Dairy Farmer September 2021

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Caring for the land Taranaki farmers on an environmental journey PLUS:

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September 2021


CONTENTS NEWS 16 Milk Monitor Farm profit up

SEPTEMBER 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.

19 Blue September Go blue this month to support prostate cancer


A meaningful legacy Taranaki farmers reverting parts of the farm to how it used to be

20 Breeding the best Canterbury farmers are large-scale dairy and beef


Guest column – Vanessa Winning

28 Dairy champion – Wayne Langford and Siobhan O’Malley 32 Women in agribusiness – Kate Burgess

FEATURES 56 Cropping and pasture 62 Better bulls better calves


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

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

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

Contributors ROSS NOLLY ross_nolly@yahoo.co.nz

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GERALD PIDDOCK 027 486 8346 gerald.piddock@globalhq.co.nz SAMANTHA TENNENT sommer.limited@gmail.com

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CHEYENNE NICHOLSON offthehoofmedia@gmail.com

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36 Research 40 Technology 46 Innovations 76 Industry good – DairyNZ

TONY BENNY troutstream@farmside.co.nz

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GERARD HUTCHING gerard.hutching@gmail.com

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ANNE BOSWELL anne@anneboswell.co.nz


ernest.nieuwoudt@globalhq.co.nz ELLA HOLLAND – Livestock

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

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COVER STORY Taranaki farmers on an environmental journey

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A necessary change By Vanessa Winning

The IrrigationNZ chief executive outlines where the organisation stands on water legislation and policy reviews.


here is a plethora of legislative and policy review under way this year and it’s daunting having so much change all going on at once – the projected speed of some of the change is also daunting and, in some cases, unachievable. Having to make submissions while doing day jobs and in the middle of the busiest time of the year is also confronting. And it’s not just farming and the primary industry impacted, we also have a complete overhaul of the education and health sectors at the same time – right now I would suggest no industry is not under some kind of change. Two huge ones that impact on farmers are the RMA reform, essentially the largest regulatory change in the past 30 years, and the Three Waters approach – including the Water Services Bill, which directly impacts the rural suppliers and smaller communities. The RMA reform creates three new proposed bills, the first of which is the Natural and Built Environments Act, which was up for submissions in early August. The change largely follows the Randerson Report about the unworkable components of the original RMA and its limitations due to the ongoing litigation and consenting processes. The brief is available to review, but was light on detail. We believe this was so they could get information from the impacted sectors and have more information to prepare the act itself. IrrigationNZ submitted with the support of Anderson Lloyd lawyers, the Irrigation Schemes and our wider membership. We take the approach of getting membership engagement in our submissions, as they tend to be more practical and provide insight we don’t always have. Essentially the RMA has to change, it is unworkable and a significant barrier to infrastructure development, but the brief as we have seen it still focuses mainly


September 2021

on urban development and does not adequately consider, in our opinion, the wider economic and community aspects, so we have suggested definitions to improve this. With water services, under the wider Three Waters Proposal, we submitted to reducing the cap on those included (we asked for five or less dwellings to be excluded) and we are asking for time, practical solutions, less regulation and utilising existing frameworks. Essentially we are welcoming the changes for the second reading to the Health Select Committee from the review process because while we didn’t get the definition change, and all suppliers are still included, we are very pleased that the proposal has allowed for the rural water suppliers to have three years from the enactment of the Bill to conduct assessment and put in place mitigation measures to ensure safe drinking water. Prior to this change, the timeframe was immediate like other suppliers – this time is essential to getting this right and supporting change We wholeheartedly agree with the intent of the Water Services Bill and want to ensure rural communities have access to safe drinking water and prevent what happened in Havelock North from occurring again. We did, however, want to make sure this happened in a way that meant our smaller rural suppliers weren’t unnecessarily hit with unworkable compliance expectations that would be near impossible to implement. The response to our submission, and other irrigation companies’ submissions, was very positive. The Health Select Committee was impressed by the work that has been done with mitigation ideas and in their report back they have acknowledged the need for a more workable approach for our rural suppliers. Once the Bill is enacted, Taumata Arowai have committed to working with us over the next three years to ensure a

IrrigationNZ chief executive Vanessa Winning says the large number of changes being proposed could lead to some being unachievable.

suitable process for implementation and we look forward to engaging in this. We have asked for a ‘healthy homes’ type approach, where councils and regulatory bodies incentivise adoption of acceptable solutions such as UV filters or backflow preventers. We’d also like to see existing frameworks such as the integrated farm plan or farm environment plan used as an approach for water registering and mitigation, meaning certified farm consultants would be authorised to sign this off after appropriate training, reducing the cost and time burden of additional compliance mechanisms and meaning a holistic approach on farm. Everyone wants safe drinking water and our smaller suppliers and rural communities are most vulnerable to being exposed to unsafe water supply. Again, once enacted we will be working with Taumata Arowai to ensure a clear and practical pathway for implementation and keeping our communities healthy and well. Change is scary. Having time and support is key to achieving the right outcomes and it’s refreshing that this has been the approach. We would like to see more of this with other legislative changes and, most especially, the RMA changes – time will tell, but we will continue to advocate for practical solutions, support for change and time to implement. n


Taranaki farmers Damian and Jane Roper milk 420 cows on their 320-hectare farm where they created wetlands and have built a pā. Photos: Ross Nolly

A meaningful legacy Farming journey leads to learning te reo Māori.



September 2021

By Ross Nolly

The owners of an award-winning farm in Taranaki have been on an environmental journey that has led to unexpected things.


Taranaki farming couple whose mission statement is to run a tidy, profitable, efficient dairy farm, with very minimal impact on the environment, are keeping their sights on returning the retired areas of the farm to how it was in pre-European times. It’s a long-term vision, but they are adamant it’s the correct choice. Damian and Jane Roper operate a 320-hectare (158ha effective) Hurleyville, South Taranaki, dairy farm – 158ha is used for dairying, 100ha is planted in pines and the remainder is retired land. They also lease a 40ha run-off. Their environmental journey began when they fenced off and began predator trapping a stand of 2.5ha virgin native bush. They never envisioned that it would lead to them creating wetlands, planting 26,000 trees on their dairy farm and to begin learning te reo Māori. They have built a 500-metre long boardwalk through the stand of 2.5ha virgin native bush behind their house and plan to keep extending it. The bush is a reminder of what the entire area once looked like. And after finding ngaokeoke (velvet worms), the Roper’s formed a partnership with the Taranaki Regional Council and placed the bush into a Key Native Ecosystem. Eventually it will be placed into QEII. They run a vigorous pest trapping programme and feel it is one of their responsibilities of being responsible farmers. The efforts are paying off with

the arrival of a pair of kākā in that bush and they are now seeing many more, tūī, riroriro, wharauroa, ruru and other native birds. “It’s also so gratifying to see groups like the Te Kōhanga Reo, Botanical Societies, school groups come through and become enthused and excited about the wētā, the trees and the biodiversity they discover,” Jane says. That small patch of bush has inspired them to increase their environmental work. Last year they planted 4500 rewarewa (Knightia excelsa) and mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium) to add to the 26,000 trees they have already planted on the farm. “Rewarewa flowers in November and mānuka usually comes on in January. You can combine rewarewa as a succession-type tree alongside mānuka and incorporate bees,” she says. A 100ha pine block is due to be harvested in the next two to three years and the area will be replanted in indigenous forest plants, with a strong emphasis on rewarewa and mānuka alongside other indigenous species. Logging contractors have told them that they can replant in pines, but are unlikely to harvest due to the steepness. This tells them that indigenous trees are their best option and are looking to incorporate a community cycleway into the planting. Their totara and beech plantings should provide an opportunity for a cash crop through selective harvesting.

FARM FACTS • Owners: Damian and Jane Roper • Location: Hurleyville, South Taranaki • Farm size: 320ha (158ha effective), 40ha lease runoff • Cows: 420-425, Friesian and crossbreed • Production: 2020-21: 248,900kg MS • Target: 2021-22: 250,000kg MS

“The indigenous planting and wetlands have been created on steep, marginal land that is prone to erosion and slips. Especially the papa faces, that shouldn’t have been cleared of native bush in the first place,” Damian says. Taranaki-based GeoSearch has designed a water management plan regime for Lake Ōhuarai, wetlands and waterways that work alongside their environmental farm plan. Their farm

Continued page 10

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“All workers on site were blessed and throughout the build it had a peaceful and enjoyable atmosphere.” Damian Roper

Damian and Jane Roper have planted more than 26,000 trees on their farm. Damian and Jane in the nursery with mānuka seedlings they have propagated.

water quality is now getting very close to the quality of pre-European times. “It’s been great to see Fonterra and other milk processors putting sustainability and the environment at the forefront of their operations. It’s a win-

win for our milk exports and our native biodiversity,” he says. Their environmental work won them the 2019 Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award, which recognises dairy farmers who demonstrate leadership in their

approach to sustainability and who are respected by their fellow farmers and community for their attitude and role in sustainable dairying. Through their journey, they discovered that Māori environmental values were identical to their own – caring for the land and water, and not taking more than you need. They already held those values but they were reinforced through learning te reo Māori. “Learning te reo Māori has taught us that everything is connected. We’ve always known that, but learning te reo Māori has really brought it home. When you affect environmental elements, like the water, it also affects the fish, eels and the food chain,” he says. “I was becoming self-conscious

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because I couldn’t pronounce Māori words correctly. We decided to begin te reo Māori classes so we would be more respectful. Māori values fit well with our farming values and our way of working the land. We enjoy it and have met many people through it,” she says. Learning te reo inspired them to build their pā tūwatawata when they needed something to protect their greenhouse. The purpose of the greenhouse is: Ko te kaupapa o te Pā Ko te whakatipu rakau Māori Kia whakatokia ki te pamu Hei taonga hoki mā te hāpori E hoki mai ana Te Tawa, te Rimu, te Hīnau me te Māire ki te kāinga tupu. Translated, this means “...for the propagation and growing of eco-sourced native seeds then planting out on our farm and gifting them to the community. The tawa, the rimu, the hināu and the māire are coming home”. Local iwi Ngāti Ruanui were approached to seek approval and advice and kaumātua and rangatira visited the site to hear about the project. “They gave us their blessing and guided us through the entire process. Ngāti Ruanui helped us name the Pā; Ōhuarai Pā I te kohu; Ōhuarai Pā in the mist,” he says. “We followed Ngāti Ruanui protocol and they coached us along the way. All workers on-site were blessed and throughout the build it had a peaceful and enjoyable atmosphere. The team couldn’t wait to get back on site each

Last season the herd produced 248,900kg MS on the System 3-4 farm. This season they are on target to produce 250,000kg MS.

day. It took about six weeks to build and was a fantastic experience that brought the community closer together.” A plastic-clad propagation whare named Rongo-marae-roa, (the house of generosity and hospitality) and a smaller shade whare named Tāne Mahuta (on growing the trees) nestle in the shelter provided by 4000 round fence posts that make up the pā walls. The construction cost was $60,000.

Continued page 12

Damian and Jane checking out their “wētā hotel” on the boardwalk through the stand of 2.5ha virgin native bush behind their house. The bush is a reminder of what the entire area once looked like.


September 2021

Through their environmental journey, Damian and Jane discovered that Māori environmental values were identical to their own, which led them to building the pā tūwatawata.


The Ropers run a vigorous pest-trapping programme and feel it is one of their responsibilities of being responsible farmers. Damian checks a predator trap in the 2.5ha protected bush behind the house.

“Some of the local farmers have allowed me onto their farms to collect eco-sourced seed, especially the extremely rare swamp māire. We’ll propagate the seeds and use the resulting trees on our farm and distribute others as gifts to the community,” he says. They are also building a mushroom complex at the Pā and plan to grow shiitake, lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms. The Ropers began their dairying journey via a non-typical route. Damian hails from Rotorua and completed a Bachelor of Agriculture at Massey University. He had always loved sheep and beef farming. He learnt to shear in Australia and after shearing there for a time he had the opportunity to shear in England and Wales. He then returned to Australia to shear before working in New Zealand. Jane was born on a beef, sheep and crop farm in Australia. She completed a Diploma in Hospitality and met Damian when she was undertaking practical experience in Rotorua. “I thoroughly enjoyed shearing, the people you meet and the places you see. It was how we were going to build a farm deposit. However, a shearing accident forced me to change tack,” he says. The couple decided that if they couldn’t go shearing for their farm deposit, they’d go dairying. “We started working for wages on a Waverley (South Taranaki) dairy farm. We were fortunate to have a very good boss who took us under his wing and taught us well during our three years there,” she says. They spent a year contract milking before beginning sharemilking. It was a fast transition and many banks were hesitant due to their short time in the


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“Damian wasn’t a lot better but we absorbed everything like sponges and went 50:50 sharemilking on the farm next door for four years, where we milked 420 cows.” Jane Roper

Rather than starting up the entire plant, Jane milks the first few early calving cows into a bucket.

industry. But the banks could see their drive, determination and good savings history. “When we began I knew nothing about dairy farming and didn’t even know that you milked cows twice-aday. Damian wasn’t a lot better but we absorbed everything like sponges and went 50:50 sharemilking on the farm next door for four years, where we milked 420 cows,” she says. “We were then offered a 50:50 job on a neighbouring farm and spent 17 years there milking 820 cows. We were fortunate to bring up our family in Waverley, which allowed our children to complete their schooling.” In 2006 they bought a 65ha farm at their present location and leased another to milk 300 cows. The farm they now live on came up for sale in 2008. “We operated those farms under variable-order sharemilking. We remained in Waverley for a further 12 years to make things pay. We moved to our present farm in 2015 and last year purchased the 150ha block that we’d always leased,” she says. While working a 50:50 sharemilking job and running their own farm from a distance, the couple also operated a direct-drill (grass seed and crops) farm contracting business. They were very busy, but made it work due to having a good team on board. Their son Jack works on the farm and has now taken over the seed drilling contracting business under Roper Agriculture.


September 2021

In 2012, they combined the farms and built a new 50-bail rotary shed, which made the two old herringbone sheds redundant. They had considered upgrading the old sheds but decided a new custom-designed centralised shed was the best option. “Two years of planning went into the new shed. We teamed up with our sharemilkers Bernard and Jodie Walkington and designed the dairy focusing on cow flow, cow comfort, aesthetics, labour efficiency and water efficiency. We wanted to build the shed

and feedpad at the same time so they flowed together. Many of the kitset sheds had good and poor aspects and any changes came at a cost,” he says. They picked the best aspects from the sheds they visited and incorporated them into their design and used a project manager from Waikato Milking Systems who put their ideas together. When they looked at the first draft, apart from a couple of minor tweaks, they thought “I think we’ve got it”. Their shed was built by contractors who had never previously built a cowshed, but who were the best in their area of expertise. Having a project manager to sort out problems simplified the construction. This was especially important because they were still sharemilking at Waverley and couldn’t always be on-site. They winter 440 cows and milk 420425. Last season the herd produced 585kg MS per cow. The target was 580kg MS, but a good autumn helped them

Continued page 14

Damian, Jane and fencing contractor Colin Schrader who built the pā.


Damian and Jane spend the afternoon planting out some natives around their wetlands area.

achieve more. This gain was achieved at the same feed input as when the herd produced 450kg MS per cow. The farm is a System 3-4, with 20ha of the milking platform and 5ha of the runoff being used to grow 450 tonnes of maize, 100t of pasture is made into silage and 150 bales of hay made. They also purchase 140 bales. About 150t of PKE is fed, but they are looking to swap it out. They feed 160-170t of a kibbled maize/DDG-based in-shed performance feed and summer crops of chicory and turnips are used to cope with any dry periods. “The chicory grows well, but still needs moisture. It does grow in a drought but at a slower rate. That’s when the turnips kick in, which takes the pressure off the chicory. We graze the turnips for a month and by then it’s usually rained and the


chicory comes back into play,” he says. “No-till is the way of the future. And our son Jack is really developing and growing his direct drilling business. We’ve noticed a huge increase in soil microbes, improved soil structure and drainage due to no-till. Our crop yields are similar and often better than conventional tillage. Every five to six years pastures are replaced with the latest variety, helping us to grow 17 tonne DM/ha.” Through dropping the 110 lower production-worth cows out of their system to attain their present number, they achieved a 28% rise in productivity. Animal health issues have dropped and animal drug use has halved. They can now ride out climatic extremes far better. During calving the springer mob comes to the feedpad at 6am to be fed a mineral blended feed. Freshly-calved

cows are drafted from the pad into the colostrum mob. This has proved to be a safe, time-efficient and stress-free system. Maize was fed in the paddock. A quadrat sample was undertaken from pasture where the cows had eaten the maize and where Damian couldn’t see any leftovers. They discovered that there was 25% wastage. “We then sampled a slightly wet area and discovered that the wastage was up to 40%. On the feedpad we only have 2-3% wastage. In the first year of using the feedpad we used 200t of feed instead of the usual 400. And we had more production. That’s a huge cost saving. A feedpad is a must in areas of higher rainfall,” he says. Calving begins on July 26 and they keep 21% replacements. Jane is in charge of calf rearing. The calves are given colostrum immediately on arrival then fed six litres per day until week four or five. Calves then move onto pasture and milk intake dropped to three litres per day, plus meal, until weaning at 110kg. They are run on the farm until November when two-thirds go to the runoff and the rest (the smaller calves) stay on the farm until March/April. They do premating heats using tail paint ahead of mating, which begins on October 20. Since the reduction of the stocking rate, no CIDRs or intervention have been needed. “We keep our mating system very simple. We do 10 weeks of AI. During the first week Jersey semen is used across the entire herd for crossbred replacements. Friesian semen is then used for a further four-and-a-half weeks and short gestation semen from week six to 10,” he says. One of their aims is to reduce bobby calf numbers. There’s a strong market for Friesian bull calves and they have the ability to on-sell their bull calves, which helps them achieve that goal. They do not use bulls and their sixweek in-calf rate is 70%. “With an in-calf rate of 87-90%, there is still room for improvement and we have scheduled on-farm meetings every six weeks throughout the year with our nutritionist and vet, which are certainly paying dividends,” he says. The herd is 66% Friesian and 33% crossbreds (black cow-first cross). They find the first cross to be an efficient cow. Their herd has a BW of 112 and PW of 135 and a 99% reliability. It is a highproducing and low animal health-cost herd.


September 2021

The lake the Ropers created and planted up on their farm with the pā on the hill above. A keen duck hunter, Damian’s maimai is on the left.

“The crossbred has hybrid vigour, lower health problems, is easier to get in-calf, has higher fat/protein ratios and still able to achieve 580-600kg of milksolids. It’s

the best of both worlds and has worked for us for around 20 years. Pure Friesians are needed to obtain our first-cross replacements,” he says.

They are members of the WelFarm group and feel that this will become evermore important in the future. “Vets come to the farm to undertake complete cow full-body scores throughout the season and rank us against the other WelFarm farms throughout the country,” she says. It provides a guideline as to how our farm performs. It’s pleasing to see that dairy farmers are making good animal husbandry changes, such as antibiotic reduction, less lameness cases, lower SSC.” They are transparent about the work they are doing on farm and proud to show others what can be achieved “Our farm has an open door, we say ‘no’ to no one. Farmers should be proud of what they’re doing and not shy away from having people on their farm,” she says. “We’re still making strong profits and want to design an intergenerational farm system. We want the waterways clean and the birdlife back on our doorsteps. That’s what’s driving us to leave a n meaningful legacy,” he says.

