and Karo Preston run Tremeer Farm Stay in Waikato which allows visitors to stay on a working farm and experience rural life.

have shown that it leaves the farm in a better state than when it arrives. Stories like that surprise our visitors because it contradicts what they hear in the media,” Grant says. “We’ve noticed that Kiwi visitors arrive here with a less open mind than foreign visitors because they’ve been fed a line about how bad dairying is to the environment. We’re determined to demonstrate that it isn’t the case.” Karo says their Kiwi visitors are astounded to see what actually happens on a dairy farm and it changes their entire perception whereas foreign visitors seem to think NZ dairy farmers are wonderful and they just want to see and be a part of it. “It a huge eye-opener for our local visitors. They come here already assuming what they’re going to see but it ends up being nothing like the media has portrayed,” Karo says. “We’d love to have many more Auckland visitors so we can share our story.” As a working dairy farm they have to be mindful of biosecurity and take measures to stop any biosecurity risks arriving with their visitors and travelling onto the next farms too. The business has given them an appreciation for the things they once might have taken for granted. “It makes us appreciate what we’ve got. Like most farmers we always want to be better and are always thinking ahead. Having people here makes you stop, draw a line in the sand and reflect on how far we’ve come,” Grant says. “We’re not making a killing out of that side of the business but it’s very rewarding. We feel as though we are making a difference to the people that visit,” Karo says. “The greatest value we get is telling our story to our visitors and hopefully those people will influence others.” n



Save time and money A training programme is helping farmers create efficiencies and optimise work processes to help them farm ethically and sustainably. Cheyenne Nicholson reports.


EAN Dairy Farm author Jana Hocken was a bit of a city girl before she met husband Mat and was immersed in the dairy industry on their return to New Zealand in 2013 to run the Hocken family farm in Manawatu. “I immediately saw opportunities on the farm to apply lean management because at the end of the day it’s processes,” Hocken says. “Yes, there are external factors but most of it is around process. “So over the last two years on-farm we have really focused on it. The first year was basics like putting in an accounting system. We were using paper and hand calculated payslips.” Hocken has spent the past eight years working as a lean consultant under her business Improve8, working with businesses of all sizes and industries. Lean management is all about optimising work processes by eliminating waste – things that don’t bring value to the end product or customer. “It’s a management philosophy based on a business culture of continuous improvement. More and more customers are focused on our ethical farming practices that don’t damage our environment. We need processes that deliver this. Lean will help you look at all these elements in your business and help make it more sustainable.” In 2016 after a conversation with their processor, Open Country, which was interested in lean for its own business, she realised there is a need for lean in farming. She decided to develop a training programme (LeanFarm), which she rolled out across the country to more than 100 farmers with great success. The programme now also runs in Australia. “It showed there was an appetite in the market so I then had to think, what is the easiest way to get this information out there?’ “It wasn’t feasible for me to be running around the country speaking to every farmer so I thought I’d just write a book.”


Manawatu dairy farmer Jana Hocken has worked as a lean consultant for the past eight years and developed the Lean Management programme.  Photos: Merrin Easton Photography

She has spent all her working life in the lean space, either for the leanest company in the world, Toyota, or as a lean consultant. Even her industrial engineering degree was around optimising processes so it’s an area she knows inside out. “I hate inefficiencies and waste in businesses like waiting in queues or the fact that there are hospital waiting lists due to poor capacity of beds. I really enjoy seeing the tangible difference lean can make to a business.” During her time as a lean consultant she has seen some incredible things come out of the lean way of life including a large train company reducing its lead-

time and costs to commission new trains, a hospital reduce its cancer patient treatment waiting times by weeks and a big organisations saving millions of dollar a year in unnecessary processes. “It is actually very rewarding when you can see the impact. “More recently the work that I have been doing in farming with the LeanFarm Project has been quite new and refreshing and something different and I’m really enjoying that. The negative is that I can’t go into a business, even the post office, without seeing the waste and opportunities.” For any business, farming or nonfarming, testing out and establishing


