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Learn, grow, excel

Keeping your


Overcoming challenges


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Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



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Dairy Exporter |






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22 Keeping it simple with grass 27 Graeme Peter is dealing with drought in Northland 28 Adapt and improve to survive 30 On-track analysis in the dairy 33 Making the link between latte and dairy 34 Southern dairy hub on target 36 Autumn – time to do the budget

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12 Wayne Langford is fighting on dirty rivers 14 It’s been wetter than normal on the West Coast 16 Russ Tillman takes dairy back to the future

Overcoming challenges ir




10 Frances Cole champions the personal approach 11 Gaye Coates finds the rain relentless




52 Tracing back to the basics 54 On the watch for IBR 56 What is the cost of mastitis? 58 Subclinical ketosis: to treat or not to treat? 60 Lepto: a dynamic disease 62 Accounting for calf losses 63 Ticked off at theileria 65 Time to tackle Johne’s disease


SYSTEMS 38 Peter Schouten moves beyond compliance 42 Tiller talk – talking pasture 44 Practicalities of new bobby calf regulations 46 Spare the plough 47 A Kiwi vet in Brazil 48 Knowing your mother

SPECIAL REPORT | HEALTHY COWS 52 Tracing the link to the elements 54 On the watch for IBR 56 Adding the costs of mastitis 58 Ketosis – to treat or not to treat 60 Leptospirosis – a dynamic disease 4

LEPTO: A DYNAMIC DISEASE 60 Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

62 Accounting for the pregnancy losses 64 Ticked off at theileria 65 Time to tackle Johne’s disease

ENVIRONMENT 66 It’s an automatic ‘yes’ from Penny Smart

STOCK 70 Cow 3PO welcomes the robot age to farming 72 Polled cattle take the bulls by the horns

YOUNG COUNTRY 74 Megan Hands leads by example 76 Vet Krispin Kannan works to aid animal health


FARM GEAR 78 Tim McVeagh on the art of keeping milk cool 81 Demo farms play a key role in advice, Ron Pellow writes

DAIRY 101 82 Karen Trebilcock looks at the chemicals behind fertilisers

COLUMNS 20 Market View: Riding out the troubles Trump and Brexit 84 Solutions 86 Property



Dairy Exporter | | March 2017





MARCH March 22-23 – MobileTECH Primary Industries 2017 is being held in Rotorua and looks at disruptive innovations reshaping the sector. Digital technologies in particular are driving significant improvements in operational efficiency and MobileTECH is an annual independent platform to showcase these new innovations. To view the programme and to register visit March 22-27 – DairyNZ is running Wintering for Success field days in Canterbury and Otago, aimed at supporting farmers in implementing a sustainable wintering system that takes care of the business, team, environment and the health and welfare of the cows. It covers feeding management to achieve the BCS targets at calving in a cost-effective way for the business and team, plus transitioning in and out of winter crops to minimise the risk of animal health issues. Locations/ dates include Oxford, March 21; Duntroon, March 22; Orton in South

Canterbury, March 23; Culverden, March 24 and Ashburton, March 27. For more information visit March 28-29 – The 2017 New Zealand Food Summit as well as the Food Value Chain Conference are both being held at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. Visit for further details. March 29-31 – The South Island Agricultural Field Days take place at Kirwee. For more information visit March 31 – Entries close for the 2017 Dairy Business of the Year awards which are judged on financial and environmental performance, plus people management. For more information and to enter the awards visit

MAY May 4 – A Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) focus day is being held at the farm and runs from 10.15am to 1pm. For more information about the farm visit May 6 – Winners of the 2017 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards will be announced at the national awards dinner which takes will be held at Sky City in Auckland. Tickets for the dinner are available from March 27 online at a cost of $195 per person. For tickets and to view the regional winners for the New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the year, visit May 11-12 – The Dairy Women’s Network 2017 conference is being held at Rydges Lakeland Resort in Queenstown. Dubbed DWN17,

the theme of this year’s conference is Connect to set the tone for two days of inspiring and high-profile keynote speakers, plus workshops on and off-site. The annual conference is aimed at learning new skills, expanding your toolkit and taking the opportunity to connect with like-minded women in one of New Zealand’s premium tourist destinations. For further information visit and for queries phone 0800 396 748 or 07 974 4850. May 26 – Last day for earlybird registration for the 2017 South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) which will be held at Lincoln University in Canterbury. Registration cost was still to be confirmed, but will increase to the standard cost on May 27. The conference is run by farmers for farmers and includes a line-up of speakers and more than 30 practical workshops. For further information on SIDE visit

