Dairy Farmer December 2021

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DECEMBER 2021 | $8.95

Below the surface A BoP duo dug deep into their business for the 2021 Share Farmer of the Year competition


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CONTENTS NEWS 16 Milk Monitor Supply and demand keeping prices up

November 2021 | $8.95 GlobalHQ is a farming family owned business that donates 1% of all advertising revenue in Farmers Weekly and Dairy Farmer to farmer health and wellbeing initiatives. Thank you for your prompt payment.

17 Loss of a champion John Luxton’s death a big loss to industry


A well-oiled machine Bay of Plenty farmers come out top

20 Living the life A Canterbury farmer’s journey


Guest column – Jim van der Poel

28 Dairy champion – Gavin Fisher 32 Women in agribusiness – tips and tricks

SPECIAL REPORT 36 Live exports

FEATURES 62 Supplementary feed 70 Mental health and wellness


20 Editor SONITA CHANDAR 06 374 5544 sonita.chandar@globalhq.co.nz 027 446 6221


50 Technology 79 Industry good – DairyNZ

TONY BENNY troutstream@farmside.co.nz

021 383 156

GERARD HUTCHING gerard.hutching@gmail.com

027 836 2051

DEAN WILLIAMSON 027 323 9407 dean.williamson@globalhq.co.nz

ANNE BOSWELL anne@anneboswell.co.nz



CARMELITA MENTOR-FREDERICKS editorial@globalhq.co.nz 06 323 0769

ANDY WHITSON 027 626 2269 New Media & Business Development Lead andy.whitson@globalhq.co.nz

Contributors ROSS NOLLY ross_nolly@yahoo.co.nz

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GERALD PIDDOCK 027 486 8346 gerald.piddock@globalhq.co.nz


48 Farmstrong

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December 2021

COVER STORY A BoP duo dug deep into their business for the 2021 Share Farmer of the Year competition


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Dairy shines through challenges By Jim van der Poel

Dairy farmers can be rightfully proud of what they have achieved in 2021, despite a challenging and very unsettled year.


airy’s strong performance has been vital to New Zealand this year, during economically uncertain and challenging times. With a higher milk price, the total economic contribution from dairy was estimated at over $40 billion over the past season. Farmers have continued to do a great job under pressure, while trying to manage with staff shortages worsened by covid-19. We at DairyNZ continue to strongly represent your views to the Government that regulatory overload is creating too much stress. Our advocacy has focused on ensuring politicians understand the pressure you’re facing and working together with you on solutions. Joint advocacy by farmers, DairyNZ and other primary sector organisations resulted in changes to make winter grazing requirements more practical onfarm. Farmers have also been recognised for achieving real improvements in winter grazing practices. As we head into 2022, many migrant workers are looking forward to applying for residency under a new pathway, which allows around 4000 dairy workers to become residents. DairyNZ and Federated Farmers worked hard to influence this change. It’s great to have the contribution of our migrant workers recognised – farmers can retain experienced staff and families can now plan their future in NZ. This year, we proudly shared an AgResearch report we commissioned, which showed NZ dairy is the world’s most carbon efficient. To retain this position and meet growing consumer expectations, we’re investing in research to help you to continue to reduce your environmental footprint while maintaining or improving farm profitability.


December 2021

DairyNZ chairman Jim van der Poel says farmers can be proud of their achievements this year despite ongoing challenges.

“There is still much to do, but I have confidence that together we can continue to solve our challenges and look forward with optimism.” We know our global customers, and Kiwis, have growing expectations around sustainability. Over the past three years, our Vision is Clear campaign showcased the stories of 60 dairy farmers and what they are doing to care for the environment. One-point-seven million Kiwis have seen the campaign and an estimated 63% feel positively

towards dairy farmers. When the campaign started in 2018, only 43% felt that way. We’re also seeing NZ getting on top of the M bovis battle, as a result of hard work by farmers and partner organisations. By October 2021, only four farms had active M bovis – down from 34 two years ago. We should all feel proud of what dairy farmers have achieved this year – and what we’ve contributed. There is still much to do, but I have confidence that together we can continue to solve our challenges and look forward with optimism. n

MORE: Jim van der Poel is the chairman of DairyNZ.


A well-oiled machine The DIA provided an opportunity for an in-depth look at an award-worthy Bay of Plenty farm.

Aran and Sharleen Sealey are 50% equity owners in a 136ha farm at Galatea where they milk 440 cows. Photos: Anne Boswell

By Anne Boswell

Leaving no stone unturned, and despite a last-minute entry, a Bay of Plenty farming couple’s efforts paid off when they won the 2021 Share Farmer of the Year competition.


ight years ago, Galatea dairy farmers Aran and Sharleen Sealey’s decision to enter the Dairy Industry Awards (DIA) was one made without a great deal of consideration. “Aran entered the Dairy Trainee of the Year in 2013 because someone told him he’d get a free feed at the awards dinner,” Sharleen laughs. “He asked me if I wanted to go on a date – and with two children under two at that stage – I was all in. The evening went even better than expected: Aran not only received his promised dinner, but also came away with the practical skills component award for the Bay of Plenty. While proud of his achievement, the couple gave little thought to the awards again until late last year and in 2021, they came up trumps, winning the title of Bay of Plenty Share Farmers of the Year. They are 50% equity partners with Sharleen’s parents, Eric and Margaret Smeith, milking 440 Jersey and crossbred cows on a 136ha milking platform. The Bay of Plenty farm has great

significance in Sharleen’s family. Her grandfather bought the farm in 1951 as a ballot farm after returning from WWII. He established the land as a dairy farm, which was later purchased by Sharleen’s father Eric. The couple’s entry into the 2021 DIA was not something they had planned to do, but it came at the ideal time. “Several members of the community had encouraged us to enter and it was around this time it became apparent that our son Joel would not be able to come home for Christmas as planned due to covid-19,” she says. “Entering the awards was a positive distraction from missing him. He was our motivation.” They decided they didn’t want to regret not giving it a go and put their entry through on the afternoon of the last day. “Finishing our entry was such a good feeling,” she says. “We dug so deeply into our business, but in some areas, like the environment, I felt we were only scratching the surface.”

FARM FACTS • Owners: Eric and Margaret Smeith, Aran and Sharleen Sealey (50% equity partnership) • Location: Galatea, Bay of Plenty • Farm size: 160ha including support block • Herd size: 440 Jersey and Crossbred cows • Production 202021: 160,000kg MS • Production target 2021-22: 160,000kg MS

Continued page 10


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Aran and Sharleen Sealey left entering the awards until the last day, but the effort paid off when they were named the 2021 Bay of Plenty Share Farmers of the Year.

Their hard work paid off and the couple not only came away with the title of 2021 Bay of Plenty Share Farmers of the Year, but four merit awards: the Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene award; Honda Farm Safety, Health and Biosecurity award; LIC Recording and Productivity award; and Meridian Farm Environment award. “We just couldn’t believe it,” she says. “On the way to the awards, we were discussing how we had already got so much more out of the process than we had expected. “We had been so focused on the day-to-day running of the business and reaching the next goal that we hadn’t stopped to acknowledge what we had already achieved so far.” The couple says they would strongly encourage other farmers to enter. “It was exciting to get advice and feedback from people who didn’t even know us,” she says. “The other competitors were likeminded and supportive and were all out there just doing the best they can. “And our community just got behind us; the dairy industry is full of people

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“We had been so focused on the dayto-day running of the business and reaching the next goal that we hadn’t stopped to acknowledge what we had already achieved so far.” Sharleen Sealey wanting to help others move forward and achieve.” They are giving back to the dairy community by being the Share Farmer of the Year team leaders for 2022, supporting award entrants. They acknowledge the part Aran’s mum Sue played in getting him involved in the industry back in 2009. “She encouraged me to give it a go,” Aran says. “She has a real love for the land, like Sharleen’s parents do, so there is a lot of common ground there and we can have good, productive farming conversations with her. She is a dairy farmer at heart.” Sharleen grew up on the farm and remembers it being at the centre of many extended family gatherings and celebrations; she has many happy

Continued page 12

The Sealeys run a System 3 farm and grow lucerne and maize on the support block across the road. Aran checks the pasture quality.

About 100 replacement calves are kept, although the Sealeys kept 130 this season. The surplus will be sold if they are not needed for the herd.


December 2021


“Once-a-day is better for us and better for the staff. It also means we can go on a 10-day beach holiday every year. We work pretty hard for the rest of the year.” Sharleen Sealey

Both Aran and Sharleen grew up on farms, although Aran was not hands on. He entered the dairy industry after the birth of his son Joel and has completed a Certificate in Dairy Farming Level 4, while Sharleen is studying towards a Diploma in Agribusiness Management. Aran and Sharleen out amongst their herd.

memories of playing around the farm with her cousins. She also remembers “tagging along” with her father on-farm when she was young, although she admits her parents were surprised when she decided to go dairy farming. “Despite growing up on-farm I wasn’t really a farm girl – I was quite scared of the cows.” she laughs. After she left school, she went on an OE before heading to university in Christchurch. “I didn’t stay at uni for long, because I’d met Aran before I left,” she says. Aran, who grew up in Rotorua, “didn’t pick up a pair of cups” until he was 18, even though his parents were dairy farming when he was born. He moved around a little with his


mother who remained passionate about the dairy industry despite no longer farming. Aran attended Te Awamutu College, leaving school at 16 before having his first son Joel. It was then that Sue suggested Aran give dairy farming a go, having seen that the college was advertising the Agriculture Academy. He returned to school at 18 and ended up loving the course. Before it had finished, he had secured a dairy farming job at Te Kawa, near Te Awamutu. He stayed for one-and-a-half seasons before moving to Galatea. He was working on the neighbouring farm when he met Sharleen, but he soon moved to a management position on the Smeith farm. Sharleen returned from university and

started working on a local farm, before starting their family. Joel also came to live with them full-time. The couple has now been working on the farm for 14 years, progressing from a management position to contract milking, before forming the equity company with Eric and Margaret three years ago as part of a succession plan. The couple have three children – Haven, six, Ashlyn, nine, and Jayda, 10, and Joel who moved to Melbourne with his mother in early 2020. They both work full-time on the farm, with one full-time staff member, Daniel Ford. They are looking to revise their staff structure in the future and will consider adding another staff member to relax the roster and step back a bit. Eric also works part-time on the farm. “He’s living the dream,” Sharleen laughs. “He enjoys cropping and tractor work and he organises the fertiliser that comes in. He keeps his hand in.” Their philosophy around staff is to help them on their farming journey, training them to prepare them for a ‘better’ job. She says Aran has a particular strength in training staff, a responsibility he really enjoys. The farm is a well-oiled machine, set up to maximise work-life balance and a work-hard, play-hard outlook. Last season the 440-cow herd produced 160,000 kilograms of milksolids and the target for this season is the same or higher. The herd milks twice-a-day until January, when they move to once-a-day milking. “Heat is a big contributing factor – it gets so hot out here,” she says. “Once-a-day milking goes well for us and we don’t tend to lose much production; twice-a-day the herd produces around 1.9l/cow/day, and oncea-day it produces 1.7l/cow/day. “Once-a-day is better for us and better for the staff. It also means we can go on a 10-day beach holiday every year. We work pretty hard for the rest of the year.


December 2021

Daughter Ashlyn enjoyed a day off school and spent the day helping her parents on the farm. Ashlyn with this season’s calves.

“We use Dairy Base and it has been incredible for showing us how well our cows do hold on in the summer. We’ve also found that Jerseys tend to cope better in the heat.” They irrigate 84ha of the farm with a lateral line irrigation system; without it, the grass doesn’t stay green for long in the warmer months. “We’ve found that it only takes four days of 30degC weather for the farm to turn from green to brown,” Aran says. “With free-draining soil, it can change very quickly.” They have four irrigators per paddock and move them with a quad bike. Irrigation is turned on at night to allow the water to soak in without evaporation from the sun. Across the road, the 24ha support block is a ‘dry’ block, which provides real benefits to the system in both winter and summer. During the warmer months they grow 14.5ha of maize and 15ha of Lucerne. The lucerne is a cut-and-carry crop, used to top up the cows and give them some variety in summer. “It is a nice, summer-safe crop,” Sharleen says. Chicory-mix crops are also grown on the dry block of the milking platform. The maize is fed over winter and into spring as silage until it runs out and then from March onward to extend lactation. “Silage is a reliable method to get


December 2021

minerals into the cows as well,” Aran says. Eric is passionate about soil quality and has worked hard to overturn the soil on the support block to improve water holding capacity.

The soil flipping practice was the subject of both Waikato University studies and a three-year DairyNZ cut-

Aran locks the calves in their new paddock.

Continued page 14

Last season the 440-cow herd produced 160,000 kilograms of milksolids and the target is the same or more this season.

and-measure research project. The studies showed the benefits of soil flipping using three different soil flipping methods, demonstrating a growth difference of between 18-40% drymatter growth over 12 months. The support block is also invaluable during the winter to keep cows off the milking platform for as long as possible, to avoid pugging. They return to the platform before they calve, but are kept on the dry part of the milking platform for longer. Calving starts on July 12 and the herd is fully calved down by the end of September, as they use short gestation semen at the end of mating to achieve this. They rear 50-80 Jersey bulls annually, which are sold as weaners. They also need to rear 100 replacement heifers annually, but choose to rear a little more – 130 this year – as a risk management tool. Young stock is weaned at 90kg and grazed away at Minginui. “You just never know what will happen within the herd throughout the season, or even what opportunities might arise,” Sharleen says. “If we have to sell them that’s okay, but


“We would like to collect even more precise data so we can see exactly what’s going into the cow and what’s coming out.” Aran Sealey it’s better to sell them as in-calf heifers. We just don’t want to be left needing to buy cows. We also want to keep the herd young.” Mating, which begins on October 9, is another busy time for them, with Aran having been an AB technician for the past eight years. The herd which originated with Sharleen’s grandfather, has been bred into the top 10% of herds nationally for BW. With genetic gain a big focus for the couple, the herd has been part of the LIC Sire Proving Scheme for two years, which means their genetics are chosen for them. “It’s a neat opportunity to be part of

the scheme and it works out to be more cost effective too,” Aran says. “LIC are interested in a few of our cows.” He says the next step to further improving genetic gain in the herd is to start weighing their cows. “We would like to collect even more precise data so we can see exactly what’s going into the cow and what’s coming out,” he says. “We need cows that can produce their body weight in milk; Jerseys are quite efficient, so we want to sharpen up that trait even more.” They also use some nominated Angus semen over the lower producing cows, or cows that won’t be in the herd for much longer, so they can keep genetic gain strong. An important feature of the farm is the Whirinaki River, which runs along the back of the farm. It is well fenced-off, with a large distance between the river and grazing areas. “In the summer, we swim in there every day,” he says. “The kids are always asking for a swimming pool and I say, nope, you’ve got a river. “We are deeply connected to the river and fiercely protective of it. We consider it our job to look after it.” Sharleen says the river also holds a special place in the hearts of her extended family. “Instead of sitting around the table when they visit, we take a walk down to the river,” she says. “Just like we did when we were kids.” The couple have a plan to plant along the riverbank where possible, although there are some restrictions due to the gradient of the bank in some areas. They believe farming is an ideal environment in which to raise children and work alongside their family. The couple works well together as a team and have found harmony in their day-today routines. “It’s great to be able to work from home,” she says. “We also alternate sleep-ins each day so we get adequate rest.” She says she loves the different seasons of farming and the variety of work they undertake throughout the year – no day is ever the same. And thanks to a great system, even the most typically demanding time of year, calving, is met with excitement. “Some people dread calving, but I think it’s the most enjoyable time of the year,” she says.


December 2021

“We have established a system that works. I deal with the calvers and Aran takes care of the milkers, grass rotation and supplements. “Calves are the future of the farm and it’s exciting.” Once the busy period – calving, mating and irrigation – is over and the herd moves to once-a-day milking, they take a non-negotiable 10-day beach holiday every January. The family is also very “outdoorsy” and enjoys an active lifestyle. They have started a tradition whereby when each of their children turns nine, they are taken on a tramp for some quality time with their parents. “We did the Abel Tasman walk with Jayda – I don’t know how we’re going to top that,” she laughs. “It was absolutely beautiful.” Aran is mechanically-minded and can often be found fixing things in his workshop. He also enjoys riding dirtbikes and has built several tracks and jumps on-farm for himself and some local boys who previously had nowhere to ride. Their balanced approach to work and life means they are extremely focused and determined when it comes to upskilling and achieving their business goals. Aran holds a Certificate in Dairy Farming Level, 4 while Sharleen is studying towards a Diploma in Agribusiness Management. Their ultimate goal is farm ownership – first owning the company outright, then setting their focus to purchasing the land. “Our farming philosophy is to leave the

The Whirinaki River runs along the back of the farm. It is fenced off and there is a large buffer between the river and grazing areas. Ashlyn checks out the river.

farm better than when we found it,” they say. “And to do that, we are working extremely hard. We’re not just cruising along, we are trying our best to learn new skills and take the opportunities that


are presented to us, while striving for excellence. “A lot of people think a generational farm is just handed to you, but that’s not the case at all. There was a lot to change, and the change came with us.” n


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A good end to the year By Gerald Piddock

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


hat a difference a month makes. Spring has officially sprung and the warm, wet weather has seen pasture covers jump across most of the country’s main dairy regions in November. For farmers, the growth has turned into a feast for their herds as they try to maintain their pasture quality. Rural contractors are also run off their feet as they try to keep up with demand for silage to be cut and feed crops to be planted. Milk prices are yet to lose any of its steam after two positive GDTs in a row through November. Milk powder is now just below US$4000 following the November 16 sale. The previous sale saw the overall price index jump 4.3%. It prompted Westpac economist Nathan Penny to lift the bank’s forecast 40c to $8.90/kg milksolids. That would make it a record high, beating $8.40/kg MS in 2013-2014. He justified the forecast lift because he expects New Zealand production to fall by 1.5% compared to last season. “Winter and spring have been either wet or cold, or both, in many parts of the country. As a result, production for the first four months of the season is running at 3.1% behind the same stage of last season,” Penny says. Production data from Fonterra’s Global Dairy Update for September reflect that, with milk volumes down 4.3% for


It’s doubtful that production can recover after a slow spring, which should keep demand and supply balanced and help maintain the current high dairy prices.

September. Its season-to-date collections were 303.9 million kg MS, 3.4% behind last season. As good as the pasture growth has been through November, it’s pretty doubtful that production will be made up before the full heat of summer hits the country. It is a point ASB made in its Commodities Weekly publication. While production will improve, it did not expect a surge and the global backdrop will remain soft. “In short, the global demand and supply balance is tight enough to keep prices supported,” it said. It believed whole milk powder (WMP) prices had further momentum reflecting that buyers are paying a premium to secure dairy products well into the latter stages of the season. “Unlike during the last dairy price cycle seven years ago, this dynamic isn’t just boosting WMP – all products are running 25-60% ahead of long run averages, with the biggest gains for fats and cheeses,” it said. This means Fonterra will avoid running into the same problems it did during the 2013-2014 season, where it was unable to deliver on the milk price manual output. Fonterra has also evolved and diversified its product mix since that season and no longer has all of its eggs in such few baskets. Rabobank’s Emma Higgins also concurred, saying further upsides in

commodity markets cannot be ruled out as the slow production season and sluggish Northern Hemisphere production had buyers on high alert in the bank’s November Agribusiness Monthly. Milk price futures are also at $9/kg for the first time at NZX, with its September 2022 contract trading at $9.07.