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Milk price in a sweet spot 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.


wo separate reports released in August have shown how profitable the past two seasons were for the nation’s farmers. DairyNZ’s annual economic survey showed that operating profit jumped 28% in the 2019-20 season compared to the season prior to $2750 a hectare, while milksolids per cow and hectare were at their highest level to date. That’s a fairly impressive effort considering farmers battled drought, covid-19 and expenditure increases. Likewise, AgFirst’s 2021 financial survey painted a similar picture for last season. Farm profit after tax jumped 31% in 202021 thanks to a buoyant dairy payout. Countering this was an 8% increase in farm working expenses compared to the previous year from $4.26-$4.48/kg MS. Those costs had pushed the season’s breakeven payout up from $6.54-$6.94/ kg MS. This is what the payout needed to be for the model farm to be able to pay essential expenditure. That breakeven number averaged $5.98 between 2014-15 and 2020-21, but has crept up to just under $7/kg MS by last season. That rate of increase, as AgFirst economist Phil Journeaux says, was becoming unsustainable over the long-term. The big positive was that for now, the income being earned is greater than these expenses, the biggest being feed costs, followed by labour, fertiliser and overheads. Similarly, DairyNZ’s survey reported a 21c increase in costs to $5.31/kg MS in 2020-21. DairyNZ economist Graeme Doole says the jump in costs was not enough to erode profit because farmers were efficient spenders. It will still need a substantial fall in milk prices for it to fall below AgFirst’s $7/kg MS breakeven figure. Milk prices have petered along with eight auctions in a row of negative results before the mid-August auction that saw


This season’s peak milk period over spring could hold the key to a third profitable season for farmers.

a 0.3% lift, with all products rising apart from whole milk powder (WMP). The average across the board price for all goods was US$3827 a tonne, which is historically still pretty high. ANZ’s August Agrifocus says while commodity prices had eased, its forecast of $7.70/kg MS remained intact. It expected the modest growth in milk output for the rest of the year to help underpin commodity prices at or near current levels. Prices have reduced but are still about USD$200/t above the USD3600/t (weighted average) used in its forecast. Rabobank’s Emma Higgins noted that while skim milk powder (SMP), butter and cheese prices had fallen, market fundamentals remained balanced and the bank retained its $8/kg MS forecast. Westpac dropped its forecast by 25c to $7.75 after the August 3 auction, citing strong NZ autumn milk production combined with the market impact of covid-19’s Delta variant. Locally, that production was up 2.7% for the season, which is also the highest season-on-season increase since the 2014-15 season. The bank’s dairy update said that extra milk that it created reverberated through the markets. “Whole milk powder prices have fallen over 12% since March, coincidentally from

the time when New Zealand production started cranking higher. And given the sheer magnitude of the extra milk inmarket, it’s not altogether surprising that whole milk powder prices have yet to find a bottom,” agri economist Nathan Penny says. It looks like this season’s peak milk could be critical for shaping the market’s fortunes. He says the amount of volumes of NZ’s spring production will begin to provide fresh impetus for prices in either direction. Similarly, ASB pointed out in its Commodities Weekly that peak milk will be the real test for prices. “WMP losses have been in part driven by stronger production data of late, both in NZ and in the Northern Hemisphere. Now that we are entering the peak months, the strength of NZ production will only grow in importance as a swing factor and could drive a bit of further volatility,” it said. The reduction in volumes being sold on the GDT also lent credence to Fonterra’s claim it is getting strong demand outside that platform. Even if the payout fell towards the bottom end of Fonterra’s $7.25-$8.75/ kg MS range, it would still mean a good result – and be above that $7 breakeven mark. n


September 2021


Support for floodaffected farmers


lood-affected farmers in the South Island are being encouraged to make use of livestock feed support services funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Widespread flooding across the Canterbury, West Coast, Tasman and Marlborough areas this winter has damaged pasture and caused losses to supplementary feed. Since June, MPI has boosted feed support services and allocated more than $4.7 million for recovery grants, technical advice and wellbeing support. “Several of these regions had been battling long-term drought prior to the floods, which have put further pressure on feed supplies heading into calving and lambing,” MPI’s director of rural communities and farming support Nick Story says. “We have ramped up support for farmers, including funding recovery coordinators and establishing a dedicated fund to help clear flood debris from paddocks in Canterbury.” MPI funds Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers and other specialist providers to offer free, one-on-one feed planning support to livestock owners. “Having a clear feed plan will be vital for many farmers to get through the next few months, identifying feed requirements to minimise animal welfare issues through a critical part of the seasonal calendar,” DairyNZ’s South

Island manager Tony Finch says. “The service supports farmers to calculate their feed demand and supply, investigate options to fill feed gaps and proactively make decisions.” Finch says in some cases dairy farmers may have to lease out cows in order to reduce feed demand and get through the season. “The important thing is that decisions are made early. Getting your plan down on paper can help give you peace of mind and provide clear direction,” he says. The Feed Planning Service can help farmers do a snapshot feed plan for the rest of winter and spring in as little as 20 minutes. “Paddocks covered in silt won’t be growing any feed. Careful planning is needed to get that land back into production and growing pasture, or a crop to fill feed gaps,” B+LNZ South Island general manager John Ladley says. “A recovery plan for regrassing should use a mix of short-term and permanent pastures. Using all annual pastures could result in another feed pinch next year when pastures have to be renewed again.” Farmers are encouraged to get flooddeposited silt covering paddocks tested so the correct fertiliser can be applied. MPI’s director of animal health and welfare and veterinarian Chris Rodwell says grazing pasture coated with silt can cause animal health issues and

MPI’s director of rural communities and farming support Nick Story says support services are available for South Island farmers affected by flooding.

careful management is needed. “We know that animals can develop a range of poor health conditions from silt. Farmers are facing challenging conditions and we really encourage everyone who has concerns about the health of their animals to seek advice from their veterinarian,” Rodwell says. n


To get help from the Feed Planning Service, or to list or source feed or grazing through the Feed Coordination Service, farmers are encouraged to call 0800 FARMING (0800 327 646). Farmers who need wellbeing support should contact their Rural Support Trust on 0800 RURAL HELP (0800 787 254).

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Cutting sprains and strains


new DairyNZ and ACC project wants to improve the health and safety of farmers, by reducing the occurrence of on-farm injuries. The Reducing Sprains and Strains project is designed to develop solutions which support a sector-wide reduction in sprains and strains by 2030. DairyNZ general manager of farm performance Sharon Morrell says these injuries often arise particularly during busy periods on the farm. “Sprains and strains represent around 40% of dairy farm injuries, with the highest risk period occurring between August and October. This coincides with peak calving on most farms, where we often see increased working hours and fatigue,” Morrell says. This project has received $900,000 of co-funding by the ACC’s Workplace Injury Prevention programme, supported

Reducing the rate of injuries in the dairy sector would have a positive impact on the wellbeing of people working in the sector.

by a $150,000 investment by dairy farmers through the DairyNZ levy. “We are grateful for the ACC funding, as it will allow us to identify potential solutions to reduce sprains and strains, helping improve the wellbeing of our farmers – employers and employees,” she says. The project works towards improving workplaces, which will have positive outcomes for all farmers, supporting the sector to attract and retain staff. “Our goal is to work with farmers to understand the causes of sprains and strains, potential solutions and drivers of change to develop solutions that fit with their farming practices. “This will then benefit other areas of the business, including farm productivity,” she says. ACC workplace safety injury prevention manager Virginia Burton-Konia says reducing the rate of injuries in the dairy

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“Our goal is to work with farmers to understand the causes of sprains and strains, potential solutions and drivers of change to develop solutions that fit with their farming practices.” Sharon Morrell

sector would have a positive impact on the wellbeing of people working in the sector, and a safe and well workforce means more productive businesses. The Reducing Sprains and Strain project will use expertise from auditing and training provider QCONZ for its project delivery. n



Have a blue September

IDE a blue bike, bake a blue cake, wear a blue cape, row across a lake, go for a run, or hit a hole in one. These are just some of the ways people can join the fight against prostate cancer by supporting Blue September this year. Today, 10 Kiwi men will be told they have prostate cancer. It is the most common cancer in New Zealand men, with more than 3500 men diagnosed each year – more than the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Blue September is the major annual fundraising and awareness campaign for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand (PCFNZ), during which they aim to raise $1 million so they can carry on providing vital support, funding essential research and advocating for patients and their loved ones. PCFNZ chief executive Peter Dickens says that more than 650 Kiwi men will die from prostate cancer this year. “That’s 55 mates, fathers, sons, brothers, grandfathers dying each month,” Dickens says. “We receive no government funding so by supporting Blue September, you can help make a tangible difference in people’s lives.” “Every dollar raised during Blue September helps to improve the health outcomes of New Zealand men.” The 2021 Blue September campaign is all about encouraging people to ‘do something blue to help a mate through’. “The options are endless and the sky’s the limit when it comes to doing

Blue September is the major annual fundraising and awareness campaign for Prostate Cancer Foundation of NZ and people are encouraged to do something blue.

something blue,” he says. “It could be anything from arranging an office morning tea to baking a blue cake or wearing blue on the golf course.” Over 42,000 men in NZ are living with prostate cancer and early detection is key to survival. Most men won’t experience symptoms so regular check-ups are essential. “Early detection leads to better outcomes so it’s important to get checked and tell your friends and family to get checked too,” he says. Testing for prostate cancer can now be done with a simple blood test, called a PSA test.

“It’s really easy to get a test and have that peace of mind. We encourage men over age 50 to get regular check-ups (age 40 if there’s a family history) and ask their GP for a PSA test,” he says. Blue-doers are encouraged to share their “blue do” on social media with the hashtag #DoSomethingBlue to help spread the word. There are also lots of other ways to support Blue September this year, including making a donation, buying sponsored products or Blue September merchandise. n



ON FARM Chrissie and Richard Wright own a large-scale dairy and beef operation at Ashburton milking 3500 crossbred cows on three dairy units. The total farm size is 1850ha. Photos: Tony Benny

Breeding the best Farming couple with a passion for Red Devon cattle. 20


September 2021

By Tony Benny

A Canterbury couple have combined their love of dairy farming and Devon cattle on their large-scale farm at Ashburton.


arge-scale Canterbury farmers Richard and Chrissie Wright are so passionate about their Red Devon cattle and such is their belief in the quality of their meat, they bought a restaurant in Havelock in the Marlborough Sounds to share it with diners. The Wrights combined dairying and beef production on their 1850-hectare farm at Ashburton, milking 3500 cows on three separate dairy units. “We had a midlife crisis and thought ‘how good would it be to see our own meat in our own restaurant?’ – but that quickly became an issue,” Chrissie says. “You couldn’t keep up with the steak required without a surplus of everything else, even if you do nachos or beef stew and make salami and chorizo, there’s so much meat that isn’t steak.” They also diversified into meat pies, working with local bakery Sims to produce Tamar pies but after five years, with the arrival of covid, they decided to close the restaurant. It was a large operation with 25 staff but without being on-site, the business was hard to run. “Apparently everybody who has a successful business also has to have one that’s sucking the living daylights

out of them,” Richard laughs. They haven’t given up on their own meat though and are licenced to sell their Tamar-branded meat from the farm and their meat pies are very popular. “We still do sell quite a bit from here but we don’t push it that hard because we just don’t have the time. Recently, I put on our Facebook page that there was a new batch of pies here and sold six dozen overnight,” Chrissie says. The emphasis now is on improving their Red Devon herd using genetics imported from the UK and by muscle scanning. They’ve joined Alliance Group’s Pure South 55-day aged beef programme. “Through traceability we’re going to only breed from the best animals and improve the quality of the beef and hopefully we’ll see it in some of the local restaurants,” she says. Red Devon are a smallish breed that grows relatively slowly, which they say is a good thing because it means there’s more marbling in the meat. Richard’s passion for the breed goes back to his roots in Devon, England. “I’m from Devon and they’re from there. My family had them as well, so it’s quite nostalgic and they’re not a

The dairy herd is fitted with collars to monitor their rumination and reduce postcalving metabolic issues, including milk fever and ketosis.


September 2021

FARM FACTS • Owners: Richard and Chrissie Wright • Location: Mt Somers, Canterbury • Farm size: 1850ha • Cows: 3500 crossbred on three farms, total stock numbers, including beef operation, 8000 wintered • Production: Total over three farms 1,520,652kg MS

common breed in New Zealand,” he says. He first came to New Zealand in 1983 as a 17-year-old on his OE, having arranged a job with Marvin Farm Services in Matamata before arriving. In his year here, he mostly travelled the country relief milking, with a little work on sheep and deer farms as well. “There was still live capture of deer happening and that was fun because we were fencing the old Drury golf course for a family up there and as fast as we were fencing it, the helicopters were dropping in deer they’d captured,” he recalls. “They were as wild as wild and we had to try to tame them and vaccinate them and tag them. I remember we were wearing cricket pads and helmets so that was quite exciting.” At the end of his 12 months here, he returned home and did a two-year agricultural course but after completing that, he didn’t stay long. “I had itchy feet and all I wanted to do was come back to New Zealand,” he said. He worked on dairy farms in Northland and then moved down to Waikato where he met Chrissie, who was originally from Canterbury but was employed on horse studs. “I was working with horses and then I

Continued page 22


Team member Mike Mosquera brings the herd in for morning milking.

Chrissie rears all the beef calves from the dairy units and rears up to 900 beef animals.


moved into administration. When I met Richard I carried on working on the horse stud until we had our first child,” she says. Richard, meanwhile, was working his way up in the dairy industry, from assistant to manager, then contract milking to lower-order sharemilking and in 1994 he and Chrissie went 50:50 sharemilking. In 1997 they sold all their assets in Waikato and bought into a new equity partnership in Canterbury, becoming 20% owners and managers of a large farm near Ashburton. “Richard always had a goal of owning 1000 cows by the time he was 30, or farm ownership. When we moved down here it was a 1400-cow farm and we owned 20% of it so that was a combination of both goals,” she says. They stayed there for five years, investing in two more equity partnerships along the way, and in 2002 they bought their own 220ha farm near Mt Somers in Mid Canterbury. They named it Tamar, after the river that runs between Cornwall and Devon where Richard grew up. Before they moved there, they bought a neighbouring farm starting a process that has seen them grow their property to 1850ha. “The farm over the last 20 years has just grown. The neighbours kept selling and we kept buying,” Richard laughs. They retained their shareholding in the three equity partnerships (which they’ve


September 2021

“Richard always had a goal of owning 1000 cows by the time he was 30, or farm ownership. When we moved down here it was a 1400-cow farm and we owned 20% of it so that was a combination of both goals.” Chrissie Wright recently partly sold) and in their first year on their own farm reared 1800 calves and grazed everything from sheep to deer. “Calf rearing was an opportunity to get into something that didn’t require a lot of funding but also, the harder you work, the better you did. Chrissie’s a great calf rearer but it was all new to us on such a commercial scale,” he says. They progressively bought their own stock and started their own Red Devon beef herd with 25 heifers. Richard liked the breed that came from his home patch. They’re smaller than other beef breeds, but he says they produce wellmarbled beef. The herd has grown over the past 20 years and they now run 466 Devon and Hereford breeding cows and sell their own Tamar-branded beef. Their farm was dryland, which comes with risk in drought-prone Canterbury, so they bought an irrigated block in Mayfield that was already converted to techno-grazing for beef and they were soon finishing 1500 bulls a year there under irrigation. Twelve years ago another neighbour’s farm came on the market. Even though it was dryland, the Wrights bought it and

Richard checks in with sharemilker Shayne Miers in the cowshed during milking to find out things are going.

converted it to dairy, the idea being that it would create the cashflow that was lacking in their beef business. “We were doing everything on borrowed money and we had the security of an equity partnership dairy as a backup, so that gave us a bit of cashflow but it was still tight,” he says. They also committed to the Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation scheme that was looking to expand into their district. “So long story short, we irrigated that farm and then we bought the next one and since then we’ve bought about three farms, all adjoining each other. Now we’re running 1850ha as one block with three separate dairy units,” he says. The floods that hit Canterbury in May threw some challenges their way, with 200ha inundated and left covered by

shingle and silt by the raging Ashburton River. “We had the whole river flowing down here,” Chrissie says, pointing to the southern edge of their property on a farm map. “We’re having to redevelop 150ha so that we can run the centre pivot and we’ve got about 16km of fencing to replace.” But compared with some of their neighbours, they are looking at the positives. They didn’t lose any stock or have any houses flooded, even though they do face hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs to get their lower terraces next to the river back in action. “It’s just part of farming I think. Over

Continued page 24

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the years we’ve had big snows, big winds (they lost 400 trees in the 2013 gales) and now the floods,” he says. “Every day is a challenge and there’s always something that’s going to challenge you.” The dairy units are now operated by sharemilkers, with the Wrights doing dairy support and the beef operation and Chrissie rears dairy beef calves that come from the three farms. At peak they have 32 staff. The Te Mahanga farm is 374.9ha and 18% sharemilked by Shayne and Bec Miers, milking 1250 cows. Production is 593kg MS/cow totalling 600,590kg MS. The home dairy consisting of two farms – Strathclyde and Wightmans – are 520.6ha and sharemilked by Two Rivers Ltd, milking 2000 cows. Production is 460kg MS, with a total of 920,062kg MS for the season. They feed 180ha of fodder beet and 28ha of kale in winter, as well as molasses and grain through the in-shed feeding system. Oats are sown as cover crop after the fodder beet and 46ha of fodder beet is grown on the dairy units to transition cows in autumn and spring.

Richard worked his way up the dairy ladder and went 50:50 sharemilking with Chrissie in 1994. They then bought into a new equity partnership in Canterbury, becoming 20% owners and managers of a large farm near Ashburton.

About 150ha is re-grassed annually and 200ha is undersown annually, with chicory, plantain, clover over-sown on

all pastures, particularly dryland and subterranean clover, sown on river terraces.

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Grass plays a big part in the system and sensors keep track of soil moisture levels, satellites to monitor pastures and collars on cows to detect when they’re on heat and for health monitoring and hopefully in future for virtual fencing. Richard claims he’s no good at technology himself, but says it’s important to keep their staff interested in the job. Chrissie’s not quite convinced by his argument. “You might say you don’t like technology but you use it all the time, for example, reading the pasture growth by satellite and not having to go round pasture plating,” she says. Richard says using satellites to read pastures means all staff can instantly see pasture covers over the whole farm on their phones or computers and even if that’s not quite as accurate as pasture plating, it means everyone’s on the same page. “It’s my job to make sure there’s always pasture and always feed on the farm and I do all the fertiliser so I can quickly see where all the stock are, I can see if there’s damage, I can see where fertiliser is needed. “We use proof of placement for the fertiliser so we can link it all together and use it as part of our feed budgeting,” he says. “We know with all the moisture and weather probes around the farm exactly how much water we’re putting on, how much we’ve got stored in the soil, the soil temperatures, the air temperature, all that sort of information. “It’s like hydroponics. It’s my job to manipulate the feed according to all the information that I’m getting. I’ve got it all at my fingertips, it’s really easy. I know exactly how much feed we have on the farm in every paddock, I know what we’re growing.”

Due to covid-19 disruptions, Chrissie has not been able to employ casual workers to help her with calf rearing so bought two automatic feeders to reduce her workload.

Thanks to their scale, they operate Tamar as a closed farm. “For biosecurity reasons we opted about six years ago to become totally self-sufficient and closed, probably a year or two before M bovis, so that was quite a good decision,” he says. “Everything happens here. It’s quite unique being self-contained. All the calves get finished here, the winter grazing happens here and we supply the bulls and then we’ve got the beef herds.” They aim to keep 25% replacements in the dairy herd. The beef herd is calved in autumn, both to spread the workload and to give them most mouths on the ground in spring when they’re needed to control the pasture. Chrissie takes the beef calves at four

The floods that hit Canterbury in May threw some challenges their way with 200ha inundated and left covered by shingle and silt by the raging Ashburton River.


September 2021

“So long story short, we irrigated that farm and then we bought the next one and since then we’ve bought about three farms, all adjoining each other. Now we’re running 1850ha as one block with three separate dairy units.” Richard Wright days old and rears up to 900, but this year she’s making a change to the operation with the installation of automatic calf feeders, mainly because for the first time she hasn’t been able to employ casual labour to help her. She says the lack of backpackers now travelling the country has had a big impact. The two automatic feeders they bought, which read the calves’ EID tags to ration the milk, each have four feeding stations and together will feed 300 calves, reducing Chrissie’s workload. They send prime beef heifers to the local abattoir for butchers and local trade every week and autumn calving helps them keep that going out of season. Mating on the dairy units starts on October 20 and calving starts on

Continued page 26


Richard grew up in Devon in England where his family owned Red Devon cattle. He carried on the family tradition here and now has 466 Devon and Hereford breeding cows.

August 1. On the beef operation, mating begins on June 1, with calving in February. The best dairy cows are put to AI with sexed semen while the rest go to beef breeds including Wagyu, Red Devon, Hereford and Angus. Following AI, Red Devon and Hereford bulls are used. This reduces the number of bobby calves and provides stock for the beef operation. “We sell a lot of bulls to the dairy industry so we winter through two winters and then in November they go so we end up with a lot of young stock on the farm,” he says. “There’re 2000 calves, for instance, which are very picky with pasture so you need a big mob of beef animals or something to control the pasture. Also, the Devons are a small breed, so the bulls are six months older to be used over cows and heifers.” The dairy cows are fitted with collars that work like Fitbits on humans and can accurately detect by the cows’ behaviour when they’re in heat, which is especially important when using sexed semen,

which has a tighter timing requirement than ordinary semen. “The collars tell us all about that cow’s health before the cow even knows it and they’re drafted automatically,” he says.