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Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


Getting closer


was a little naïve of the urban-rural divide until a dairy farming couple I interviewed a couple of months back talked about coming across two city women stranded with car trouble on an out-of-the-way rural road. Being the friendly helpful people they are they stopped to give assistance and were met by real resistance and antipathy when Mr Farmer was introduced by his wife as a practical dairy farmer who would see them right. Sure enough he got them mobile again – to very little thanks, with an unfriendly vibe and a somewhat threatened manner by the city dwellers who beetled off on their way. Years of negative press has built barriers and formed attitudes that will take time to break down. After much wringing of hands, the dairy industry is galvanising to take the issue and give it a shake – to start the conversation with our urban cousins (because with two degrees of separation, most of those living in the cities are someone’s cousins). In a way it’s the same as the old conundrum about great careers in agri for urban kids – they are not going to know about them if the industry doesn’t let them know they exist. In the same way, urban dwellers loving the ice-cream, the yoghurt, the protein powders, the cheese, the whipped cream and the lattes need to be reminded where those dairy products come from and what Kiwi dairy farmers are doing to try to make the nation’s rivers swimmable, to clean up our lakes, to use their effluent wisely and treat their animals humanely. They aren’t going to know if no one tells them. Frances Coles, in our March Milking Platform story (page 10) recommends a charm offensive – start with those you know and tell them a little about yourself and your family business and how you are proud to be New Zealand’s

purveyors of protein and calcium, helping little Kiwis grow strong bones and teeth. Tell them how much you care for your animals and how proud you are of producing dairy products for them, the NZ consumers. DairyNZ are also gearing up to tackle the issue, with Rick Pridmore saying they aim to make urban Kiwis proud of our farmers – so they think about and appreciate the producers when they are eating their ice-cream or sipping on a latte. Kiwis need to know the lengths and expense farmers have been going to, to care for their land and animals and the waterways – and you have to tell them, because if they are city dwellers you can’t expect them to just know. (page 33). Inside the farm gate we are concentrating our special report (page 52) on

the animal health issues facing farmers, with lots of expert comment about how to resolve those challenges. We tackle all of the hard issues – Johnes, mastitis, lepto and theileria, trace element deficiencies and throw in a couple of new ones – infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and ketosis to spell just a few. Next month look out for the start of our Dairy Industry Award winner coverage – this year we are wrapping our Cream of the Crop coverage into the magazine and will be covering all of the winners over a couple of issues to do them justice.






crop of the


CREAM OF THE CROP Starting profiles of winners of the regional dairy industry awards.

EFFLUENT: How to test whether your effluent irrigator is compliant with your regional council rules.

VIEW FROM THE TOP: CEOs from Kiwi milk companies share their views in our new column.


Learn, grow, excel

NZ Dairy Exporter is published by NZ Farm Life Media PO Box 218, Feilding 4740, Toll free 0800 85 25 80, Dairy Exporter/Young Country editor Jackie Harrigan, ph 06 280 3165, M 027 359 7781 Lead sub-editor: Andy Maciver, ph 06 280 3166 Reporters Hugh Stringleman ph 09 432 8594; Glenys Christian

ph 027 434 7803; Sheryl Brown ph 021 239 1633; Cheyenne Stein 06 323 1660; Anne Hardie 027 540 3635; Anne Lee 021 413 346; Karen Trebilcock 03 489 8083; Designer: Joanne Hannam Account Managers: Warren McDonald, National Advertising Manager, Ph 06 323 0143 John McMaster, Auckland/Northland, ph 09 3756 007 Janine Gray, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, ph 027 474 6094 Donna Hirst, Lower North Island, ph 06 323 0739 Nigel Ramsden, Livestock, ph 06 323 0761