“In short, the global demand and supply balance is tight enough to keep prices supported.” ASB, however, remained cautious. “Our core view is a little more cautious, but a record-high milk price is all but locked in for this season and there is an upside risk to our own $8.75/kg MS forecast. “Prices have already been locked in at high levels for the majority of this season’s sales and a higher NZD won’t have much of an impact given we expect the co-op is already around 80-90% hedged around the 0.69-0.70 mark,” ASB analysts say. While the ongoing threat and disruption of covid-19 and soaring input prices are taking a bit of the gloss off of this, farmers are in a great position to see off the year in the best possible way. n


December 2021


Remembering a dairy legend By Sonita Chandar


he dairy industry has lost a champion, leader and advocate with the death of former National Cabinet minister John Luxton after a long illness. He was 75 years old. Born and raised in Waikato, he was the son of farmer and MP Jack Luxton and the fifth generation to farm. When Dairy Farmer spoke to him several years ago, he said his dad never required him or his siblings to work on the farm, but he remembered going out to help. “I was probably about six or seven and used to help milk and then later drive tractors during hay-making,” he said. “My parents were adamant that we all receive a good education so we used to catch the bus to Hamilton every day.” He attended Hamilton Boys High School, but said he “didn’t have a clue” about which career to choose. “There was a bit of peer pressure as everyone was heading off to university. I decided to join them. I was the first in our family to attend university,” he said. He enrolled in an agricultural science degree at Massey University then gained sponsorship from the Agriculture Department and ended up working for it as one of its first dairy advisory officers. Within a year, he “got itchy feet” about going farming and bought his first farm in 1971 and took over the following year milking 200 cows on the 53ha block. He later bought two neighbouring properties and combined the three and over the years increased his farming portfolio and had interests in both the North and South Islands. In 1975 the family moved to Tanzania for two years where he worked as a dairy consultant. He became a Tatua board member in 1978, but resigned two years later after he was head-hunted by the West Germany Aid Agency to lead their small-holdings dairy project in Malaysia. “The job was supposed to be for two years, so we shifted the family to Kuala Lumpur. Two years turned into four, but we really enjoyed our time there,” he said. Returning in 1984, he was re-elected


December 2021

Dairy champion and leader John Luxton had a long association with the industry. His contribution will be long-lasting.

to the Tatua board and was appointed chairman. In 1987, his father Jack stood down from politics after 21 years of holding the Matamata seat, so he stood and was elected to the same seat. In 1990, the National Party won the election and he was appointed to the Cabinet. From 1990 to 1999, his ministerial roles included housing, energy, police, Māori affairs, commerce, industry, as well as all of the agricultural portfolios. He was also an associate minister of education and of overseas trade. He retired from politics in 2002 after a long political career, during which the dairy industry came under intense scrutiny. “I had been amongst people who were suggesting the dairy industry needed deregulation, which was not particularly popular,” he said. “The idea was to ensure competition for milk at the farm gate. The Helen Clark-led Labour government was keen to continue and in 2001 the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act was passed.” In the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours, he was appointed a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order for public services. It was around this time that he and colleague Wyatt Creech founded Open Country Dairies, which they sold in 2005. They then founded the boutique Kaimai Cheese Company, which was hit by the Global Financial Crisis and eventually sold it. During his long involvement with the industry he was involved with Hauraki iwi-owned Pouarua Farm Partnership,

was the co-chairman of the Waikato River Authority and chairman of the Asia New Zealand Foundation. He was also the chairman of DairyNZ and stepped down in 2015 after a decade of service. His achievements during his time as chairman include launching a new strategy for sustainable dairy farming and a new water accord in 2013, championing investment in research and development to improve on-farm innovation and the competitiveness of the NZ dairy industry, advocating for education and the ongoing investment in people to improve the skills and capability within the industry. He was also key in establishing DairyNZ’s role in policy and advisory, establishing the Waikato Dairy Leaders Group, chairing the industry leader’s forum and leading a record dairy levy vote in 2014. In 2016 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award by the NZ Dairy Industry Awards Trust in recognition of his long service to the industry and wider agriculture sector. He also received the 2016 Lincoln University honorary degree, Doctor of Science, honoris causa, and is an AC Cameron award winner. In 2017 he was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit, for services to the dairy industry, in the New Year Honours. He also held many other roles including sitting on the boards of the Royal NZ Ballet Company and Landcare Research. He is survived by his wife and children. n



Nominate your rural leader


he achievement and growth of rural women is celebrated every year through the Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) Regional Leader award. Nominations are now open for the award, which celebrates the work of the organisation’s volunteers at grassroots and the impact they have in their local rural and dairying communities. Regional leaders are at the core of the organisation and recognising and supporting their efforts is important to the morale of the team and the longevity of the network. Supported by rural insurance company FMG, the award highlights the passion for people within the network’s volunteer regional leaders, of which there are more than 80. Northland sharemilker Donna Griggs was announced as the 2021 DWN Regional Leader of the Year and says winning the title meant an opportunity to grow in leadership skills and to bring that knowledge forward into the network’s community, her local farming community and her and husband Steven’s business. DWN chief executive Jules Benton is encouraging members to celebrate their regional leaders who actively demonstrate leadership and the values of DWN with a submission. “As an organisation we are led from the ground up. Our volunteers are our connection to dairy farmers all over the country; they work hard behind the scenes to deliver opportunities for connection and upskilling that fit with the needs of our members,” Benton says. “They are often points of contact and connection within their areas and are heavily involved in other groups and initiatives. The effort they put in for both DWN and their own networks deserves to be acknowledged, as well as their personal growth and development.” “We are pleased that FMG – who are known for supporting the wellbeing and achievement of New Zealand farmers and rural communities – are recognising the value of this award by sponsoring it for a second year.” FMG chief client officer Andrea Brunner says organisations such as the


Dairy Women’s Network 2021 Regional Leader of the Year Northland dairy farmer Donna Griggs says she saw the award as an opportunity to grow her leadership skills. Nominations are now open for the 2022 award.

“The effort they put in for both DWN and their own networks deserves to be acknowledged, as well as their personal growth and development.” Jules Benton DWN play a critical role in keeping rural communities connected and create opportunities for knowledge sharing and personal development. “Feeling a part of your industry and community and growing as a rural

professional are important and FMG wants to see our rural communities thrive. That’s why we support the Regional Leader of the Year award. We wish all nominees the best of luck,” Brunner says. Nominations will close in March next year, after which finalists will be put before a judging panel of representatives from DWN and FMG. The Regional Leader of the Year recipient will be announced at a gala dinner during the 2022 DWN conference in Invercargill and will receive a registration to the Dare to Lead™ Programme facilitated by Kaila Colbin and Boma NZ, as well as travel costs and accommodation in the location of the programme. n


December 2021

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Living the life Realising farm ownership was a humbling experience for a dairy farming duo.

Canterbury farmer Enda Hawe and family are equity partners in a 220ha farm at Rakaia where they milk 700 cows. Niamh, Sarah, James, Kayleigh and Enda out on the farm.

By Tony Benny

A trip to New Zealand to gain work experience for a university degree turned into a lifelong journey for a Canterbury farmer.


anterbury farmer Enda Hawe is living the life he dreamed of when he arrived in New Zealand from Ireland 20 years ago, having climbed the dairy career ladder to farm ownership and a secure future for his family, wife Sarah and three children. They live just north of the Rakaia River, a few minutes towards the coast from SH1, on a 202ha dairy farm, which they part-own in an equity partnership milking 700 cows. Born into a dairy farming family in Kilkenny, south east of Ireland, Enda first came to NZ as a student looking for work experience to complete the agriculture degree he was studying for in Dublin. “I was very lucky to meet some very good employers along the way and that was the key. I was meeting the right people and the good people were sending me on to more good people,” Enda says.

He started on a dairy farm in Palmerston North and after six months moved on to a pig farm in Dunsandel, Canterbury because he needed swine husbandry experience to complete his degree. The piggery was owned by Ray Seebeck, who was to become an important mentor. “He more or less took me under his wing and then he sent me on to another mate of his, Gary Townshend at Canterbury Grasslands at Te Pirita, which was a wonderful experience,” he says. By then he had fallen in love with NZ and told his mother he wouldn’t be coming home to finish his degree. “But my brother was getting married and I was the best man at the wedding so I had to go home for the wedding,” he says. He completed his degree and returned to NZ in 2001, working at corporate

FARM FACTS • Farm owners: Emerald Pastures Ltd • Equity partners: Enda and Sarah Hawe • Location: Rakaia, Canterbury • Farm size: 202ha, 186ha effective • Cows: 700 Crossbreed • Production: 2020-21: 350,000kg MS • Production target: 2021-22: 360,000kg MS

Continued page 22

A Wagyu cross calf is in a hurry to get to her breakfast.


December 2021


The children enjoy being involved in all aspects of the farm and spend a lot of time out and about. James, Niamh, Kayleigh and Enda watch the herd for bulling cows.

Canterbury Grasslands for nearly five years. All the while he kept in touch with Seebeck who owned a dairy farm, as well as a piggery. Then, having had his fill of rugby and Paddy’s Day celebrations, he decided to take life seriously and commit to NZ dairy farming and asked Seebeck to help him progress. “I said to him, ‘I’ll come and work for you and it’s not so much about how much you’ll pay me, I want you to share everything with me. I’ll absorb everything,

I’ll ask questions, I’ll really annoy you but I want to further myself here, it’s a great opportunity’,” he recalls. “And he said, ‘I’ll kick you out when you’re ready to go self-employed’. So he really opened the door, nothing was secretive and I learned a lot.” In 2006, after a few years with Seebeck in Dunsandel, he took a lower order sharemilking job in Hinds and was just settling in when one of Canterbury’s worst snowstorms arrived.

Team member Hannah Roberts from Wales started work on the farm in June. Hannah milking the herd.


“Twelve days into the job and we had 18 inches of snow. I ended up buying chainsaws to clean up the trees that were knocked down and buying a generator, buying this, this and this on borrowed money. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he says. The snow was so deep that the only way to get to the runoff to feed cattle was by tractor. “On a cabless tractor in the snow, it was sheeting down. I’d never seen anything like it before. We’ve had earthquakes, we’ve had wind but talk about snow. People say it’s lovely, but it’s not when you’re a farmer, I tell you.” During this time, he met future wife Sarah who had never imagined she would leave her hometown of Christchurch and move to the country. “I finished my degree, then I went overseas for my OE and paid off my student loan and thought I’d come back and work in town but that’s not quite what happened,” Sarah says. “I ended up moving down to Hinds when we got married and became a dairy farmer by default.” For the first few years after they were married Sarah worked full-time for an accountant in Ashburton. “Learning about farming through Enda helped my job because at the time I


December 2021

didn’t have a lot of experience with farm accounting and then after having children the hours I worked decreased and I eventually gave up working in the office to work at home,” she says. After three years in Hinds they took another lower order job in Westerfield, near Ashburton. In the first year they milked 900 cows, then 1100 in the second year and 1450 in the third. “We had some great times there, they were character-building stuff, large-scale,” Enda says. “Here I was coming from 32 cows back home in Ireland, to two jobs with 600 cows and now we’re milking 1450.”

“We’ve had earthquakes, we’ve had wind but talk about snow. People say it’s lovely, but it’s not when you’re a farmer, I tell you.” Enda Hawe In their final year there, 2012, they were named NZ Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the year and they applied for an 800-cow job on a new conversion near Oxford in North Canterbury. Niamh Hawe,13, helps her father Enda “How we got the job was we invited the farm owners and the consultant to come and see the job we were doing in – they said, ‘What you told us, you were Ashburton. Lo and behold they turned able to demonstrate’. up the following morning at quarter past “You can tell that within two minutes,” seven and I’m in my apron still milking,” adding that’s the way he now likes to he laughs. interview prospective employees. “That’s the best thing that ever “We never advertise, we pick up staff on HFS - GS NosodeStram - Dairy Farmer Dec 2020 - 210x86mm - 5mm bleed.pdf 1 17/11/20 12:33 AM happened to me. I got the job on that Fencepost or by word of mouth. I’ll ring

mix milk to feed calves.

them up and I’ll say, ‘How do we go about meeting up?’ And they’ll tell me they’re on days off in a week’s time,” he says. “I’ll say, ‘I’ll come to you’, and then you’ll either get, ‘Don’t come to me’, or ‘You’re

Continued page 24

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Originally a townie, Sarah Hawe grew up in Christchurch and trained as an accountant. Her main role on the farm is being a spare pair of hands when needed and looking after the finances, staff and health and safety.

very welcome’. If you’re very welcome, you’ll know that’s a good start, they’ve got nothing to hide.” They had been working and saving their two incomes, waiting for an opportunity and once they had the job, Enda travelled to the North Island and found three herds that could be amalgamated into one. “I bought them off good people. I looked at the stats of the cows per se on paper, but I actually bought them off the people who were the most genuine. You go to the farm and say ‘Who are they in-calf to, what’s their milksolids and they could tell you everything,” he says. “Why I went to the North Island is they’re owner operators and they were getting out, either retiring or in changing circumstances, and their herds were genuinely for sale. There’s sentiment attached but if there was no sentiment, I’m not sure I would have bought them. “The moral of this story is relationships with people.” They stayed on the Oxford farm for three years, steadily lifting production, but in 2014 the property was abruptly put on the market, mid-season.

“The payout was $8.30 and it was sending people wild with enthusiasm to sell so it was a perfect opportunity for the owner,” he said. He thought he would take family, cows and staff to another sharemilking job but then his friend and mentor Seebeck suggested there might be a better idea, because he feared the record payout couldn’t last. “Ray said, ‘Sell the cows’, and I didn’t like the advice because I would be selling what I always wanted, but it made sense. I knew it made sense but there was sentiment attached and sometimes when you let sentiment rule your head you can end up in trouble.” It only took a couple of days to sell the herd in January at $2100/head. Six months later the downturn hit, so timing was crucial for them. They now had a sizable amount in the bank but knew that wouldn’t buy them a farm, so they “stashed their nuts” and Enda took a 2IC job. It was a big pay cut but it meant he could keep his staff together, as well as enjoying the predictability of a roster rather than the

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“200 days-on, not many off,” he was used to. “It allowed me to find the clarity to find the right type of farm to purchase,” he says. “The only way to get rid of job uncertainty is to buy something but you need the money to do that and we were still building our assets. “I was still in communication with Ray on a weekly basis and he was saying, ‘There will be an opportunity, you just need to ride the wave, keep working because you’ve got income, keep making contacts, keep looking at the paper, keep talking to estate agents, a property will come up’.” They viewed five farms, checking potential environmental issues, location, which Canterbury water management zone it was in and whether they believed the land could still be farmed in 20 years, but either didn’t proceed or missed out in the tender process. Then they got wind that the farm in Rakaia was coming on the market soon and took the opportunity to view it before it was advertised, with a view to buying it in an equity partnership with Seebeck and Jason Palmer. “Ray always said let’s go to the bank before we put in our tender offer and make sure we know exactly how much money we have, exactly what we can afford and how quick we have access to money because when it’s advertised in the paper, everyone knows about it,” he says. They viewed the farm and placed an offer on the Thursday before Canterbury’s Show Weekend, before it appeared in Saturday’s Press newspaper. “So they said they’ll get back to us on Monday and sure enough the phone did

After moving several times, the family now own their own slice of paradise and say they are living their dream. Sarah, Niamh, James, Kayleigh and Enda Hawe outside the milking shed. ring on Monday and we said we’d take a week to do due diligence on the water and then they said, ‘Do you want the cows as well?’, so we agreed to buy it as a going concern,” he says. With M bovis rife at the time, he was pleased he wouldn’t have to go out and buy more cows and he was confident it would only take a couple of years to improve the herd’s genetics. “The first week after business opened up again in January, we put pen to paper. I tell you one thing, the feeling is unique. I wanted the cows and that was a big milestone, then we wanted land and to get it, the relief is just – I definitely had tears in my eyes, you know, it was humbling.”

“It was amazing,” Sarah adds. “As soon as the deal was finalised I was on the phone to the parents (to tell them) ‘We’re only going to be 45 minutes from Christchurch and this is it, we’re not going to be moving around anymore’. It was great. “Moving from farm to farm is the reality of the dairy industry and that’s what everybody does to move up the chain from contract milking to sharemilking and 50:50, it’s what has to be done, but

The 700 crossbreed herd farm produced 350,000kg MS last season and the aim is to produce 360,000kg MS this season on the System 4 farm.

Kayleigh rolls up the break fence to help bring the herd in for milking.


December 2021

Continued page 26


Kayleigh Hawe, 11, helps her sister Niamh to fill the cafeteria to feed the calves their breakfast.

“I wanted the cows and that was a big milestone, then we wanted land and to get it, the relief is just – I definitely had tears in my eyes, you know, it was humbling.” Enda Hawe eventually to be able to settle down and say, ‘Yeah, this is our piece of land’, is really nice.” Enda says while he’s living the dream, other people in their family haven’t had the same opportunity and finds it hard “to put that into words”. When he viewed the farm, he could see ways to improve it and soon had automatic cup removers installed, as well as Protrack automation in the 50bale rotary shed, which also has in-shed feeding. Effluent is now put through the farm’s centre pivot, another way to minimise labour. Over the past winter fixed-grid irrigation was installed in the corners not covered by the pivot, at a cost of $250,000. The farm is one of 16 properties in the Rakaia River Irrigation Association, which has rights to draw water from the Rakaia River. A 9ha pond on the farm holds about 30 days of storage for irrigation. “We’re nice and efficient here. We have a one-person shed and I’m happy to do the morning shift; cups-on at 4.15am, it’s not too bad,” he says. “The time of the day doesn’t make any difference to me; the way I see it is you’ve


got to get out of bed at some time, as long as you have the discipline to go to bed. I love my job.” As well as Enda, there are two full-time workers on the farm, including Filipino Rodel Manuel who’s been with him for 12 years, and recent arrival Hannah Roberts from Wales. Sarah describes herself as the “spare pair of hands” on the farm and will help out with anything from picking up and feeding calves to drenching and weighing young stock. “I don’t get my hands too dirty, but I’m there if they need me,” she says. Her main role in the business is running

the financial side and looking after staff, health and safety and the like, as well as the extra work involved in being part of Synlait’s Lead with Pride farm assurance programme. “There’s a lot of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s that goes on with that and there’s a lot more regulations these days and health and safety keeps getting bigger and bigger,” she says. Though not brought up on a farm, Sarah now understands the industry very well. “With what I studied in my career as an accountant, it works nicely. I enjoy running the financial side of the business, planning for the future and having the flexibility of not having to be in an office and being able to help out the kids; they’re my number one priority,” she says. Recently the herd was fitted with collars that monitor, among other things, how much the cows are eating, their rumination, temperature, how far they walk in a day, as well as when they’re in heat. So for the first time since he went farming, the herd will not be tail-painted prior to mating this year. Last year, the 700 cow herd on the System 4 farm produced 350,000kg MS from its 186ha effective land and Enda’s aiming for 360,000kg MS this season. When they took the farm on, production was 306,000kg and they increased that by 15000kg a year for three years, basically by improving the herd, feeding the cows better and culling the poor performers.

Niamh and Kayleigh help Enda get his head around the data coming in from the new collar on the cows, as well as from Protrack in the shed.


December 2021

They buy in barley and make silage to feed through the shed, but no other crops are grown on-farm. The herd is wintered off-farm on kale and silage. Calving begins on August 1 and they keep 130 replacements, which are reared on-farm and then sent to grazing in Sheffield. Their weaning target is 80kg. Mating begins on October 24 and runs for 10 weeks. No bulls are used on the farm and they achieve about an 80% sixweek in-calf rate. Last year the empty rate was 2.5%. Replacements are only bred from the best Friesian cows using sexed semen, and beef breeds, including Wagyu and Angus, are used over the remainder of the herd. “That’s one way of improving your herd – mate the best to the best and mate the poorer ones to something that you won’t be prepared to breed from,” he says. The Wagyu are sold back to LIC at 20 days of age and Angus calves and Friesian

bull calves also find ready markets so the farm has few bobbies. “One of the parameters in Synlait’s Lead with Pride programme is minimising bobbies. It’s not just Synlait, this is our philosophy as well,” he says. “Why have a $20 calf when you can get $420 for a 20-day-old Wagyu calf? Why would you still be sending bobbies when you can maximise the opportunity by doing the same thing with a different breed?” With the farm now humming and labour requirements minimised, Enda is now enjoying a slightly slower pace. “We came here with a view to not rest on our laurels but do the best job we can, but we don’t have to keep searching for the next best option the whole time, we can enjoy it; we’re not looking to buy the rest of Canterbury. “I’m not retired but I am now enjoying the simplicity of farming while doing a lot less work for the same income.” n

Calving begins on August 1. One hundred and thirty replacements are kept, which are reared on-farm and then sent to grazing in Sheffield after weaning.