This spring, the collars are being used mainly to monitor rumination in cows that have calved and until they reach 85% of normal rumination, they are not allowed to go on to twice-a-day milking.

Team member Lai Pei Qi (Peggie) trains the dairy calves to drink from the feeder.

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Richard says this gives the cows the best chance to recover from calving and pays dividends in stock health. They’re also using the collars to reduce post-calving metabolic issues, including milk fever and ketosis. Richard’s reluctant to share exactly what they’ve done except to say that in the 25 days prior to calving, the feed is changed from the winter diet of fodder beet and kale. “We’ve sourced a lot of information in the last 12 months from our collars, made some changes and dramatically reduced the issues we were having,” he says. Richard says being able to use the collars for virtual fencing is an exciting development for the future. The collars use a mixture of vibrations and sounds to control the cows. “It means on a cold night with snow or driving rain, we can physically move these cows up to a hedge or we can give them another break of feed; you could be lying in bed and do it,” he says. “We could be shifting them one metre every hour, absolutely knowing all our stock are well-fed; we’re minimising the mess and we’ve done everything we can physically do, whereas if we have 20mm of rain overnight, we can’t physically get round to 53 mobs every hour.” With what were six farms combined into one, Richard reckons they’re not going to buy any more and will now concentrate instead on getting the most out of what they have. “We’re big enough, we’ve created a monster so now we’ve got to try to run the thing properly,” he says. “That’s one reason why we have put sharemilkers on because we used to run the whole lot together and we were milking and doing all the beefies and also looking after all the staff. “We were probably doing an okay job, but it wasn’t top-notch so now we can

The 1250-cow herd on TeMahanga produce 593kg MS/cow. totalling 600,590kg MS.

get top-notch sharemilkers in, they look after their bit, I look after my bit and we’re all doing a better job and it’s sustainable.” Having come up the dairy career ladder themselves, Richard and Chrissie believe in giving today’s young farmers similar opportunities to those they have had. Two of the dairy units are run by the same 50:50 sharemilker, with the Wrights holding a 50% share in their company. “They came here as contract milkers five years ago and we expect they’ll be in a position to buy a farm next season,” he says. “It gives them the scale because normally they wouldn’t be able to afford that many cows and it means they can run an efficient operation, basically one farm with two cowsheds. “I’m quite big on mentoring young farmers. A lot of them are doing really well, they’ve got money in the bank but they don’t know how to get to the next stage and buy a farm. They always think it’s too hard but it’s no harder today than it was when we were doing it, it’s just

different, a different scale.” Chrissie agrees. “We’re actually fairly driven on that. You only get somewhere if you work hard,” she says. While the business has grown large and diverse, with 8000 head of stock wintered on 1850ha, Richard and Chrissie say that being self-contained has helped them keep in touch with what they love about farming. “By rearing your own stock, you have control over the quality and wellbeing from the start of their lives,” he says. “You put a lot of effort into them and so if you’re a trader, you tend to get rid of those stock just when they’re becoming easier to manage and you really start to reap the benefits. “It might be a good financial decision to sell them then but there’s actually no fun in that because you put all the effort in and then you don’t see the finished product. “It might be more profitable to do that, but we actually like to see the whole thing through, it’s quite enjoyable.” n

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Meeting NZ’s needs By Ross Nolly

Hard times can hit the best of us and at any time, but two initiatives launched by two dairy farmers will ensure no one goes hungry.


s we sail through life, we all wish for flat seas and fair winds, which is what we often get, but that can change in an instant. It only takes an unexpected life crisis or major expense to throw us a curveball. During trying times it’s comforting to know that someone is around to “have your back”. Two New Zealand farmers, Wayne Langford and Siobhan O’Malley, have recently started two charities that will indeed have people’s back when misfortune rears its ugly head. Wayne and his wife Tyler are dairy farmers from Golden Bay, milking 230 cows once-a-day on their 93 hectare farm. Siobhan and her husband Christopher are 50:50 sharemilkers, milking 400 cows on their 242ha farm at Kokatai on the West Coast. During 2020, Wayne donated mince to a foodbank as part of his YOLO Farmer journey daily challenges. Each day he looks to accomplish something to say that he’s lived for that day. On seeing how little meat was needed to feed his local community, it prompted him to create a charity to help those in need. In the midst of the 2020 covid-19 lockdown, Langford started Meat the Need. Meat the Need is a nationally-based charity designed to supply much-needed meat to City Missions and foodbanks. The meat is donated by farmers, processed, packed and delivered to those in need. To date, the charity has processed more than 883 animals and provided 408,783 meals to hungry Kiwis. Meat the Need aims to double its achievements and deliver nearly one million meals in its second year. “I was speaking at a Christchurch conference and there happened to be a Silver Fern Farms representative in the crowd who told me it was something they’d like to be a part of. It would have been a very difficult programme to implement without a significant national


Dairy farmers Siobhan O’Malley and Wayne Langford joined forces to create the Meat the Need and Feed Out charities in which farms donate meat and milk to foodbanks and City Missions.

processor on board.” Wayne says. “MPI provided funding to help us get up and going for the first three years. I think the Government recognised that we’re the best people to be working in this space. “I think they’re achieving a fantastic result from the money they’ve invested and we’re only just getting started. We also received help from DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb and Federated Farmers to build awareness.” He underestimated the food safety requirements needed to supply meat to foodbanks. It was never going to be a case of getting the local butcher of a home-kill business to process the meat and the local Young Farmers Club to bag it up. They needed Silver Fern Farms’ expertise to guide them through that process. As dairy farmers, they began considering whether they could start a

similar charity for donated milk. In 2020 they received government funding to set up a dairy supply along the same lines as Meat the Need. Their Feed Out charity arose from that initiative. “I contacted a number of milk suppliers. It only took one phone call to the Māori-owned Miraka milk company to receive a resounding ‘yes’. Miraka farmers donate the milk and the company processes it,” Siobhan says. Wayne feels that one key to the project’s success is that everyone involved from the farm to the foodbank are donating their produce or services. It is significantly different to previous models. “Feed Out is an extension of Meat the Need. When it was launched there were a number of farmers who wanted to donate milk. So far, we’ve had 22,000l of milk donated, which is awesome. But to


September 2021

“Feed Out is an extension of Meat the Need. When it was launched there were a number of farmers who wanted to donate milk. So far, we’ve had 22,000l of milk donated, which is awesome. But to put things in perspective, that’s not even a tanker full.” Wayne Langford

put things in perspective, that’s not even a tanker full,” Wayne says. “We could produce 120,000 breakfasts from one tanker of milk. It’s amazing to think what we can produce from just one tanker when there are so many tankers leaving each factory every day. It demonstrates the scale and volume of what we produce and what could be done with a very small portion of the nation’s milk supply.” Farmers don’t often think of their milk in terms of literage because they’re accustomed to dealing in kilograms of milksolids. A 1000l of milk doesn’t seem like a great amount compared to the many thousands of litres each farm produces. But when packaged and delivered to a foodbank that milk makes a massive difference to their community. “One of Feed Out’s milk suppliers was present when Miraka produced their first run of milk. She’d donated 1000l of milk and was standing next to a pallet stacked with 800l of packaged UHT milk. I said

To date, Meat the Need has processed more than 883 animals and provided 408,783 meals to hungry Kiwis through food parcels.

‘do you realise that you donated more than that?’ She was blown away by how many cartons of milk came from her donation,” Wayne says. Siobhan feels that one of the great aspects about Feed Out is the huge impact farmers can make by donating something that in the scheme of their business may not be that much, but has a massive impact when it reaches the foodbank. If only .0002% of the nation’s beef kill was donated to Meat the Need it would be enough to achieve the goal of supplying one mince pack in every food parcel annually. “New Zealand processes nearly 26 million animals per year and we’ve calculated that we would need around 5500 to achieve our goal. It’s just a

fraction of the total number,” Wayne says. “When you look at the numbers, we don’t think our goals are unachievable. We think we’re onto something pretty special. It’s doable and we can make a substantial difference with a tiny percentage of the nation’s meat and milk supply.” The charities have had approximately 360 requests from foodbanks. Meat isn’t a product that they typically receive. Often the foodbanks have to purchase it. The pair realised that if they could supply meat, the foodbanks can shift their resources to other areas. People go to foodbanks when an unexpected event or expense has

Continued page 30

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Golden Bay farmer Wayne Langford started Meat the Need during the 2020 lockdown when he donated mince to a local foodbank. He now has contact with 45 charities across New Zealand.

occurred and they can’t afford to feed their family. Each year approximately 500,000 food parcels are distributed in NZ. The trusts aim to put a carton of milk and a pack of mince into each one. Mince was the meat product that the foodbanks requested. It’s simple to cook, incredibly versatile and easily bulked out. It works well with the typical ingredients in the households of those who are most vulnerable. The 500g export-quality mince packs are perfect for a family of four and two packs can be used for larger families. “Many recipients haven’t eaten meat in weeks. Most farmers have a freezer full of home-killed meat and some don’t realise that the cost of meat is beyond many people’s budget. I’d love 500g of mince to go into every food parcel. We’d need 250,000kg of mince to do that,” Siobhan says. Christchurch City Mission told them the average food parcel recipient receives 2.6 food parcels per year. It destroys the stereotype that people turn up every week looking for a handout. The reality is that asking for help is usually the last resort for those in need. “Initially I thought we’d be working with the homeless, but it has predominantly been the “working poor” who’ve needed our support. We produce so much food in New Zealand it must be possible to supply enough to ensure that nobody goes hungry,” Wayne says.


When Meat the Need was launched, they were intending to focus on Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. However, farmers quickly told them that they wanted to supply their local foodbanks first. “Hence, we’ve gone quite regional with our approach. The rural foodbanks don’t require as much in comparison to what is typically donated to their big city counterparts,” he says.

“For example, Wanaka takes the average value of three lambs per month. When you consider how many lambs are in the high country it’s not even a drop in the ocean.” When a farmer donates a beef animal it supplies a small regional foodbank for months. The charities are operated with less than one full-time labour equivalent. All administration, marketing and advertising costs are covered by grants and donations. “One hundred percent of every donation goes to the foodbanks. We have extremely lean running costs due to piggybacking off Silver Fern Farms and Miraka’s existing supply chain,” Siobhan says. They feel that as primary producers it’s important for farmers to do their bit. They would like to see a good proportion of farmers donate something every year. This would show that farmers who make up a minority of the population can directly impact the minority who struggle. Siobhan says that the Feed Out initiative is extremely exciting because milk is very scalable. If every farmer donated 1000l once per season, it would make a massive difference to many lives. “Both charities reconnect farmers with food. One of the points we wanted to demonstrate when we started the charities was to show that farmers are a very generous and caring part of the community,” she says. “They’re providing a highly nutritious

Grant Jackson from Miraka Milk and Wayne Langford celebrate the launch of Feed Out, which is supplying milk for food parcels.


September 2021

“Both charities reconnect farmers with food. One of the points we wanted to demonstrate when we started the charities was to show that farmers are a very generous and caring part of the community.” Siobhan O’Malley

protein source to foodbanks. Over 430,000 meals-worth of mince has been provided that did not previously exist in that community space.” Meat the Need and Feed Out are fully registered charities and all donations are tax deductible. Farmers don’t need to be Silver Fern Farms suppliers to donate meat, but must be Miraka suppliers to donate milk. It’s not their specific milk or animal that is donated. They donate the value of the beef animal and the milk comes from the overall pool. “The donation process is very simple. Farmers only need to visit the Feed Out website to make a donation. To donate a beef animal, you simply tell your stock agent that you want one to go to Meat the Need,” Wayne says. “Farmers have always been very giving. Rural communities have been built on donations from farmers and the work they’ve done. Both charities are creating a message that farming is more than just about profit and a bottom line. We’re playing our part in the community.” Both trusts are helping bridge the

Miraka supplier Lisa Kearins donated 1000 litres of milk to the Feed Out charity.

rural/urban divide by providing contact between both communities. Wayne now has contact with 45 foodbanks throughout the country. Every time he contacts them he tells them how things are going on the farm. In turn, those foodbanks reached out to him during the recent Canterbury floods to check how he and the other farmers who had donated were faring. “Our food labels state that the food has been donated by farmers. People who’re really struggling receive a positive message that farmers are there to look out for them and care about their welfare,” he says.

Both charities give farmers a sense of connection back to their community and demonstrate that their farms are more than just a business. Farmers not only want to donate, they are asking if they can do more. “Farmers come to us because they wholeheartedly believe in the cause. We aim to grow our volume and the awareness of who we are and what we do,” he says. “We want our network to become part of every urban and rural community. I often say that as farmers it’s our job to feed our community and we need to do that before we send food overseas.” n

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Something sweet

Southland dairy farmer Kate Burgess’ love of baking was the catalyst for her business Sweet Belle Kitchen.



September 2021

By Cheyenne Nicholson

A Southland farmer and mum has been taking Gore by storm, with her selection of delectable baking.


passion founded from hours of watching Jamie Oliver and honing her skills in her parents’ kitchen is now a fully-fledged business, which has grown exponentially in just two years. Kate Burgess and her husband Scott milk 600 cows on the Gore farm they lease from her parents and on top of that, she runs Sweet Belle Kitchen. When it comes to her passion for cooking and baking, she says it all stems back to a childhood spent watching cooking programmes on TV and a mother who let her have full reign in the kitchen. “Mum had this rule that I could bake to my heart’s content, but I had to clean up,” Burgess says. “My grandmother was a really good baker and I’ve just always loved learning about different foods from different cultures. I have two older brothers and a father with a sweet tooth, so they really enjoyed my passion for baking”. The idea to turn her passion into a business only really started to ‘preheat’ when she was pregnant with their son. She knew going back to her job wasn’t a high priority for her due to the amount of travel involved and wanted a change from the corporate world. She also wanted to make the most of her son’s early years and become self-employed. Sweet Belle Kitchen was officially launched in 2019, starting out with custom cakes.

“It was scary to put myself out there. You wonder if what you’re providing is good enough, if it’s what people want but at the same time it felt right. The timing was good for us with the farm and Ted coming. I wasn’t sure to start with how I’d work it all out with a newborn, but luckily he’s pretty cruisy,” she says. In the beginning she had a goal of baking one cake a fortnight. This rapidly grew and now her orders can be anything from three to five cakes a week and has reached the point of having to turn down business. She has grown her offerings to include an assortment of

baked goods, platter boxes, cupcakes, cookies and more, all in just two years. “I think sometimes as a wife in a farming operation, you kind of feel on the outside a wee bit if you’re not overly hands-on on the farm. It’s important to have your own things, follow your own passions and make sure they get priority once in a while, otherwise you get stuck in the grind of farming. I didn’t want to be in my 60s wishing I had started this business when I was 30,” she says. Speaking on her rapid business

Continued page 34

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Sweet Belle Kitchen has been expanded to include an assortment of baked goods, nibbles and platters for events.

“It was scary to put myself out there. You wonder if what you’re providing is good enough, if it’s what people want but at the same time it felt right.”

Scott and Kate with their son Ted lease a family farm near Gore where they milk 600 cows.

growth, she says while social media has been vital, word of mouth has been key. “Southland is a bit of a special place in that word-of-mouth is worth more than any marketing budget. It’s just how things work down here. I have customers who I hardly know out there supporting me and recommending my business and it’s such a great feeling,” she says. Gore is a hot bed of foodies, with a number of food creation businesses out there. While it would be easy to think this means a lot of competition, she says it’s far from it. “Everyone has a point of difference and are incredibly supportive of everyone else. If someone can’t fulfil an order, they point them in the direction of someone else and vice versa; it’s a really nice community to be part of and is a real testament to the sense of community here in Southland.” Her point of difference sits within her uniquely minimalist style and focus on flavours. She makes everything she can from scratch, using the best local ingredients. Fondant doesn’t feature heavily in her creations, but flavour will always be at the forefront. Like so many other farming mums and wives, striking the right balance between everything in life has been one of the biggest challenges for her. Although there are many resources available to assist with the admin side of starting a business, there is no manual for how to create balance between children, farms, new businesses and everything else.


“I get asked a lot how I get it all done. My answer is always if you are passionate about it, you’ll figure it out,” she says. “Things are constantly changing as Ted gets older, so the times at which I tend to do work changes. Lately I’ve been doing the bulk of things in the evenings after he goes to bed. Scott is really supportive and he’ll take Ted out on the farm with him if I have things I need to do and I have a lot of support from friends and family as well. “I call my friends my marketing team. I value their input so much and I really encourage other business owners to surround yourselves with people who encourage and facilitate your dreams.”

During the interview, Burgess was multitasking on the go and it is apparent she is a dab hand at it. The busy mum, farmer, farm business administrator and business owner is always on the go and says that while it’s taken a bit to figure out how to balance everything, two years into her business venture, she thinks she might have cracked the code, for now anyway. She grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Te Anau, then her parents purchased a sheep and beef farm at Waipahi, Gore, which was converted to an 800-cow dairy farm in 2010. After finishing school she headed to Lincoln University and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture). “After that I headed overseas for a bit, which was an ‘out there’ move for me – my first trip out of New Zealand and I went straight to Ireland. I worked on a dairy farm milking 120 cows and loved it. I came home from that with fairly light pockets but landed a job with what was RD1 at the time,” she says. Through her job, she met Scott who worked on one of the farms she looked after. Moving from rural merchants to animal health, she landed a job as a territory manager for Elanco in 2016.

Sweet Belle Kitchen was launched in 2019, with a focus on custom-made cakes. Kate’s goal was to do one cake a fortnight, but now can do up to five.


September 2021


September 2021

Cakes, cupcakes and biscuits baked in Sweet Belle Kitchen have a strong focus on flavours, using the best local ingredients available.

“ I struggle to think about going back to wintering cows on pasture now for a variety of reasons. The cows are warm and happy, we can feed them much more economically and we’ve got beautiful compost to put on our pastures and boost the nutrients.

“My role with Elanco was focused in the sheep industry and had me covering a fairly large area so I was doing a lot of travel. In 2019, Scott and I got married and our son Ted arrived not long after.” They are currently leasing one of her parent’s farms on the outskirts of Gore. A neighbouring property was purchased and converted four years ago, meaning there are two dairy farms side-by-side, milking about 1200 cows in total. They milk 600 cows on a twice-a-day spring calving system. Last season they produced 478kg MS/cow and hope to improve on that this season. They also have a big focus on wetland development and planting as many trees as possible each year. Her parents recently opened the ‘Waipahi wetland’, a 9ha area of their dairy farm, which has been planted with 16,000 native species to return the land to its natural state. This will become a QEII protected area and is an awesome project to see develop, she says. Scott works full-time on the farm alongside their two full time employees, with Kate tending to the calf rearing and looking after the administration side of the business for both their farm and her parents’ farm. “Our son Ted is 20 months old, which is quite a full-time job in itself between him, the farm admin and running my own business. I don’t get out on-farm quite as often, but I feel like I have a good balance and I really enjoy the variety my days bring.” She is also part of a Dairy Women’s Network Business Group, which has been fundamental in helping with her journey both on the farm and with Sweet Belle Kitchen. Business groups provide members with a small group environment to connect with likeminded dairy women to build knowledge and networks. “The business group has given me a place to connect and learn with other women, we’ve had some amazing learning in our first year and I especially learnt a lot about resilience and strength from hearing stories from other women in the industry,” she says. She has big plans for her business in the future, having her own premises in town or a café is her “big goal” that she’s working towards each day. “It all comes down to loving making food for people. Food is one of those things that really brings people together and that’s what I really love about it,” she says. n

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Beefing up options By Samantha Tennent

Research shows there are various factors to consider when choosing bulls to use over the herd and should be selected based on traits the farmer is targeting.


esearch has shown that not every dairy cow needs to be mated to a genetically superior dairy sire, since roughly only 25% of calves born each season are required as replacements. And although dairy farmers have been using beef bulls for decades, there has been little work to identify which bulls will perform the best. Dr Lucy Coleman has spent the past five years trying to identify what makes a good beef bull for a dairy cow. “The dairy farmer and beef farmer have different considerations so, in my research, I was looking at it from both perspectives,” Coleman explains. “Dairy farmers want a bull that won’t impact the health and production of the cow or heifer, so they are interested in the calving difficulty and birth weight of the calf, as well as the gestation length. “Where the beef producer is interested in, is how the calf will perform in a beef rearing system.” Beef bull estimated breeding values are only relative within breeds, so it can be hard to predict the likely impacts when they are used across dairy cows. Coleman’s work with Massey University has been part of the Beef + Lamb NZ Genetics Dairy Beef Progeny Test. “A lot of the earlier work on beef bulls and what people bred beef bulls for focuses on the beef production system, and there are plenty of dairy farmers who can be cautious because they have heard about some of the risks and that has put them off,” she says. “But as we know with dairy bulls, there are good bulls within breeds; one bull isn’t equal to another.” She looked at a comparison of birth weight, gestation length and preweaning growth of calves from mixed-aged dairy cows that were artificially bred to a selection of Angus and Hereford bulls from the lighter end of the scale. And she found there was little impact from the variation in birth weight on calving difficulty.