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Shirley Howard, real estate/international, ph 06 323 0760 Debbie Brown, classifieds/employment, ph 06 323 0765 David Paterson, South Island, ph 03 382 6143 Subscriptions: ph 0800 2AG SUB (224 782) ISSN 2230-2697 (Print) ISSN 2230-3057 (Online)


Word in your ear Automation makes drying off a breeze With multiple decisions to be made around drying off, dairy farmers such as Opunake’s Geoff Batchelor have found a dairy automation system to be a valuable helping hand. Choosing what animals to dry off, who to cull and on who to focus feed, are just some of the high-stake calls to be made. Mistakes can be costly. The tools dairy automation offers can help give greater decision making accuracy, reducing the risk of mistakes, and improving herd management efficiencies. Even from the most basic options. “Our automation system makes drying off so much easier. We went with the Tru-Test system as cost was initially a big driver, and being modular we could implement in stages,” says Geoff. “We started off with the drafting module. The efficiencies and information gained from this alone saved a labour unit!” He explains, “drafting has become very simple. I can set up whatever drafts I need the night before or even on the spot in-shed. The cows are then drafted off seamlessly. It’s also good for pulling out lame or sick cows.” As well as addressing issues quickly, the information builds in the system, so Geoff can see at a glance the health history of each cow. “It’s great for treatment and culling decisions” he says. Next, they installed Walk over Weighing (WOW). Enabling them to track the weights of every cow, twice daily with milking. “Having daily information means we can address weight issues, either loss or gains, much faster. Giving us greater feed efficiencies and better management of cow health and productivity. Especially now with a dry summer. I can make sure I’m feeding the right cows, and drafting to dry off those who are not performing so well”.


Weighing & EID

Left, Geoff Batchelor with his assistant Steven Chisnall.

Geoff can also keep a close eye on his top producers, identifying those who are getting a bit light close to calving, drafting to dry these off if necessary. “It’s been a great tool to get a picture of each cow’s weight throughout the year and the reasons for fluctuations. We now respond faster to issues. Combined with the sensors, which tell us who our good/bad producers are, we also have a much better picture of which cow is putting weight on their back or in the vat,” says Geoff.

“Having daily information means we can address weight issues, either loss or gains, much faster. Giving us greater feed efficiencies and better management of cow health and productivity.” With a handle on drafting and WOW, they installed the 4-in-1 milk line sensors and in-bale feed control to their 50-bale rotary. “It was always in the back of my mind to be able to feed to production. As we’re getting to the end of lactation we can identify our higher producing cows using information from the sensors and those who are getting light from WOW. Making sure we focus feed the right cows

Dairy Automation

and make the right decisions on under performers based on their history.” Geoff continues, “we’ve always had in-bale feeding but were just doing it blindly and blanket feeding. Now with the information the system’s gathering on each cow, we’re making more efficient use of our expensive feed. With grass tight this summer, it also enables us to better allocate to get the production from the cows putting it in the vat”. As somatic cell counts (SCC) rise towards the end of lactation, the sensors can also identify which cows should be dried off to bring down the cell count, as well as identifying which cows aren’t giving any milk. “Since putting all the automation modules in, along with other things we are doing, our production is up and our cell count is down. Our cull lists are also more accurate,” he’s pleased to say. “Additionally, drafting the likes of springing cows is so easy. Once all your PD dates are in the computer, you can set up drafts by calving date, and the system will draft these cows for you. It makes it easy to know which cows to dry off and when.” Geoff concludes. “It doesn’t replace your eye on farm. It’s another tool to further strengthen what you think might be going on with an animal or to support your management decisions on farm.”