Rodel Manuel, who is 2IC on-farm, has been a team member for 12 years. Kayleigh watches as Rodel and Enda fill up the spray tank.


Waikato farmer Gavin Fisher milks 150 cows on his organic dairy farm at Te Aroha. He is the new ambassador of the Organic Dairy Hub, a farmerowned co-operative based in Waikato.

A move in the right direction By Gerald Piddock

Consumer demand for natural food products is increasing and as a result organic dairy farming is enjoying good growth and returns.


he sky’s the limit for New Zealand’s organic dairy industry as it rides a wave of growth fuelled by demand for covidimpacted consumers wanting food that is safe and natural. Consumers are no longer just looking at what food is going in their bodies, but how that food was produced as well, organic dairy farmer Gavin Fisher says. Fisher is the newly appointed ambassador for the Organic Dairy Hub (ODH), a farmer-owned co-operative based in Waikato. He says organic dairy farmers are now receiving high prices for their milk.


“If you look at organics as a global food category over the last 15-20 years, it’s been growing year-on-year,” Fisher says. “Internationally, organic cow’s milk is still a reasonably small offering, but that base is growing at an encouraging rate. As a food category, if it continues to grow then that can only mean good things for consumers’ health and for our farmer’s returns.” This growth is reflected in Organic Aotearoa NZ’s 2020-21 market report, which shows organic dairy exports have grown 55% between 2017-2020. The report showed that dairy was now the largest organic sector in NZ, with its

exports valued at $153.8 million. The sector has 95 dairy farms certified to full USDA-NOP standards, with 36 farms certified to EU standards. Currently 25 farms are in the process of converting to organics, with 14 of these farms in the South Island. The average herd size on these farms was 300 cows, compared to 440 cows on a conventional farm. ODH is a co-operative that comprises over 25 organic dairy farmers from all over the North Island. The milk is processed at different sites across the North Island, including Waikato Innovation Park spray dryers,


December 2021

The 74-hectare farm at Te Aroha has been in the Fisher family for three generations and has been certified organic for more than 20 years.

Waiū Dairy in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, Goodman Fielder and Green Valley. ODH exports a range of certified dairy, as well as now promoting their own brand Ours Truly and its range of A3 organic dairy products. ODH also supplies liquid milk for other organic dairy brands in NZ. Since ODH was formed in 2015, their farmer payout has steadily increased year-on-year, however, what that payout is, is confidential, Fisher says. As its first-ever ambassador, Fisher’s role places him as the public face of the

hub, supporting other organic dairy farmers and advising those farmers thinking of, or are partway through, the conversion process to becoming organic. He also educates ODH and Ours Truly customers about organic farming and speaks from a farmer’s perspective. “Consumers are after that ‘inside the gate’ story,” he says. Fisher farms 74ha near Te Aroha in Waikato, running both a dairy farm and a deer unit that produces organic venison,

Continued page 30

“The key to reaching that market premium was to start the organic certification. The certification added value outside the gate and the agricultural farming practices that I was doing was adding value inside my gate.” Gavin Fisher

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As well as the dairy and dry stock, Gavin Fisher sells organic certified eggs and fruit grown on the farm at the gate through his brand Off the Planet Organics.

as well as a nearby 16ha runoff block where younger dairy stock are farmed, as well as a small number of beef cattle. He is the third generation of his family to farm the property, saying it was always his plan to take it over. After leaving school he spent a few years on the farm before travelling overseas. He then spent a number of months on a working holiday in Australia, which included working in the mines for


a local geologist and wheat farming in rural Australia before returning home in the early 1980s. He began organic practices when he returned home after gaining insight into what the future farming practices would look like based on his overseas experience. Fisher says he saw that farming methods in NZ could be dramatically improved from the way things had

always been done and came home to future-proof the family farming business for generations to come and improve his land through changing his farming practices. He brought that knowledge home and then moved to organic certification from late 1999. Gavin is married to Sheryn and has adult children. His wife and father are actively involved in every facet of farming and are on the farm and in the cowshed every day. When the kids are home, he says they love putting on their gumboots and helping out. In addition to meat and milk, Fisher sells his organic certified eggs and fruit grown on the farm at the gate through his brand Off the Planet Organics. Fisher’s farm has been USDA/NOP certified organic for more than 20 years. He says he applied for the certification for a multiple of reasons. He believed future consumers would want products that were organic, as well as suspecting that tighter regulations for farming around freshwater and climate change were coming. Being certified organic allowed him to front-foot those changes and this allowed him to get better value for the product coming off the farm. “That was pretty easy to see and it was part of wanting to stay relevant,” he says. Prior to the certification, he says the farm was run using a mix of conventional and organic principles. Fisher saw the potential to capitalise on a market premium by going through the organic certification process. “The key to reaching that market premium was to start the organic certification. The certification added value outside the gate and the agricultural farming practices that I was doing was adding value inside my gate,” he says. The farm runs on a low-input system. He does buy in some organic supplementary feed, but it is mostly selfcontained. The pastures are a wide variety of different species that are able to withstand seasonal challenges around summer and winter a lot better. Mixed pastures give the cows a varied diet and it also helps to keep the cows healthy and the milk produced nutrient-dense. “The approach is to have as much diversity as possible, whether it be in the pasture or the trees and shrubs in and around the farm – I’ve been planting out the farm for 41 years,” he says.


December 2021

The 150-cow herd is fed mixed pastures, giving them a varied diet and it also helps to keep the cows healthy and the milk produced nutrient-dense.

The trees also provide ample shade for the cows during the summer months, reducing heat stress and stopping the soils from drying out. When Fisher plants a tree, he looks for it to tick as many boxes as possible. It should provide as a minimum shade and shelter, a food source, natural habitat, recycle nutrients, a cash crop and sequent carbon. The combination of these pastures and trees have created a natural nutrient recycling system on the farm, where minerals and nutrients are returned and broken down into the soil. The trees allow the cows to graze vertically in addition to eating the varied pastures, therefore providing them with a much larger grazable area. “A cow can reach about a metre and a half high when browsing and every paddock is planted out; you can look down the tree line and see it trimmed to where the cows have reached to,” he says. That vegetation also gives the cow nutritional properties that they would not get just from eating pasture. He says the cows then return nutrients through its manure, the micro-organisms then make it available to shallow rooting plants in the pasture. The farm milks around 150 cows, but


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he is looking to increase that and reduce the size of his deer operation. “The herd’s production data is only one indication of the farm’s overall success and profitability,” he says. “A farm could have extremely high production, but those gains could be lost if the farm is inefficient or has high expenses.”

“This movement has positives for organics because it is encouraging farmers in the right direction around farming more sustainably.” Gavin Fisher Fisher says organic farmers consider their soils as being the building block for their business. “Understanding the biology of it and how to best look after it and how it could best provide for you, I think is quite important,” he says. He believes farmers who may have previously dismissed organics are now giving it a second look as the

Government imposes tighter regulations around freshwater and greenhouse gases. For established organic farmers, it puts them in a very good position to meet regulatory challenges and most will only require, if any, minor tweaks to their farming systems. “This movement has positives for organics because it is encouraging farmers in the right direction around farming more sustainably,” he says. It was also in part fuelling the talk around regenerative agriculture. That movement had positives for organics because it was pushing farmers in the right direction around farming more sustainably. He says some farmers who had gone down the regenerative path were now applying for organic certification. “The reality is that what I have been doing here for 28 years is what they are calling regenerative farming – we have been doing all of those practices anyway,” he says. These new conversions will be welcomed by the sector, as Fisher believes keeping up with demand will be its biggest challenge in the immediate future. “And that’s a good problem to have,” he says. n



Claire Williamson is owner and founder of Velma and Beverley and has been involved in many startup companies and says the key is to start small.

Don’t dream, do By Cheyenne Nicholson

There are a number of tips and tricks people can use when starting their own business to ensure it gets off the ground and is a success.


tarting a business, big or small, is a huge deal; from developing a plan to bringing your business idea to life, it’s an exciting venture. Over the past two years, we’ve been profiling women from the dairy industry, making a name for themselves with their off-farm businesses. We’ve gone back to many of those ladies and reached out to other businesswomen in the agricultural sector to pull together their top business tips. Address excuses and get researching How long have you been sitting on your business idea? How many times have you said, “I really need to take action on this idea”? Countless people


dream of becoming entrepreneurs, but they never do. They’re overloaded with excuses and fears of failing. From money, time and other responsibilities, it can be easy to make a case for not starting. Start out by writing down your idea, write out what problem you’re solving for people, what you want to achieve and brain dump everything onto paper. Tip: It’s so important to plan. What is the vision? What do you want to achieve? How are you going to do this? This needs to include market analysis, financial, people, digital strategy and sustainability factors. – Julie Christie of C suite NZ. Tip: Use a business model canvas to understand your ideas and channels

further. Is your idea actually solving a problem? Are you proposing something that has been done before? If so, then you must have a unique value proposition. Do your research before you commit everything to it? – Chanelle O’Sullivan of Borage and Bee Meadery. Get connected Develop a close group of individuals who will give you true feedback around your ideas – these might be friends, business associates or people you find through mentor groups locally or online. Facebook groups like The Connected Collective are a great place to start to link up with mentors and experts. Tip: Talk to an advisor before you


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“Start out by writing down your idea, write out what problem you’re solving for people, what you want to achieve and brain dump everything onto paper.” start. Someone who can work through whether your idea is viable and what you need to focus on. I’ve done this with several new business owners; some carry on, others realise that it wasn’t right and go in another direction. – Nickie Sheehan of Trio Accounting. Tip: Business Mentors NZ can be a good option, but specific groups in your intended industry are amazing as well. Develop a close group of few individuals who will give you true feedback around your idea. – Chanelle. Tip: Don’t take criticism to heart and be respectful of free advice, even if you don’t follow it. – Julia Jones, chairperson and board member on multiple boards, and head of insights at NZX. Tip: Find groups online that are focused in your area of business. I found some really great Facebook groups that were about everything to do with publishing. It’s how I found my illustrator and editor, and I got some amazing advice from that group. – Kerryn Zander, farmer and author.

a business idea and you get over keen to run with it. Be careful not to let your concept or idea snowball and turn into a complicated mess. In other words, walk before you run. Start small, create a simple, good quality or service as a foundation and then work up. Tip: The biggest learning from my product-based business (wool coats) – start small (for me, it was with one style) and grow from there. I tried to start with heaps of different styles and it got a bit overwhelming. As soon as I cut back and focused on one, I had a lot more success. – Claire Williamson of Velma and Beverley. Tip: Don’t worry about fancy logos or websites initially. Focus on your customer and serve them well. – Claire Count the costs Once you start developing your business idea, add up the costs – factor in every business expense needed to launch, operate and create budgets. Tip: Cash flow can be tricky in the early stages of business. When I started Vizlink, the money was put aside

or into development once a job came in. It forces you to think of leaner ways of operating. – Gemma Adams of Vizlink. Tip: Being able to run budgets and make sure you’re going to make things work and stick to them is key. It’s important in farming to know your financials, so those of us on farms often have some transferable skills in this space. – Laura Mitchell. Tip: Never contract out your finances i.e. get an accountant to control it all – great to get help to administrate, but always be aware of what’s going on financially. – Julia Tip: If you can create a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or the illusion of it (a prototype or something similar) to sell as a pre-sale or as a ‘first in, first served’ type thing, you may find early ways you can improve it, plus it’s a great way to test your market and ensure there is one. Don’t spend money (or not too much) until you know you have a market. – Claire

Continued page 33

Absorb everything Smart entrepreneurs learn from the mistakes other business owners have made. Listen to what others have to say. You never know when you might pick up a piece of advice that could be useful. Write things down and keep track of all the resources you keep coming back to. Tip: I talked a lot with another rural mum who’s got into publishing. She was invaluable for pointing me in the right direction and she was very upfront with the challenges she came up against and the things that didn’t work. – Kerryn Tip: Do case studies on other people like yourself who have been successful in their endeavours. Find out how they did it and why. The reality is that it’s always going to be much harder and more time-consuming than any paid job – but if you can stick it out, the long-term rewards will be much greater. – Chanelle Keep it simple Like many entrepreneurs, you have


December 2021

Kerryn Zander is a farmer come author who learnt the value of connecting with the right people to get an idea off the ground.


Digital strategy Figuring out websites, social media and other forms of digital marketing is key to brand awareness and sales. It provides you with the opportunity to tell your story, to tell your customers who you are, what you’re about and why they should buy from you. But remember, you don’t have to spend a lot to start with; your digital strategy can grow and change with you. Tip: One of my top tips is don’t spend squillions on marketing/advertising/ website build before you get started, as your ideal customer is probably not who you think it is. – Nickie Tip: Don’t worry about fancy logos or websites initially. Sell on Facebook Marketplace or Instagram or another free or cheap platform initially, so you can keep good cashflow for growing and then spend the money to improve your branding down the track and expand. – Claire Tip: I did a free course through Ara Connect (Christchurch Polytechnic) called Google Sites. You learn to build your own website through Google drive. It’s aimed at one wanting to create a Landing Page or Club Page. – Erin Douglas-Clifford of Stonyhurst. Tip: Do lots of research on other websites, why you think they do or don’t work before you specify what you want. Upskilling yourself to make basic text changes on your website will help keep maintenance costs down. If you have the

funds available, get an expert to help. – Kate Gordon-Smith of Kiwi Kids Read Kiwi Books.

the perfect match. We also work with other contractors at clients’ choosing. – Gemma

Investments and partnerships Acknowledging the areas of your business you are not so savvy in and getting help can be crucial. This could be from your business networks or paid professionals; sometimes it’s just what you need to help get an idea off the ground.

Balance passion with wisdom Passion needs to be at the core of every business venture. Passion will consistently drive you to improve your process, so your business grows. That said, don’t let passion drive all your decisions. Tip: For me, as a mum, I find having formal paid childcare locked in if possible, especially with toddlers, really valuable. That way, you don’t have to feel guilty for always asking your mother-inlaw and if you’re paying, you will really value the time more. – Abbie Hoare of Photos for Jean. Tip: Understand your customer and the potential size of your market; how often are they likely to buy what you’re selling and what margin do you need off each item? – Julia Tip: Create differentiation. What can you do that no one else can, and what is your spin and story and why? In what can be a crowded marketplace, you need to be brave to stand out. – Claire Tip: Just ask. For help, advice, tools, resources – just ask. – Chelsea Millar of Grass Roots Media. Tip: Be ambitious but be realistic. Be prepared to spend eight hours on it a day; many of them early morning or late night if you have kids. – Chanelle Tip: There are honestly so many

“Smart entrepreneurs learn from the mistakes other business owners have made. Listen to what others have to say.”

Tip: Be realistic about how much money you have and will need. Bring on a partner with complementary skills if needed. Bring in investment if needed – better to own 50% of something than 100% of nothing. – Chanelle Tip: I worked out quickly that we needed to get alongside GPS services for the farm maps to make sure we had accurate data. I teamed up with a local company that I subcontract to. They didn’t want to do the end product of the farm map, just collect the data, so it’s

Owner of Vizlink Gemma Adams learnt some hard but important lessons around business and money in the early stages of the business.



December 2021

Farmer, photographer and artist Michelle Clarke has taught herself a lot of the ins and outs of business.

resources out there to utilise. A quick Google search and you’re away. And

remember, you learn much as you go. You’ll make mistakes but just make sure

you learn from them. – Michelle Clarke, farmer, photographer and artist. n

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Whatever it takes By Samantha Tennent

Those in the livestock exporting industry and others want the Government to roll back their decision to ban the practice and are prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure it continues.


n what could be the final nail in the coffin, the Government has proposed a Bill to amend the Animal Welfare Act making the ban on sea freight for exporting livestock permanent. This would make it difficult for any future governments to reverse the ban and close the door on the trade for good. The proposal does not sit well with some. “The ban is a knee-jerk reaction after the Gulf Livestock 1 maritime tragedy and ignores the independent advice supporting the continuation of the trade,” National Party spokesperson for animal welfare Tim van de Molen says. “That undermines those who are making improvements and while we support tightening of rules, we trust industry to determine appropriate solutions. “They have a lot at stake and the Government shouldn’t dictate what needs to happen.” The ban could create ripple effects on further trading. “We do need to keep in mind the implications on trade relationships, it isn’t a simple fix, there are aspects that could trigger other concerns, but the trade provides significant benefits and should continue,” he says. “Transparency is important and animal welfare checks need to be rigorous, but we have every confidence the industry would develop what is necessary.” The Animal Genetic Trade Association (AGTA) are not going down without a fight and have been working hard to encourage submissions against the Bill. “We need to look at this from a global perspective, we can’t just look at this from inside New Zealand,” AGTA technical advisor Dr Jim Edwards says. “The level of urbanisation around the world is affecting food security and we are in a position where we can and should help.” Markets import livestock to create self-sufficient herds that can supply


Cattle onboard the ships are well-fed, watered and cared for with a vet checking them twice a day.

milk and meat products to their people. Creating herds helps overcome food shortage problems, but the reality for many countries is that they do not have the space or the water security to sustain enough production to feed their population and they will continue to need other trade products. “Many relationships are built from livestock trading,” he says. “There are concerns if China couldn’t source livestock from New Zealand anymore and looked to other countries, those relationships could evolve further and impact more of our economy.” Some suggest exporting germplasm such as semen and embryos as an alternative, but that is already happening. China needs stock to breed from and many of the importers are seeking livestock to quickly establish the foundations of new herds. “Sending semen and embryos is only viable once herds are established; they need the heifers to build the herds in the first place and once they’re established they can breed their own replacements and become self-sufficient,” he says. “There is a lot of development happening and not just in China. We

have other countries asking for help to develop their food production by building herds. “And some countries just do not have sufficient pasture and grazing land to breed and raise the number of cattle required to feed their population.” If the Bill goes ahead, it will prohibit anyone from obtaining an animal welfare export certificate to export cattle, deer, sheep and goats by sea from April 30, 2023. Currently, it is an offence to export an animal from NZ without a certificate issued under the Animal Welfare Act. Animal welfare and reputational risk are the common themes among those opposed to the trade. Their views were expressed during the consultation period on the Livestock Export Review that was carried out by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) from November 2019 to January 2020. Welfare of animals was highlighted by Trade Minister Damien O’Connor when he made the announcement of the ban, but there are further welfare concerns to consider. Transportation after arrival is one, with many importing countries relying on multi-purpose trucks rather than the specialised trucks that NZ uses.


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National party spokesperson for animal welfare Tim van de Molen says the Government ban on exporting livestock is a knee-jerk reaction to the tragic Gulf Livestock sinking, but as a whole the trade is good for the country.

Slaughter standards are another serious concern and although exporting animals for slaughter has been banned in NZ since 2008, an animal will eventually come to the end of its productive life and what happens after that worries many people. Many submissions during MPI’s review expressed NZ should not export animals to countries that have lower welfare standards and should limit exports to countries that humanely slaughter animals to NZ standards and allow euthanasia of sick, diseased and suffering animals. “You cannot simply sell animals to countries with no animal welfare protection laws and wish them good luck,” one submitter said. There is general agreement amongst exporters themselves that there is a gap in the system and they fully support further post-arrival monitoring and reporting. Many submissions highlighted the lack of knowledge of the welfare of our animals within farming and the slaughter process of the destination countries. Edwards believes if we close the door on the trade for good we will miss opportunities to support other countries to raise their standards. “We can use our relationships to help educate and support other nations,” Edwards says. “It could be part of agreements – we will supply you with livestock but you must meet these requirements and we want transparency to make sure they are being met.”