Lucy Coleman’s research has shown that dairy farmers look for certain traits when selecting bulls so their progeny carry desirable traits.

“But as we know with dairy bulls, there are good bulls within breeds; one bull isn’t equal to another.” “Less than 1% of the cows needed assistance at calving, although there was a negative correlation between birth weight and gestation length with age at weaning,” she says. “So, when choosing a bull with very light birth weight there may be a tradeoff to the growth of the calf.” This means when choosing Angus and Hereford bulls to use over dairy cows, farmers should firstly be looking for bulls with low enough birth weights to reduce the risk of calving difficulty, but also emphasise gestation length and preweaning growth. “They do need to be conscious of the

tradeoffs between calving traits and growth traits, but should relate them specifically to the objectives of the herd and how important the growth traits are to their system,” she says. “The goal should be to produce calves that are born without assistance that strike the right balance between income from calf sales and income from extra days in milk.” She also uncovered there were no negative effects on milk production or rebreeding success of the cow bred to the different Angus and Hereford bulls. Another novel trait she looked at in her research was tongue colour, hoping to determine whether it could be a useful predictor of the breed of newborn Angus-cross-dairy and dairy crossbred calves, when their similar coat colour makes it difficult. “Holstein-Friesian cattle have a white spotting gene that causes nonpigmentation in their coat colour and


September 2021

Farmers should be aiming to select bulls that produce calves that are born without assistance and strike the right balance between income from calf sales and income from extra days in milk.

consequently a pink-coloured tongue, where Angus cattle have black tongues. And Jersey calves can have either or a combination,” she says. They were hoping that the Anguscross calves being more likely to have black tongues and less likely to have pink tongues than dairy calves that the black tongue would be a tell-tale sign. “Unfortunately, we found a high incidence of all breeds of calves having spotted tongues which means there is a risk of keeping or culling falsely identified calves. So it isn’t a reliable sole indicator,” she says. At the same time, she recorded which calves were polled and which had horn buds at birth, and found there was no chance of a dairy farmer accidentally keeping an Angus-cross if they picked replacements with horn buds.

Lucy Coleman has spent the past five years researching the use of beef bulls over the dairy herd.


September 2021

Conversely, if a beef producer purchased only the polled calves with a black tongue, 97% of the time they were the Angus-cross they were after. “So when tongue colour is combined with other visual assessments it could help make decisions whether to cull or keep calves,” she says. “And identification is more obvious at weaning for those few misidentified at birth.” Now that they have a good idea of what makes a good bull, the wider Dairy Beef Progeny Test programme is continuing to work on identifying individual bulls and help share the information with the dairy sector to help with breeding decisions. Before her PhD, Coleman was involved in other projects surrounding dairy beef too. She had spent time looking at the carcase characteristics and meat quality in steers and heifers from Hereford and Charolais bulls born to pure Angus cows and Angus-cross-dairy cows. Finding that utilising beef-cross-dairy cows for beef breeding could be a useful way to utilise surplus animals. “There were slight differences in the weaning weights and because of the milk attributes from the dairy cross cows and the growing strength of Angus, by the time they were being killed they had caught up. There were minimal differences in the carcase weights and the meat quality was very similar,” she says. “But the one difference we did note was the fat colour. Meat that comes from Jersey cows tends to have yellower fat and beef producers worry about being penalised. “But that wasn’t the case, there wasn’t enough for the meat to be downgraded. So it’s reassuring for the beef market.” n

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Agreeing on animal welfare By Samantha Tennent

Transparency around the use of animals in research and teaching is part of a new agreement.


xpect to see clearer information about the use of animals in research and teaching within New Zealand thanks to a newly established openness agreement. Twenty-one universities, institutes of technology, non-profits, Crown Research Institutes, government organisations, umbrella bodies, research funding organisations and learned societies have all committed to communicating openly about animal use. NZ will be the first country outside

Europe with an animal research openness agreement, which was launched in July in Queenstown at the Australian and NZ Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) 2021 conference. “Public confidence in animal research depends on the scientific community taking part in an ongoing conversation about why, and how animals are used,” NZ ANZCCART board chairperson and acting deputy vice-chancellor (Academic) of the University of Otago

Professor Pat Cragg says. “Through signing this openness agreement, the signatory organisations have committed to having this conversation with the public. “Being open about why and how we use animals in research and teaching is just so important.” Maintaining and improving high standards of animal welfare has been a longstanding commitment in NZ, as well as undertaking world-leading research and teaching using animals, controlled

The use of animals in research and education remains vital to scientific, medical and veterinary progress, but now there will be more transparency about why and how they are used.

NZ ANZCCART board chairperson and acting deputy vice-chancellor (Academic) of the University of Otago Professor Pat Cragg says an animal research openness agreement will help the public in its understanding of how and why animals are used.

under the Animal Welfare Act 1999. The scientific community in NZ recognises the importance of demonstrating and promoting values that contribute to these animal welfare standards. “The objective of the agreement is to ensure that the public is well-informed about animal research, including the benefits, harms, and limitations,” he says.

“Being open about why and how we use animals in research and teaching is just so important.” Pat Cragg “Topics such as the role animal research plays in the process of scientific discovery, how research is regulated in New Zealand and what researchers and animal care staff do to promote positive animal welfare should be addressed. “And communication should be realistic about the ethical considerations involved, including that of the 3Rs of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. Research is done that aims to benefit humans, animals and the environment.” The agreement has been modelled


September 2021

on the 2014 groundbreaking Concordat on openness on animal research led by Understanding Animal Research in the United Kingdom. Similar agreements have followed in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and France, with the assistance of the European Animal Research Association. A working group of 13 organisations chaired by Dr Jodi Salinsky, animal welfare officer and University Veterinarian at the University of Auckland, prepared the agreement and reviews were provided by the ANZCCART NZ board and through public consultation. “The judicious use of animals in research remains vital to scientific, medical and veterinary progress,” Salinsky says. “The agreement will help organisations that conduct, fund or support animal research communicate about the crucial work that is being done on the public’s behalf, by dedicated researchers, technicians and animal care staff. “The current pandemic provides an ideal time to help our community understand the important contribution of this work. We look forward to the day when animals are no longer needed and honour the animals for the advances made that allow treatments, vaccinations and cures for diseases to be found.” n

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Breaking tech barriers By Tony Benny

Research shows there are numerous barriers to the uptake in technology by farmers and many of these are interconnected.


armers’ reluctance to share data is slowing the adoption of technology that could help transform New Zealand’s food production systems to be more sustainable, resilient and consumerfocused, a study by researchers from AgResearch has found. The study was part of the New Zealand Bioeconomy in the Digital Age (NZBIDA) project, which aims to test if digital technologies can provide new solutions to many of the issues that farmers face today. The research team reviewed academic literature and identified at least 22 different barriers to the uptake of technology that NZBIDA project lead Mark Shepherd says includes data collection, new analytics, models, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning.

“Research shows there are a whole range of barriers,” Shepherd says. “For example, the technology has to fit in with the farming system and I think there has to be a demonstrated value from using it. I think at the moment there’re not that many proven value propositions. “There need to be more examples of where the tech has made a difference so that people have got the confidence and can see how it can work for them.” He says many of the barriers are interconnected and overcoming them won’t be straightforward. “You might think ‘if we crack this barrier, that’s the solution’, but there might be underlying issues. First of all, you need to understand the interconnectivity and then the opportunities that we’ve got,” he says. One surprise finding is a feeling

among some farmers that the adoption of hi-tech farming affects their sense of identity. “There is a sense of potential loss of connectivity with the land or just loss of identity as a farmer and the fear of being at the mercy of a big technology provider where you don’t have much say other than using their technologies,” he says. Other barriers are technical but one of the biggest is reluctance among farmers to share their data. “The real value of tech is the ability to collect data, the ability to combine different types of data and get more out of combining those data sets but the concern is how will this data be used? ‘If I share it, will I lose control of it, could it be used against me?’,” he says. “Of all of the barriers, I think that’s the key one and it’s one of the most

Technology for farms is being developed at pace, but uptake has been slower than expected.



September 2021

“There need to be more examples of where the tech has made a difference so that people have got the confidence and can see how it can work for them.” Mark Shepherd

difficult ones to resolve. Somebody made the point to me that actually it’s not a technology problem, it’s a people problem. We can share data now, we’ve got systems, but it’s really how do we make sure that it’s used fairly and people will get recognition that they’re sharing data and get the benefit from it.” He believes progress is being made on data sharing though pointing to the Trust Alliance New Zealand (TANZ), a primary industry consortium working to find ways to safely share data, with a view to preserving and enhancing the competitiveness of NZ primary sector.

TANZ aims to provide a safe space to share data and enable innovation through data interoperability, the organisation says on its website. NZBIDA is working with DairyNZ to develop “use cases”, effectively case studies, to demonstrate to farmers and others in primary industries the value of new technology. “At the moment it’s almost like we’re in a phoney war with technology. Everyone’s saying technology’s got this fantastic potential but there aren’t that many successful examples of wide-scale adoption that we can point to and say ‘we’re on our way’ yet,” he says. “The work of the team illustrates what a huge undertaking it is going to realise the transformational potential of digital technologies in the New Zealand agricultural sector. “It’s as much about people as about the technology: farmers, processors, society (consumers and citizens) and the technology companies. These stakeholders, and in our New Zealand livestock systems, the animals themselves, have different and, at times, competing needs.” n

New Zealand Bioeconomy in the Digital Age project lead Mark Shepherd says that study has identified 22 barriers to the uptake of technology on farms.

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Connecting farmers By Tony Benny

Connectivity in rural areas has always been a challenge but there are plenty of service providers and networks, including satellite, available.


onterra’s new milk vat monitoring system could save the co-op nearly $5 million a year in transport costs alone, implementation manager Jimmy McCreery told an agritech connectivity event at Canterbury University recently. “Small gains in how efficient we are with space on our tankers means a lot less kilometres driven and if we can get 1% more efficient, that’s worth $4.5m to $5m a year to us in milk collection costs,” McCreery says. He was one of six speakers at the event who discussed issues and options for the connectivity that’s needed to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) and other hi-tech agricultural developments. One fast expanding option for connecting with small devices like moisture and temperature sensors or collecting simple data like water tank level, as well as broadband, is satellite communication. Elon Musk’s Starlink network already has 1500 low-orbit satellites circling the earth and that’s just the beginning, John McDermott

of the NZ IoT Alliance says. “Their target is 42,000, which I can’t comprehend, but when you look at the potential volume of the traffic they could serve, it’s going to need some big numbers and huge investment to achieve that,” McDermott says. Low-orbit satellites generally fly about 500km above earth and travel at about 7.8km/sec, which means they cross our piece of sky in about 10 minutes. “That speed is why they need so many satellites, so they’ve enough looking down on every point on the Earth as they orbit,” he explains. In 1960, there were just six satellites in space. By 2020, there were 3368 and some estimates suggest there could be 100,000 by 2030. But Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) chairperson Mike Smith says the connectivity needed for IoT in New Zealand could be provided by a ground-based network. His organisation represents 37 independently operated networks that provide wireless broadband in areas not

covered by the big telcos and he says that coverage could be harnessed to provide connectivity for IoT devices too. A new company WISPA Networks has been formed with the intention of adding long-range wide area network (LoRaWAN) services over the whole country.

“WISPA’s already in 75,000 rural homes and businesses, so we have a massive footprint and we want to take that to the next step.” Mike Smith

“What we see as the future is we have a network of networks; 37 networks throughout the country who have coverage that covers more areas that mobile operators don’t get to where

Fonterra tankers travel about 1.4 million kilometres over their lifetime of seven seasons and now that vat monitoring systems are installed on 9000 farms, they can reduce their fleet size for greater efficiencies.

there is nothing else. The intent is an IoT broadband network that’s available throughout New Zealand,” Smith says. “WISPA’s already in 75,000 rural homes and businesses, so we have a massive footprint and we want to take that to the next step.” Spark is harnessing its cellular network to deliver IoT connectivity and IoT solution consultant Micheal Lightfoot says the Rural Connectivity Group, formed by the Government in 2017, comprising the three large telcos, has expanded 4G coverage to most of the country and work is still being done to improve this. Additionally, Spark has added CAT-M1 technology to its cellular network for IoT connectivity. Spark says it expects there will soon be more than 2000 IoT devices added every week. Fonterra is using NZ’s cellular network to deliver its milk vat monitoring programme, taking advantage of the fact that all but eight of its 9000 farms have a connection. Over the past two years, working with partners HALO, Levno and DTS, Fonterra has installed four or five sensors on all 11,300 vats on its farms around the country. “There were about 700 farmers out of our 9000 that had some sort of milk monitoring system before the project, there’s now 9000. How we sold it to them was they’ve got that information 24/7 in the palm of their hands to supply the best quality of milk possible,” McCreery says. Knowing what’s in the vat and when


September 2021

the cows were milked has allowed Fonterra to tweak its tanker timetable to collect on a peak day in early October, 85,000 litres of milk from 9000 farms in 24 hours. That’s meant they can trim seven tankers from their fleet of 500. “That’s a lot of money to buy and build and then man those tankers. They do about 1.4 million kilometres in their lifetime over seven seasons, so it’s good to get those out of the system,” he says. Milk vat monitoring will also get Fonterra closer to its goal of traceability from grass-to-glass. “The reality is, it’s traceability from the tanker to the glass so we’re trying to bridge that gap between the farm and the tanker. We’re good at measuring quality once we get the tanker on-farm, but we’re trying to step behind the farm gate a little bit and just manage how well our farmers are doing and measuring that,” he says. “Once that data’s in the cloud, the farmer has full visibility of it through the vendors’ app so they can see what’s going on with their milk at all times.” Fonterra receives some of the data too, including whether farms are going outside MPI cooling regulations for extended periods. “The co-operative is taking that first step to paying some farmers more for the higher-quality milk than our lower ones and this is a good tool to be able to monitor that. “That’s the key thing for them, they can monitor that and intervene early onfarm,” he says. n


Vet-approved herd treatment life and weaning, and prior to mating and calving in cows. Emma’s comfortable making these recommendations, due to the research behind MULTIMIN®. MULTIMIN® is designed to be administered to stock prior to high periods of demand, such as early life, weaning, calving and mating. It contains copper, selenium, zinc and manganese, works rapidly, is safe and most importantly, has been proven in NZ conditions.


Rob uses MULTIMIN® in his milking herd and heifers prior to calving and mating, and last season he used it at dry-off. The milking herd received a treatment prior to calving, which is when they go through all sorts of stressors and trace element requirements are high as they draw on their reserves. They also received treatment at dry-off. Last season, after the worst drought ever recorded, he used MULTIMIN® to cover all bases. This season, his heifers received two lots of MULTIMIN® prior to calving and mating. Dr. Emma Scott, Rob’s vet from Totally Vets, recommends MULTIMIN® to her clients in calves at early

MORE To learn more about Rob’s story, visit performanceready. co.nz, and ask your vet about MULTIMIN®. Registered pursuant to the ACVM Act 1997, No. A9374.

Rob Crothers is a dairy farmer at Cheltenham, just over 12km from Feilding in the Manawatū.


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Predicting soil behaviour By Ross Nolly

Farmers are continually facing new rules and regulations, but technology will help them rise to the challenges.


he synthetic nitrogen cap (190kg N/ha) that came into effect in July dictates that all dairy farmers must record the amount and where they have applied synthetic nitrogen fertiliser on their farms. Farmers now realise that they must be more mindful about limiting the water and nutrient wastage on their farms and eliminate any leaching into farm waterways. Technology such as the CropX soil sensor is coming to the fore as a powerful tool to help farmers navigate these changes. The CropX app helps farmers determine the exact amount of water or effluent needed to irrigate their paddocks, by providing an irrigation prescription that is constantly adapting to the changing soil conditions. It provides soil analytics in a large data platform. Their sensors measure soil moisture, temperature and electrical conductivity at two specific (20 and 46 centimetres) soil levels. Those measurements enter the data platform where models and algorithms use the data to begin understanding the soil type and how it behaves when water moves through it during rain events or irrigation. The app then predicts how that soil will behave during those conditions. Algorithms separate the conductivity of the soil’s particles (soil particles and water particles) into solely the water portion of the soil. The conductivity of that water portion in New Zealand is primarily driven by nitrates. “Sensors give you an indication of the nitrate concentration in the water portion of your soil at two levels, how they change over time, the impact when applying fertiliser and how it changes in those concentrations. You can determine if it has remained in the profile or leached through it,” CropX chief sustainability officer Bridgit Hawkins says. “Not only does it continually add to the farm’s data, every one of the


September 2021

Soil sensor technology will help farmers meet new requirements around leaching and give them a better picture of what is happening below the surface. CropX general manager Eitan Dan with a CropX sensor.

approximately 15,000 sensors deployed in the world contribute data. All information goes into a background AI model that is constantly strengthened by everything it’s learning. The more measurements you have, the more accurate your insight is going to be.” Soil nitrogen levels change throughout the season. Sensor information enables farmers to learn over time if a nitrogen deficit or other factor may be limiting their pasture growth. Information gained from sensors gives farmers more confidence when applying fertiliser. “The sensors are installed on your farm,

the information is gathered, analysed and the results viewed on the CropX app on your phone or PC. This doesn’t replace going out onto the farm and looking, but the sensor’s information is something you can’t get by just going out to look,” she says. CropX gathers data from their sensors but also uses weather forecasts, satellite imagery and soil information to complement the gathered information. That information is run through analytics to provide water irrigation recommendations. “How do farmers use less water and become more efficient when irrigating? It’s not that farmers don’t want to, they need something that helps them understand where they sit and what changes make sense for them because each farm is different,” she says. “Rather than saying ‘we’re doing well’, farmers who use sensors have actual measurements that demonstrate what they’re implementing, the outcomes of those actions, and an evidence base to show that they’re achieving those goals.” Usually, farmers only view into leaching occurs when they undertake their annual nutrient budget in May. Sensors allow farmers to gain back some control by obtaining a view of what’s actually happening between those two dates. It gives them another level of detail and understanding of what steps they need to put in place. “Soil sensors measure the moisture content in the higher levels of the soil, but also deeper down. You can see the numbers reduce before you see a change in the pasture.” she says. “It makes you understand how much moisture you need added back into your system to return it to where you need it to be. “For example, even though a farmer may see that rain is coming, the sensors can show that it won’t be enough to make any difference. This gives farmers time to implement drought coping practices.” n



From waste to tulip trays By Samantha Tennent

What would usually end up in a landfill, is now being repurposed in an effort to reduce farm waste.


armers bought millions of tubes of Teatseal last season, which is great for reducing the risk of mastitis but it creates a considerable amount of waste. And as council recycling systems are not made to take large volumes of tiny tubes, landfill has been the only option to dispose of it. But a project between Zoetis and Plasback NZ has successfully diverted 1.5 million tubes from landfills in the past three months. “We were thrilled with the amount we got back,” Zoetis veterinary advisor and New Zealand sustainability lead Kristen Baxter says. “Almost all the veterinary clinics who purchase Teatseal through us participated and although there wasn’t any cost to the clinic or farmer to participate, it did involve a bit of time and effort to help with sorting the waste. “We really appreciated the enthusiasm and support towards the trial.” The trial is part of their sustainability focus at Zoetis, which has been looking at all parts of the business. “We’ve been making changes to packaging to decrease the amount of waste produced and we’ve changed the wipes that come with Teatseal to a compostable material, but until now we

Zoetis veterinary advisor and NZ sustainability lead Kirsten Baxter says the teatseal tube recycling trial is part of Zoetis’ sustainability focus.

didn’t have a way to recycle the tubes,” she says. It took Baxter and the team two years to get the project off the ground. They had to develop a completely new system as the only product stewardship programme that has been available for animal health products is a drench drum recycling programme. “We needed to be able to pick up large volumes of small tubes in a short timeframe because it all happens within a couple of months and then we don’t produce any waste for the rest of the year,” she says. “So we designed a way to collect the plastic tubes and buckets back from the Millions of tubes of Teatseal are used annually and farmers, although we didn’t now an initiative from Zoetis is collecting the used get many buckets back as buckets and tubes for recycling.


farmers find them useful.” They could only take the plastic in the recycling bags so the waste had to be sorted before it was collected. Which meant either the farmers, vets or technicians needed to separate it, removing any wipes or gloves and take out any antibiotic tubes as there is no way to deal with residues yet. To let the recycling build a little, Plasback NZ started collecting after about six to eight weeks. They sent it to Comspec in Christchurch, where it was turned into tulip trays that were sent to Holland, as well as FuturePost in Auckland to make the innovative plastic fence post product that has been developed here. To meet their requirements under the Waste Minimisation Act set out by the Government, Zoetis has been looking at how they can expand their sustainability efforts into other products as well.