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Milk Cooling & Tanks

Mihub & Data Services

37 0C to 4 0C in seconds “It’s absolutely spectacular. It really is!” That’s the reaction Kevin Alexander, a dairy farmer from Hukerenui in Northland, had when he saw the temperature of his milk in vat approximately 30 seconds after it had left his cows. The almost instant chill is the result of installing a contained Ice bank system. Ensuring he meets the new 2018 milk cooling regulations for his 148-ha effective, 360 herd operation, ahead of schedule. The system was supplied and installed by Tru-Test into his 36-a-side herringbone dairy shed, following a milk cooling assessment which proved issues with his existing pre-cooling system. A post install assessment then confirmed Kevin would exceed the new milk cooling regulations. “Quite honestly, I don’t know why we never had this type of milk chilling equipment before.” For Kevin and wife Michele, fast chilling wasn’t the main basis for deciding which system to install. That came down to the two core principles of their farm and the things they do really well. “The solution needed to have the least amount of impact on the environment as possible, albeit that we’re a commercial entity. Priding ourselves on the quality of food we produce, the solution also needed to further improve our milk quality, taking our business forward” explains Kevin. For the dairy industry, environmental responsibility is in large part water usage. Kevin and Michele are very conscious of the dairy industry’s environmental responsibilities. “Our focus on reducing our water use began when I put in a water meter after I approached the Northern Regional

Hukerenui farmer Kevin Alexander happy to have his milk down to 3.9 0C from 37 0C with local Tru-Test ASM Shane Storey.

Council for a water right. They asked

Their improved cooling system is also

how much I used and I had no idea.

proving it’s worth for their food quality.

So they asked me to put in a water meter for 12 months” says Kevin.

there’s a lot less chance for any bacteria in the milk to multiply”.

“We walk out of that shed at 7am in the morning and the milk is at 3.9 0C and it’s finished, it’s all over, from 37 0C. Job done.”

“We drink our own milk here and always have done. I’m convinced that our milk tastes sweeter now and is more pleasant to drink than before” says Kevin. “At the time we installed the ice bank, it was by far the simplest idea, and used the least amount of dairy water. It also

“After a month of measuring I thought that’s

fitted into our existing cow shed space.”

far too much water! So we tinkered and

He concludes. “We walk out of that shed

tinkered with our water usage until we

at 7am in the morning and the milk is at

had reduced it by 50%. Over a 12-month

3.9 0C and it’s finished, it’s all over, from

period, we reduced it from 25,000 litres/

37 0C. Job done.”

day to 12,000-12,500 litres/day.” After all that hard work paying off, they

“Our local Tru-Test rep, Shane Storey has been integral in this process. Shane was

didn’t want to increase their pre-cooling

more than happy to work in and around

water to meet the new milk cooling

our constraints and together we came up

regulations if possible.

with a system that works really well for us.”

Explaining why they went with an ice

It’s been so successful they’re ahead

bank system, “we quickly worked out that

of standard. They also know they will

for us improving our existing pre-cooling

comfortably meet Fonterra’s telemetric

equaled more expense, more water usage


and went against the fundamentals of our farm. It was just too inefficient.

Kevin sums it up nicely. “Cool aye.”

And that’s without the effects from increasing ground temperatures over the summer months.”

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

“When your milk goes in at less than 6 0C

How are you tracking? Let’s talk. 0800 878 837



Personal approach champions dairy Frances Cole


have been mulling over a big issue facing the rural sector and a few weeks ago read an editorial in one of our local farming papers that summed it up brilliantly. Good environmental practices onfarm need more exposure in the media, but farmers are understandably reluctant to speak openly about their efforts for fear of being slaughtered in social media. The editorial focused on Ballance Farm Environment Award winners Richard and Annabelle Subtil, who had 44 tyres slashed on three of their centre pivots in the Mackenzie Basin. While this act of vandalism causing about $30,000 damage is at the extreme end of the scale, you only have to turn on the 6pm news, scroll through your Facebook newsfeed or check in on Twitter to see a more pervasive erosion of the relationship between farmers and their urban counterparts. With this negative backdrop, along with our good old Kiwi tall-poppy syndrome, it’s no wonder farmers are reluctant to “sell

Fish & Game releasing smelt into another branch of the creek which runs through the neighbouring farm, where we contract milk.

their good-news stories” as many industry bodies encourage us to do. So perhaps we need to review the way we go about selling these stories. Who is our most effective target market? I would suggest it is not mainstream media. It might be someone a little closer to home – your extended family in the city, your neighbours, other parents on the sideline at weekend sports. I am reminded of a story I was told at a Dairy Women’s Network event years ago about a farmer who reached breaking point after reading numerous letters to the editor in their local paper from one particular man who clearly had a strong dislike for dairying.