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During the transition period as the trade is being phased out there has been a continuous improvement project with MPI to make improvements to manage animal welfare risks. “We have seen further improvements throughout the export process and should have a high level of confidence in the current standards,” Van de Molen says. “We know the health and welfare of the animals is a top priority; the vessels have vets on hand for any issues that arise in transit so that their welfare predeparture, on the vessel and on arrival remains high. “Things are always evolving and like anything, we’re doing better than five to 10 years ago. But the industry is frustrated the Government went straight to a ban without an opportunity to explore solutions and show they could alter practices and develop assurance measures. AGTA is already developing a Gold Standard programme to provide assurance that all animals are cared for throughout the export process and beyond. The standard would outline specific requirements and policies that are designed to lead to a positive sentient state for exported livestock. It will cover elements such as minimum weight and body condition score requirements and environmental and nutritional needs. There will be

Continued page 39

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Animal Genetic Trade Association technical advisor Jim Edwards says the industry will meet whatever the Government requires and the organisation is already working on a Gold Standard programme for animal welfare.

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Ban impact felt in China By Samantha Tennent

The incoming live export ban stunned Chinese businesses and they are hoping the Government will reverse their decision and allow the trade to continue.


or a culture that places so much value in relationships, it was disheartening for Chinese businesses to discover through mainstream media the bombshell dropped by the New Zealand Government earlier this year. There was no consultation before the decision was made and they are hanging onto hope that the Government will reconsider their position and work with the stakeholders to come to an agreement for the trade going forward. “It’s a big loss to the agricultural sectors of both countries,” says Dr Changliang Yan from the China Animal Husbandry Group (CAHG). “The livestock exporting trade is more than business, Chinese buyers like to go to New Zealand to see where the livestock come from and learn about the culture and farming. “They like to learn from New Zealand on how to run dairy businesses, it’s a prime leadership opportunity for New Zealand to support Chinese farmers.” But without the trade, the buyers will have less opportunities to come to New Zealand and there will be less communication between the livestock industries of the two countries. Between January and September, China imported over 90,000 head of cattle from NZ, which makes up 33% of their cattle imports. Without the trade with NZ China will have 33% less choice in which cattle they purchase. “Selling livestock, particularly cattle, to China helps New Zealand speed up progress in genetic gain, which is a good thing in the long run,” he says. They like the genetics and production ability of NZ livestock and the proximity to China. There is also a longstanding relationship between the countries and Chinese businesses appreciate the tax benefits because there are no tariffs due to the free trade agreement. With one less avenue to import livestock, there will be heavy impacts on the trade for China, including the


The Chinese rely on buying livestock from NZ because of their quality genetics and production figures. Exported cows being milked in China.

“I’d like to hope our governments can keep communication open and come to an agreement that protects the animals and the trade into the future.” Haiying Kang price and quantity of stock and produce available because supplies will be tighter. CAHG general manager for livestock and genetics Fenglong Zhao would like to see more government officials visit China to see the investments they have made to improve animal welfare. “The reality is a lot has changed and we have improved significantly; there has been a lot of investment in animal welfare in China,” Zhao says. “And from our side, we have confidence in the exporters we use to source the livestock we import and they alleviate any concerns we have about the voyage, but we do acknowledge the

weather can be challenging.” Zhao and Yan would like to see communication between the Governments from both countries around the subject before the ban becomes permanent, they hope the trade will be given a chance. CAHG was the earliest company to import cattle into China, they have been importing since 1981 and are disappointed to lose the connection with NZ. “There is a huge demand for dairy in China, and we have well-equipped facilities,” Zhao says. “Nowhere else in the world has imposed a ban like this, it raises many concerns for businesses like ours.” Another business with interests in NZ livestock is Beijing Sinofarm Import & Export Co Ltd. Their general manager for breeding livestock importation Haiying Kang is disappointed by the announcement of the ban. “China has put a lot of effort into improving facilities and supporting animal welfare,” Kang says. “From the quarantine facilities with quality feed, good shed design and sufficient training for staff, to the


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The businesses in China are open and transparent and welcome visitors to view the farms and animals.

management on farms, where the cows are kept comfortable and live in a good environment.” She describes their housing as a feedlot environment, with cattle living indoors in scientifically designed sheds with temperature control. They all have a bed and there is plenty of space to move around. “We spend lots of money on our sheds, they are state of the art facilities,” she says. Kang believes there are plenty of options to mitigate concerns around

Continued from page 37 minimum standards for vessels and a transparent reporting system to measure animal welfare during the voyage. They are also proposing protection for animals after they have arrived at their destination, to ensure expectations that they live at least an equivalent life to that they would have in NZ. “We would like to have reciprocal arrangements where vets from importing countries come to New Zealand and our vets can visit destinations. Before the pandemic Chinese vets were visiting regularly,” Edwards says. “And that New Zealand offers training to support our partners to achieve global animal welfare standards.” The trade stakeholders want to


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animal welfare on both sides of the ocean and she encourages choosing who manages the export process wisely. “We deal with Austrex and they are very professional and manage the entire process well,” she says. And if further requirements are developed to support the trade and provide transparency and assurance she believes it should continue. “I’d like to hope our governments can keep communication open and come to an agreement that protects the animals and the trade into the future,” she says. n

be given the chance to prove they can raise the standards, provide transparency and assure the welfare of animals is paramount to everything they do. “We can’t forget the underlying benefits of the trade, that we are supporting the social development and food security objectives of our most important trading partners,” he says. “And there are significant benefits to our rural communities from the high premiums the trade attracts. If it ceases, it is likely that those heifers that would have been exported will be destined to become bobby calves. “Livestock exporting allows us to maintain tight trading relationships with some of the largest importers of NZ agricultural products, including buyers of milk products, and that provides a significant source of export revenue for our small country.” n

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Preparing for the journey By Samantha Tennent

The process involved in exporting livestock is much more than sticking animals on a boat and setting sail.


ith shipments ranging from 3000 to 15,000 animals, the logistics to manage livestock being exported can be overwhelming. But every head of cattle leaving New Zealand has to spend time in a pre-export isolation facility. The process is comprehensive, with extensive paperwork, and only a small number of farms have the capability to carry out the process and house such a large number of animals. But due to the sensitivities around the subject and fear of retaliation, Dairy Farmer has chosen not to identify any of the farmers involved or their location. One farmer we spoke to is disappointed at the decision the Government has made. He points out the Gulf 1 tragedy was a maritime disaster, not an export disaster, highlighting if it was a container ship it is likely we never would have heard about it “It was the captain who chose to risk it, which had dire consequences, but there were no faults with the state of the ship or the care of the animals; it’s just another smack in the chops for rural New Zealand,” he says. “We are lucky here, we export 90% of our agricultural production to countries that aren’t self-sufficient and need countries like us to help them feed their people. “It’s a reality we breed more animals than we need in NZ, and if I was a cow I’d rather go on a boat trip and learn a bit of Mandarin than have my head chopped off.” The teams running the show are experienced and efficient so it is smooth sailing from the day the animals start arriving, to when they leave the facilities to board their ship. Before they leave their farm of origin, the animals undergo various testing and are kept separate from other animals for a specific time period. They are tested again when they arrive at the pre-export isolation facility, scanned, weighed and sorted into mobs.


All stock exported overseas must spend up to a month at an isolation facility where they are tested regularly, vaccinated and transitioned to special pellets in their diet.

The animals are at the facility for a minimum of 30 days, depending on the requirements of the importing country. And due to the numbers involved and coming from farms all over the country, it can take up to a week for the full shipment to arrive. “We can’t sit on our pedestal thinking we’re better than everyone else, not all of our animals are well looked after here in New Zealand too. We see the condition some animals arrive in before export, some will have a far better life in China,” he says. Throughout their time in pre-export isolation cattle get pregnancy tested and any freemartins are removed. There are various blood tests, vaccinations and drench programmes carried out. They come through the yards five or six times and the teams need to be on the ball with management. The work creates employment for a number of local people and although it is consistent, the proven processes keep things moving so they are not flat out. It does mean the whole team needs to be focused, especially with all the rigorous quality control checks and paperwork involved. Diet requirements for the animals vary depending on what the exporter needs

and what condition they arrive at the facility in. There are minimum weight requirements to be exported, as well as agreements with the importer. So the pre-export isolation facilities work hard to reach those targets and ensure all the animals are well-fed at all times. A week before they are due to depart they will begin transitioning onto the diet they will receive on the ship. Special pellets are made, including some of their fibre requirements, as they are the most efficient feed to transport on the ship and an easy way to guarantee the cattle are receiving quality nutrients. The whole process runs like a welloiled machine and has been done for many years but there is always room for improvement and the farmers involved with pre-export isolation would happily oblige to any further requirements to support the continuation of the trade. Some export stakeholders talk of the need to lift animal welfare standards worldwide and they can see how continuing to export to China will allow us to help them improve. “It is not just a few dollars at stake, the export trade brings significant premiums, which will be a huge loss to our economy if it stops altogether,” he says. n


December 2021


More than trucking around By Samantha Tennent

The effects of the upcoming cattle export ban is far-reaching, as transport companies say it will undoubtedly impact the industry.


t is an intricate process collecting cattle from multiple starting points, delivering them to their quarantine facility and then returning four weeks or so later to transport them to the port. Transporting export livestock is a specialised job that creates significant workloads for transport companies and they will certainly take a hit with the upcoming ban on the trade. One company has been involved for eight years and the owner shares his experiences, but we cannot name him due to privacy concerns. His drivers have been subject to protestors interrupting their business and threatening them in the past. The load-in is an intense period, collecting cattle from all over the country and taking them to their pre-export isolation facility. They are dealing with large numbers of animals and following specific quarantine requirements. The weather also plays a big part. All trucks have to be thoroughly washed before they can transport export animals. And they cannot collect any other animals while they

are in quarantine status, so they need to dedicate the time and resources especially. The extra workload generates extra employment and the service is worth a premium to the transport business to cover the added costs of cleaning and following protocols. They develop close relationships with the preisolation facility farmers and the ban is disappointing on a personal level, as well as the impacts it will have on business. He does not share the same views the Government has raised about animal welfare. “As a transporter, we see a lot of animals in all kinds of conditions and there are certainly no concerns with the export trade,” he says. “We see the cattle we take in and out of the pre-export isolation facilities and see first-hand how well they are looked after in quarantine and the product that is going away. “I can’t see any reason for concern.” He complies with the regulations mapped out by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Overseas Market

“We see the cattle we take in and out of the pre-export isolation facilities and see firsthand how well they are looked after in quarantine and the product that is going away.” Access Requirements. And if there was an opportunity to continue the trade with further regulations, he would willingly adjust their processes to ensure they are providing another level of assurance. “It’s a large part of our business and if there was a solution that pleases those who do have concerns, then we would happily work with it,” he says. “The exporting avenue is something New Zealand needs, we have a lot of extra cattle in our dairy system and exporting is one way of moving those cattle.” n

Transport companies moving stock around for export say the industry generates employment and is worth a premium. Cattle arrive at the port ready to be loaded for their journey.


December 2021



Ongoing search for solutions By Mark Willis

The Animal Genetic Trade Association has been working closely with the Government on live exports and say many changes have already been made to standards with work ongoing.


here is a lot of controversy around exporting livestock from New Zealand, despite exceptional performance measures in support of the trade. Mortality rates are low and there is high demand for NZ livestock from our trading partners with model farming enterprises. There are allegations those involved in the trade are secretive and the animals are subject to unacceptably high risk and poor welfare outcomes, but these misleading perceptions have serious consequences. In April, the NZ Government announced livestock export by sea would be banned. There would be a transition period to allow the trade to wind down. Unlike other industries, there was no probationary period to allow the industry a chance to prove it can adapt to an improved regulatory regime. This had been recommended by two official reviews. Stakeholders involved in the industry feel the Government has failed them. For several years we have requested more effective regulation and licensing regimes to ensure integrity and consistency. That all participants operate to a high standard. Consequences of the ban include millions of dollars of on-farm income lost domestically and it hurts our relationships with our international trading partners who have large concerns around food security. Being able to import livestock supports their food production. Despite all the negativity, some good has come from the adversity with the export industry and regulators communicating more clearly. And the shake-up has motivated the industry to search for solutions to mitigate the risks and concerns the Government has raised. Without improvement, there is no chance of survival. The industry and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) have entered


into a continuous improvement programme, meeting weekly to discuss and implement substantive animal welfare improvements. So, what’s changed? A lot. There are more stock handlers on board vessels, as well as veterinarians, to improve the quality of stock management, care and supervision. Stocking densities have been considerably lowered to provide all animals more space and pregnancy requirements have been tightened to minimise the risk of pregnancy-related incidents during the voyage. There are minimum weight and body score condition requirements throughout the export process, starting from the time the animal is selected on the property of origin. There is a more robust and comprehensive process around obtaining an animal welfare export certificate from MPI before an exporter is able to prepare animals for export. And the industry is leading a due diligence programme that provides individualised suggestions surrounding management plans for all vessels that arrive in NZ. There are improved reporting systems to allow transparent and detailed reporting on a number of important measures of animal welfare throughout the export process and guidelines have been developed detailing management best practices during the voyage. Nutrition has been reviewed in detail and there have been significant improvements to raise the minimum requirements throughout. In less than a year of working constructively with MPI, the industry has made massive gains in welfare standards. The pressure the ban announcement put on has turbo-charged negotiation timeframes. But we still don’t feel like it is enough. To be viable, the industry must contribute towards achieving the Government objective of positioning NZ as a premium provider of agricultural

The Animal Genetic Trade Association chairperson Mark Willis says the incoming ban on exporting livestock will cost millions of dollars in lost revenue and hurt trade relationships.

products that have been produced in the most sustainable and ethical manner. And the industry recognises there needs to be a transparent and reliable ‘gold standard’ of animal welfare. A world-leading standard that assures NZ we are doing a great job and that the cattle are being responsibly cared for throughout the export process and beyond. A standard that we hope that NZ can be proud of. The Government is already moving quickly to pass this legislation. If you agree this industry should be given the opportunity to continue to improve, it is critical you make a submission. The formal deadline for submissions to the select committee is December 2 and you can connect with your local MP. n


Find out more at www.livestockexport.nz

Who am I?

Mark Willis is the chairperson of the Animal Genetic Trade Association


December 2021

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RESEARCH The brushtail possum is an introduced predator from Australia. It is the main vector (transmitter of TB in cattle and deer) in New Zealand.

TB battles won, not the war By Samantha Tennent

Scientists have been fighting the war on TB eradication for decades and can finally see the finish line.


OSPRI lead veterinary epidemiologist Dallas New has been leading the team working on eradicating TB and says while they have many challenges, good progress is being made.


earing the home straight for TB eradication in New Zealand, the team at Ospri know they need to keep the accelerator flat to the floor. With close to 1700 herds infected 30 years ago, it almost seemed impossible, but there are less than 40 herds infected now. “It’s great we’ve made so much progress, but there are a few challenges with only small numbers of infected herds left,” Ospri lead veterinary epidemiologist Dallas New says. “We need to access the land where possums preside and when there were a lot of areas to cover if we had trouble accessing one area, we had the option to go somewhere else. “But now that we’re down to the remaining 30 to 40 infected herds, we need access to areas that are tougher to reach.” The goal is to have TB eradicated from livestock by 2026, but NZ presents an interesting challenge for TB. In the 1800s, both cattle and possums were

imported to NZ and some cattle were infected with TB. When the number of possums exploded, bovine TB jumped into possums. “This hasn’t happened anywhere else, so that’s what makes the TB situation so tricky, we have to get rid of the possums that are spreading the TB,” she says. The best combat against possums includes traditional pest control methods on the ground and in the air, as well as wildlife surveys. Most control is done using ground-based traps and handlaid toxins, but in some areas the most efficient is aerial control. “There are some areas that just aren’t accessible to reach for ground control,” she explains. “Applying baits containing biodegradable 1080 from helicopters is efficient, cost-effective and extremely successful at reducing possum numbers to low levels.” “And it’s our best defence to get those numbers down, we know we can expect to eradicate TB from an area if we


December 2021

“But now that we’re down to the remaining 30 to 40 infected herds, we need access to areas that are tougher to reach.” reduce the number of possums to a low and even level, which means about one possum per 10 hectares, for a period of at least five years.” Before an area can be classed as TBfree, Ospri carries out surveys to find out if TB is still present in local wildlife. That includes trapping possums and other species that can spread TB (such as pigs and ferrets) doing post-mortems and testing them for it. They also survey areas where TB is believed to be eradicated to ensure there are no newly TB-infected possums or other wildlife. And like with humans and covid-19, monitoring animal movements is critical to track and trace TB to make sure it is not being spread that way. “Most people now know why ‘movement control’ is so important, covid-19 has opened up a whole different language that now makes sense to people,” she says.

Ten-eighty (1080) bait is highly water soluble and naturally breaks down in the environment into harmless substances through the process of biodegradation and dilution.

TB receives a lot of attention because it is a zoonotic disease that passes from animals to humans. If a person drinks milk from animals infected with TB they will get sick. The risk is managed with pasteurisation, but it still remains a trade issue and the health and happiness of animals are important. As the lead epidemiologist, New looks at the disease from a national level and provides guidance for anything that might be out of the ordinary. “We develop protocols for what testing the vets around the country should do, what movements animals can or can’t do

While possum control is mostly done using ground-based traps and handlaid toxins, for inaccessible areas the most efficient method of control is aerial which is efficient, cost-effective and extremely successful at reducing possum numbers to low levels.


December 2021

and other guidelines in the programme,” she says. “We help to analyse tricky wholegenome sequencing, which gives us clues pointing to the source of infection and we organise research trials to make sure our tests are performing exactly how they should be. “Our vets in the regions are at the coalface of bovine TB and the vet epi team is there to support them and strengthen our eradication programme.” New describes this as her dream job. She moved from Canada in 2019 where she had been a field veterinary epidemiologist. And following a stint working with DairyNZ as a policy advisor on biosecurity, she began her current role at Ospri in January 2021. She has a background in ‘One Health’, which are problems that touch on animals, humans and the environment, and wildlife and TB is exactly that. “It’s a disease in cows, but to manage it you have to go into wildlife and kill possums to get rid of it, so it’s a perfect ‘One Health’ example,” she says. “Most problems in the world are way more interconnected than we realise. So, when you think of something in the ‘One Health’ context, it makes you step outside your own expertise and consider other factors.” She is a bit like a disease detective and she looks forward to seeing more progress towards TB eradication. “My mentor is very well-known in the Irish and Australian TB eradication programmes and he’s been consulting on TB since the 1990s. He never thought New Zealand would get to where we are now,” she says. “We are so close to getting rid of it, we must keep our eye on the ball and that’s exactly what I’m here to do.” n



Showcasing the science


ith the rapid growth of New Zealand’s sheep milk industry, Crown Research Institute AgResearch has launched a new online resource to showcase the science supporting the industry. The suite of research undertaken to prove the quality of product from the industry, and how it is produced and what impacts it has, is captured on the website agresearch.co.nz/sheep-milk “In this world of high consumer expectation, we need to provide knowledge to support the farmer, the exporter and to inform new customers,” AgResearch senior scientist David Stevens says. “This emerging food industry must understand their footprint and be able to quantify the nutritional benefits of their products. This empowers the consumer to balance their nutritional outcomes with the production systems that deliver that nutrition.” The culmination of a six-year research programme, the online resource houses the new knowledge generated in milk composition and processing, milk nutritional values, farming systems and environmental impacts. The programme funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Boosting the Export Earnings of the Emerging Dairy Sheep Industry, involved industry partners and aimed to provide relevant knowledge through a joint process that kept researchers and the industry fully involved in the discovery and development work. “The programme was split into four parts, to directly answer industry questions,” AgResearch science team leader Linda Samuelsson says. “Parts of the programme delivered answers to underlying questions such as ‘what makes New Zealand sheep milk unique?’ and ‘how big is our environmental footprint?’. “Other questions addressed the best ways to convert our raw milk into highvalue consumer-ready products and what types of functional benefits can we expect from consuming New Zealand sheep milk. “At the same time we investigated how


AgResearch science team leader Linda Samuelsson has been part of a team researching how science is supporting the sheep milk industry.

our farming and feeding systems provide subtle variations in the composition of our milk. Samuelsson says a significant objective of the industry is to ensure high ethical standards of our farming practices. “Lamb rearing, as an important part of production, has received special attention. This has led to the development of a suite of options and practices ensuring the care and best possible outcomes for each lamb crop,” she says. The online resource guides the user through each objective to link farmers, industry and consumers to the range of new knowledge developed in the research programme. This includes, for example, fact sheets about lamb rearing practices, environmental impacts and composition of NZ sheep milk. “At the other end of the spectrum we have papers defining the effects of onfarm practices on milk composition, as well as the functional properties of sheep milk in immune function and bone growth,” she says. n

AgResearch senior scientist David Stevens says the online resources showcasing science is the culmination of a six-year research programme.