September 2021

“We are going to use what we are learning from the Teatseal scheme to extend to other products eventually, as we need to have a plan for product stewardship in the next few years.” Kristen Baxter

The Act aims to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfills or polluting the environment and has identified six priority products for regulated product stewardship, including plastic packaging. “We’ve had great feedback about the trial and already have ideas how we can scale-up and improve it for next season,” she says. “We are going to use what we are learning from the Teatseal scheme to extend to other products eventually, as we need to have a plan for product stewardship in the next few years.

Recycled Teatseal tubes are being used to make FuturePosts, an innovative plastic fence post product that has been developed in New Zealand.

“But there are challenges for products like antibiotics, as there isn’t any way to deal with residues yet, so there will definitely need to be a lot of research to find suitable solutions.” The results from the trial prove progress is happening in the right direction and with a few changes based

on the learnings from this year they will roll the scheme out on a larger-scale next year. “The goal is to get better uptake next year by increasing our marketing and continuing to streamline the process to make it easier for everyone to be involved,” she says. n

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September 2021



A stirring idea By Samantha Tennent

Keeping colostrum stirred was a challenge for a Southland calf rearer until he came with an innovative idea.


rustrated after running around with a drill and paint stirrer trying to stop stored colostrum from separating, Rex Affleck was looking for an easier solution. He found a pricey food industry mixer in Europe, but the paddle was tiny and the revs were too quick so he started thinking about what he really needed. “I found a supplier in China that made engine gearboxes and they agreed to sell me a sample,” Affleck explains. “Two turned up on my doorstep but I didn’t know what to do next. So, I started thinking and mucking around with bits of cardboard and worked out how it could sit on top of a pod, but the next issue was the paddles.” Affleck knew he needed a decentsized paddle, but wondered how it could fit through the hole on the top of the colostrum storage tank. “The paddle was 550 millimetres in diameter but it needed to fit in a 145 or 150mm hole,” he says. “So I mucked around a bit more and found a way to make it really simple with one paddle folding so you can put it in the hole, then prop up the motor and push a rod to drop the paddle into place and away you go.” He crafted a cover for the motor to protect it from the elements, added a handle on top for easy fitting and changeover and made it all out of stainless steel for longevity. His neighbour who is handy with sheet metal and had a water jet cutter, which they used to profile the metal pieces before they shaped them and assembled the unit. And it was the solution he had been looking for, simple to use and effective for preventing separation in the tank. “It can be run continuously too and the motor only draws 0.6amps, so I’ve worked out it only costs 75 cents in power per day,” he says. Pleased with his design he figured others would benefit from the concept too, so he got back in touch with the


Rex Allflex rears about 60 calves on his small block in Gore and found stirring the colostrum a challenge, so he created an innovative product called Podstir.

supplier in China and talked them into sending 50 more motors, as opposed to their usual 100 minimum order. He named the product Podstir and started marketing on Trade Me and Facebook. He sold a few units before deciding to have a crack at the Fieldays Innovations Awards. “Before Fieldays I hadn’t sold 25 but I took the punt and ordered another 50 engines before we went in case there was a flood of orders,” he says. Fieldays was a success and he recently placed his third engine order. He sources all the other bits and pieces, including suitcase handles, from various sources and assembles the units at home in Gore. The product has been benefiting more than dairy farmers and calf rearers too. “I’ve sold units to a range of industries, including a pavlova company and a beekeeper, but ultimately, the concept

started to help others like me rearing calves and storing large quantities of milk and colostrum,” he says. Affleck fell into rearing calves. He had a motorcycle dealership for almost 37 years and had worked in research and development for both Yamaha and Honda in Japan before doing a range of roles across Australia and New Zealand. But once he settled on his four-hectare block in Gore, he took over the calf rearing from his children. “The kids started rearing calves nearly 30 years ago and one thing led to another and now we’re rearing four times as many as when we started and I’m hoping to do 60 this year,” he says. “I secured a good supply of colostrum and milk and that’s where Podstir evolved from. “It really is a great solution and I’m happy to be helping others overcome the challenges like we had.” n


September 2021


Considering applying for SFF funds?


ustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF) supports problemsolving and innovation in New Zealand’s food and fibre sectors by co-investing in initiatives that make a positive and lasting difference. Projects can range from small grassroots community projects to largescale industry development. These can include: • The development of a new product or service, or a better way of doing something. • Feasibility studies, such as exploring the development of a solution to an industry issue, or the viability of a new product. • Applied research, which has a practical application and addresses a real issue in the industry or helps pursue an opportunity. • Projects can be from businesses, nongovernment organisations, researchers, training institutions, Māori landowners,

community groups and industry bodies. • Proposals are assessed against nine criteria to decide whether applicants qualify for funding and how much they may receive. The SFF Futures assessment criteria are: • Sustainable benefits to New Zealand • Innovation • Beyond business as usual • Fit with relevant strategies • Adoption and extension/path to market • Ability to deliver • Governance • Risk identification and mitigation • Budget • Proposals should be solution-focused: They should find a new approach to an issue that NZ’s primary sector needs to address, whether it’s national in scale or related to just one local community, it should be aimed at positive, longlasting change. This may be an incremental change

that builds on other work or it could be disruptive in nature. It could be as big as an idea for a brand new product or a smaller-scale solution such as a new way of tackling a pest, improving animal welfare, or cleaning up your local waterway. • If a project involves research and development it must have a practical application. The people who will put the research into practice must be actively involved in the project. Current dairying projects being funded by the SFF are early life application of methane inhibitor BOVAER 10 in dairy calves, development of a multiplex immunoassay for detection of various bovine diseases and pregnancy diagnosis, future-ready farms and future-ready farms. n


Applications are open year-round. Info at www.mpi.govt.nz

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Intelligent teat tech By Samantha Tennent

New smart technology is on the market to help farmers by teat-spraying their cows more accurately and efficiently.


he challenge with in-race or walkover automatic teat sprayers is accurately predicting when the udder will be in the correct position. And to mitigate the risk of missing the teats, these systems are often designed to discharge high volumes of teat spray product. But new, intelligent technology developed by Onfarm Solutions will help combat auto-spraying challenges. “The (Teatwand Stepover) system has two sensors that measure where and when the cow is passing through the lane and they provide data to the controller,” Warwick Cross from Onfarm Solutions says. “From there, the controller automatically selects the appropriate spray sequence which provides full coverage of all four teats.” The system has four spray nozzles that operate in independently controlled pairs. If the cow walks at a slow speed, two nozzles will be used in the spray sequence and if the cow walks at a fast speed, all four nozzles will deploy for a shorter period of time to ensure full coverage of all the teats. And if the cow stops walking, the walkover teat spray system will spray the teats once the cow walks through. It is designed so it won’t spray the same cow twice and there is also an automatic function where the spray nozzles get washed after every 10 cows to prevent any blockage from dirt or manure. “The sophisticated technology in the control system guarantees the accuracy and reliability of the spray covering the teats,” he says. “The concept isn’t anything new, but it’s the technology in the brain of the system that refines the process and helps overcome the challenges inherent with walkover sprayers before.” When covid-19 hit, the Onfarm Solutions development team found their diaries wide open after putting a large project on hold, so turned their attention to the Teatwand.


The Teatwand Stepover system developed by Christchurch-based Onfarm Solutions, is intelligent technology to refine the teat-spraying process.

“The sophisticated technology in the control system guarantees the accuracy and reliability of the spray covering the teats.” Warwick Cross “We had been thinking about a solution for years, but I guess we’d focused on the low-hanging fruit with the rotary sheds,” he says. “We had put it off and put it off, but we had a bunch of engineers and developers sitting around, looking for something to do, so we decided it was time to throw ourselves at this.”

They set up the trial on Greg and Barbara Morriss’ farm at Rangiora and recorded hours and hours of footage of cows walking over the prototype. As well as a raft of data from the sensors while they were developing the programme. There were a few ideas that got chucked out because they failed in action, but they were pleased with the results of the final product. The Morriss’ peak milk 390 cows and run a split calving system, milking 150 cows through winter. “Udder health is really important to us and we’ve always teat-sprayed in the shed,” Morriss says. “I was sceptical about relying on an automatic sprayer at first, but being involved in the development and seeing the results first-hand boosted my


September 2021

The Teatwand Stepover was installed and trialed on Greg and Barbara Morriss’ Rangiora farm. They say the system has streamlined their milking process by eliminating the task of spraying.

confidence and it’s paying off dividends in labour and stress saving.” They have two people in the shed

during milking and utilise relief milkers regularly. “It makes it easier for the team and the teat spraying is more uniform. Sometimes people forget or they’re in a rush and miss the odd cow. It helps streamline our milking process by eliminating the task of spraying. “And originally we thought we may need to spray in the shed when the weather is really bad, but we just added some glycerine to the spray over winter. “We haven’t had any more mastitis cases than usual or any notable differences in somatic cell counts, so I’m fully convinced it’s doing a great job.” The farm sits below 100,000 year-round and Morriss appreciated the opportunity to be involved in the development of the Teatwand Stepover. “It can be daunting trying something new when you know you get good results from your current system, but the Onfarm Solutions team were great at taking our suggestions on board and making adjustments. “We are all really pleased with the outcome and I definitely recommend it to other farmers.”

The product was launched at the South Island Agricultural Field Days earlier this year and had great exposure through the Fieldays Innovations Awards at Mystery Creek. They have sold units all around New Zealand and sent many to farms in the US and Australia. “There is an online monitoring option too and the units in the US are all connected to it. It involves connecting the system to a modem in the dairy,” Cross says. “And a flow meter is connected in the system which monitors the teat spray usage and sends information to an online dashboard.” The units are easy to install on-farm and are manufactured in their workshop in Christchurch. Most of the components are made in NZ with the sensors and valves sourced mostly from German manufacturers. “Even though there is some complicated software involved, the overall product is simple. Once installed its plug and play for the farmer and it works with any teat spray product,” he n says.

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Tail scoring the herd can help farmers identify mishandling issues and help reduce the incidence of tail damage on-farm.

The value of tail scoring By Samantha Tennent

Tail breaking is one of the most common cattle-related welfare complaints that go through courts in New Zealand. It is a breach of the Animal Welfare Act and likely constitutes serious misconduct.


ail damage is painful for cows and research shows an average of 20% of dairy cattle in New Zealand, approximately one million cows, have abnormal tails.


Some of these have been shortened for medical reasons or it was performed before it became illegal, some have been damaged and some have a dislocation or break.

Currently, there is limited data on the causes of damaged tails, but it has been suggested that they may be caused by mechanical damage or inappropriate handling. In pasture-based cattle when


September 2021

there is a high prevalence of damaged tails, a potential cause that has been highlighted is staff impatience. When there are suspicious cases that get investigated in NZ it is difficult to determine when the damage has occurred, how it occurred and whether it was malicious or accidental. Most prosecutions occur if there is serious tail damage, which is presumed to be malicious. The force required to break a tail at a high point is significant and unlikely to be applied by accident, but most tail damage recorded generally falls into minor categories, such as deviations lower down the tail or on the switch and may be from machinery or yarding. If there is a dislocation from applying any excessive force to a tail, research shows it would make a detectable noise and there would be a change in resistance. In a milking shed the noise might be more difficult to hear because of the increased background noise, but in other circumstances it is more likely that the sound will be heard and could be reported to a veterinarian. Unfortunately, very few broken tails are promptly reported to veterinarians, meaning treatment won’t improve cow welfare. Comments made by farm teams suggest they watch and follow what they see veterinarians and managers doing, which includes lifting tails. Although they may not have the skills to do so without causing damage. And a farm manager may twist tails as a way of moving or restraining cows, believing it is standard practice, but tails should only be handled as a last resort and in a way that does not cause pain or damage to the cow. In NZ we can be apprehensive to talk about tail damage, with the heightened awareness of public perception and the social licence to farm and cases of

prosecutions. There can be concerns around drawing attention to the farm. But we cannot ignore it and just like other monitoring systems we have in place, for example herd testing and BVD bulk tank monitoring, tail auditing provides farms with valuable information. Monitoring allows farms to create a benchmark and identify any handling issues. It also allows us to track whether tail damage occurs on-farm or off-farm at grazing, for example.

“Although it can seem like a confronting step, demonstrating you value animal welfare by monitoring tail damage shows you care about your animals and protects your reputation – and it is the right thing to do for your herd and the sector as a whole.”

If you don’t record and benchmark, how can you know you have a problem or work to fix it? And although it can seem like a confronting step, demonstrating you value animal welfare by monitoring tail damage shows you care about your animals and protects your reputation – and it is the right thing to do for your herd and the sector as a whole. Some tail damage, especially around the switch, can be hard to see and may go unnoticed unless a tail audit is carried out. A tail audit is a good start to reducing the incidence of tail damage on-farm and should be carried out at

least annually. If we aim to score the herd as soon as the heifers enter or after changes in the farm team we can establish a timeline of when tail damage may be occurring and identify if there are any handling issues, or if there could be issues with machinery in the milking shed. Tail auditing involves visually inspecting and palpating the tail following the NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA) Standardised Tail Scoring System. It is carried out by a veterinarian or technician who will record any visual tail deviations, palpable traumas or swellings and any shortening, amputations or dockings in separate categories. You will get a report detailing the results alongside the cow IDs. And after a tail score if you have any concerns, your veterinarian can help you put a plan in place to reduce any damage or injuries that may be occurring whether they are from the infrastructure or the handling techniques. The farm team is the best to identify where the challenges are and can work with your veterinarian to find solutions to avoid more injuries. Tail scoring information can be captured within the WelFarm programme, which provides a benchmark to allow farmers to assess any new damage occurring and have assurance they have detailed records should any issues arise in the future. It will also benchmark regionally and nationally to give farmers an idea of how they are tracking. Talk to your veterinarian about incorporating tail auditing within your annual animal wellbeing plans. n

Who am I?

Samantha Tennent is the general manager of WelFarm Ltd.

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Caring for your calf By Anne Boswell


ith winter calving coming to a close, New Zealand’s favourite rural kid’s event is just

getting started. Registrations for 2021 Calf Club NZ are flooding in, with 164 children already registered this season. “We expect more registrations will come in as children get their calves,” Calf Club marketing manager Josh Herbes says. With registrations closing on September 1, head to the Calf Club NZ website to fill out a registration form online. Calf Club NZ consists of two main categories – formal on-farm judging and social online judging – in three age groups; pre-school, primary/intermediate and high school. Animals are also split into dairy and beef categories. Submissions are open from September 1-15, where children submit an image of their animal, with or without themselves in the photo; a 100-word story about their experience with their calf; and the calf’s details, including date of birth, breed, whether it’s a dairy or beef-type animal, and whether it was early or late. Children competing in the Formal On-Farm category are judged in regional on-farm visits during the spring school holidays (October 2-17). During the on-farm visit, child and calf will be assessed in three events: leading, rearing and conformation. “The Leading category assesses the ability of the child to lead the calf around the edge of a ring, how well the child handles the calf, and how well they work together and communicate with each other,” Calf Club lead judging coordinator Michelle Burgess says. “The Rearing category assesses the appearance and health of the calf, including grooming, cleanliness and general health. “And the Conformation category looks at animal traits, dependent on whether they are a dairy type or a beef type; it is a more traditional class.” Volunteer judges complete a scoring metric, which is then assessed at a


Calf Club judges will be assessing the children and calves on leading, rearing and conformation.

nationwide level to determine overall champions. But currently, children will be in the process of choosing, naming, caring for and training their calf club calf. With the help of sponsors, we have come up with some tips on how to care for your new calf: • Your calf will need a pen or a wellfenced paddock with shelter to protect it from cold wind and rain, especially when it is very young. For the first few days as you become friends, it will help if this is a small area so, wherever you are in the pen, you are close to the calf – it can hear your voice and will soon begin to trust you. • If your calf is housed in a pen, make sure that its bedding is always clean – rake any soiling out of the bed regularly so your calf has a nice clean, dry place to rest. • Right from the start, your calf will need feeding twice-a-day, in the morning (before you leave for school) and the

“Currently, children will be in the process of choosing, naming, caring for and training their calf club calf.”

afternoon (when you get home). • Calves need lots of milk. You will need a special feeder bottle to feed your calf. To avoid your calf getting scours, make sure everything it eats and drinks out of is spotlessly clean. • Feeding your calf is the important first step to getting it to trust you – and that’s the beginning of your friendship. • Your calf will need good quality, fresh, long grass and clean water in a low trough they can easily reach. n


For further information or to register your calf go to www.calfclubnz.co.nz/register


September 2021

Rural market update Dairy farm sales across the country over the last 12 months have shown the biggest rebound in a decade. Annualised NZ dairy farm sales to the end of June 2021 equalled 249 sales, up 233% on the same time last year, with total sales by value equalling $1.1b to 30 June, again 247% up on last year.

Our view is that this season 21/22, will be stronger again for dairy farm sales, as supply better matches demand, particularly as investor appetite favours dependable investment returns that can beat the cost of capital over the longer term.

The rebound over the last 12 months has been faster than any other time over the last decade. This time last year, the dairy real estate market was at a very low ebb, despite year-on-year gains in the dairy commodity cycle. In fact, it equalled the period immediately post GFC (June 2010) with only 104 sales for the entire season (12 months to June 2020) and a median sale price of $3.2m. This June, the median sale price is now $3.7m up, 16% on the previous 12 months on 2.3x the value of annual dairy sales ($1.1b) on the prior year. We ran an investment seminar in Auckland last November, encouraging those considering a dairy investment opportunity to weigh it up sooner rather than later. Our view was that the market offered exceptional value against proven returns. We still hold this view, particularly if the investment horizon is ten years plus. Despite significant swings in the commodity cycle post–GFC rural land values, and notably dairy, have stood up to the volatility well. In tough times farmers dig in. While external pressures may lead to farmers’ contemplating a sale, their ability to shut the farm gate, keep costs down and repay debt whilst absorbing compliance costs, has been a real feature of the last decade.

We also expect to see greater numbers of dairy farmers buying and selling dairy farms, given the billions of dollars of repaid rural debt over the last three seasons. Property Brokers’ leadership position in the NZ dairy real estate market has been built around trusted advice and our True Team approach up and down the country. Our success in connecting vendors with purchasers through disciplined marketing campaigns is something we take considerable pride in. For rural and lifestyle property advice from a national team of committed salespeople, supported by our expert marketing team, right across New Zealand, call 0800 367 5263 or visit pb.co.nz. Conrad Wilkshire, GM Rural for Property Brokers Ltd conrad@pb.co.nz

National Dairy Sales 20 ha+ rolling 12 months to June 2021 No of Sales

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$lnformation gathered from online sources

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Property Brokers Ltd Licensed REAA 2008 | 0800 367 5263 | pb.co.nz

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PASTURE & CROPPING There are several different types of ryegrass ranging from perennials, long and short-lived hybrids, annuals and bi-annuals.