We need to celebrate best practice and encourage those who are not there yet to get onboard and come along for the ride.

Rather than write an indignant, fiery letter back to the newspaper, they got out the phone book and made a few calls to track down the author (something that’s still blessedly easy to do in a small community) and arranged to meet them for coffee. After a couple of conversations like this, and I believe, a visit to the farmer’s property, the newsprint critic became something of a farming champion. The issue had simply been a lack of understanding. Perhaps this is a story we can all be inspired by. How are we able to every day or week start up a conversation with someone we know about some of the little things we do to look after our environment? We know it’s not in our best interests to ruin the land that provides us with a home, a living and a way of life for both ourselves and future generations. But could we do more to show people how we actively manage our assets? While those in the industry with a thick skin are prepared to fight in the media glare, how can we all start a movement from the ground up in a more subtle way


Riparian planting we are doing at home along the Ohapi Creek with assistance from Environment Canterbury.

to show how we care for the environment? Speak to your family and friends about the technology you are embracing to better-utilise water for irrigation. Mix up the Facebook newsfeed of your friends with a proud planter photo of your latest riparian project rather than a proud parent post about little Johnny’s latest sporting accomplishment. Invite children from your local school to visit your farm and use the opportunity to showcase your business to curious parents who will be along for the ride. Have a courageous conversation with a farmer down the road who is running their effluent spreader a little too close to the boundary. We need to celebrate best practice and encourage those who are not there yet to get onboard and come along for the ride. Sure, you might meet some resistance or tricky questions, but if we all try to be brave and do something little in our own backyard, eventually all those little things will begin to amass into something bigger. Farm Environment Plans, variablerate irrigation, nutrient budgeting, riparian plantings, fencing of waterways, monitoring of water takes to ensure compliance, recycling of waste, independent audits of our effluent system – these are some of the many things we do within our business to manage and protect our environment, just as many of you do too. So, when I am confronted by someone who has negative views of dairying, I just have to remember that those views may be uninformed and all I can do is speak my truth in the hopes of educating them and accept that I won’t win every battle. I ask if you all will do the same, so we can make a difference together.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


Relentless rain keeps sun and growth at bay Trying to spread fertiliser in the liquid sunshine.

Gaye Coates The old advice to fill a gap in discussion with polite talk about the weather would usually set anyone on the right side of good conversation etiquette. But on the West Coast this summer, weather is a topic that is definitely off-limits if you want any well-mannered response. Summer in our region seems to have sadly passed us by, presenting instead a challenging farming season, the worst in many farmers’ memories. Since November, the weather has quite literally been ruthless and relentless with 1980mm of rain falling since the start of calving, most in the last three months. Our boys returned from boarding school later in November. Between then and the end of January, they counted only five days when they saw some sunshine and on each and every day there had been at least some rain and on most of the days, incessant rain. The days are cool, similar to late autumn temperatures, the ground squelches everywhere and there are pools of water

lying continuously in places I have never seen in the 20 years of my living here. Our soil is reasonably free draining and we can manage well with our usual weather pattern and reliable rainfall. But this summer, our pastures and our cows have shown that even on the West Coast, we cannot cope with sustained rain and lack of sunshine. The industry people out on the road all say this despairing weather has had an effect the entire length and breadth of the Coast.