December 2021

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Taranaki farmer Kane Brisco started the FarmFit programme after his fitness level dropped when he stopped playing rugby and struggled in his first season on the farm. 48 Kane and wife Nicole regularly jog to keep their fitness levels up.


December 2021

Keeping farm fit Taranaki dairy farmer Kane Brisco is one of more than 20,000 Kiwi farmers involved in nationwide, rural wellbeing programme Farmstrong.


armstrong helps farmers and their families cope with the ups and downs of farming by encouraging them to make small, regular investments into their ‘wellbeing account’ so they have something to ‘draw from’ when times are tough. Simple habits such as staying in touch with mates, having breaks, keeping active, eating well and getting enough sleep gives the mind and body a chance to rest, recover and recharge. The challenge of making these ideas part of ‘business as usual’ is something Kane Brisco takes seriously. Kane’s a 50:50 sharemilker at Ohangai, Taranaki. He loves his sport and workouts, but he’s a long way from any gym so he set up his own ‘boot camp’ gym on-farm and started a FarmFit group, which now has a large following on Facebook and Instagram. “I had a quick climb up the farming ladder. As time went on I got into a pretty high-stress, high-pressure farm environment and had some tough times. When we went sharemilking the payout dropped, so there was heaps of pressure. I’d given up rugby by then too, so that was when I realised I needed to start exercising again and pay attention to my health and nutrition to get through,” Kane says. “I remember the first spring after I finished rugby, I was so unfit on-farm I really hated it. Then I realised there’s probably a heap of farmers who don’t do any training either, so it must suck for them too. “That’s why I started FarmFit. I ran a summer boot camp and everyone loved it, so I put it out on social media and it’s been going for three years now. “All I did was share things that worked

for me in terms of being proactive about my health on-farm and life in general.” Kane says his boot camps are as much about the ‘top paddock’ as getting in shape. “I use physical fitness as a way to encourage mental fitness. I see physical and mental health as a two-way street – you can’t have good mental health without good physical health. It’s about understanding that moving the body helps your mental wellbeing. And that what you’re eating and drinking has a big impact on how you feel. If you’re just eating junk food, I think it makes it difficult to be mentally fit,” he says.

“I was so unfit onfarm I really hated it. Then I realised there’s probably a heap of farmers who don’t do any training either, so it must suck for them too.” Kane says he’s also got into journaling to manage stress. “Writing things down and prioritising them is a big one for me for managing stress on-farm. Getting those worries out of your head and onto paper, so you start dealing in facts and taking practical action. That’s much healthier than having everything flying round in your own head and feeling stressed. I’ve learnt that action is the antidote to anxiety,” he says. Eating well is important too. “It’s really hard to perform at a high

level on-farm when you’re not fuelling up properly. Some farmers even treat spring as a way to lose weight. I reckon if you do that, it’s probably costing you 20% of your performance on-farm. In spring it’s about getting as much energy as you can. I try to get fruit, veges, carbs and protein in every meal. I make sure I eat three good meals and a couple of snacks a day,” he says. “I’ll start the day with Weet-Bix or porridge early. I also have a snack box down at the cowshed so I can eat something like an oat bar at about 8 or 9am. Staying hydrated is important too, especially in spring and summer when I’m sweating a lot.” How does a busy farmer like Kane find time to fit all this in? “I guess I’ve just learnt to juggle things better. I’m flat out at the moment. We’re still feeding calves, cutting silage, getting crops in the ground and fertiliser, dealing with cold fronts and storms coming through, so there’s all sorts of things going on. But it’s about being aware of what else is important too, because I reckon there’s a 100% correlation between doing these things and how well you perform on-farm,” he says. Which is why Kane’s a strong advocate of Farmstrong. “When life gets stressful on-farm, being able to take back a bit of control is important. I think the more tools you have in your toolbelt to help you keep well and deal with stress the better. There’s a lot of good, practical stuff that farmers are sharing through Farmstrong,” he says. “Staying fit and well, and helping others to do the same, is helping me to be a better person, a better farmer and a better husband.” n

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


December 2021



Testing the herd By Gerald Piddock


echnology being used across New Zealand to detect covid in wastewater samples is being employed in the dairy sector to detect disease in herds. LIC has created a new test using a farm’s effluent system to detect if a herd has Johne’s disease. The test is a NZ-first for farmers, to help them detect the disease and prevent the spread of it on their farm, protecting the health and wellbeing of their animals. Johne’s disease is caused by a bacterium, which infects the gut of dairy cows and other ruminant animals. Common side effects include lower milk production, difficulty reproducing and rapid weight loss. It is estimated to cost NZ more than $40 million in lost production a year.

“This new test provides famers with a costeffective way to screen their herd for Johne’s disease and use this information to determine whether individual animal testing is required.” Richard Spelman

The test uses the same technology used to detect covid-19 in wastewater and like that test, it was a surveillance measure, LIC chief scientist Richard Spelman says. “We developed this test because Johne’s disease is common in dairy cows but it can be difficult to detect,” Spelman says “Infected animals often don’t show physical symptoms of the disease, meanwhile their milk production can drop and they spread the infection to others. “This new test provides famers with a cost-effective way to screen their herd for Johne’s disease and use


LIC chief scientist Richard Spelman says its new Johne’s disease test using a farm’s effluent system provides a cost effective way for farmers to test their herd for this disease.

this information to determine whether individual animal testing is required.” The effluent test was another tool that farmers can add to their toolbox. The test comprises four samples taken from different areas of the farm’s effluent system. Similar to the covid test, where RNA is extracted from wastewater sites and analysed by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), the LIC test extracts DNA from the effluent samples, which are analysed by scientists using the same type of PCR test. Each effluent sample receives a detected or not detected result. “If Johne’s disease bacteria is detected in a sample, we encourage farmers to get each of their cows tested using

blood or herd test milk samples to identify carriers of the disease,” he says. If there is no sign of the bacteria on-farm in the initial effluent test, LIC’s research shows the herd is likely to either be currently disease free, or low in disease prevalence. Annual testing is recommended so farmers can identify if or when animals start shedding Johne’s bacteria into the effluent system. Spelman says now is an optimal time for most farmers to consider using the effluent test. “For spring calving farmers, it’s best to test from September to December to help ensure the entire herd is captured in the effluent samples,” he says. n


December 2021


Fonterra will now supply Ida (Intelligent Dairy Assistant) technology in its Farm Source stores. It uses behaviour data gathered by collar-mounted sensors to allow farmers better insights into their herd.

Partnership opens AI door By Gerald Piddock


onterra has signed an agreement with Dutch startup company Connecterra, giving farmers the opportunity to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) technology in their herd management. The agreement will see Connecterra’s Ida (Intelligent Dairy Assistant) platform available to farmers via Farm Source. The platform uses AI to enable farmers and advisors to make better decisions that lead to a more efficient, productive and ultimately, sustainable dairy industry. The Amsterdam-based company has teams in New Zealand and the United States, a product presence in 18 countries and partnerships with industry leaders around the globe. It combines behaviour data gathered by collar-mounted sensors, with data

from internet-connected farm systems, farm equipment and third party sources to allow farmers better insights into their herd. Ida then uses AI to translate the data into real-time, easy-to-understand insights in the app. Users respond to insights with just a few taps. This feedback is processed using machine learning, allowing Ida to become smarter and more personalised for each farm over time. The technology was trialled for two years on South Waikato farmer Chris Poole’s farm. Poole says he sees a clear difference in Ida and believes the technology can be a game-changer for Kiwi farmers. “Ida’s technology is different. She learns about you and your farm. It’s easy to see

the difference in our in-calf rates and animal health. There is so much potential for other farms in New Zealand,” Poole says. The nationwide rollout began in South Waikato in August. With mating season for NZ dairy cows traditionally taking place in October, these early customers are already using Ida to help with tasks such as detecting heats and drafting for insemination. Connecterra chief executive Yasir Khokhar says their goal is to empower farmers globally to increase productivity while reducing the impact of farming on the planet. “After seeing strong, positive results during the pilot, we’re pleased to see Ida technology scale across New Zealand,” n Khokhar says.

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A simple, practical solution By Annette Scott

A collaboration to reduce emissions on farms has resulted in technology that will be a game-changer for farmers.


ethane-busting technology is a game-changer for the New Zealand dairy industry demonstrating methane leadership on the world stage. As the COP Climate Change Summit concluded, a NZ farmer-owned cooperative has showcased new methane mitigating technology that the dairy sector can start using now to reduce emissions. The breakthrough discovery was to target methane with an additive normally used in the treatment of drinking water. The result – the EcoPond system that virtually eliminates the methane emitted from dairy farm effluent ponds. It is a simple, practical solution backed by science and one that every dairy farmer can understand. It brings multiple benefits, not only in reduced methane emissions, but also increased nutrient capture utilisation. Ravensdown and Lincoln University collaborated in the major scientific breakthrough that underpins the innovative effluent treatment technology. EcoPond also reduces CO2 emissions, odour, E.coli and Dissolved Reactive Phosphate (DRP) loss. “The NZ dairy sector is already a world leader in its carbon emissions efficiency, but the country has set a 12% target of biogenic methane reduction by 2030,” Ravensdown general manager innovation and strategy Mike Manning says. “This new tool in the farmer’s toolbox has the benefit of robust science behind it and will be available to start tracking towards that target now.” Nearly all, 92%, of dairy farms use effluent ponds and they are the secondlargest source of on-farm methane emissions. Almost 70 litres of effluent are produced every day by the average dairy cow. The average pond volume is 1745 square metres, with average storage


Ravensdown and Lincoln University have collaborated on methane-mitigating technology to reduce emissions. Ravensdown general manager innovation and strategy Mike Manning at the opening of the EcoPond.

capacity 86 days (MPI 2014). Regional councils require effluent storage for one to three months. Methane emissions cannot be offset by planting trees and before EcoPond, the only options for farmers to meet serious environmental targets was to reduce stock numbers, feed intake and/or pay the price of carbon. An average NZ dairy farm of around 400 cows that installed EcoPond could cut total farm methane emissions by about 4-5%, depending on the individual farm. So how does it work? Dairy effluent is captured in a stone trap allowing for large solid extraction. Effluent spillover is then diverted into a sump and pump unit, a level sensor activates the pump’s motor and the effluent is transported to the inline EcoPond system where it is intercepted. As effluent passes through a specialised mixing coil it receives a

calculated amount of iron sulphate administered by a programmable logic controller (PLC). Iron sulphate is a safe additive used in the treatment of drinking water. After dosing, the iron sulphate and effluent mix flow into a standard dairy effluent pond. A raft mounted sensor measures the redox potential of the pond water and transmits data back to the PLC that then uses the information to continuously fine tune the amount of iron sulphate being added to the remaining mix. The addition of iron sulphate to fresh effluent increases the activity of ironreducing bacteria and sulphate-reducing bacteria, which inhibit the growth of methanogens, making it impossible for microorganisms to produce any methane gas. The automated “plug and play” inline system, which can be retrofitted to existing effluent systems, also reduces


December 2021

“This new tool in the farmer’s toolbox has the benefit of robust science behind it and will be available to start tracking towards that target now.” Mike Manning

odour and the risk of phosphate loss from pond effluent when spread onfarm. “This is an important date on the world scene, this is about technology and tools to deliver on the COP aspirations,” he says. “This is answering farmers’ needs, a game-changer allowing the dairy industry to take a giant leap forward and give farmers the confidence to farm and meet obligations into the future.” Lincoln University Professor Keith Cameron says effluent ponds are an important part of a dairy farm system to recycle nutrients and help meet environmental rules as set by regional councils. “The larger the pond, the more microorganisms in the pond to generate methane,” Cameron says. “This new system has been tested in the lab and at farm scale, where it proves enormously effective at essentially nullifying the methane-creating process.” The EcoPond system reduced the risk of (DRP) loss to water by up to 99%, which means that this essential nutrient can be recycled with reduced risk of water contamination. The system also strips out E.coli making dairy effluent much safer to irrigate to pasture. EcoPond is a fully automated system

that operates remotely with no daily input required by the farmer. Next year, farmers will be responding to the Government’s reaction to the Climate Change Commission as well as the new way to account for their own emissions. “In this GHG space our farmers need tested solutions at pace and this is what this collaborative venture represents,” Manning says. “As a co-operative, we take the initiative on their behalf so they can continue to choose to produce within their environmental commitments.” Ravensdown chair John Henderson says EcoPond is not a one-trick-pony, it is a pipeline of technologies, some launched today, others to come. He says to succeed with large-scale

uptake the solutions must be smarter, but they also must be simple. “Farmers are focused on getting the best from their resources, they need solutions that are easy, simple and cost effective,” Henderson says. “This masterful piece of technology meets all the above.” He says climate change concerns and the part agriculture plays in that space has Ravendown’s research and development spend increasing year-onyear. “We must continue in that direction if we are able to help our shareholders and the rest of NZ continue to improve their environmental footprint,” he says. “While EcoPond is our latest release, we have several other initiatives in the pipeline with Lincoln.” n

Professors Keith Cameron and Hong Di explain the workings to Ravensdown chair John Henderson, Lincoln University chancellor Bruce Gemmell and Ravenson general manager innovation Mike Manning.


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Setting a smart trap

Matt Way established Econode, a wireless monitoring system that connects predator traps with the Internet of Things network to address connectivity issues on Great Barrier Island. Matt instals traps with Econode sensors.

By Samantha Tennent

Poor internet connection on Great Barrier Island has led to a whole new network to assist in predator trapping.


ome might consider Econode founder Matt Way a hippie when he describes working from a solar-powered shed on Great Barrier Island, but he is a self-proclaimed IT geek who was determined to find a simple way to support conservation. He designed a wireless monitoring system that connects traps to the LoRaWAN Internet of Things (IoT) network. “I wanted to help make trapping more efficient but I knew we couldn’t rely on cellular or internet coverage on the island, or most of rural New Zealand, so it was important we made a system we could deploy ourselves,” Way says. “We’ve designed the SmartTrap system that sends messages via the LoRa IoT


network to whoever needs to know that the trap has been activated and needs to be cleared.” LoRa is a low-power wide-area network, which is a type of wireless telecommunication network that allows connected devices to have long-range communications capabilities at a low bit rate. Individuals can access LoRa with their own equipment, unlike cellular networks where you essentially need to licence the airwaves from the Government. “On LoRa, our SmartTraps only need to wake up every few hours and send a short message, so it doesn’t take much power,” he says. “And they can travel long distances and can penetrate better than WiFi signals,

which makes it suitable for farming landscapes and bush.”

“It’s allowing farmers and councils to monitor predator densities and they are able to coordinate efforts.” Matt Way The SmartTrap is a device that is attached to a trap and there is a gateway, or ‘hub’, that it sends messages to. Once the trap has been activated and the door closes, the device no longer

sends a signal, which sends a notification to whoever is monitoring the trap. During the design process, he anticipated it would be a simple solution for a labour-intensive task, but the information from the devices is helping drive other efficiencies. “It’s allowing farmers and councils to monitor predator densities and they are able to coordinate efforts,” he says. “A single farmer might not make much of an impact, but a group of neighbouring farms has a great opportunity to make a dent in the local pest population. “And then it becomes about coordination, which can be driven by councils to coordinate and monitor. And by monitoring, they’ll know what is happening and where


December 2021

SmartTrap is a device that is attached to a trap and once the trap is activated, it sends a message to a hub.


December 2021

around the house. That was how he became involved in conservation. And with a problem-solving mindset, he wanted to find a way to make trapping on the island easier “I wanted to find a better way to check traps remotely rather than tramping all day looking for them all,” he says. “And power consumption and connectivity were big considerations as our landscape in New Zealand brings particular challenges to wireless sensor devices.” The Government initiative Predator Free 2050 was launched in July 2015, with the goal to protect native biodiversity by ridding forests of the devastating impacts of stoats, rats and possums. Econode was established not long after. “We’ve now got more than 10,000 SmartTraps around New Zealand and have started trials in Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom,” he says. They are also working on a range of other monitoring devices that will support farmers to drive efficiency. Things like specialised sensor nodes to monitor soil temperature, pH levels, moisture levels, humidity, water quality, tank and trough levels, air quality – basically anything a farmer needs to know. “The power of connectivity is the future and our philosophy is empowering conservation with technology,” he says. “But it’s hard to visualise, just like if we go back 25 years or so and try telling people how the internet will impact their business. It would’ve been hard for farmers to get their head around, but there are endless opportunities with digital sensors and utilising the LoRa network. “I’m a big believer in driving efficiency, I think too often people focus on economics, but when we create efficiencies we are indirectly driving economics.” n

Matt has a background in IT security and has taught himself most of what he knows about computers and electronics. Matt working with his tools.



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they are getting the kills and should focus their efforts.” Econode has been working with Towards Predator Free Taranaki, who have supplied 6000 traps to farms in the region. The organisation has been operating a heavily subsidised model to encourage engagement and commitment from the farmers who collect the devices and they have established gateways on towers belonging to Primo Wireless, an internet service provider in the region. Way has a background in IT security and has taught himself most of what he knows about computers and electronics. He had spent several years working across Asia before coming back to New Zealand and moving to Great Barrier Island. He thought he was settling into a relaxed rural setting with his wife Ann to raise their daughter, with a Hong Kongbased role he could manage remotely. But the quality of the telecommunications infrastructure on the island had gone backwards and made it impossible to do his job. “Online shopping would take an hour, you could count to 20 for a page to load, it was ridiculous,” he says. After six months of twiddling his thumbs, Ann encouraged him to find something to do as she was sick of seeing him moping


Having a good plan in place with graziers will help protect heifers from picking up any diseases.

Why risk your herd? By Kylie Brewer


ending your heifers out for grazing is an essential part of the dairy farming year – it can also be one of the riskiest things you do to your herds. If you think about it, your heifers are the future of your dairy herd, they are where genetic gains occur, so making sure you protect them from disease seems logical and helps protect your herd too. But it’s important that heifers are fully grown and at optimum body condition when they return to the herd for their first calving, so putting them out to grazing is a necessary and normal part of many dairy farmers’ calendar. The Mycoplasma bovis programme has done a deep analysis of data collected over the course of eradicating this cattle disease and have identified that sending heifers to grazing is a risk and one of the ways in which the disease has been introduced to milking herds. But the risk doesn’t stop at M bovis – this is something that is a risk for most cattle disease spread.