Know your pastures By Gerald Piddock

Knowledge is power when it comes to managing plant species in your paddocks.


armers considering using ryegrass alternatives on their paddock sward need to understand the different roles these species can play in a pasture mix. That means farmers need to take a bit of personal responsibility to learn about these species so they can make a more informed decision, Agricom’s Allister Moorhead told farmers at the Smaller Milk and Supply Herds conference near Lake Karapiro. Knowing that information can be empowering for the farmer, he says. Species such as cocksfoot, prairie grass, tall fescue and brooms are used throughout New Zealand and in many cases are the right species for that space. “All of these species have a position and a place,” Moorhead says. “There is a diversity of options. What I implore you to do is know your plants because knowing your plants helps build expectations and your expectations will be met by knowing what you are doing.” Outside of ryegrass, other species have not been a traditional go-to option for the dairy industry. He says this is because ryegrass had been so simplistic and easy for farmers that it was the last thing they would want to move away from. A 2015 report by the NZIER showed that the value of this plant species to the NZ economy was around $14 billion. “Perennial ryegrass – I can’t emphasise enough – it is big, it is massive. Some of you see it as being imperfect now, but the reality is there is nothing as good as perennial ryegrass in the whole world to base a cow outdoor feeding system on. It


Even brassica crops’ $200 million contribution cannot compare to the $14 billion that ryegrass contributes to the NZ economy, Agricom’s Allister Moorhead says.

is a magnificent grass species.” This grass, however, copped a hiding when it did not meet those high expectations. This was particularly the case in the upper North Island where the pastures were no longer lasting. White clover, which was essential for milk production and fixing nitrogen was valued around $2 billion. In contrast, brassica crops’ contribution was around $200 million and Lucerne, chicory and plantain crops also contributed $42-$45m. While Moorhead believed these are underestimated, it still put the scale of ryegrass’s contribution into perspective.

“Look at the scale. There is no way that even the increase we have seen in chicory or lucerne could compare to the economic return of ryegrass for this country,” he says. There are several different types of ryegrass ranging from perennials, long and short-lived hybrids, annuals and biannuals. Cocksfoot, for example, was capable of great dry matter production in conditions that are not ideal for ryegrass. Its downside was it took a long time to establish. “If you are not ready for that, it’s going to be a shock to your system,” he says. Discussions around diversity in pastures and regenerative farming associated with that had pushed these conversations beyond just above the ground to the animal. It had made more people realise the soil and the roots played a huge role in understanding why some plants may not be working to their potential. Moorhead says ryegrass, for example, may not be growing properly if the ground was compacted. “It’s pretty hard to deny that if the ground feels like concrete under this much topsoil that it is having an interaction with what might be happening with your plant in dry conditions,” he says. “Probably this discussion around diversity, around regenerative agriculture has got us back to a discussion where we are prepared to take the time and scratch the surface and look at stuff we probably should have been always looking at.” n


September 2021


Hard to replace By Gerald Piddock

A leading scientist agrees that the global food system should be plant based despite the large amount being wasted.


he global food system needs to be plant-based but animal optimised to reflect the critical role animal-sourced nutrition can play, Fonterra chief science and technology officer Jeremy Hill says. Speaking at the Pasture Summit in Hamilton via Zoom, Hill said Riddet Institute modelling had proven this, showing the critical role animal-sourced nutrition played with providing all the nutrients people require. “We often hear that the global food system should be plant-based. I actually agree with that, it should absolutely be plant-based,” Hill says. About 77% of the nine billion tonnes of plant-based biomass in the global food system ends up as food chain and around 23% comes from animals. Of the 1.5 billion tonnes of the world’s animal-based biomass, about half of it was milk. In global diets, people consume 75% plant-based biomass and 25% animal biomass. “But staggeringly, 91% of the world food’s biomass waste comes from the plant-based food system and about 9% from animals,” he says. “Looking at this another way, of the 100% of the plant-based food biomass produced, we end up consuming 39%.” About 15% of plant-based biomass was used to feed animals, but people ended up consuming 78% of 100% of the animals produced. “This is often missing from the debate,” he says. He believed there were enough macronutrients in the world to feed 8.5 billion people by 2030 provided it was properly distributed and accessible. “Macro-nutrient deficiency is not the problem it’s been made out to be,” he says. “We actually produce enough protein and the essential amino acids in the protein to feed the protein requirements of the global population in 2050. “The key point is that 7-8% of the biomass that leaves the world’s farms as


September 2021

Fonterra chief science and technology officer Jeremy Hill says dairy has a huge role to play in the global food system.

milk has a disproportionate contribution to nutrition.” Not only was it a major supplier of nutrients, it is hard to replace when compared to the contributions of other foods and it was hard to replace without dramatically increasing other food groups. “We’re not just talking one or two-fold, we’re talking 10-20, or even more, fold,” he says. But while dairy is a nutrient-dense and rich food, it was not a good source of all nutrients. While it had a pivotal role in the food system, he says it did not do it all. While it could be replaced as a pure protein source, it was much more difficult when it came to finding replacements for the other nutrients dairy provides compared to other foods. “Nutrition comes first and any food

system that fails to meet the minimum nutrition requirements of the global population cannot be considered a sustainable food system,” he says. On the question of greenhouse gases (GHG) and whether dairy consumption should be reduced, Hill says globally, around 20-30% of GHG are caused by the food system and dairy was responsible for 2-3% of that, shifting to 4% if dairybeef is included. When put into the context of its nutritional composition compared to plants, he says it was arguably a good tradeoff. “It’s a good deal, but not a perfect deal … and we need to improve the efficiency and the sustainability of our dairy chains,” he says. Hill says this had to be done because dairy played such a valued role in global nutrition. n



Interest in maize growing


ecent changes in environmental regulations for winter cropping and a significant increase in the price of imported supplements, including palm kernel, is driving higher dairy farmer interest in maize silage. “While the recently announced Essential Freshwater rules will have significant implications for grazed crops, they represent ‘business as usual’ for growing maize,” Pioneer farm systems and environment specialist Ian Williams says. One of the most talked about new rules is the cap on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser application. “While we encourage responsible nitrogen use, it is important to note that the 190 kg/ha synthetic nitrogen application rule does not apply to maize silage or grain crops, regardless as to whether they are grown on arable or livestock farms,” he says. The new rules introduce restrictions on intensification activities with resource consents being needed to expand the area of grazed forage crops or dairy support activities above historical levels. Intensive winter grazing of forage crops will also require a consent where the activity occurs over 50ha, or 10%, of the property, whichever is the greater and where it occurs on slopes 10 degrees or steeper. “Maize silage is harvested and stored so it is not affected by the intensification or winter grazing restrictions that affect most other crops,” he says. “It offers a proven solution for livestock farmers who are looking for wintering options which don’t involve intensive grazing.” Maize is also proving to be a great option for farmers who have relied on high amounts of palm kernel in past seasons. “The great thing about maize is that it is locally grown and so we don’t see the large price swings you get with an imported commodity,” he says. This season palm kernel price has lifted on the back of higher point-of-origin prices, but also drastically increased shipping costs. The Baltic Dry index, which provides a daily benchmark for the price of moving bulk raw materials,


Maize silage is a low-cost supplement that’s great for increasing cow condition, extending lactation and filling feed deficits and has the potential to reduce nitrogen leaching.

“A maize crop offers farmers a financially viable option to mop up surplus nitrogen on effluent paddocks or after grazed winter crops.” Ian Williams including feeds, by sea has risen more than 110% in the past year. “Maize silage is a low-cost supplement that’s great for increasing cow condition, extending lactation and filling feed deficits,” he says. “And if you are a Fonterra supplier, you can feed high amounts of maize silage without having to worry about any impact on the Fat Evaluation Index (FEI).” Maize also has well-documented water and nitrogen use efficiency benefits. The

maize plant has a water-use efficiency 2-3 times that of perennial ryegrass and it can draw nutrients, including nitrogen which have dropped below the rooting depth of pasture species. Williams says maize has the potential to reduce nitrogen leaching on dairy farms. Recently published research conducted by Pioneer® brand seeds shows the annual nitrogen leaching loss under maize silage followed by a harvested annual ryegrass catch-crop can be as low as 6kg N/ha. “A maize crop offers farmers a financially viable option to mop up surplus nitrogen on effluent paddocks or after grazed winter crops,” he says. “It’s a crop with a lot of proven environmental benefits and continued advances in crop establishment and management practices will see maize become even greener in the years ahead.” n


September 2021


A winning formula By Gerald Piddock

Dairy products and in particular, grass-fed products, are performing strongly post-covid in overseas markets.


he post-covid world has presented huge opportunities for grass-fed dairy products because of how it has changed consumer buying patterns, leader of Ireland’s billion-dollar Kerry Gold dairy brand says. Speaking via Zoom at the Pasture Summit in Hamilton, Ornua chief executive John Jordan says there is “without question” growth opportunities for grass-fed dairy products. Ornua is the owner of Ireland’s Kerry Gold brand, exporting to 110 countries around the world. What is unknown, he says, is what life will be like post-covid. In developed markets, it forced consumers to eat at home and this magnified some of the emerging consumer trends pre-covid. These included the absolute need and want for brand transparency and integrity. “The questions and engagement they ask is phenomenal. The trust they have in products is critical and it’s really important that we protect that,”Jordan says. He says there had been a realisation that what people ate impacted on their health and dairy has been seen as a very positive part of a diet. It had led to a resurgence of dairy and it had performed very strongly in all of Ornua’s markets. “We genuinely believe that because Ireland and New Zealand are the two countries remaining for grass-based systems ... that’s a USP (unique selling point) – it’s a real point of difference. It’s a physical difference you can see in the product.” He described Kerry Gold as its “crown jewel” and a great asset. “It’s Ireland’s first-ever billion-Euro brand,” he says. That branding was centred on milk produced from grass-fed cows in Ireland. Its butter was the second largest


brand in the United States behind LandO-Lakes’. There had been a fundamental shift in people’s attitudes, Nestlé head of dairy corporate sustainable agricultural development Robert Erhard said, also via Zoom. People recognised they lived in a finite environment and they had a duty to take care of the planet. “The sense of accountability is very strong. All of us have a role to play,” Erhad says. It was no longer about what people or companies did, but what they were impacting and this is why companies had adopted language such as responsible sourcing and rebuilding nature. Farmers needed to think about the inputs they use and the biodiversity that was there, how it was built up and nurtured and how they can capture evidence and proof of how they are driving that forward. “You are doing a lot of things right. Let it be captured and let it be shared that you are on a regenerative form of agriculture,” he says. “We as a dairy industry need to move towards low-carbon dairy farming or netzero dairy farming.” He says this was challenging but possible. “That is something if you are looking to the future to what will matter, climate is going to be an important part,” he says. He defined regenerative agriculture as a farming method where the farmer works with nature rather than against it, including water and soil health and biodiversity and animal welfare. Consumers were asking farmers to move towards this type of agriculture, he says. There will be a transformation for the dairy production system and for those operating a production system closer to nature, it should be less challenging. Nestlé had committed to being

Ornua chief executive John Jordan says dairy produced from grass-fed cows gave products a unique selling point.

Nestlé head of dairy corporate sustainable agricultural development Robert Erhard says there has been a fundamental shift in people’s attitude towards dairy.

net zero emissions by 2050 and to regenerative agriculture. It wanted to achieve this through a collaborative approach to ensure dairy had a good future, he said. Erhard says there are beverage products out there that are wanting to compete with milk and are trying to mimic milk’s nutritional elements. “Moving away from animal proteins in a healthy diet realistically is very challenging for anyone up to 20-30 years of age,” he says. He saw plant-based protein drinks as complementing dairy, rather than in competition as global population growth continued. “When you look at additional milk volume growth that is happening on the plant, with the additional people that are required, I think we are seeing an enemy we may not actually have,” he says. It was not a question of one or the other, but finding the right balance between the two. n


September 2021


Accept the challenge By Gerald Piddock

There are steps famers can take to meet the challenges around lowering emissions.


airy farmers need to let go of their fear and face up to the industry’s environmental challenges, DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold says. Those challenges are primarily the regulations around water quality lowering the industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, he said in updating New Zealand’s progress around environmental mitigation at the Pasture Summit in Hamilton. The scientific challenge was that methane and nitrogen are the heart of farming systems. “If we are going to break the link between nitrogen inputs and N loss, we have to reorganise the nitrogen cycle,” Thorrold says. “If we are to break the link between feed eaten and methane production, we have to reorganise the rumen.” He says these are major challenges to how farming is thought about. There are lots of existing tools available to help with the N challenge, such as reducing N inputs, using off pasture systems to reorganise the N cycle and using plantain. Precision fertiliser technology such as Spikey and new kinds of inhibitors are also in the pipeline. For GHG, the first target was to take waste feed out of the farming system. There are also methane inhibitors being trialled, such as seaweed, which could help reduce the industry’s emissions.


September 2021

Thorrold says it was important to differentiate between total GHG emissions and GHG intensity, as the Government was much more interested in total emissions. However, consumers are more interested in GHG intensity – how much GHG does it take to make a kilogram of product? The two were quite different, he says. Farmers can meet these targets through a mix of voluntary action, GHG pricing through He Waka Eke Noa and regulation. A vaccination was still seen as the industry’s silver bullet, while other technology such as an early life rumen reset has also been looked at by researchers. Low-emitting cattle are also being bred via genetics, with both LIC and CRV active in long-term projects looking at this. “It’s not enough to be an efficient cow. You have to be a cow that breaks the link between methane and feed eaten,” he says. Planting more trees was the simplest answer to storing more carbon on farms. New Zealand’s soils were naturally already high in carbon, meaning there are limited options to increasing carbon levels in soils. Biochar is a potential solution if the economics could be made to stack up, but another solution is the pasture diversity and grazing management techniques used in regenerative agriculture. NZ may be world-leading

in dairy farming, but he says its competitors were moving quickly to catch up. “We have options now. We have options to make our businesses more profitable and with a lower footprint and to set ourselves up for 2030 or for when the technologies kick through to give us a sustainable and productive sector,” he says. Thorrold says food production was not exempt from the need to do better. “Clearly what our

DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold says the scientific challenge for reducing dairying’s environmental impact was that methane and nitrogen lay at the heart of farming systems.




Raising vikings

n intergenerational family farm sitting below Mt Pirongia in Waikato has been in the Shaw family for the past 96 years. Don Shaw is now semi-retired and spends his time researching bulls and advising granddaughter Alicia who, after working on a variety of farms and winning Dairy Trainee of the Year, has now been in charge of running the family farm for the past 10 years. Alicia takes care of the 380-cow herd’s AB, feeding and milking, while her brother Mathew helps out with the general day-to-day chores on the farm.

Waikato farmer Don Shaw has spent 40 years working with cattle genetics but is now semiretired. Don with granddaughter Alicia.

“Having used genetics from around the world since 1986, Don first began using VikingJerseys in 2006.”

Don has worked with cattle genetics for more than 40 years. In 2002 he participated in a world tour dairy event that took him on separate trips to Denmark, Ireland and Scotland, where he encountered many VikingJersey herds. Having used genetics from around the world since 1986, Don first began using VikingJerseys in 2006. He explains that when making breeding decisions they are looking for Jerseys that produce well, are strong medium-sized cows,

slightly bigger than the New Zealand Jersey population and are low maintenance. Alicia explains that on their farm they do not cull based on age and cows that perform well and get in-calf stay in the herd. Today they have VikingJersey cows as old as 14 years of age in the herd and even at that age the cows are top performers, look strong and have their udders intact. Some of the older VikingJersey cows

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have done over 700kg milksolids a year and are proof that they get in-calf every year, they produce well and don’t cause any issues. Their younger VikingJerseys coming through are also becoming top performers, with four two-year-old Husky daughters coming through at the top of their group with great production. The Shaws have used a variety of VikingJersey bulls over the years, which is now available from Samen NZ. n

Victoria dairy farmers Josh and Lilli Philp are using ABS InFocus to produce saleable calves instead of bobbies.


Milking the meat market


sing specialist dairy-beef semen in a three-way-cross herd has eliminated bobby calves and opened a lucrative new income stream for one southwest Victorian dairy farm. And there’s expectations this move could deliver a windfall of up to $100,000 a year, without any extra work. Garvoc dairy farmers Josh and Lilli Philp have mated more than half their 800-head herd to ABS InFocus this year, after successfully trailing the dairy-beef semen last year. “This year’s programme has just been sexed semen and ABS InFocus, we haven’t used any conventional semen,” Josh says. “It means we don’t have bobby calves, and yes, that’s one of the plans, but the other plan is to value-add our crossbred herd.” ABS InFocus has enabled them to boost the value of their calves while also providing a market for male and female offspring. “Previously, the value of bobby calves was $20, these InFocus calves are worth $200 at 10 days old,” he says. “We could potentially turn what was

a $20,000 business into an $80,000$100,000 a year business.” ABS InFocus is an evolution of the traditional beef on dairy programmes in Australia, with the beef semen developed through a comprehensive breeding programme to ensure the highest-value progeny from dairy animals. InFocus delivers healthier feeder cattle that grow faster, efficiently convert feed and deliver high-yielding, quality meat. The Philp’s do not run herd bulls, all animals are bred via artificial insemination across nine weeks. Female replacements for the milking herd are bred from about 200 of the milkers using sexed semen. The rest of the herd is joined to InFocus. Cow health is one of the most important traits for determining which animals are mated with sexed semen. Philip uses cow manager tags on the milkers to help record important details that assist this selection process. “Cows have to have had at least two (reproductive) cycles, be in 40 days-plus and had to have no calving difficulties, no health issues – including mastitis and lameness – since calving,” he says. “Basically, if that is the case, they

get a sexed semen straw.” This year 400 sexed semen straws, plus a small amount of InFocus, was used across the first 2.5 weeks of joining. Calving a large herd in a tight seasonal window, he says the ability to sell the InFocus calves at 10 days old was a bonus. “A contract calf rearer picks them up; most of ours go at 10 days to 2 weeks old, as we don’t have the capabilities to rear 250 heifer calves ourselves plus all the beef ones,” he says. Initially cautious about using beef semen to breed crossbred dairy animals, Josh was pleasantly surprised when there were no calving issues during last year’s trial period. His trepidation about the appearance of the crossbred cows’ progeny was also unfounded. “The majority came out black; some had a little bit of a red tinge through them,” he says. “But the backgrounder was happy with them, and they are growing well.” n


Samen NZ supplies a wide variety of dairybeef solutions, including the ABS Beef InFocus.

AGRICULTURE IS OUR CULTURE It’s the Pu lse of the nation Join our growing community of #agripreneurs. Follow Pulse on instagram.com/pulseagri Instagram DAIRY FARMER September 2021

The official newsletter of the agripreneur.community 63


Wagyu means Japanese cow and the Red Wagyu was bred about 100 years ago using the Korean Hanwoo, Simmental and South Devon cattle.

The Wagyu effect By Ross Nolly

Producing premium beef calves will help dairy farmers reduce their bobby calf numbers, which will lead to great profitability.


ender, well-marbled Wagyu beef is savoured by food lovers around the world, so breeders strive to produce premier-grade beef calves. Southern Stations Wagyu use pedigree Red Wagyu bulls in Australia, whose semen is imported into New Zealand for use on dairy farms. The aim is for dairy farmers to use it in their herds to produce premium calves from NZ’s dairy herd for beef farmers. General manager Rob Earl says Southern Stations Wagyu ultimate aim is to produce high-quality beef animals. Wagyu beef is a product that carries a premium in the market. Wagyu is not a breed of cattle, it simply means Japanese cow. Red Wagyu is lesser known than the traditional more common Black Wagyu, but it was bred approximately 100 years ago using the Korean Hanwoo, Simmental and South Devon cattle.


“We selected Red Wagyu because they deliver growth rates comparable to other dairy beef animals. Red Wagyu were bred in Japan’s warmer southern region as a grass-fed animal and are excellent converters of grass to meat,” Rob says. “They suit New Zealand’s environment and have been selectively bred for meat marbling for 100 years and carry the prized Wagyu name.” Red Wagyu are known as Akaushi. The breed achieves good growth rates, with high-yielding, heavy carcase weights they are easy-calving, have a docile temperament and adapt well to various climates and feeding methods. A trial with 1200 calves averaged 91 days to weaning weight. “The main benefit for dairy farmers is that Red Wagyu semen provides them with valuable calves. Red Wagyu sires improve the carcase quality of any cross by gaining marble-score without giving away the traits that we’ve traditionally

looked for in a New Zealand grass-fed environment,” he says. Southern Stations Wagyu sells to dairy farmers exclusively through Samen NZ Ltd who also have a clear dairy beef strategy. Semen can be dispatched and inseminated through all major semen companies. Semen sales are backed by a buy-back contract, which allows the dairy farmer to gauge their premium return well in advance. Southern Stations Wagyu breeding contracts will go up to a J8 (50% Jersey cross) cow. Solely sticking with the use of AI enables Southern Stations Wagyu to use their best bulls rather than herd bulls. “Our dairy farmers in general, have a focus on producing replacements from their best cows, often by utilising sexedsemen. This enables them to mate lowerproducing dairy cows to Red Wagyu to obtain a contracted price for their calves,” he says.