December 2019

a new way of doing things can be challenging and lean is no exception. The key to incorporating lean comes down to people. “For any business the challenge is getting the team to own it and sustainability. The way to overcome that is to make sure the team is involved in every step, creating visual-management boards, planning and problem solving everything together. “I think for a lot of farmers, accepting that their business has waste and their way of doing things may not be the best can be a hard pill for some farmers to swallow. It’s confronting but if you are open to improvement then you’ll reap the rewards.” The book took about a year of ad hoc work while still working with her clients, juggling the farm work and looking after then one and three-year-olds. With the book starting to take form she went in search of publishers. “They gave me a time line of August 2018 to finish the full book so that it could go through the editing phase and be ready for print release in February/ March. Those last few months were more intense – some late nights working on it.” “Once the manuscript was handed over in August there was lots of editing work,” she says. “We had to put all diagrams into a black and white format, we did seven revisions and I had to redo diagrams to make them look good in black and white. That process was quite intense with tight deadlines. This was while I was still doing a few consulting contracts so I would get back to the hotel after all day being on site at around 7pm and work on it in a restaurant over dinner until 1am – quite exhausting.” With the family farm to run, a book to write, a Nuffield trip for Mat, her client work and renovating a property in Sydney, all with two young children, it’s fair to say 2017-18 was challenging and exhausting for the Hockens and she admits life is still hectic and busy. With another two business books in the works she has become the master of multitasking, time management and teamwork. “I am trying to reduce the amount of travel I do with client work and take on only a few client engagements each year. When I am on client engagement its full-time work. When I am home I try to spend a little bit of time each day on different things like a few hours on farm


December 2019

Having a busy schedule with on and off-farm commitments, Mat and Jana Hocken rely heavily on good scheduling and communications to ensure they can spend quality time as a family: Gabrielle, Jana, Annabelle and Mat.

stuff, another couple on my business admin and, of course, the children who are always my priority.” With Mat having a busy schedule of on and off-farm commitments they rely heavily on good scheduling and regular sit-downs to discuss and record their upcoming travel and work commitments to ensure someone is always home with the kids.

I hate inefficiencies and waste in businesses. Jana Hocken

“You just need to be organised but we are also quite adaptable and don’t make things into a big deal. It is kind of the norm for us. I don’t have any family around so Mat’s mum is also pretty much our saviour here. “She helps out a lot and adapts to our busy lives and we are very grateful. We are both quite active and have goals and ambitions and we support each other a lot in achieving these. “Doesn’t mean it is always easy. And

we are trying to slow down.” She admits some people might think she’s nuts for always having more than one project on the go but she says it keeps life interesting and exciting and keeps in line with her thoughts when she first moved to the farm. “As a city girl coming into the rural setting seven years ago I had the attitude that just because we are farming now it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything else. I think a good balance is vital, particularly for mental health.” The Hockens hope to get their farm to a condition where it can be a benchmark lean farm that other farmers can visit and see how lean can be implemented. Continuing to spread the message about how lean can help all types of farmers the world over will remain a priority as part of The LeanFarm Project with countries like Britain and the Netherlands interested in the concept. As well as two new business books, she is sketching some ideas for a few fiction books and plans for more property investment and renovations will certainly keep the family busy but carving out time to spend together as a family will always be the top priority. “Most importantly I want to spend some quality time with my two girls. They are growing up too quickly and sometimes I feel I am missing out.” n



Cash attracts rural vets A monetary incentive to attract veterinarians into rural practice is giving the regions a boost and helping address staff shortages. Samantha Tennent reports.


URAL communities are bearing the brunt of the veterinarian shortage because only a few graduates are drawn to remote areas, especially if they come from an urban background. The veterinarian qualification gained through Massey University is recognised internationally, which adds to the vast range of options available to new graduates. A survey by the Veterinary Association in 2018 found the biggest challenges practices face are staff recruitment, retention and income. Veterinarians are on Immigration New Zealand’s long-term skills shortage list and about 30% of practising veterinarians qualified overseas, most coming from Britain and Australia. To ease the shortage the Ministry for Primary Industries will give 32 graduate veterinarians a financial boost in the next cycle of its voluntary bonding scheme. “Our voluntary bonding scheme for veterinarians is designed to support and boost the number of graduate vets in our regions,” MPI investment programmes director Steve Penno says. “It’s available for graduates who are working with production animals such as cows, sheep and working dogs.” This year’s recipients will get $55,000 over five years, a total of $1.76 million. Generally, 30 graduates are funded but money was available for two more this year. Since the programme started in 2009 MPI has paid for 318 veterinarians. “The voluntary bonding scheme for veterinarians is a key way of attracting skilled workers to hard-to-staff veterinary practices in the regions and giving graduates an early boost to their careers,” Penno said. Farm girl Rachel Taylor has recently entered the scheme. She grew up on a sheep and beef farm at Wyndham, Southland, and always knew she would be