So what can you do to protect your heifers while grazing? When you’re sending your animals away for grazing, do you make the time to go out and visit your grazier? Do you sit down with them and have a chat about how they manage your heifers while they’re on their farm and discuss what biosecurity measures they’ll be taking to protect your herd from disease? Here’s some things to think about when sending your heifers out to grazing this season and in future years. Grazing contracts Do you and your grazier have a written contract, which sets out the cost per heifer per week, targeted liveweight gains and animal health measures? Does your contract also specify whose responsibility it is to pay for and buy in extra feed in the event of a drought? Does your grazing contract contain notification clauses for a biosecurity security or disease incursion?

Mixing with animals from other herds/ farms Chat with your grazier to find out if they have animals from other dairy herds grazing on the property at the same time as yours. Ask them if the animals have their own separate grazing rotations and if they mix animals from different herds together. Mixing animals from different herds together can spread diseases between herds. And don’t think you’re out of the woods if you keep your grazing in-house, between your own farms. If you mix your heifers with animals from different herds, you are running the risk of spreading an unidentified disease between your milking herds when they return to their herds. Adverse events Do you and your grazier have a plan in place for any adverse events such as flooding, adverse weather, or a disease outbreak such as M bovis or TB. Make


December 2021

sure you discuss what would happen if the grazing farm is placed under a Biosecurity Act Notice of Direction, preventing the movement of animals from the property. Animal Health • Do you provide your grazier with an animal health plan for your heifers? • Have you discussed with your grazier as to whether they need to provide all of the drenches and minerals or will you supply these? • How does your grazier manage sick or injured animals; are these kept separate from other animals until they recover? • When does your grazier need to notify you if the vet is called, or a death occurs?

“If you mix your heifers with animals from different herds, you are running the risk of spreading an unidentified disease between your milking herds when they return to their herds.”

Herd Management • Prior to sending your heifers off for grazing, do tasks such as tagging, vaccination and drenching at home. This reduces the need to use your grazier’s yards and helps to reduce potential disease spread. This is important if there are other animals being grazed on the farm. • Does your grazier ask you, as the stock owner, for a detailed list of every

animal and their ID tag and NAIT number? Do they check these notes in monthly reports and do you get sent a copy of this monthly report? • How are you kept informed of which animals are missing tags and how often does your grazier need to inform you of this? Farm Biosecurity Practices • Discuss with your grazier what measures they have in place to prevent nose-to-nose contact over the fence between the different herds which are grazing on the property. • Take a farm walk with the grazier to check the condition of fencing on the property, in particular boundary fencing and to check the gate latches on all paddocks are secure, to prevent animals self-opening gates. Reproduction • This is a particularly important topic to discuss with your grazier. • It’s best to discuss up front: • Who supplies the bulls and where they will be sourced from? Depending on where bulls have been, bulls can be a major source of infection for disease spread. • How are bulls managed on the farm and will you need to pay additional grazing fees for these animals? • What happens when a bull becomes sick or injured, how are new bulls sourced? • Are the bulls tested and vaccinated for lepto, EBL and BVD prior to arriving on-farm? • When the bulls are to go out and to be removed from the herd? Communication and farm visits Working out the expectations on

MPI regional engagement and farmer support manager for the Mycoplasma bovis disease eradication programme Kylie Brewer has done a study on M bovis and found sending stock out to graze is a risk to their health.

communication is important too. Confirm with your grazier how you would like to be communicated with and how often. Also establish can you visit the farm to check on stock while they are at grazing to make sure your animals are healthy and there are no issues. DairyNZ has the following checklist to help you when looking for a new grazier: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/ media/4112103/heifer-grazingquestionnaire-stock-owner.pdf Remember, your farm boundary is your n border.

Who am I? Kylie Brewer is the MPI regional engagement and farmer support manager for the M bovis disease eradication programme.


Mitigating milk fever By Samantha Tennent

Ensuring cows are receiving a well-balanced diet with adequate nutrients will help mitigate cases of milk fever in the herd.


or every 100 cows on the average dairy farm, there is a potential $8000 lost in production from milk fever according to DairyNZ estimates. The research shows about 14% lost production from clinical cows and 7% for subclinical cows, while around 5% of cows that go down never recover. “If we think about $8000 per 100 cows, it’s either a cost or it’s an opportunity if you can get on top of clinical and subclinical milk fever,” AgriVantage nutrition consultant Natalie Chrystal said during a Dairy Women’s Network webinar. “With subclinical at 7% reduced production and affecting somewhere between 30 and 50% of your herd, there’s a large opportunity for improved productivity from those cows,” Chrystal says. Chrystal explained how reducing the risk of milk fever is challenging as every farm is so different. “It depends on how you perceive the impact of milk fever and to what extent you are prepared to go to address the challenge, as well as the available resources and a number of other factors,” she says. “If you had very high levels of clinical milk fever, you would be more inclined to target it quite aggressively and you would probably be more inclined to make more complex changes to your situation.” She believes understanding what predisposes a cow to


AgriVantage nutrition consultant Natalie Chrystal says milk fever in herds can cost the industry thousands of dollars each year, but there are ways to improve productivity in these cows.

“It depends on how you perceive the impact of milk fever and to what extent you are prepared to go to address the challenge, as well as the available resources and a number of other factors.” Natalie Chrystal milk fever is critical to trying to mitigate the risks. And a big part is that the calcium requirement substantially increases from a dry cow to a lactating cow. Dairy cows obtain calcium from their diet by absorbing it

from their intestines or from reabsorbing stores in their bones. The absorption and reabsorption processes are controlled by hormones, with vitamin D and other minerals also playing a role. And any factors that interfere with these processes mean the cow cannot meet her increased demand for calcium, especially during post-calving, and this results in lowered blood calcium concentration and milk fever. “Paying attention to the nutrient intake of the cow is important and we have the ability to adjust it on-farm,” she says. “Condition score affects her feed intake post-calving, as can poor weather and feed allocation. Nutrient levels in the feed she consumes are particularly important. “If we’re restricting cows in early lactation, they’re potentially not getting as much calcium as they need.” She says it is really

important to rebuild bone calcium reserves after calving and right from birth heifers need sufficient calcium to help grow bones efficiently. But it is not only calcium that is important as there are complex mineral interactions. “Magnesium, phosphorus and potassium are other really important minerals we need to consider,” she says. “Anything you can do to increase calcium absorption around calving is really important. “But when we talk about strategies to reduce the incidence of milk fever, the most important factor is for a farmer to understand their own risk and their own options, these vary greatly from farm to farm.” Firstly, understanding whether it is clinical milk fever, with a lot of cows going down, or whether there is a lingering subclinical problem where the cows are not starting the season as good


December 2021


December 2021

This graph (Horst and Jorgensen, 1982) shows the difference in blood calcium concentration at calving for normocalcaemic (healthy), subclinical and clinically hypocalcaemic cows. While the difference between normocalcaemic and subclinical cows is hard to detect, the subclinical cow produces 7% less milk, is more likely to experience dystocia and is less productive. A 2019 survey in the Waikato showed that as much as 52% of cows were subclinical, while 2.9% of cows were reported as clinically hypocalcaemic.

the nutrients you expect? Get it tested and check against your expectations. And there are opportunities with balanced low DCAD (dietary cation-anion difference) diets, as the latest research indicates this approach is the most successful in addressing subclinical milk fever. But again, it all comes down to the unique farm situation. “Pick your low-hanging fruit first, like achieving a body condition score targets at calving, reducing potassium intake and ensuring adequate magnesium supplementation. But it is definitely important to understand your risks and feed accordingly,” she says. “Pasture and forage analyses are particularly useful, and seek help and support from the experts. Remember the consequences of milk fever are more than just down cows, subclinical milk fever affects your profit more than clinical milk fever.” n

Cost effective products for the dairy industry. Maximising animal health and production by reducing stress to the benefit to both people and their investments.


as farmers would like to see. And whether they are going down pre- or post-calving, or even a few weeks into lactation. “If you can determine when it is happening and what is causing it, it helps you understand some of the pressure points in the system,” she says. She recommends understanding what age groups are affected, if there is a predominant group of cows, like the older cows or if it is widespread across the herd, as it helps narrow down preventative measures. Research has shown reducing potassium intake prior to calving will be beneficial in all circumstances. This can be challenging in predominantly pasture-based systems, but Chrystal recommends exploring opportunities that could work in your system. “We need to look at practical considerations for every system and one is certainly avoiding grazing effluent paddocks,” she says. “And whether there is an opportunity to replace highpotassium pasture with a lower potassium feed, such as maize silage or palm kernel, in the transition cow phase. “There are no one-size-fitsall solutions, different farms have different opportunities and different solutions.” Magnesium plays a crucial role in reducing milk fever and evidence shows the risks and incidences of milk fever increase exponentially when a herd is not getting enough magnesium in their diet. But some farms can still see a lot of down cows even if they are feeding sufficient magnesium. “If we take account of any potential wastage and are confident in the amount of magnesium being consumed, this is when we need to look at other components,” she says. “Look at their diet as a whole. Are the cows getting



A win for the business By Samantha Tennent


iltering information to determine what is relevant for your business can be tricky. And how do you know who to trust? Who is genuinely there to help improve your business and make life easier for you? Research published by AgResearch in 2015 highlighted farmers place the most trust in their veterinarians, rating them 63% more trustworthy than government agencies. We are all striving for efficiency to get the most out of everything we do. Let’s look at how to maximise the information you have available with the trusted source of advice from your veterinarian. Valuable feedback Taranaki farmers Glen and Trish Rankin are utilising their local vets to get the most from their herd for their business. They highlight how as herd owners, there aren’t many opportunities to receive feedback on their herd management. Compared with a herd or farm manager who has an owner letting them know what is going well and what isn’t. They have recently connected with their local vet team at Taranaki Veterinary Centre using the WelFarm programme. Within the programme there are periodic tasks performed with the herd, such as body condition scoring, as well as benchmarking of herd health data and the vets provide feedback on how things are tracking. Trish values the feedback, explaining they either get a ‘tick’ saying they’re doing a great job or some advice on what needs to be improved. Either way she sees it as a win for their business. Until recently their results had been on track, but one of the most recent body condition scores revealed the herd was losing more than they should be. They also had some blood tests at the same time, which uncovered there was some ketosis occurring. The monitoring and feedback allowed them to make management decisions based on clear information, rather than wait till they got poor mating results and were left wondering about what had gone wrong – a great outcome for the herd and the farm.


Taranaki farmers Trish and Glen Rankin say they value the monitoring and feedback they receive through the programme, which enables them to make better management decisions.

With the farmer and animal wellbeing a key outcome of WelFarm, Trish says they are able to be more proactive by using the programme to make faster decisions and identify herd and seasonal trends. Future proofing Trish also talks about how all the components of Fonterra’s Cooperative Difference can be daunting for farmers, so she welcomed having a simple solution to support them and assure them they are meeting their requirements. Another farmer that has been utilising WelFarm with Taranaki Vets is Brian McDonald, a third-generation farmer in Stratford. He initially joined to monitor animal health on a regular basis but as milk processor requirements are evolving, he thinks this will be the way of the future. Brian says he can’t see how we will get away with farming without a programme like WelFarm moving forward. And he can see a lot more benefits than compliance. He appreciates being able to save time as the vets have all the information in front of them and he doesn’t have to explain what has been happening on-farm. He can receive

effective tailored advice for decisionmaking. And he is able to walk through it with his staff, bringing the whole team on board to understand what has been happening and what they need to work on. He encourages farmers to sign up and try the programme for 12 months. He says the programme makes a big difference and it’s not a great expense in the context of annual farm expenses. Creating simplicity When working with vets and wider support networks, if farmers use a framework that provides benchmarking they are able to identify opportunities and prevent problems, which saves time and effort in the long run. It provides the assurance of what you are doing well and supports the growing demands from milk processors and consumers. And if we’re all on the same page and using a consistent programme, it makes it easy for everyone to understand as we’re all speaking the n same language.

Who am I?

Samantha Tennent is the general manager of WelFarm Ltd.


December 2021


Team approach to farming solutions so we understand both our farming clients’ needs and what is required by the regulators,” director and farm environmental general manager Kate Scott explains. Recently the company separated out the farm environmental work area from the RMA Planning and Environmental Science Team. “The work area had grown to a point that it needed its own business unit to support and focus on the ever-growing needs of our primary sector clients and we felt it needed a separate unit to ensure we continue to support and nourish that part of our business to grow it into the best version it can be to find the best solutions for our clients,” Scott says. To build on the existing team and ensure the continued best service possible Landpro have recently added a national farm environmental manager and three more experienced farm environmental consultants. “We are delighted to have such technically strong, market leading and farming passionate staff join the company in the farm environmental business line. This will ensure we continue to deliver the best solutions possible for our clients,” Landpro chief executive and general manager of business services Jason Harvey-Wills says. Kim Reilly has come from Federated Farmers where she was the South Island regional policy manager and has joined Landpro as the national farm environmental manager, based in Dunedin. She is exceptionally strong in the spaces of making practical

From left, Jason Harvey-Wills, Tilly Hassleman, Ginny Kennedy, Kate Scott, Rosie Forbes, Kim Reilly, Tessa Scmidt and Mike Borthwick. policy, planning and tools, and working collaboratively to get a positive on-farm environmental outcome. The other new farm environmental consultants who have recently joined Tilly Hassleman in Landpro’s newest team are Rosie Forbes from Mossburn (ex Ravensdown), Tessa Scmidt from Gore (exDairy NZ) and Ginny Kennedy from Halfway Bay station (Wakatipu) who was previously with ECan and Clarke Fortune McDonald RMA consultants. Navigating the ever-changing and complex freshwater, climate change and biodiversity spaces really does call all hands to the deck. We know that it can be hard going, but we’re positive about farming’s future and getting that win-win for farming and the environment. The farm environmental team will work in seamlessly and cross pollinate with the other Landpro business lines of: • Planning and Environmental Science – especially farm consents and farm

environmental such as water metering validation and hydrology. • GIS/Spatial – for example, ensuring all farm information can be accessed in a digital farm map that can be manipulated for your needs. • Survey – making sure precision ag and hort are where they need to be. • Aerial – farm mapping and aerial probe sensing that can then be used as an interactive farm map and planning tool. As clients keep requesting Landpro to do work further afield, the company continues to react by setting up new offices and getting the best people onboard to solve their client’s problems, let them know if that is you. They also collaborate with trusted partners and other farm professionals to help ensure the best result.


To contact Landpro phone 0800 023 318, email info@landpro. co.nz or visit www.landpro.co.nz

Make the most of your land with us We know as farmers and growers you are passionate about the land! At Landpro we are passionate about helping farmers and growers make the most of their land. New Plymouth, Cromwell, Wanaka, Gore, Dunedin • 0800 023 318 • www.landpro.co.nz



EMP, IWG, RMA, NES, FWP, RPS, FM, FEC – the list goes on. Question: how many acronyms does it take to get environmentally sorted these days? The answer is none, if you get a practical farming-centric company like Landpro to help you get ahead of your many new environmental requirements. Practically sorting out farm environmental plans, winter grazing, freshwater planning, farm environmental advisory/ strategy, due diligence and RMA consents and compliance is the bread and butter of an expanding company currently based in Otago, Southland and Taranaki. They have helped solve these issues by assembling a diverse team of experts. We’re hearing loud and clear that farmers are sick of navigating red tape and just want to get on with the business of farming. With Landpro’s quick access to a diverse team of planners, farm environmental advisors, GIS experts, surveyors, scientists, aerial mapping and others, they reckon they have it covered. Landpro has 60 staff and has been actively working in the farm environmental space since 2012, helping farmers and the primary industry cut through the red tape, acronyms, rules and just about everything else to ensure farmers get what they need. “Making a positive difference to our clients, their businesses and the environment is a core part of our company’s DNA, and we’ve been in this space for a long time compared to most other companies,


La Niña explained By Phil Duncan

The team at WeatherWatch look ahead to see what farmers may have in store for the summer growing and harvesting season.


a Niña this and La Niña that – it’s sometimes easy to think that when La Niña is forming, it’s like a switch and it’s either turned ‘on’ or ‘off’ – it’s not. While the actual setup of La Niña is, in essence, simple, the way it impacts New Zealand is not. So without breaking your mind, we thought it would be good to share with you how La Niña can impact NZ – but also, why your local weather may sometimes do the opposite of what you might expect. To keep it simple, La Niña is measured in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and NZ is a long way from the tropics, in fact, we’re halfway to Antarctica. So just like if there was an earthquake at the tropics, it needs to be a big one to impact NZ with any risks. Same goes for La Niña – if it’s weak and spluttering, then the usual Roaring Forties belt of windy weather in the Southern Ocean will still carry on impacting NZ. Here’s the analogy which I think best explains La Niña and why it sometimes impacts NZ – and sometimes doesn’t. Imagine NZ (both the North and South Islands) are one big traffic island and we have two highways of weather merging over us. The first is the main highway of weather traffic – the Roaring Forties. The entire South Island is in the Roaring Forties belt of westerlydriven weather and it goes up as far north as Whanganui. This is like the ‘State Highway One’ of weather in NZ; it dominates most of our weather and it has the busiest lanes of weather traffic in our part of the world. But during La Niña seasons another lane feeds in from the north, merging with the Roaring Forties over the NZ area. This means we can have a La Niña setup one week – full of cloud in the north, higher humidity and east to north east winds nationwide – followed one week later by a burst of windy westerlies, which kicks that La Niña pattern to the kerb, putting a pause on La Niña weather conditions in NZ and


A great example of how La Niña and our usual westerly patterns can merge right over the top of New Zealand. A really clear example of why La Niña is not a one-sizefits-all forecast.

a return to ‘normal’ weather for NZ. This simple process can have a 180-degree dramatic difference to your local weather.

“Imagine NZ (both the North and South Islands) are one big traffic island and we have two highways of weather merging over us.”

Let’s look at Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, for example. While all of NZ is forecast to be warmer than average this month, these regions are at the lower end of that scale due to more La Niña easterlies. Winds off the sea aren’t as warm as winds coming from inland where daytime heating adds more oomph to it. But reverse that with a westerly

and these eastern regions can go from cloudy, drizzly and a cool easterly, to sunny, hot and dry with a temperature in the 30s. What many would consider the opposite of La Niña weather. So for La Niña to really override that ‘State Highway One’ of windy westerly weather, it needs to be a very powerful, dominant La Niña. If you think back to the start of this year, La Niña didn’t end the droughts in northern NZ, they actually got worse as northern rain failed to arrive. Why did it fail? Because La Niña wasn’t very dominant, powerful or long-lasting. This summer La Niña is again leaning towards forming, but is also looking short-lived (likely faded by March) and so once again may not have the big impact some Kiwis may expect, because – as a reminder – it’s not a switch that is either “on” or “off” for our weather. It’s simply another lane of weather traffic to factor into our usual chaotic weather here in the South Pacific. It’s also not just these two weather


December 2021

Current risk of La Niña forming.

patterns impacting us that helps bring changeable variety, it’s our mountains and ranges too. You would all likely know that certain wind directions in your local part of NZ means you have a higher chance of sun or cloud, rain or dry, hot or cold. La Niña summers tend to increase the chances of easterlies in the top of NZ and nor’easters further south. So regions to the opposite of that will be hotter and drier. For example, Waikato, Manawatū, Horowhenua, Whanganui, through the Southern Alps, Central Otago and Northern Southland all have chances of a hotter, drier summer – but only when we have those east to northeast flows. When the westerlies return from time to time that means western areas get more clouds and lower temperatures. But some – like Central Otago and South Canterbury and Northern Southland – can be dry in both those setups, hence the increased risk of a drier summer there this year. Finally, there is also the ‘wild card’ factor – a potential single weather event that entirely reverses all the long-range forecasts, not because the data was wrong but because NZ is simply so tiny compared to the ocean surrounding us. So one tropical cyclone can hit almost anywhere in NZ and reverse what was forecast for an entire month, maybe two

if big enough. Stubborn high pressure zones can also get in the way north of NZ and block sub-tropical rainmakers for weeks, only to have big rainmakers just miss us to the west or east. So, this summer be prepared for more changeable weather patterns, but also understand that La Niña is measured a long way from where some of us live, so any La Niña headline you see should be balanced with the fact NZ is basically two large mountainous islands plonked halfway in the Roaring Forties belt of westerly-driven weather. n

Phil Duncan of WeatherWatch says farmers should be prepared for more changeable weather patterns this summer.