September 2021

“Many of our farmers are following up with Samen’s short-gestation Belgian Blues, which has proved to be a very good mating plan.” They DNA test every calf to verify the sire and assess the performance of each animal over its lifetime to ensure the best breeding decisions are made. “DNA testing gives us validation that the calf is a true F1 Wagyu. We put the word Wagyu on our meat labels, so we need to be 100% certain that the statement is correct. We make it clear to farmers that the DNA test is a validation, not a selection tool,” he says. “We DNA test weekly and collect the calves the following week at seven to 13 days old. We reject the occasional fineboned or small calf that won’t fit into our programme of producing large, grainfinished carcases. We don’t apologise for that because we aim to produce highquality beef. We don’t mind paying a premium for the calves as long as they’re high-quality,” he says. Southern Stations Wagyu farmer contracts pay $200 per non-reared calf and $630 for a 100kg calf, with a 110kg average. They are a part of the StockCo New Zealand Group livestock financing

Australian Red Wagyu bulls used over dairy herds can help farmers reduce their bobby calf numbers.

“The main benefit for dairy farmers is that Red Wagyu semen provides them with valuable calves.” Rob Earl company. The weaning weight of every calf is financed for the finishing farmer, so there is no outlay to them. “The finishing farmer takes them through and when they sell them they pay an interest margin and pay back the

Known as Akaushi, Red Wagyu achieves good growth rates, with high-yielding, heavy carcase weights and are easy-calving.

Lucrative Red Wagyu Contracts The Red Wagyu are easy calving, have an average gestation of around 285 days and come with lucrative contracts. Talk to your local Samen NZ representative to find out if the Red Wagyu is right for you and your herd.

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

original cost. That gives us continuity of ownership from the semen right through to slaughter,” he says. Many dairy farmers rear their Red Wagyu calves through to 100kg and have very few issues getting them to the required weight. Some keep them through to two years old. The animals are grain finished for 100 days to fully express their marbling potential and maximise carcase weight. Contracts give farmers a price certainty and the confidence that comes with knowing that they’ll be paid for their calves in advance. It’s also a relief for them to know during a busy spring that their calves will be picked up without relying on auctions or finding reliable buyers for them. “Our customer base has continued to grow. Dairy farmers want to reduce bobby calf numbers. If they want to sell calves, then they need to produce an animal that beef farmers want to buy,” he says. “We’re seeing a strengthening in the market for Wagyu beef. If there are going to be limitations on land use, lower stocking rate and higher output, this is a clear example of what can be done while still utilising our dairy base.” n


Bulls line up to deliver By Greg Hamill

Breeding better and more efficient cows is where the industry’s focus should be heading if we are to be more sustainable.


he trend toward farmers’ requirement for more replacements from their herd’s best cows is where LIC’s Sexed Semen and Forward Pack solutions come in. Sexed Semen will provide more heifers from specific cows, while Forward Pack’s genomically-selected bulls will cut down on the generation interval, increasing the herd’s rate of genetic gain. LIC’s genetics team is seeing a noticeable shift in farmer focus, primarily driven by the conversations about farming more sustainably, with high attention on environmental considerations and the social licence to operate. There’s general acceptance within the industry that while it’s unlikely we’ll be milking more cows, it is imperative the focus turns to breeding better ones. Sexed semen, genomics and beef are the hot topics when our agri managers have been visiting on-farm. With the annual rate of genetic gain being $9BW, equating to a 5.9kg lift in milksolids each year, farmers are challenging their systems, their mating plans and trying to achieve 15-20BW points in a year, thereby capturing the associated productivity gains that come with that. The demand for liquid sexed semen has experienced significant growth this season, with demand exceeding 200,000 straws and some days over the peak mating period already at capacity. It’s fair to say the incredible demand is at least partly-driven by a deeper understanding among farmers that if better gains in productivity are to be achieved, more replacements from their best cows will be required, while fewer replacements are desired from the lessproductive herd members. With the heightened demand for sexed semen and through LIC’s partnership with Sexing Technologies, part of LIC’s campus has undergone refurbishment to house the sexing


LIC’s genetics team is seeing a noticeable shift in farmer focus, primarily driven by the conversations about farming more sustainably.

“As farmers try to capture more productivity gains from their elite animals, we’re also seeing a clear drive to stop drawing on dairy replacements from the bottom 10-20% of the herd.” machines on-site. This will allow for increased efficiency in sorting the semen and allows the ability for farmers on night AB runs to utilise the product (not previously possible). Shortening the generation interval is another way of speeding up rates of genetic gain, which is precisely what genomic technology allows LIC to do within its breeding programme. With validation showing clear advantages for the Forward Pack teams over LIC’s traditional Daughter Proven teams, we’re once again seeing

a significant lift in numbers in demand for teams that contain genomic bulls. The solid differentials are no doubt a big reason why LIC now sees 70% of its genetics sales coming from teams that contain genomically-selected bulls. As farmers try to capture more productivity gains from their elite animals, we’re also seeing a clear drive to stop drawing on dairy replacements from the bottom 10-20% of the herd. Beef sales continue to grow. There’s continuing demand seen in the short gestation products, as farmers also seek to capitalise on additional days in milk. Last year LIC launched HoofPrint in its dairy section of the catalogue and this year we’ve launched BeefPrint. It’s significant that farmers can now select dairy and beef sires that are more environmentally-friendly when it comes to nitrogen or enteric methane emissions, so be sure to get familiar with what’s now available in that space. n

Who am I?

Greg Hamill is the LIC genetics business manager.


September 2021

Our Premier Teams are still taking to the field. LIC’s Premier Sires® bulls are still doing what they do best. Bringing New Zealand farmers a cost-effective and convenient way to increase herd genetic value. Choose a team from Premier Sires to suit your needs – A2/A2, daughter proven or genomic bulls. With options for DIY insemination or a visit from our technicians, you can still ensure your future herd performance is a winning one. Call your Agri Manager to lock in your Premier Sires Team or learn more at lic.co.nz


There's always room for improvement



More for less

airy farmers looking to increase the value of their dairy-beef cross calves should consider the benefits of using modern Limousin genetics in their AI programme. Limousin genetics offer moderate calving weights, feed efficiency and extra weight gain with all calves polled. Furthermore, careful selection particularly over the past 25 years has resulted in a quiet, easily managed animal. Using a Limousin sire over traditional dairy cows maximises heterosis, or hybrid vigour, with significant performance advantages in the first cross calves. A less known advantage is the naturally occurring myostatin mutation prevalent in many beef cattle breeds, including Limousin. A normally functioning myostatin gene inhibits muscle growth. A mutation of

this gene reduces its power to switch off the multiplication of muscle fibres, which can result in an increase of the size and number of muscle fibres. There are nine known mutations of the myostatin gene in cattle of which six are “loss of function” mutations. The most extreme “double muscling” occurs in breeds like Belgian Blues. However, Limousin carry a mutation known as F94L, which does not cause an increase in the size of muscle fibres but does cause an increase in their number. Therefore, Limousin cattle have the benefit of increased muscle mass, carcase (meat) yield and meat quality without any associated severe negative problems like increased calving difficulty or lowered fertility and longevity. Research undertaken by Dr Wayne Pitchford, University of Adelaide, showed that the unique Limousin muscling gene from no extra feed could produce up

Limousin genetics used over dairy herds produce calves with significant performance advantages.

to: 19% more high-value cuts; 8% more in yield of retail cuts; and 6-11% more tenderness. The Limousin advantage gives “more from less”. n

A quantum leap forward


airy Farmers now have an AI option that will take their dairy-beef calves to the next level in performance and profitability. Available through Xcell Breeding Services is a new-generation Limousin AI sire, Piwakawaka Quantum Leap. Aptly named, this locally-bred sire incorporates

some of the best genetics available globally. With easy calving traits and shorter gestation, he will leave you redundant during the calving season. His 200-day and 400-day growth statistics are in the top 10% for the breed and his calves will stand out with their extra growth and distinctive muscling.

Limousin AI sire, Piwakawaka Quantum Leap incorporates some of the best genetics available globally.


Target weights will be reached earlier with less feeding costs. Phenotypically correct, his progeny will be deep bodied with width and length along the loin, with extra butt, on a moderate frame. Breeder Gary Kennett jumped at the opportunity to have Quantum Leap collected for the dairy industry. “Greg from Xcell Breeding Services rang me earlier in the year and asked if we had a suitable Limousin bull available for collection,” Kennett says. “I jumped at the opportunity because Quantum Leap offers so much. He is out of one of our best-performance cows and his North American sire has left some great progeny for us. “He is in the top 10% of the breed for docility and we see that great nature when we work with him. He is a really chilled dude.” “We’ve had him DNA-profiled and his homo-polled status means all his progeny will be polled. This is where the industry is going.” “I’ve seen some outstanding Limo-X out of the dairy industry. There should be more.” n


September 2021

Benmore Limousin almost 50 years on


he James family have been breeding Limousin cattle for almost 50 years in the foothills near Darfield, Canterbury. The Benmore stud remains the longest established registered Limousin stud in Australasia, having first registered the stud in 1973. Stud principal Warrick James runs about 130 breeding cows and continues to be impressed with the performance of Limousin cattle. “They seem to do so well on tougher country and are happy to seek out the higher grazing areas. They look after themselves to some extent,” James says. “We’ve been selectively breeding for many years with an eye for conformation, production and easy management. We now have a type that works well for our conditions. “When we weaned in autumn, the calves were so easy to handle and it was such a pleasure to work with them in the yards.”

The James family from Darfield own the oldest registered Limousin stud in Australasia. A pen of yearling Limousins that sold for record price through Coalgate Saleyards by Warrick James (right). In recent years there has been a noticeable increase in buyer inquiry from the dairy industry. “Last season we sold a fair number of yearling and R2 service bulls into dairy, which was really encouraging. I had some great feedback about their performance,” he says. “They present excellent value both in terms of cost per cow mated and also the extra value in the calf the following season. “I would encourage dairy farmers who want to produce a quality dairy-beef calf to consider Limousin.”

A shift in demand towards polled cattle has also been addressed. “Most of our yearlings are now polled, which is also an advantage to buyers. There are now some high-quality polled genetics available and our AI programme has tended to include mainly polled sires,” he says. “We also have some black Limousin available and some crossbred bulls.” “The Limousin these days is softer and deeper bodied than before. The gestation length has shortened up and calving weights are certainly lighter.” n

Grow your bottom line

e! wit h the Lim ous in ad van tag

● Fully vaccinated with highest biosecurity protocols ● Yearling and two-year-old service bulls available

General enquiries – Gary Kennett (Piwakawaka Limousin) Ph 029 377 4545 Limousin semen enquiries – Greg McKay (Xcell Breeding Services) Ph 03 312 2191 or mob 021 453 387

www.limousin.co.nz DAIRY FARMER

September 2021


Warrick James (Benmore Limousin) Ph 03 318 2352 or mob 0276 819 543

www.limousin.co.nz 69


Prices, payout drive dairy-beef More farmers are investing in beef semen as they look to increase profitability.


trong international beef prices and a high forecast milk payout are driving dairy farmer demand for short-gestation dairy-beef. CRV product management specialist Mitchell Koot says demand from CRV customers for beef semen has increased, on average, by 10% annually over the past five years with no sign of things slowing down. “The current and forecasted milk payout from dairy companies is looking exceptional, meaning maximising days in milk will be king to help farmers increase profitability,” Koot says. “Short-gestation dairy-beef can help farmers make the most of it by increasing their herd’s days in milk. Combining this increased milk production with strong beef prices, driven by high demand in China and US, makes dairy beef an attractive option to boost returns.” Rabobank’s New Zealand Agribusiness Monthly Report (August 2021) shows total beef exports were up 8% year-on-year to June 2021, with strong growth in Asia, including Japan up 69%, China up 52% and Indonesia up 127%. Strong demand from China, coupled with less competition from the Australian market as its beef herd rebuilds, has also increased the farm gate beef price for farmers. The Rabobank report sets prices at $6/kg carcase weight for North Island producers and $5.56/kg carcase weight for South Island producers – 10% above the five-year average. CRV works with key dairy-beef partners to ensure they offer customers top quality sires whose progeny have traits tailored to both dairy and beef farmer needs. The Beef + Lamb NZ Dairy-Beef Progeny Test Report for June shows CRV dairy-beef sires ranking highly for a number of key traits, including short gestation, growth rate, carcase weight and calving ease. Koots says farmers are using semen from a range of breeds, including the more well-known breeds like Hereford, Angus, Charolais and Speckled Park, to


CRV product management specialist Mitchell Koot says short gestation dairy beef can help farmers make the most of it by increasing their herd’s days in milk which combined with increased milk production with strong beef prices, makes dairy beef an attractive option to boost returns.

newer breeds such as Belgian Blue and Stabilizer®. “Our bulls are tested against the breed plan database to calculate their breeding values for important traits like gestation length and calving ease, while still offering the strong growth traits needed to satisfy dairy beef finishing operations,” he says. Report highlights CRV’s quality offering • The latest B+LNZ Dairy-Beef Progeny Test Report shows how CRV dairy beef bulls rank for producing quality dairybeef, with short gestation and superior growth traits. • B+LNZ’s dairy-beef progeny testing has been running since 2015, testing the progeny of selected bulls in dairy herds to determine how well they perform. Below are some results to note from CRV dairy beef bulls highlighted in the June 2021 report. • Charolais bull Kakahu Gerry continues

to stamp his mark with superior growth traits. He is currently ranked number one for 600-day weight (469kg) and carcase weight (298kg), as well as second in days to weaning (77.7 days). Gerry has been in CRV’s dairybeef offering for a number of years now and his popularity continues to grow. He is also homozygous polled meaning no dehorning is required. Angus bull Focus Whitlock showed that he has leading short gestation length qualities at 277.7 days. Whitlock also has below average birth weight (36.4kg) and above average 200-day weight (179kg) for his cohort year. Adjusted for birth weight, Whitlock calves would wean at 100kg three days earlier than the average for his cohort, which is why he is such a good bull for maximising days in milk, calf rearing and beef finishing alike. Murray Grey bull Torrisdale Kakanui K122 met the “all-rounder” criteria having good birth weight and gestation length so calves are born easily and on time, while also achieving above average carcase weight and marbling scores. He is an ideal fit for dairy beef. Belgian Blue continues to increase in popularity. With the first calves of Elk 41 on the ground, the CRV field team reports that farmers are very pleased with the calves, some born up to 10 days early. Along with the short gestation, they also appreciated the sire’s calving ease and easily identifiable coat colour markings. Fertabull short-gestation Hereford also continues to be a favourite among dairy farmers. Containing semen from three of Bluestone Herefords elite sires, this option increases the length of time the semen is viable and gives farmers the greatest chance of getting cows in calf. Based on CRV semen fertility data, there is on average a 4% higher conception rate. The three bulls are carefully selected for their short gestation, calving ease, growth and carcase traits. They are also homozygous polled, meaning no dehorning required. n


September 2021

CRV, leading in health and efficiency

CRV Dairy Beef

Specialty breeds to suit your herd







Focus Whitlock 75

Elk 41 Van de Plashoeve

Kakahu Gerry PP

ALSO AVAILABLE: Belted Galloway, Galloway, Limousin, Lowline, Murray Grey, Red Devon, Scottish Highland, Simmental, Shorthorn (white), Wagyu



To order call your local field consultant or our friendly customer support team on 0800 262 733


Tools to better bull buying By Posy Moody

NZ Herefords are dedicated in assisting dairy farmers to choose profitable tail-up bull to sire saleable progeny.


Z Herefords have several tools which are targeted at aiding dairy farmers to select profitable bulls suited to the dairy industry. Both tools are founded on Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs), which were proven by the Beef + Lamb Genetics Progeny tests in 2018 to work. B+LNZ Genetics national beef manager Max Tweedie says the resounding conclusion (in reference to the progeny tests) is that EBVs work. “Put simply, that means using bulls with better EBVs gives you reliably better calves – that is, on average, calves perform in line with what their sires’ figures predicted. And, the consequence of that is better returns,” Tweedie says in his August 2018 B+LNZ Genetics report. Boehringer Ingelheim Dairy Merit Sires awards were recently announced to successful Hereford breeders. These awards use criteria to identify registered Hereford sires ideally suited to the dairy industry. The awards concentrate on EBVs relative to the dairy industry, hence taking the hard work out of the decisionmaking for you. Sires which produce low birth weight, ease of calving and optimum growth make them a reliable choice to use as follow-up bulls to sire saleable progeny. Complementary easy temperament

and the white face identification of the Hereford breed provide added value. In 2021, new criteria was set for the Boehringer Ingelheim Dairy Merit sires taking into consideration the evolving dairy market, including more emphasis on 400 Day Weight EBV, reflecting the increased demand for quick finishing dairy beef animals. Bulls also need to be ranked in the top 20% of the new Dairy Beef Index, as well as in the top (lightest) 10% for birth weight. Accuracy had to be a minimum 75% for the sire and dam of the selected bull and minimum 70% for the bull. The “accuracy” figure produced with each EBV provides an indication of the amount of information that has been used in the calculation of that EBV. The higher the accuracy, the more likely the EBV is to predict the animal’s true breeding value and the lower the likelihood of change in the animal’s EBV, as more information is analysed for that animal, its progeny or its relatives. NZ Herefords Boehringer Ingelheim Dairy Merit Sires can be identified at registered Hereford bull sales nationwide, by their certificates or by the recognisable Boehringer Ingelheim logo denotation in bull sales catalogue. Dairy Beef Index is another tool designed to assist dairy farmers to select

Using Hereford bulls with better Estimated Breeding Values over dairy herds will give better calves leading to better returns.

the right bull. Indexes identify “overall profitability” and weigh up the balance of genetic merit across all the traits for a particular production system. For the Dairy Beef index, it estimates the genetic differences between animals in net profitability per mixed-age dairy cow joined with all progeny destined for slaughter, a single figure is presented as a dollar value, so it takes the confusion out of using lots of EBVs with a range of different units. n

Who am I?

Posy Moody is the general manager of NZ Herefords.

Ezicalve make the best and safest beef bulls for dairy heifer and cow mating

300 Bulls for sale September 23 & 28

Ask William Morrison 027 640 1166 and Mike Cranstone 027 218 0123 why their Ezicalve bulls are different, safer and better!



Bulls For Heifer Mating


uyers turn up to Bexley’s annual yearling bull sale at the end of September with expectations and they are not disappointed – each year bulls are grown to average 520kg and are well-presented and wellmannered. Bexley Station, owned by Colin and Carol King, is on plateau land between the Awakino and Mokau rivers in the Awakino Gorge between the King Country and Taranaki. The driveway heads off through a tunnel and climbs through native trees, and on your first visit you could expect to see steep hills and rough country. However, 526ha of the 728ha farm is in grass, with much of it tractor country. The farm was first bought as 1820ha by A.H. Miles in 1904 and named after his birthplace in England. It was initially developed as a sheep station, but difficult economic times meant the Guardian Trust had managers on it from 1926 until 1953. The northern half was divided off as Rimrock Station and the rest was sold to E.J. Kerrigan. Various owners followed, with a dairy shed constructed and supply to Kiwi dairies beginning in 2000. The Kings bought the farm in 2006 as a 250-cow dairy plus beef/sheep unit, but after 35 years of milking cows, Colin had had enough. They had brought unregistered Hereford and Angus cows down from Northland and in 2007, added four cows from Keelryn’s stud dispersal.


September 2021

In 2008, the Kings joined NZ Herefords after adding registered Herefords from dispersal sales at Waitaporiri, Seven Hills and Pinecroft. In 2009, more females came from the Matapouri, Anric, Leelands, Glendale and Newcastle studs. Fast-forward to 2020, Bexley calved 280 cows – 150 of those were stud Hereford cows, with the remainder being a mixture of unregistered Hereford, Angus, Speckle Park and Speckle Park-cross. The bulls go out with the cows at the end of October until the start of January. The stud cows are in mobs of about 30 with one bull throughout. The unregistered Herefords have a stud Hereford bull for three weeks, then an Angus bull for six weeks. The Angus have a registered Angus bull for three weeks, then are tailed with a Hereford. These crossbred calves are sold as weaners. Calving begins in early August; the mobs are fed as much as they can eat until weaning at the end of March. Approximately 50 heifers are kept to first calve as two-yearolds and 60 bulls are selected to take through winter for the sale. Surplus heifer calves are sold on farm to repeat buyers after weaning, as are the bulls that don’t make the cut for the sale. They believe in feeding their animals well and the farm would be considered understocked by some. But with more than two metres of annual rainfall, they prefer to look after their animals and their pastures. They do

Buyers at Bexley’s annual yearling bull sale at the end of September are looking for good bulls and they’re not disappointed.

their own silage and hay harvesting. The market for yearling bulls fluctuates and is challenging with more animals up for sale each year, but makes sense, Carol says. “A yearling only needs to produce 10 calves to pay for himself, and can be used for

at least another year if he is looked after. He is only halfgrown.” The future for Bexley Herefords? “To continue to enjoy growing the best animals we can, while appreciating the special place that is Bexley Station.” n


Wednesday 8th September at 11.30am at 659 Matahi Road, Manawahe Near Lake Rotoma, SH 30

Representing 102 years of pure bred genetics We welcome clients, friends and visitors to our sale which comprises approx:

72 13 40

2-year old bulls 18-month bulls Well grown yearling bulls

All TB & BVD clear & vaccinated These animals are from a CLOSED herd and have never left the property or been leased out.