Manawatu veterinarian Rachel Taylor is one of 32 graduates who will receive funding under the Primary Industry Ministry’s voluntary bonding scheme.

a veterinarian or a farmer. Taylor had planned to head back south after she finished studying but she met her husband who convinced her to stay in Manawatu. “His family are here and he wanted to stay so I started looking at local clinics but they had to be somewhere that I was interested in. “I definitely wanted to work in a rural community.” She targeted areas during her university placements looking at Dannevirke, Masterton, Wanganui and Hunterville. “Placements are a great introduction for a vet student as well as the clinic to see if they’re going to be a good fit in the team.” When the Manawatu Gorge was closed in 2017 it reduced her options but she was fortunate to be offered a few roles and settled on Hunterville Vet Club. “It came down to the team where I felt I would fit and what fit with our family life. “I’ve since bought a house and I am committed to the area long-term.” Taylor was nervous when she discovered there were limited spaces in the scheme but it was not the deciding factor for her. She knew she wanted to work in a rural community and was pleased when she

secured a spot. It was like the icing on the cake. After three years working in Hunterville she will receive the first instalment, which goes directly to paying her student loan. The rest is paid over five years. “It’s great as it means you can pay your loan off much faster than if you were only paying it yourself.” If recipients no longer have a student loan they get the cash. For many vets the scheme is an incentive to stick around. Many graduates consider their first role for a short-term but the cash injection is an incentive to commit to the area and provide continuity for practices and farmers. Two other veterinarians at the Hunterville Vet Club were part of the scheme. And everyone besides Taylor has been at the clinic for over five years. “Farmers want to build trust and rapport with their vet. This vet-client relationship gives us the in-depth knowledge of their farm to provide the best treatment and advice on an individual farm level,” Taylor said. Constant change is frustrating for farmers and having a veterinarian who is committed to the area long-term makes a difference in their business. n


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The Hoof Camp sessions feature anything from rolling and sledge-hammering pivot tyres to pulling strops from tractor forks and boxing drills.

Simon says get fit Health minded Cantabrians have been heaving, hammering and punching their way to fitness on the farm. Tim Fulton reports.


HEN farm manager Simon Kermode from Purata Theland Farm Group in Dunsandel was looking for team building opportunities and different ways to work together he and his wife Emma created the idea for Hoof Camp. Both are keen members of the local gym, Carbon Health and Peformance in Leeston. They value fitness and strength highly. “We wanted to see if this amount of wellbeing that’s created through physical challenge can be transferred through to a team by working together using group fitness,” Simon says. They wanted others to experience what they had succeeded with. Simon saw Emma’s achievements working with her personal trainer

Thaddeus Scott, their local gym manager and farm fitness guru. “If this guy can tell Emma what to do and still get results then he must be good so Scott was an easy choice,” Simon says. They approached him and created the first six-week block of group fitness called Hoof Camp. So far two blocks of Hoof Camp have been held. The professional trainer’s heartthumping, gut-busting Hoof Camp featured anything from rolling and sledge-hammering pivot tyres to pulling strops from tractor forks and boxing drills. Scott had run all sorts of boot camp fitness programmes but never one on a farm and certainly nothing like Hoof Camp. And nowhere else did class members turn up in gumboots and overalls. His goal is usually to make people

sweat but at Hoof Camp it soon became apparent that the real win was teambuilding.

I find huge benefits in this for team values and relationship building. Thaddeus Scott

After just a few sessions he modified the programne, creating team challenges like the most sit ups or press ups. Scott says it’s never about turning ordinary bodies into super humans and

Thaddeus gives the team members instructions before putting them through their paces.



December 2019

no matter who turns up the goal is always giving it 100%. Simon reflects on the benefits and says “We experienced working together, finishing it properly, competing and cheering each other on. “I find huge benefits in this for team values and relationship building. “I will always run this with my teams now and in the future … it’s something completely different that requires open minds and positive attitudes right from the start.” They were asked if they have any intention to extend Hoof Camp and roll it out nationwide. “That’s hilarious,” Simon says. “Emma once had an idea to do this around the country for farm teams … she has a lot of ideas.” They say they won’t be requiring a copyright at this stage but it has been hugely successful in many ways and it has helped establish some great relationship-building in the farm teams and that they are doing something completely different and people are having fun. n

The team does resistance training using strops on the tractor forks.