Despite ongoing showers, fingers were optimistically crossed until the weather bomb low arrived in January like an unruly guest and dumped 260mm in one day of unwanted irrigation on top of the seed. Hopes for a good winter crop are now significantly less than the cautious optimism we had.

us to prepare well for supplementary feed needed to get through the winter. To date we have only managed to make about half of what we would have usually done by now. We simply don’t have the same surplus and we cannot get the machines beyond the gate to do it. Our aim is to get our winter swede crops in by Christmas. This year, with the deadline of Christmas passed and still no sign of water draining away, a whole range of implements were trialled in desperation to try and get the paddock ready for seeding. A chisel plough won out as the supreme machine, seemingly performing miracles and transforming the paddock to a drained and workable piece of ground. Racing against time and with the window of half a day without rain, the swedes were eventually sown on December 30. Despite ongoing showers, fingers were optimistically crossed until the weather bomb low arrived in January like an unruly guest and dumped 260mm in one day of unwanted irrigation on top of the seed. Hopes for a good winter crop are now significantly less than the cautious optimism we had. Many of us now have to think very hard about feed options looking forward to the approaching winter and next spring. Not many smiles are to be seen and people are feeling the effects of a lack of vitamin D, although this deficiency is obviously only minor. If it was severe then one of the major symptoms – forgetfulness – would mean I could not remember that yesterday was wet, or the day before that, or the day before that. One West Coast farming identity is quoted as claiming this weather pattern is similar to that back in 1957 when it rained persistently until May. It then cleared “good” and the next 19 years were “cracker”. Here’s hoping, although a respite before May would be very welcome. •

The Coates have now had three weeks’ of fine weather and almost need more rain!

The impact on pastures and production has been huge. Our milk production is down on where we were this time last year. Many farmers are down 10% and more. The number of mastitis cases has risen significantly, with wet conditions and mud being influencing factors on this. The paddocks have become so soft that several times in a day farm vehicles become stuck. Some farmers say they now have to walk to get the cows out of the paddock. Opportunities to spread fertiliser have been hampered by the soggy terrain and when it has happened there is no need for a GPS to show where the tractor has been – the wheel ruts are a very reliable indicator. Typically, summers on the Coast allow

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



Fighting dirty rivers Bob Edlin Comprehensive mapping of waterways by farm leaders has been urged to arm politicians and the public with much better data about water quality in election year. “My vision is that every province will have a map of their region,” Federated Farmers dairy vice-chairman Wayne Langford told the Dairy Council conference in Wellington last month. “And on that map will be every river and every dairy farmer will know the state of local waterways. It’s not difficult.” Farmers as much as anyone else wanted to be able to fix dirty rivers, Langford said. They also needed to know the good rivers so the percentage of dirty ones could be accurately recorded. Environmentalists insisted 60% of the country’s waterways were dirty, “yet down on the farm we are all swimming in our rivers and quite often our drinking water

comes out of our rivers. This doesn’t make sense,” Langford said.” The reason, he said, is that 60% of tested sites have been found dirty and many of these flow through or near urban areas. Wayne Langford. Before the conference was over Environment Minister Nick Smith had signalled the Government’s intention to launch a map of New Zealand to show all waterways and different levels of degradation. This would enable rural communities to determine what they could do to have local waterways promoted from one level to the next and better reflect the health of waterways in their areas compared with urban areas. Langford made his plea for a special effort to be made on water-quality issues

Tackling the issues Delegates at Federated Farmers’ Dairy Council conference last month were asked to come up with ideas for tackling the issue of water quality and the politicking around it. Ideas included: • Farmers must have a good local knowledge of waterways and be involved in processes to manage them. • There must be greater engagement with local communities. • More farmers must turn up at meetings where regulatory decisions on water quality are being considered. Plenty of environmentalists will be there. • Farmers must drum out the message that they want swimmable water too. • A greater effort must be made to make the public aware of “good news” stories about industry projects to improve water quality and what farmers are achieving. • There’s nothing to be gained in pointing at the pollution of others. This gets people’s backs up so just deal with the industry’s own performance. • Set up arrangements to help non-compliant farmers improve their performance before local authorities intervene. A group set up in Otago involves Federated Farmers, the Otago Regional Council, DairyNZ, Fonterra and Open Country, Otago dairy section chairman Stephen Crawford said. If the council senses potential problems on a farm, the group will visit the farmer and try to find a remedy. “This is a much healthier way of doing it.” Similar groups were operating in other areas, he said. “Ultimately the goal is about improving water quality, and everyone has a vested interest in that.”