For more information Contact Peter or Penny Davies - “Taharoto” 716 Matahi Road, RD 4, Whakatane 3194 Phone 07 322 1080 or email: pstdavies@ruralinzone.net


Bexley continues to impress



Building a new herd By Rob Tipa

A complex operation with plenty of flexibility is all part of a day’s work when you’re a contractor, farmer and new Hereford breeder.


or a young man, Kent Duncan has a lot of irons in the fire. He runs a busy family contracting business from Outram, on the Taieri Plain, in partnership with his parents. The business handles everything from farm development and maintenance, to drainage work and residential earthworks, and also quarries rock and supplies gravel for road construction. The business also does agricultural contracting, making balage and selling feed. Now 30, Kent grew up on a family farm at Maungatua, on the edge of the Taieri Plain. He loves farming, his father had Herefords, so he is familiar with the breed, and rearing cattle fits in well with his contracting commitments. He went dairy farming when he left high school at 16. At 17, he set up a calf rearing business in his spare time, which has progressively

grown from 20 to 100, 200, and now up to 1200 calves a year. “There were a few Jersey herds on the Taieri and I used to pester them for calves all the time,” Kent recalls. These days he buys fourday-old calves from the same sellers every year, many of them from good dairy farms with big-framed Friesian cows. Today the calf-rearing business he runs with his mother, one full-time farm worker and one other calf rearer, meshes neatly with a sideline supplying Jersey and Hereford service bulls to dairy farmers throughout Otago. “This year we will probably put out between 400 and 500 service bulls for the dairy industry,” he says. “Next year we’ll have 250 Jersey yearling bulls that we’ll lease out, then take them back, winter them and then sell anywhere between 50 and 100 R2 Jersey bulls. “We also lease out 50 to 60 Hereford yearling bulls, get


Outram contractor Kent Duncan with his first Hereford calves, the nucleus of a Hereford stud he is fast-tracking through embryo transfer.

them back, buy some more through the year and then sell about 100 R2 Hereford bulls to dairy farmers.” It is a complex operation with plenty of flexibility to rear calves on contract, fatten the rest, or trade them on the way through. Since the outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis, 700 Friesian-beef cross bull calves

are reared on contract and sold at 100kg. The only hitch with Kent’s business strategy to date is that he has to compete with other buyers at stock sales and pay top prices for weaner Hereford bulls, so he has decided to fast-track a plan to breed his own. His aim is to develop a stud Hereford herd for beef

All bulls are ready to perform!

polled herefords We’ve done the work for you!

All bulls are: • Performance recorded • Genomics tested to improve accuracy of EBVs

• Polled gene tested • Sire verified

YEARLING BULL SALE Luncheon available

On A/C D.B & S.E Henderson At the stud property: 429 Rukuhia Road, RD 2, Ohaupo 100+ Registered Well Grown Bulls

Breeding Hereford cattle for 50 years! We have bulls that will suit beef and dairy farmers www.craigmoreherefords.co.nz For further information or inspection, please contact: Vendors: David 021 166DAIRY 1389 FARMER or the selling agents:2021 September PGG Wrightson: Vaughn Larsen 027 801 4599, Cam Heggie 027 501 8182


On farm bull sale plus online sale at bidr Sign up at www.bidr.co.nz Monday 13th September 2021, at 12.30pm

production and a separate closed commercial Hereford herd of 150-200 cows to supply service bulls to the dairy industry. “That’s the goal but it might not happen,” he says. “The only way to get into developing a Hereford stud is to breed your own.” Established Hereford breeders are naturally reluctant to part with their breeding cows, so Kent says the only other option for him was through embryo transfer. A friend suggested he talk to Neil Sanderson, a wellknown North Otago vet, Angus breeder and specialist in embryo transfers. Kent put full trust in Neil’s expertise in this field, so left it to him to source suitable donor cows from which to flush eggs and to select a suitable sire. Four donor cows were leased from Richard Martin in Nelson and sent south to Neil’s property at Ngapara. The exercise produced 16 embryos, 10 of which held this season. “We got over 60% with all live births, good healthy calves on the ground, so I was happy with that,” he says. “We were hoping for more heifers but unfortunately we ended up getting eight bull calves out of 10 calves.” He plans to repeat the process next season, putting forward 35 Friesian-Hereford or Murray Grey cross nurse cows for embryo transfer. All are quiet cows, good milkers and calved for the first time as three-year-olds. He has his fingers crossed for a good number of heifer calves to build the nucleus of a Hereford breeding herd quickly. “It might take five years of embryo work to get a good herd of heifers, I don’t know,” he says. As Kent explains, the only reason he is investing so much money in embryo transfers is because he is at high risk of introducing M


September 2021

bovis to his cattle because he leases out service bulls to multiple dairy farms and brings them back to winter them on leasehold blocks. “I didn’t want to risk having to cull embryo cows, so we run them on a separate block to the commercial herd,” he says. He has already invested in a stud Hereford bull from Gray Pannett’s Limehills stud in the Teviot Valley for use over his commercial Hereford cows. Kent was looking for a bull with low birthweight and short gestation breeding values to supply service bulls for the dairy industry. Despite the scale and complexity of his farming operation, Kent has only recently bought his first farm through a new company, Maungatua Farming, which splits his family’s farming and contracting businesses into two separate entities. The 100ha package of freehold and leasehold Taieri property is currently run as a dairy farm and the takeover date was early November 2020. The idea of buying the farm was to winter 1000 cows there and build the family’s calfrearing business. “But with the new Otago Regional Council rules we don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that on the Taieri Plain,” he says. “We don’t know if we’ll be able to manage 1000 cows without pugging paddocks and getting into trouble with the council.” Kent leases about 300ha of land, including some larger blocks on the hills overlooking the Taieri Plain. Calves are reared on three different properties, including his parents’ home block at Outram and on their new dairy farm. Ultimately, his goal is to increase the size of the family’s calf-rearing operation to 3000 calves a year to generate enough profit to buy a hill block, where he can

A purebred Hereford heifer calf with its Murray Grey mother, the result of a successful embryo transfer.

run some stud Hereford and commercial cows of his own. “You need to be a bit different from everyone else so you’ve got something different to offer,” he says. “There’s no point having stock that has the same

genetics as everyone else. You’ve got to be different. “I know what I like, I’m learning all the time, and these guys (Gray Pannett, Neil Sanderson and Richard Martin) are pointing me in the right direction.” n


There are a number of strategies farmers can implement around mating to ensure great reproductive success.


What’s your strategy?

t’s difficult to find an agreed definition for good driving; people tend to have their own definitions and most people think their skills are above-average. On-farm, the same attitude can apply to reproductive performance, particularly heat detection. People may not realise or admit that their heat detection skills, or lack of, may be a constraint to improving their performance. There is always room for improvement. Upskilling your team and adjusting your tactics will allow you to reap rewards for seasons to come. Have a strategy and a process Many farmers will invest time to upskill their team on how to detect cows that are on heat, but not necessarily outline the next steps between detection and insemination, and what to do after insemination. There is value in outlining all the processes surrounding heat detection and mating on-farm and breaking it down into easy-to-follow steps. Develop your plan pre-mating Outline your plan. When will the cows be tail painted? With what colour? When will you change colours? Set out who is responsible for monitoring which cow has cycled


and what needs to be done with this information. When do you decide if you will complete any non-cycler treatment? Train the team Before mating starts, train new team members and refresh others about what they are looking for during heat detection. The pre-mating period is a good opportunity for team members to practice what they are looking for, with support. Meet with the AI technician Confirm timing and plan with the team who will meet the technician and what the process will be with drafted cows before and after they are inseminated. Identify whose responsibility it is and when they should reapply tail paint and heat detection aids. When mating starts What heat detection aids will you use? Also consider who is responsible for their upkeep and how often they should be maintaining them. Outline individual responsibilities for identifying cows on heat and what they should do with that information. You’ll also need to clarify who is responsible for drafting cows that have been identified

with DairyNZ or suspected to be on heat. List how you will cross-check that all cows identified have been drafted. Discuss and decide what the farm policy is for any cows you are unsure about and what steps to take before confirming whether to submit them or not. It is a good idea to include a question mark next to their mating date if they are submitted, as this helps if they return after an odd time interval. Review during mating Finally, you’ll need to decide who is responsible for reviewing heat detection and when this happens. What is the contingency plan if there are any concerns during mating? Heat detection is only one factor contributing to reproductive performance, but it is important to get right. It is valuable for even the most experienced teams to reassess their heat detection policy to be ready for the upcoming mating period. n


More information available at dairynz.co.nz/reproduction


September 2021

Bull Directory 17th Annual Service Bull Sale

Better Bulls,

Better Calves

PUKETAHI FARMS Account WE & JJ Craig + Families To be conducted on the Wingrove Road property, Stratford under cover.

“Just Top Quality Service Bulls”

Help farmers choose the right bulls for their herd.

17th September 2021 – 11am start Heifer and Herd Bulls of most breeds available • BVD & Lepto vaccinated • BVD, EBL & TB tested Negative • TB tested 1st June 2021 Clear All bulls guaranteed of the highest quality.

Contact Ella to find out more.

(06) 323 0761 livestock@globalhq.co.nz

For more information please contact Vendors: Bill & Julia Craig & Family 0800 BULL HIRE or 06 762 2642 craigwejj@gmail.com


Also available BULL HIRE Taranaki only * Free delivery Yearling, Heifer & Herd Bulls of most breeds

25th Annual On Farm Sale


Thursday Sept 16th 2021, 12 Noon 183 Mangaotea Road, Tariki, Taranaki 170 Registered and Purebred 1 year and 2 year Angus, Hereford, Murray Grey and Jersey. LK0108127©

Full Traceability and Strict Biosecurity Policies.

Contact Robin Blackwell 06 762 4805 • mangaotea@xtra.co.nz



t te e B

e rB


6th Annual Yearling Bull Sale – FRIDAY, 24TH SEPTEMBER 2021 1:00 PM AT 43 FINLAY ROAD, CAMBRIDGE – Viewing of bulls from 11:00 AM Our bulls are purpose bred for Calving Ease and short gestation

Our bulls are proven for mating with heifers and MA cows

BVD free and vaccinated M Bovis free TB C10

Visitors always welcome. For all enquiries, contact: Sam LeCren M: 027 474 9989 E: sam@takapoto.co.nz Andy Transom, PGGW M: 027 596 514 Follow Takapoto Angus on Facebook


September 2021




57th Annual Hereford Bull Sale ON FARM - LUNCHEON PROVIDED 660 Ngaroma Rd, 26km off SH3, Sth East of Te Awamutu.

34 TOP YEARLING BULLS & 60 2-YEAR OLD BULLS Sound bulls with exceptional temperament. Selection of Short Gestation & Low Birth Weights available. Full EBV details in catalogue. Free local delivery or grazing till 1st Nov. Payment 20th Oct.

KELVIN & CYNTHIA PORT • P: 07 872 2628 • M: 022 648 2417 E: kelvin@bushydowns.co.nz • Web: www.bushydowns.co.nz ROBERT & MARIAN PORT • P: 07 872 2715



RIVERLEE HEREFORDS Spring Bull Sale – 27th September 2021, 11.30am Held under cover on farm 2354 Rangiwahia Rd Rangiwahia, Manawatu


Catalogue can be viewed at NZ Herefords.co.nz Selling Agents: Carrfields Livestock: Dan Warner 027 826 5768 NZ Farmers Livestock: John Watson 027 494 1975


Wednesday 29th September 2021, 12noon


Enquiries & Visitors Welcome Murray & Fiona Curtis 06 328 2881 or 027 228 2881

Email: mfcurtis@farmside.co.nz

MURRAY GREY BEEF • Calving ease • Polled calves • Colour dominant • Easy to sell calves • Easy to finish progeny


P: 06 323 4484, E: murraygreys@pbbnz.com, murraygreys.co.nz Like us on facebook: NZ Murray Grey Breeders


September 2021

Quiet and easy to handle. Instant white face recognition. Lower birth weights. These are just some of the traits that define the HerefordX advantage. To find out more about buying a registered Hereford bull, view our breeders online sale catalogues at herefords.co.nz.

SEPTEMBER 2 3 8 9 10 13 14 15 16 16 17 20 22 22 24 23

Waimaire & Otengi Hereford Studs, Kaeo Matapouri Hereford Stud, Marua Charwell Hereford Stud, Whakatane Maranui Hereford Stud, Waihi Hukaroa Hereford Stud, Te Kauwhata Craigmore Hereford Stud, Ohaupo Kokonga Hereford Stud, Waikareu Valley Shadow Downs Hereford Stud, Waverley Kairaumati Hereford Stud, Thames Mangaotea Hereford Stud, Tariki Mahuta Hereford Stud, Drury Hillcroft Hereford Stud, Huntly Herepuru Station Hereford Stud, Whakatane Gembrooke Hereford Stud, Dannevirke Bexley Hereford Stud, Mokau Riverton Ezicalve Hereford Stud, Fordell

24 27 27 28 29 29

Maungahina Hereford Stud, Masterton Penny Lane Hereford Stud, Stratford Riverlee Hereford Stud, Kimbolton Ezicalve, Morrison Farming, Marton Bushy Downs Hereford Stud, Te Awamutu Shrimpton’s Hill Hereford Stud, Cave

OCTOBER 1 5 6 11 11 12 14 20

Seadowns Hereford Stud, Oamaru Matariki Hereford Stud, Kaikoura Bluestone Hereford Stud, Cave Orari Gorge Herefords, Geraldine Okawa Hereford Stud, Ashburton Richon, Beechwood & Woodburn Hereford Studs, Amberley Kane Farms Herefords, Tapanui Pyramid Downs Hereford Stud, Gore



September 2021


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September 2021



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September 2021


One last word …


ere we go again. Covid has reemerged in our community and the country is in lockdown. This time it is the Delta variant, known to be easily transmitted and more aggressive than the type that sent the country into Level 4 last year. And all it took was one case in the community for the Government to lock it down. This has absolutely been the correct decision. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, going hard and early is the best chance the team of five million has at stamping it out, again. We have been here before and this time, we have the benefit of experience. Processes and systems have been fine-tuned and to all intents and purposes, running well. There was the initial rush at supermarkets with people rushing out and fighting over toilet paper but this has settled down. The supply chain is working and there is plenty of stock. However, the issue now is having enough staff in distribution centres to get orders processed, truckies to deliver it and supermarket staff to get it on the shelves, with this chain being affected by potential contact with an infected person. The team at Dairy Farmer want to give a big shout out to all you hard-working farmers and other essential workers who are keeping the wheels turning. Health professionals – doctors, nurses, lab technicians, supermarket workers, cleaners, truck drivers and emergency services and many others – have kept this country going. And last time, you farmers proved what heroes


you are by carrying on the good fight and were the only ones earning money for the country and continued to produce food for the nation. And more than a year later, you are still working hard. You have never stopped or faltered. This lockdown is different as it has come during the busiest time of the year – calving. Many of you will be well-through and can see the finish line while others are still in the thick of it. Calving time has always been a time of head down and life can be so busy, it is easy to go days and even weeks without seeing anyone else. But remember, these are extraordinary times so whether you have no staff or a big team, reach out to others, check and ask if everyone is doing okay or needs anything. Especially younger members of the team – you are their family and depending on how the team is operating, the people in their bubble. They may need extra support or something as simple as sharing a hot meal at the end of the day within your bubble. Pick up the phone or send a text to someone you know is on their own and check on them too and if you can, offer to help. It may be as simple as collecting a prescription or groceries for them if they are elderly. And of course, if anyone needs any wellbeing support at any time, the Rural Support Trust is just a phone call away on 0800 RURAL HELP (0800 787 254). Last year, I called the covid pandemic a war which we won. It has gone away, regrouped and come back armed with an even heavier artillery. Times are uncertain and we cannot foresee what will happen in the coming

days but if we come out fighting like we did last time, we will win again. In the meantime, as farmers, take heart in knowing that your hard work in producing food to feed the nation is appreciated. Thanks to Mordecai Courage for this month’s photo of one of his cows deciding to take an afternoon dunk to get out of the hot sun. Mordecai and his wife Joy contract milk 530 cows near Geraldine in South Canterbury. He tells me, truth is, she got knocked into the

trough by the other cows as they were tussling around the palm kernel bin. Luckily, she wasn’t hurt. Take care, stay safe and let’s bring back the great Teddy Bear Hunt in rural areas. Some of our urban counterparts are doing it, let’s join them.

Sonita Like us: farmersweekly.co.nz Follow us: @DairyFarmer15 Read us anywhere: farmersweekly.co.nz


September 2021

Dairy Diary September 2021 September 6 and 21 – Agri-Women’s Development Trust Canterbury/North Otago and Southland/South Otago, positive change for your farm, family and community starts with you. ‘Know your Mindset. Grow your Influence’ is a short, personal development programme to help you respond to pressure and uncertainty with positive, meaningful action. Info at www.awdt.org.nz September 7 and 9 – DairyNZ Maximising Cropping Performance field day, Waikato. DairyNZ, Farmlands, PGG Wrightson and FarmSource want to help you achieve better results with your cropping programme. Join us to discuss: upfront planning and questions to ask; selected areas required based on crop selection; economics of crops; crop establishment; and management for best performance. Specialist presenters from Agricom, Barenbrug, Seedforce, Adama and Nufarm. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz September 8 – DairyNZ Otorohanga South late-calving catch-up, Waikato. And just like that, it is calving season again and time for our annual Otorohanga South pub quiz and lunch at the Thirsty Weta. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz September 14 – Women’s Dairy Network Focus Mastery – Communication power live webinar. Enhance your communication and curiosity, and explore new ways to: understand and tailor your communication; deliver a message that lands well and gets through; the key principles of good feedback; and the power of listening Sara Keenan is Business Customer Experience facilitation manager for ASB. Her experience encompasses leadership and coaching, and training effectiveness and time management all at levels and industries. Info at www.dwn.co.nz/events September 15 – Owl Farm Owl Farm Focus Day – Waikato Join us at Owl Farm using data to discuss management of the season-to-date from the team at Owl Farm. Info at www.owlfarm.nz/

September 22 – DairyNZ Extension 350 public field day, Kaipara. 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 - not just with a healthy bottom line, but with a healthy environment and a supportive community. Info at www.dairyevents.co.nz September 22 & 29 – Agri-Women’s Development Trust Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty. In a world moving faster all the time, sometimes it’s best to just pause, cut through the noise and focus on what’s really important to your family, farm and community. ‘Know your Mindset. Grow your Influence’ is a short, personal development programme to help you respond to pressure and uncertainty with positive, meaningful action. Info at www.awdt.org.nz September 23 – SMASH Field day – Towai, Northland Save the date. Details to follow. Info at www.smallerherds.co.nz September 29 – Agri-Women’s Development Trust Generation Change, Canterbury/North Otago. A one-day workshop and support community preparing young women for a life of meaningful work and impact in the primary sector. Generation Change is about you bringing your true self to the sector. Choosing the right pathway for you, by clearly knowing your values, strengths and purpose. Info at www.awdt.org.nz October 7-8 – Farmax Farmax Conference 2021, Hamilton. The Farmax Conference provides a platform for thought and discussion around advancing New Zealand’s pastoral system into the future. There will be more than a dozen well-known speakers, a scientist panel, half a day of FARMAX training and accreditation, plus dinner and quiz. Held across two days the conference focuses on realising potential, with speakers from all facets of the agriculture industry. Info at www.events.humanitix.com/farmax-conference-2021

Note from the editor: With covid re-emerging in our community, please check the websites for any changes to these events.



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