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A taste of Manawatu


A Manawatu couple have always been passionate about producing their own food. Cheyenne Nicholson reports. OMBINGING their passions for science and producing food from scratch has proved to be a winning combination for Jill and Adrian

Walcroft. The couple own award-winning artisan cheese business Cartwheel Creamery. In the mid 1990s they embarked on a cheesemaking course while they were establishing careers in the science industry, with Adrian finishing his doctorate at the time. “We fell in love with the idea of producing our own food,” Jill says. “Back then we thought we’d do the whole thing and use sheep milk. We even went so far as to get a small flock of Dorset sheep and equipment and joined a discussion group in Waikato where we were based at the time.” After moving to Manawatu to further their careers and start their family, cheesemaking was put on the back burner for a while. But in 2011 they were ready to leave the science industry, crunch the numbers and make a go of producing cheese. Cartwheel Creamery, on their 12ha farm in the Pohangina Valley near Palmerston North, sells both wholesale to restaurants and other suppliers as well as in its own shop and at markets. “We made the decision early on not to milk our own animals for the business,” Jill says. “After getting advice from other people in the industry we decided it would be too much to milk, look after a farm and make cheese along with all the other business roles that come with it. It was also looking like it would be hard to get the scale right.” Instead, the couple work with local cow and goat farms that supply the milk that goes into their artisan cheeses. Their milk processing vat holds a minimum of 200 litres and a maximum of 400l, which gives them flexibility in their system to have as much or as little milk on hand as they need. Ten litres of cow milk makes about 1kg of hard cheese but more is needed for soft cheeses. Goat’s


Jill and Adrian Walcroft of Cartwheel Creamery in Manawatu are finding success in their business venture which combines their passion for science and producing their own food.

milk yields around 20% less because of its lower milksolid content. Milk comes from neighbours Ian and Ali Passey who run a small, traditional, third-generation dairy farm and Stewart Dairylands at Hiwinui.

We fell in love with the idea of producing our own food. The Friesian milk from the Stewarts with lower fat content suits harder cheeses while the creamy crossbred milk from the Passey farm is great for soft and blue cheeses. Steve and Mary Barr of Arran Farm

supply milk during the winter and milk from their specialist A2 herd is also processed into a range of cheeses the Barrs sell at their raw milk shop. Goat’s milk comes from a Manawatu herd. “A bit like wine, you’ll get regional differences in cheese depending on where they’re made,” Jill says. “Although we don’t harvest our own milk it’s all sourced locally so our cheese really is a taste of Manawatu and that’s something we are really proud of. We are also really proud to work alongside the farmers who supply the milk. We have made some really great relationships there and ones we are really grateful for.” Setting up any new business comes with its challenges, none more so than in the food industry. Everything had to be designed and built from scratch to comply both with the requirements of a dairy processing business but


December 2019


Cartwheel Creamery has a range of award-winning soft and hard cheeses and can often be found at market days.

Jill and Adrian Walcroft established Cartwheel Creamery in 2011 in the Pohangina Valley. They get milk from nearby dairy farms and a goat farm.

also for their own needs. Adrian says they discovered quickly the rules were designed for large-scale factories with no interpretation for small-scale producers. “We spent a lot of time talking to other small-scale people doing a similar thing and picked the bits we liked and thought would work for what we wanted,” Adrian says. “More recently the Ministry for Primary Industries has recognised it wasn’t a good situation so have made things easier for smaller business to get into the industry in terms of food safety regulations and set out some good guidelines and resources for premise construction.” Over the last few years they have expanded to include new chiller and office space. However, they did have to do a complete overhaul of the refrigeration

in their maturing rooms to ensure it was fit for purpose. Over the years the business has grown to include some semi-casual staff and summer staff and they hope to grow to a point they can employ full-time staff. Their marketing approach is very customer facing so they are regulars at local markets, which they say is important to keep in tune with what their customers want. “We get to hear feedback directly and that is really important even now,” Adrian says. “We’ll try new things like washing with port or other ideas. With those test cheeses you can’t sell them wholesale through a shop but you can take them to markets and see what people think and work out if it’s worth taking those next steps with it.”