How La Niña forms.

Don’t let it rain on your parade. Plan your day with WeatherWatch and get New Zealand’s most accurate rain forecasting available across the country, anytime.

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Waikato farmer Marty Hitchcock has been using a targeted feed regime to increase the quality of his pasture and is seeing good results.

Combating low-quality pasture


espite nutritional deficits in pasture hampering milk production for many farmers across the country, Waikato farmer Marty Hitchcock is about 4.5% ahead of last season thanks to a targeted feeding regime. Hitchcock milks 500 cows on 200 effective hectares in Rotorangi near Cambridge. He says this season’s pasture growth has been prolific, but its nutritional value is lacking. “Like last season the grass has been flush, but it doesn’t have the goodness in it. So we’ve had to supplement our herd to avoid production losses and keep our cows in good condition,” Hitchcock says. “We started herd testing for the first time this season. This means we have been able to identify our top producers, make sure they have plenty of feed and don’t lose too much condition. With the high price of feed, it made sense only to buy the feed we needed and make sure we got the best return on our investment. “We’ve kept up our in-shed feeding


to 5kg DM per cow a day the whole way through. We use a combination of feed ranging from soy hull and corn DDG to canola meal and oat hull. This feed makes up about a quarter of our herd’s diet and balances out what they’re not getting from grass.

“Farmers who have invested in extra feed to date to make up any shortfall should have seen a positive impact on cow submission rates and conception rates during mating.” Ken Winter “We also added molasses this year, which has helped us hold our production for longer. Most of our production gains came between mid-October and last week (early November). So, the big gap

in production we had between seasons is now closing up.” His proactive approach to feeding his cows has also paid off during mating. “Our herd went into AI in good condition and we’ve been really happy with our submission rate. We just finished AI this morning, so I am looking forward to seeing what our non-return rate is this season.” GrainCorp Feeds technical manager Ken Winter says fewer sunshine hours have resulted in pastures with inadequate ME (metabolisable energy) and sugar levels. “If, like Marty, farmers have invested in feeding their cows adequately to date and managed feed well to meet their herd’s requirements, they should have avoided a drop in production,” Winter says. “They may in fact be ahead, but could have missed out on some expected margins because cows haven’t had the usual amount of quality pasture seen in better seasons. “Farmers who have invested in extra


December 2021

feed to date to make up any shortfall should have seen a positive impact on cow submission rates and conception rates during mating. “This will be noticeable in cows’ body condition and their ability to respond to what feed is now being offered.” This season’s high commodity prices have increased the price of supplementary feed. But he says, for many of their customers like Hitchcock, their investment is paying off. “Although it’s been more costly, the investment many of our farmer customers have made in feed has been worthwhile to maintain their herd’s production. Some are even tracking ahead despite the challenges of the season and that comes down to timely decision-making and consistency,” he says. Winter says the question now is when pasture nutrition will deliver on expectations. “We are only just starting to get some good sunshine. The mistake you don’t want to make is cutting back on concentrates (energy-dense feed) and making the cows eat more lesser-quality

Ken Winter of GrainCorp Feeds says the mistake you don’t want to make now is cutting back on energy dense feed.

feed. With a high payout looming, you don’t want to risk undoing all your good work by short-changing your cows now.” He also says turning surplus pasture into silage in these situations makes sense.

“When the pasture comes right, we can then look at reducing the amount or spec of the supplement depending on how well the cows are converting their feed and how that translates into margin,” he says. n

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Experimenting with grazing By Cheyenne Nicholson

A Waikato farmer who is not afraid to try new things is getting surprising results from a deferred grazing trial.


nce-a-day farmer Andrew Macky is all about experimenting. From starting a YouTube channel to trialling deferred grazing, he’s not afraid to give new things a crack. Speaking at last month’s SMASH webinar, he shared his experience with deferred grazing. Macky is the farm manager on the family farm at Paterangi, Te Awamutu, with his wife Holly and their children William, three, and Frankie, one. The 100ha System 2 farm milks 320 Jersey cows and has been in the family for more than 100 years. Owned by his parents, his father also works the farm. The farm is split into two herds; one run by his father, the other run by Macky. It’s a slightly unusual setup, but it’s an idea he got from working in the UK. “We have a higher-producing herd and a lower-producing herd. Dad and I just go through and pick the ones we think are producing better. I look after 175 cows in my high-producing herd and dad has the rest in the low-producing herd,” Macky says. The high-producing herd is fed a mix of grass, maize and palm kernel

Waikato farmer Andrew Macky likes to try new things and has been trialling deferred grazing and is getting great results. Andrew with children Frankie, one, and William three.

throughout the year and housed on the peaty flats that hold on a bit longer in summer. Cows are fed on a feedpad via a mixer wagon. At the moment, each cow gets 2kg maize and 1.5kg palm kernel; this changes during the season

The 320-cow herd is run in two mobs and milked once-a-day on the System 2 farm. The high-producing herd is fed a mix of grass, maize and palm kernel throughout the year and the low-producing herd on grass and chicory.


depending on pasture covers. This year, owing to a hard, cold spring, he added molasses into their diets as well for some added energy. “Dad’s herd we keep all the young cows and lower-producing older cows, and they’re on a grass and chicory diet, with no maize or PKE. The country they are on dries out quicker, hence feeding them chicory in summer,” he says. Last year he became intrigued by the concept of deferred grazing, a low-cow method of pasture conservation and renovation. Also called summer fallow, deferred grazing takes ryegrass-based pastures out of the grazing rotation over late spring and summer to allow them to reseed and build root reserves before being grazed in the late summer or early autumn. Typically, clover will be the first thing to bounce back, with ryegrass taking slightly longer to germinate. With several ex-cropping paddocks in need of resowing, he set to undersowing these the year before but wasn’t happy with the results, so he decided to give


December 2021

A paddock saved for deferred grazing before it is grazed.

The same paddock showing the regrowth as a result of deferred grazing.

deferred grazing a try. He locked up five paddocks for 120 days, starting in midOctober. “There can be long-term gain there, but you do have to expect a drop in production when you put them on the deferred grazing paddocks – they’re long and stalky and not what they usually munch on,” he says. “It could be argued that given the time of year they went on, they would have dropped production anyway due to the general lack of grass, but I think they dropped more than they would normally.” That said, he says the production levelled out and he has been pleased with the outcome of the trial and has learnt a few things along the way. “I did a few things wrong for sure. It was all a bit of trial and error. I locked up the paddocks a bit too early for one. I should have done a weed spray before I locked them up, as we ended up with a few thistles and dock, and other things. I also put nitrogen on them, which I shouldn’t have done. I should have let

them grow by themselves because the nitrogen meant the ryegrass outgrew the clover a bit,” he explains. The cows started grazing these paddocks once they had gone to seed and were pre-topped before the cows went in to try and minimise the ‘rubbish’ the cows would leave behind. Two of the five paddocks ended up being baled for hay due to worries about seed heads rotting away after a decent dose of rain. “The seed head was unreal. DairyNZ came out and we estimated about a 70-80kg per hectare seed drop, so they reseeded themselves really well,” he says. While a few things didn’t go quite right, a big bonus was being able to extend the rotation from 20 to 40 days. “The results were great, the reseeding went really well and we ended up with good, thick, green grass. We had a few weeds in the mix, but there was a lot of lush grass,” he says. “The real test will be how it lasts over the next year or so. It’s a good theory and has worked well, so I may look at it again in the future.” n

Showcasing NZ farming Andrew Macky takes great pride in his work on-farm and is sharing his day-to-day life with the world. A year ago he started a YouTube channel and vlogs his daily life on-farm. “No one was really doing it on a big scale here in NZ, so I saw a bit of a gap in the market. I got a camera and started filming.


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“It’s a lot of work for minimal output, but I’m hoping that will change in the future,” Macky says. “It’s a really neat way of educating people and showing them what actually happens on-farm. I’ve talked about everything from our once-a-day system to the deferred grazing and get lots of great feedback.”

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App to help fight nassella By Tony Benny

Farmers battling weeds on their farm have a new tool to help in the fight against nassella tussock weed.


new web app has been released to help farmers manage a costly weed that in the 1940s brought farming in drought-prone land in Canterbury and Marlborough to its knees and which, despite continued control efforts, still poses a serious threat. Nassella tussock is the only weed in New Zealand to have its own Act of Parliament, the Nassella Tussock Act 1946. So severe were infestations of the non-palatable, readily-spread-by-wind weed in the 1940s, that some farmers abandoned their properties and large gangs of workers armed with grubbers were employed to bring it under control. Grubbing is still the principal method of control and it’s compulsory for landowners to dig out any nassella plants they see in spring, when it flowers and is easiest to identify. But not all farmers take well to being told they have to grub the weed and that can be a source of conflict between them and the regulating authority Environment Canterbury (ECan). So AgResearch scientist Graeme Boudôt and his team, with funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), in collaboration with ECan, have come up with a tool to show farmers what will likely happen, depending on whether they grub as instructed or if they fail to take action. Bourdôt, who has spent decades researching nassella tussock, says this app follows in the path of another similar tool for giant buttercup, which AgResearch developed to support dairy farmers in weed management decisionmaking. “The nassella tussock app draws on decades of research into how nassella tussock plants grow and contribute to the population growth of the weed in dryland sheep and cattle pastures. It enables the user to see how different frequencies, intensities and seasons of grubbing will affect the future number of nassella tussock plants on a block of


AgResearch scientist Graeme Boudôt has spent decades researching nassella tussock weed and now he and his team have come up with an app for farmers to use.

land and on an adjacent block of land,” Bourdôt says. “Efforts to eradicate nassella have proven unsuccessful, so now it is a case of living with it and managing it. This is where the app can give the best information to people on how to manage the weed using grubbing to avoid uncontrolled population growth that can lead to increased future grubbing costs, losses in farm productivity and unacceptable impacts on a neighbour.” Although eradication has proven elusive, a 17-year study in Canterbury, published in 2016, showed that the population density of the weed across 878 invaded farms in the Hurunui district of North Canterbury is stable at about 15 plants a hectare. Grubbing of the plants before seeding each year – the management tactic practiced on these farms – has been responsible for maintaining this ‘equilibrium’, according to on-farm experiments and modelling. Left uncontrolled, the modelling indicates that the weed’s populations will increase, potentially reaching the

economically damaging monocultures of the past, which in some cases forced farmers to abandon their properties. “Here’s a scientific model that tells us if you stop grubbing now, this is what your farm is going to look like in 25 or 50 years and this is what the impact will be on your neighbour,” he says. ECan biosecurity officer Matt Smith says many decades of hard work since the 1940s have returned plant numbers to a manageable level. “The app is a great way for land occupiers to model different control scenarios on their properties. It clearly demonstrates that annual control is the best method to decrease or maintain plant numbers,” Smith says. “At Environment Canterbury, we have used the app to measure how long it might take an unknown infestation to turn from a few plants into a major issue.” n


The app can be found at https://nassellatussock-population-model-nz.agresearch. co.nz/


December 2021


Sustainable way to cut emissions UK and Irish seaweeds may significantly reduce GHG agricultural emissions and provide extra health benefits when used as a supplement for farm animals. Photo: Wolfgang Hasselmann


he use of seaweed as a supplementary feed in farm animals could lead to great sustainability and with more than 15,000 kilometres, there could be plenty of opportunities for New Zealand to reduce their emissions. While the COP26 debated methane and the US and EU pledged to reduce agricultural methane outputs from ruminant livestock by upwards of 30% by 2030, scientists at the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s University Belfast were researching feeding seaweed to farm animals in a bid to slash methane by at least 30%. Seaweed has long been hailed a ‘superfood’ for humans, but adding it to animal feed to reduce methane gas released into the atmosphere by ruminants’ burping and flatulence is a relatively new idea. Early laboratory research at IGFS has shown promising results using native Irish and UK seaweeds. Previous research in Australia and the US generated headline results – up to 80% reductions in methane emissions from cattle given supplements from a red seaweed variety. These red seaweeds grow abundantly in warmer climates, however, they also contain high levels of bromoform – known to be damaging to the ozone layer. Seaweed indigenous to the UK and Ireland tends to be


December 2021

brown or green and does not contain bromoform. UK and Irish seaweeds are also rich in active compounds called phlorotannins, found in red wine and berries, which are anti-bacterial and improve immunity so could have additional health benefits for animals. Now the IGFS science is moving into the field, with trials on UK farms about to begin, using seaweed sourced from the Irish and North seas as a feed supplement for cattle.

“The science is there. It’s simply a matter of providing the necessary data and then implementing it.” Professor Sharon Huws One three-year project is in partnership with the UK supermarket Morrisons and its network of British beef farmers who will facilitate farm trials. The project also includes the Agrifood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), in Northern Ireland, as a partner. A second project sees IGFS and AFBI join a €2 million (about $3.2m), international project led by Irish agency An Teagasc to monitor the effects of

seaweed in the diet of pasture-based livestock. Seaweed will be added to grass-based silage on-farm trials involving dairy cows in Northern Ireland from early 2022. As well as assessing methane emissions of the beef and dairy cattle, these projects will assess the nutritional value of a variety of homegrown seaweeds, their effects on animal productivity and meat quality. IGFS lead Sharon Huws, Professor of Animal Science and Microbiology within the School of Biological Sciences, says she expected the combined research to evidence a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 30%. “The science is there. It’s simply a matter of providing the necessary data and then implementing it. Using seaweed is a natural, sustainable way of reducing emissions and has great potential to be scaled up. There is no reason why we can’t be farming seaweed and this would also protect the biodiversity of our shorelines,” Huws says. “If UK farmers are to meet a zerocarbon model, we really need to start putting this kind of research into practice. “I hope IGFS and AFBI research can soon provide the necessary data and reassurance for governments to take forward.” n



Front footing mental health By Cheyenne Nicholson

There is help available for farmers who are silently suffering from wellbeing issues but they are not alone and need to speak up.


ne in five farmers suffer with their mental health. It’s a complex, messy beast that leaves many people feeling alone and hopeless. But each year, more and more farmers are standing up and removing the stigma of mental health by sharing their own stories. Matamata dairy farmer Sam Owen is one of those farmers. Sam loves to talk. His wife lovingly calls him a Chatty Cathy, but he has had to learn to have a different type of conversation over the past few years. “Mental health is more than just one thing, there are several triggers and we all have different triggers. People can carry a lot of burden in one area, but a small thing in another part of life could tip them over the edge,” Sam says. “With my depression, when I’m in a dark place, I always deny that the best could happen and believe that the worst will happen. It’s something I try to fight back on and flip around, but some days it’s hard.” Sam, who moved to New Zealand from Wales with his parents when he was 16, now lives in Walton, a small township just out of Matamata, with his wife Jacqui and their two children Abbie and Rhys. Working as the operations manager over a 400-cow spring calving unit, he is also a 50% equity owner of a 70ha dry stock unit and ‘general dogs body’ on another 70ha dairy farm tied into the dry stock farm. His love for dairying started in 1999 when his parents moved next door to a dairy farm and organised an afterschool job for him. Since then he’s been working towards his dairying dreams alongside Jacqui. During his years in the industry, he’s had his share of good and bad employers and says it’s important to


take lessons from all of them. That said, back in 2006, the couple took a job that resulted in having a negative impact on his physical and mental health. Working too long hours and dealing with some animal welfare issues onfarm that were outside of his control, he

Waikato farmer Sam Owen has been working on putting his mental health on the same level of importance as his physical health.

started feeling low, tired, irritable and at times, helpless. “I put it down to burn out, but I went to the doctor who suspected depression and suggested I rest and recover for a bit. I eventually resigned from that role, took some time off dairying and started

Learning to open up a different conversation with his friends and family has helped Sam with his mental health battle. Sam with his family who have been a great support. Jacqui and Sam with children Rhys and Abbie.

working on my father-in-law’s dry stock farm,” he says. “Like many dairy farmers, it turns out I couldn’t stay away. I started wanting to get back into dairying. I had more experience under my belt so I could recognise those bad employers, so I felt like the next time around would be better.” In 2014 on an $8.40 payout, the couple jumped at a 50:50 sharemilking opportunity and invested every dollar they had into their herd. That same year the payout dropped by half and the pressure came on strong to keep things afloat for his young family. They managed to get by that first year with some leverage from the bank. The second year rolled around with an opening forecast of $5, which dropped to $4.90, and he started to question if he had made the right call taking the job.


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“It was my dream to go 50:50 so I felt pressure to make it work,” he says. In September 2015, everything changed. One night his son Rhys, who is heavily asthmatic, came into their bedroom and said he couldn’t breathe. Sam says the events that followed are both a blur and burned clearly into his memories forever. “We did everything we could, then his eyes rolled back in his head and he died in my arms. We were able to resuscitate him with the help from the amazing nurses we had on the phone. We got him to hospital and he had all the specialists on the case,” he recalls. A few days later, they thought they would lose their son again when he went downhill a second time. It was a horrific period for the family, made worse by the later findings that the house they were living in on-farm had P residue, which

had exacerbated his asthma and doctors suspected this caused the collapse of Rhys’ lungs in the first place. “We immediately moved him out and we all lived at my father-in-law’s place. I had $500,000 worth of debt with the bank, a child battling his own lungs and was having to commute to and from work each day. We had a commitment and our life savings tied up, so we had to make do until our contract finished,” he says. With Rhys on the mend and their contract finished, the pressure came off. But that’s when things started to get bad for him. “A lot of the time, you can carry the burden for a long time because you have to, but when the pressure goes off, you realise the extent of things,” he says.

Continued page 72 71

Feeling like the only way to get on top of everything was to work more, he was working himself to the bone at their next job. A drought, overworking and an accident, which saw him off the farm for a few weeks, he began to slip badly into a sea of negative thoughts. Feelings of not being good for anyone, beating himself up for the workload he wasn’t doing while injured and feelings of hopelessness that he couldn’t see a clear path out of. “What goes on in your head, it’s like a washing machine of positive and negative thoughts. When you’re in a bad space, the negative thoughts push the positive ones into a dark corner. Now, instead of letting the thoughts keep space in my head, I write them down. Farmers are good at dealing with physical issues. By taking the thoughts out of your head and onto paper, they become a physical problem and sometimes that’s all you need

Sam is very open with his mental health story and hopes his story can help others out there.

to do to put them aside,” he says. With the support of his friends and family he sought help from his doctor, who referred him to a counsellor and got him on medication. He’s learnt to open different conversations with his friends and family around mental health. “I came to realise the impact the thoughts I was having and some of the actions I was taking were having on those around me. I wasn’t listening properly or sleeping. I had zero confidence in any of my decisions, which was crippling at times, even down to not being able to pick a paddock for the cows,” he says. Since then, things have been better. He takes his medication every day to help level out his days and lessen the impact of the ups and downs life throws at him. He’s been working on supporting Jacqui and the kids like they did for him. “With depression it’s almost like you have blinkers on. When they were

having issues, it wouldn’t register with me. Jacqui is a lawyer and carries a lot of stress on behalf of her clients, and then she was worried about me,” he says.

“I had $500,000 worth of debt with the bank, a child battling his own lungs and was having to commute to and from work each day.” Counselling has been invaluable for helping to develop tools to better cope with his depression. He says that much of his go-to advice may seem cliché, but it’s important. He has incorporated all these little things into his everyday life, from getting a good night’s sleep and getting back to the things that give you joy and writing things down. “Remember that there is always tomorrow. When you’re depressed or anxious, tomorrow never factors in. It feels like a dark place, but tomorrow is hope. Tomorrow is when you can make things different,” he says. Sharing his story with others has acted as a form of therapy for him as well. He’s not shy about telling his story and says that even if it only resonates and helps one person, it’s worth it. Through his role as a facilitator with Rural Support Trust and his speaking engagements with local Young Farmers clubs, he is keen to focus on the young people coming through the industry and helping them deal with the stress of the job. “I’ve been there. I know what it’s like going from an employee to selfemployed, all that pressure on yourself. I want people to realise it’s not a bad thing to front foot your mental health. There is a linkage between your mental and physical health, and it’s important to get them in balance,” he says. n

MORE: Suffering from depression or stress, or know someone who is? Where to get help: Rural Support Trust: 0800 RURAL HELP Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 Lifeline: 0800 543 354 Need To Talk? Call or text 1737 Samaritans: 0800 726 666 Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234



December 2021


Changing farmer perceptions By Tony Benny

Putting measures in place to prevent mental health issues rather than being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is working.


hanging the focus from helping farmers struggling with mental health issues to preventing them from getting into those dark places is making a difference in rural New Zealand, Farmstrong project manager Gerard Vaughan says. That change in thinking was the innovation that led to the formation of the organisation which has engaged with thousands of farmers throughout NZ since it was formed in 2015. “We started to talk about how could we help people to not get into some of the difficult places psychologically and with diminished wellbeing, and we started to collaborate and get together with a bunch of people who were passionate about wanting to do something about that and that’s where the innovation came out,” Vaughan told a mental health workshop at Lincoln University. The idea was to put together a programme that promoted tools and strategies to help farmers cope with mental health challenges and at the heart of that was farmers talking to farmers. The first step was asking farmers throughout NZ about their wellbeing and finding out what they thought should go into a programme. “One of the big insights was that farmers do something different in their farming practice because either their wife tells them that’s a good idea, or another farmer tells them,” he says. The other big insight was that some farmers were putting good systems in place for their wellbeing but they weren’t telling anybody about it. “At a real extreme, we met a farmer who took a two-week holiday every year but he said, ‘I don’t tell my nextdoor-neighbour I’m away. He may think I’m not a very good farmer if I go for a


December 2021

Farmstrong project manager Gerard Vaughan says farmers talking with farmers is at the heart of helping them to cope with mental health challenges.

“A successful farmer and farming business is one that has systems in place to look after the most important asset in the business, which is the people who work in it.” Gerard Vaughan

holiday’,” he says. Vaughan says that perception of farming must be broken. “Actually, a successful farmer and farming business is one that has systems in place to look after the most important asset in the business, which is the people who work in it, alongside the really good systems that New Zealand farmers have around their land, stock and machinery,” he says. Every year, Farmstrong randomly surveys 450 farmers who they’ve engaged with and asks them a series

of questions based on a dashboard of behavioural measures they’ve developed, including danger signs like not getting enough sleep, not getting away from the farm, becoming physically unfit and being at risk of an accident. They’re also asked about ways to wellbeing, including being connected, whether they’re learning, taking notice of the things that give them pleasure, the ability to live in the present and not dwell on the past or future and their ability to cope with the ups and downs of farming. In 2020, 22% of farmers attributed an improvement in their wellbeing to their engagement with Farmstrong, a total of more than 15,000 farmers. “What a resilient farmer looks like is actually not an isolated farmer who just puts up with heaps of stuff and never falls over,” he says. “It’s actually a connected farmer who’s got a support network that can have honest conversations about what some of the real challenges are and will have people listening to them so you can then work together to work out what the solutions are.” n



Farmers hit the surf Whakatāne dairy farmer Selwyn Cleland joined surfing for Farmers last year and has been finding it invaluable in connecting with like-minded people who are facing the same challenges on their farms. Photo: Sherrie Thompson

By Sonita Chandar

Farmers are increasingly coming under pressure, with some paying the ultimate price as they can no longer cope, but support organisations and initiatives are available for those who need a chat.


he surf is up for farmers around the country looking to get offfarm for a few hours and catch up with friends and neighbours. The surf therapy initiative Surfing for Farmers, established to improve mental health and wellbeing in rural communities, is now in its fourth season and gaining in popularity. Launched in Gisborne in 2018 by Stephen Thomson, people around the country have seen the success of the Gisborne model and reached out to replicate the programme into 21 regions across the country. Thomson says he started the initiative after watching a documentary called Resurface on American soldiers returning from Afghanistan and suffering from PTSD. “They took these soldiers surfing to improve their wellbeing and it occurred to me we could do that for our farmers to help them feel good and switch off from the farm,” Stephen says. Turning to the Gisborne Boardriders, boards, tutors and wetsuits were organised and the only thing missing was the farmers. “We had an incredible turnout with 25 farmers on the first day and it has grown ever since. It has just been brilliant,” he says. The learn-to-surf programme is free and provides an opportunity for farmers to step away from what can be an all-consuming business, get fresh air, exercise and interact with other farmers, rural families and industry professionals. Whakatāne dairy farmers Selwyn and


Hannah Cleland are now in their second season of surfing. Selwyn grew up in Whakatāne but spent little time at the beach and was teaching up until last season when he returned to the family farm. Friends and family stressed to him the importance of getting off-farm occasionally. “Dad especially said it was important to get away even for a few hours and it was something he probably wished he had done more over the years,” Selwyn says. “And another Waikato farming friend is a big advocate for getting off-farm so I took his advice on board.” Hannah had seen the post about Surfing for Farmers on the Rural Support Trust Facebook page and they decided to give it a go, despite neither having surfed before. “Last year, Hannah came along and looked after the kids while I surfed but this year she is learning too,” he says. Hannah says that she is still learning but admits she isn’t that great at it. “I am a total novice. I spend a lot of time flapping my arms around,” she laughs. Selwyn is learning and has progressed to the point he can stand up and ride a wave in. “My first season on the farm was pretty cruisy but at the time, I didn’t realise how much Dad was doing. This season we moved onto the farm and I did the calving and that is when I realised just how much he was doing,” he says. With calving being the busiest time of the year, he experienced the usual fatigue

and long hours and the beginning of what can be described as burnout. “It was probably the most work I had done in my life and I was spending long hours away from Hannah and the kids,” he says. “Friends told me I needed some time off the farm and didn’t want to see me for three days. They were amazing and just took over and gave me the break I needed.” Since then, he has made a point of taking time out and Surfing for Farmers provides a perfect opportunity. “It is a great environment, relaxed and fun and the instructors are great,” he says. “And we get to talk to like-minded people who are all facing similar issues on the farm as we are and we can bounce ideas around.” Stephen says Surfing for Farmers wouldn’t be possible without the support of their sponsors as the organisation foots all the bills from the wetsuits and board hire, to paying the instructors and the BBQ dinner supplied afterwards. “It’s amazing to see the growth of Surfing for Farmers in the past year; all of this is thanks to the many volunteers who are all trying to do something to help our rural communities – a huge thank you to everyone that’s already put their hands up to help out,” Stephen says. Surfing for Farmers is sponsored by Local Legends, in which businesses donate $1000. Premium sponsors include Bayleys, Balance, Rabobank, Jarden, Beef + Lamb NZ and Meridian Energy. n


December 2021


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For many farmers, their workplace is often their home, and this initiative provides an opportunity for farmers to get away from the day-to-day pressures of the land for a few hours each week. So whether you’re buying or selling a 500-acre farm or a five-hectare lifestyle block, or simply interested in taking a break from the farm and having a go on the water, you’re in altogether better hands with Bayleys Country.

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Be a nosey bugger By Gerald Piddock

Asking someone if they are okay is the first step to helping someone who may be quietly struggling but feels they can’t talk about it.


f you are worried about someone’s mental health, then talk to them about it. It is a simple but vital piece of advice clinical psychologist Nigel Latta says can encourage people to get help for depression before it is too late. “If you’re worried about someone, ask them. If you’re worried about a friend because you haven’t heard from them, ask them how they are doing,” Latta says. “Just say to them, ‘How are you doing dude, I haven’t heard from you for a while, you’ve gone a bit quiet and I know you’ve got some really stressful stuff going on’.” No one has ever killed themselves from asking those questions and while it was a scary question to ask, you should feel okay asking it, he said in a questionand-answer webinar organised by Dairy Business 360. “If you are feeling it could be something, then trust your instinct and ask the question,” he says. If they then say that they are struggling, let them know that you understand how tough it is and it is normal to have those thoughts when feeling down – but acting on them was not normal. Latta says people with depression and suicidal thoughts often have their brain convince themselves that it would be better off for everyone if they were not around. “If you’re thinking that, it’s not true. What this will do is inflict a wound on people that they will carry around with them for the rest of their lives,” he says. “If the only reason you can hang on and not do this to someone that you care about in your family, then don’t do it,” he says. For some, this has kept them hanging on long enough until they get the help they need. He says farmers needed to love their staff and accept it was their job to look


“One of the jobs about being a good leader of people is noticing when things aren’t right and checking up on them.” Nigel Latta

Clinical psychologist Nigel Latta says it is a good thing to be nosey and ask people if they are okay or need help.

after them and make sure they are okay – and if they are worried about them, ask them how they are doing. “In 20 years of doing counselling stuff with people, there’s no clever wordy ways of saying stuff. It’s just you and this person sitting there having a chat,” he says. Trust your gut and if your gut is telling you that a staff member is struggling, reach out to them. “One of the jobs about being a good leader of people is noticing when things aren’t right and checking up on them,” he says.

“It’s good to be a nosey bugger.” In terms of dealing with stress, Latta suggested a tip from the philosophy of stoicism – control the controllable. He says focusing only on the things you can control in times of stress was one of the most useful pieces of thinking. “That’s my go-to stress management technique,” he says. There are also really good websites to help people deal with anxiety and depression. “If you’re really struggling, you have just got to ask someone for help and the first step would be to go to your GP,” he says. There are a variety of good medications for depression that can help and the next step was finding someone to talk to help untangle any issues. Latta was also asked on how to better connect with Generation Y and Z. He told listeners he did not subscribe to the stereotype of the younger generation being useless and self-entitled. Instead, they just wanted to be paid a decent amount and treated respectfully. In his younger days, Latta says he just kept quiet and put up with bullying behaviour from some bosses in terrible working conditions. For employers with young staff, they had to be given a sense of autonomy and made to feel that their job is making a difference. “If you want to have a team of motivated people that work hard, you have to have those things,” he says.


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The culture of an employer’s work team was extremely important. It was the bedrock that many businesses are built on. If bosses value creating that culture, he says they will be rewarded with loyalty and productivity. He rubbished talk that the younger generation do not care. When the Christchurch earthquakes occurred, one of the biggest volunteer groups that

helped out was the Student Volunteer Army. Working on a dairy farm is not a job, it is a lifestyle and the dairy industry needs to sell that concept to people if it wants to attract people to the industry. “It’s a way of living that you’re signing up for. It’s about trying to appeal to people looking for that and there will be people,” he says. The industry also had to find its ‘why’.

“If it were me I would be thinking, ‘why are you a dairy farmer, why do you choose this life?’ That’s the stuff you should be pushing out to people,” he says. Latta also believed people still thought it was farmers “wandering around in gumboots”. “They have no idea of the complexity and just how interesting farming is,” he says. n

Farmers need to trust their gut and if it is telling them that a staff member is struggling, reach out to them, Nigel Latta says.


Raw Truth •

with Harriet Bremner Join Harriet for authentic conversations about grief, trauma and mental health with those who are brave enough to share their tales. Be inspired and learn how to better deal with the unexpected turns life throws at you.

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Available now in the Farmers Weekly podcast library.


Lighten the load By Tony Benny

A seemingly innocent act of buying stock proved to be devastating for a Canterbury farmer.


aced with the slaughter of all 2500 cows on his Oxford, North Canterbury, farm when mycoplasma was detected four years ago, Geoff Spark embraced the problem and relied on the support of family and friends to get through. “We learned how important it was to share the load and I was fortunate to have the sharemilkers, two brothers actually, as part of the team. We’d been together seven years so we know each other really well; we work well together and we were able to share the load between us,” Spark says. If you’re trying to deal with something that big on your own, I’d hate to be in that situation.” Until then farming was going well for Spark and his sharemilkers and when they bought in some heifers from Southland, almost nobody in the farming community had heard of M bovis. But six months later, when it was confirmed that one of the farms they bought the stock from was at the centre of the outbreak, they knew they were in trouble. The young stock were culled and five of them were found to be infected, and soon afterwards the slaughter of all cattle on the farm was required by MPI. “It was a real soul-searching time for myself and my sharemilkers. There were generations of breeding in those cows so we had to dig pretty deep, but we quickly realised we had to embrace the problem and I guess there were quite a few learnings,” he says. Spark spoke at a mental health and wellbeing workshop at Lincoln University recently and said even though it was a negative situation, they tried to be as positive as possible and focus on solutions. But he says the sharemilkers were on the verge of walking away and real conversations were needed to find a way through. “We learnt you have to compromise if your end goal is to rebuild and we had that goal once we’d had the tough


North Canterbury farmer Geoff Sparks struggled with his mental health after Mycoplasma bovis was discovered on his farm and all animals had to be destroyed.

“We learnt you have to compromise if your end goal is to rebuild and we had that goal once we’d had the tough conversation.” Geoff Sparks conversation. I said to them, ‘I’ll back you, we’ll go again’, and once we’d decided that’s what we were going to do, we found a way through,” he says. “Because there were three of us sharing those discussions, sharing the stress and the load, which really helped. I guess it’s the old saying, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. “We also realised we had to keep the emotional side of the issue quite separate from the business side because when you’ve got 2500 animals being culled, emotionally that’s incredibly taxing. But you had to keep that aside and just find a way though on the business side so we soon learned that you can’t mix those two together or it gets too hard.” Four years on, Spark reckons they’re stronger than they were before M bovis because they’ve really been tested. He makes sure he keeps his social contacts

active and he gets enough exercise; two recognised contributors to good mental health. That started when he agreed to the large irrigation lake on the farm being used for a local endurance, half ironman event, the OxMan. After 400 athletes had cycled, run and paddled round the farm and surrounding roads, the event organisers wanted to pay Sparks for the privilege, but he preferred the money to go to charity and selected Farmstrong as the recipient. He now works alongside the organisation. Now he and 23 local farmers and friends have a WhatsApp group they use to organiser weekly bike rides. “There’s something really awesome about just getting out off the farm with a group of mates and if you can combine that with some exercise as well, you end up killing two birds with one stone – having a yarn and having some exercise and feeling really good at the end of it,” he says. “Farmers are often quite isolated, so that’s why it’s really important to take those opportunities to stay connected because often you think you’re the only one that’s dealing with all the problems, but when you connect with other farmers you find out most people are in the same boat – you’re all short of feed or have similar issues.” n


December 2021


Like humans, cows need to drink to stay cool in warmer weather so make sure you provide them with plenty of water.

Cooling the cows Frank Portegys Senior extension partner


ecember marks the official start of summer and temperatures will only continue to rise across the country in the coming months. During summer, it can get hot and uncomfortable. Summer can get sticky for cows too and they begin to feel the heat sooner, as they prefer temperatures between 4 and 20degC. When cows get uncomfortable in the heat, they try to stay cool the same ways humans do – they drink more, become less active and use shade where available. When the temperature gets above 21degC, Friesian and crossbred cows also start to reduce their feed intake and produce less milk. Jersey cows cope better with warmer temperatures and don’t usually start producing less milk until the temperature reaches 25degC, although factors like high humidity and warmer night temperatures affect this. There are some good strategies you


December 2021

can use to protect your cows from discomfort during summer. Water One of the first things to consider is your water supply. This is the easiest and cheapest way to reduce cow discomfort. If your cows are rushing to drink after milking, or the trough can’t always keep up, your cows are thirsty. To reduce this, you should have good water supply both in the paddock and in the race way up to the shed, so cows can have a drink on the way to the paddock after milking. You will also need to check you have good flow rates, so that troughs don’t dry. Milking times Altering milking times so cows avoid walking in the heat of the day is another strategy to reduce cow discomfort. This not only benefits the herd but will help your farm staff feel more comfortable too. Cooling Sprinklers can be used over the dairy yard to wet the cows’ coats and aid evaporative cooling. You’ll need to use enough water that it runs off the cows to be effective. This is best used in conjunction with fans to help move humid air away after wetting. Pre-cooling the yard with water before

“Altering milking times so cows avoid walking in the heat of the day is another strategy to reduce cow discomfort.” the cows arrive and allowing them space so they aren’t too close together in the yard also helps to keep cows cool. Shade Using paddocks with shade from trees helps reduce heat stress in livestock. If you don’t have trees now, consider planting some to provide shade in the future. While hotter temperatures can be more stressful for cows, many farmers are using a range of strategies to keep their cows as comfortable as possible. Now is a good time to talk to your team about what you can do to reduce heat stress amongst your herd. n


More information is available online at dairynz.co.nz/heatstress

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Proudly brought to you by WelFarm

Dairy Diary December 2021 December 1 – Align Farms Align Farms Regenerative Trial Field Day. Join us on December 1 for our first field day, where we will be sharing the results of our regenerative trial to-date. RSVP for catering/covid purposes at environment@alignfarms. co.nz December 1 – SMASH Let’s Celebrate Dairy Pohangina Details TBC, info at www.smallerherds.co.nz December 2 – SMASH Spotlight on the system, Tariki. Greg and Amanda Bland are our hosts for this field day, where we are going to find out about the changes they have made and their outcomes since purchasing their farm two seasons ago. Info at www.smallerherds.co.nz December 2 – DairyNZ Central Plateau, Lucerne Field Day. We will have Professor Derick Moot joining us. He has spent a lifetime researching and perfecting lucerne grown in New Zealand and is currently leading Lincoln University Drylands project. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz December 2 & 14 – DairyNZ Your Farmer Insight report explained. DairyNZ are working with Fonterra to help farmers get the most out of their Farmer Insight reports. The insights report also provides excellent farm level information on: bulk SCC; heat stress; milking time; lameness; and mastitis. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz December 2 – DairyNZ GoodYarn Workshop, Taieri. GoodYarn farmer wellness workshops help participants recognise and respond appropriately to friends, family, farming colleagues or customers suffering from stress or mental illness. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz


December 2 – DairyNZ Register interest for a South Canterbury Share Farmer group. Are you a contract milker or sharemilker who wants to be involved in a closed group focusing on business, finances and challenges being faced? We are taking expressions of interest in forming a South Canterbury Share Farmer group. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz December 3 – 31 DairyNZ Register interest for ongoing Contract Milker/VOSM groups. The Canterbury extension team are keen to run local Contract Milker/VOSM groups to upskill, network and benchmark with peers at a similar stage in their farming career. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz December 7 – DairyNZ Orepuki/Tuatapere. Milking frequencies, nitrogen use efficiency and HR systems at scale. Daniel and Kerry Manley have offered to host our next Orepuki/Tuatapere discussion group on-farm. They are in their second season contract milking for Canterbury Grasslands; 1500 cows across two properties. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz December 7 – Dairy Women’s Network Ohanagi Discussion Group, Taranaki Come along and check out Hollie and Owen’s new/old farm. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz December 7 – DairyNZ High-input discussion group, lower North Island This group is designed to look at the issues and opportunities associated with running a high-input system. It is open to all who are interested.Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz December 8 – DairyNZ E350 public field day, McGinty’s. If you’re a farmer or rural professional, this is your chance to find out about Northland’s Extension 350 Project at one of 10 public field days being held across the region. The project is a long-term farmer-to-farmer extension programme designed to help Northland farmers succeed Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz


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