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What is the secret to their success? Well, though no good cheesemaker will give away their secrets, Adrian says everything in the process contributes towards the taste, from the milk to the cultures chosen, how often it’s stirred and the rind, producing the subtle, unique flavour. Everything in their business stems from a passion for food, having a connection to the land and continuing to expand their learnings. “We’re lifelong learners. We like finding out things for ourselves and doing it from scratch. “We gain a lot of satisfaction. Whether it is building new facilities, developing new cheeses or an inventory system, working it out ourselves is something we enjoy,” Jill says. n

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Dairy Diary December 2019 December 3 – SMASH Spotlight on the system, Lepperton. Find out how Adam and Taryn Pearce are building a farm business that functions well for them financially and as a family. Info at December 3 & 4 – Dairy Women’s Network Understanding your financials, north Canterbury and east Waikato. A practical workshop to strengthen relationships with your accountant. NZCA delivers this practical workshop supported by CRS Software to give a better understanding of your farming business. Info at December 3 & 11 – DairyNZ Take time before you sign, Reporoa and Whangarei. Opportunities, risks and reality checks for contract milkers and farm owners. Workshop discussion what’s required to make a new business partnership work for everyone, skill requirements and mitigating potential risks. Info at December 5 – GEA GEA’s iXPRESS open day. See how a good milk harvesting system like Dave and Julie Davis’ can improve labour efficiencies and cow health while increasing throughput and milk returns. Natasha Maguire from Farm Medix will discuss how you can take a targeted approach to treating mastitis. Info at or Grant Coburn on 021 980 013 December 5 – SMASH Fresh farming tactics, Bulls. Visit Daniel Charlton’s farm to investigate how you can make more out of your farm business and manage your feed over summer. Guest speakers Cathy Tait-Jamieson, Biofarm, Lance Gillespie, Table Flat, and Professor Danny Donaghy, Massey University. Info at December 6 – Dairy Women’s Network Take the wheel building financial confidence, Tararua. As our industry endures unprecedented change and transitions into a new operating environment maintaining control of your business and ensuring it is resilient enough to continue to be profitable is paramount. Info at December 6 – Dairy Women’s Network Coffee catch-up, Taupo. Join us on the first Friday of each month. Info at December 9 – DairyNZ Ladies Group Christmas get together Taupiri/Orini. This discussion group has met every month for more than 33 years. Including farm assistants and owners and everything in between. Info at December 10 – DairyNZ Tararua plantain open field day. First year results are in. Join us on Neil Filer’s farm for a presentation on the first full year monitoring data from our Tararua farms. Info at





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December 10 & 11 – DairyNZ Milksmart Manawaru/Wardville and Morrinsville. Want to reduce time spent in the milking shed while maintaining production and animal health? Come hear how. Latest figures show 57% of farm time is spent milking. Hear the benefits of increased milking efficiency and what they mean for people and animals. Info at December 11 – Dairy Women’s Network Coffee morning catch-ups, north Waikato regional event. Join us on the second Wednesday of each month. Info at December 12 – DairyNZ Pasture management workshop, Ruawai. Want a refresh on pasture management? Gain an understanding of pasture residuals, ryegrass leaf stage, round lengths and spring rotation planner. Info at December 12 – Lincoln Agritech Catch crops in action, Southland and south Otago. Catch crops for reduced nitrate leaching is in the second year of a three-year SFF programme demonstrating the benefits of using catch crops after winter forage grazing to reduce the environmental footprint of low-cost winter feed systems while increasing farmers’ bottom lines. Info at December 13 – DairyNZ Marton Christmas lunch. Hosted by Debbie and Sam Crowther. Info at December 17 – DairyNZ Extension 350 associate farmer meeting, Nilsson. Expression of interest. Contact Ryan Baxter if you want to be involved in this project. Info at Young Farmer District regional finals February District contest and skills days are over and the top contestants from each district progress to one of seven regional finals. February 1 Northern-upper North, November 9, Bay of Islands AP&I Showgrounds, Kaikohe. February 8 Waikato/Bay of Plenty. DairyNZ Offload, Reload, Refresh various dates and locations. Join DairyNZ directors and your local DairyNZ team to discuss the future of dairying. Get an overview of the latest local and national insights and other breakthroughs that could help the dairy sector meet future challenges. Info at

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Profile for Farmers Weekly NZ

Dairy Farmer December 2 2019  

Fighting fit for the farm

Dairy Farmer December 2 2019  

Fighting fit for the farm