in election-year while addressing the conference on the role of dairy chairs. Provincial dairy chairs had six months to provide better information about river quality to give the federation a big boost so it could fight for the industry. “If you don’t want to fight the water debate there’s nothing wrong with you stepping down,” he said. On the other hand, in each province, fighting was not just the dairy chair’s job, “We have got to put 100% into it over the next six months to influence policy before the election to avoid the nonsense that may come in the next three years.” Gathering accurate data was a key element of Langford’s pitch. When arguing with the green opposition, he contended, they say 60% of waterways were dirty, “but that’s pretty much all they know, so come back with facts”. “That’s the cracker, isn’t it,” national board member Katie Milne interjected. “Sixty per cent of monitored waterways are not swimmable some of the time – it’s quite different.” Langford cited data from the Tasman District Council’s state-of the-environment report. “It’s not all good but 98% of our waterways in Golden Bay are swimmable,” he said. “These are all really good facts that we can use.” He endorsed advice given by other speakers that provincial chairs must build relationships with local government staff and their ecology experts to find out what they intend doing next. He argued, too, it was almost as important to have a better relationship with green groups as it was to have a relationship with farmers. “If you can’t talk with the green groups in your area, how will you know what they are fighting with?” Thanks to the Green Party putting out a list of the 10 worst rivers, farmers knew what they were dealing with. They could work out what’s wrong with those rivers and how they could help fix them.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

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Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


UPFRONT │ WEATHER Soggy paddocks are everywhere for West Coast dairy farmers Murray and Gaye Coates.

WET-COAT DAYS OUT WEST Anne Hardie Months of rain and little sun has taken its toll on the West Coast where dairy farmers are facing tough decisions that may include destocking if they can’t afford to buy in unbudgeted supplements. For many farmers between Karamea in the north and Franz Josef in the south, the rain hasn’t really stopped since the end of May 2016 and the sun has been depressingly absent. Wet paddocks and the


lack of sun and warmth dampened pasture growth through summer and even in the north at Karamea which usually achieves 60-70kg drymatter (DM)/day, it was half that at 30-35kg DM/day. Little supplement has been made on farms, winter crops have been planted late and are yielding poorly, so farmers face hard decisions to set themselves up for winter and the next season. FarmWise consultant Simon Pontin says farmers need to work out the effect

of the weather on their operation to find out if they have enough feed, or their shortage for winter so they can revise feed budgets for the rest of the season and act accordingly. Some farmers will want to continue to milk the herd to the end of the season for cashflow reasons and after low payouts, money is tight, he says. But if they continue to milk, some will run out of feed and will need to have made provisions for bought-in supplements or grazing stock off the farm – which will both be in high demand. “The banks are going to have to play ball on some supplements, but that’s increasing debt and they don’t want to do that. The only other way is to reduce capital stock. If farmers are right at the limit of borrowing and the bank is refusing to extend their credit or loan them any more money, what else do they do?” It’s a question of planning and being prepared, he says, so he advises farmers to plan for the worst and hope it’s better than that. DairyNZ senior consulting officer, Ross Bishop, says farmers can move from 12-hour grazing to 24 hours to allow stock to spread out and reduce stock density on pasture and soils. They can also look at different milking intervals like once-a-day or 16-hour milkings. “If you are moving to those alternative milking frequencies, you have to keep feeding them the same amounts. It’s not about cutting feed, but reducing the number of times the cows come in for milking.” Availability of supplements is unknown at this stage, though Canterbury has surplus so the price may be reasonable, he says. “It’s identifying what your needs are and the most cost-effective way of meeting those needs – culling those cows you don’t need and reducing the number of mouths you have to feed.” Grazing stock off-farm through winter costs money, but it was one of the options and if farmers were considering it, they needed to act quickly because “there may not be room at the inn”. “You will be competing against others for it. So the earlier you start to look at those things, the more options you have. The longer you leave it, the less options will be available.”

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Bishop says decisions will come down to an individual’s attitude to risk. It has been a hard, depressing season for farmers and their staff, so he says everyone needs to look out for each other and spend time off the farm to have a break. “And keep an eye out for neighbours. Everyone handles stress in different ways. It’s about picking up on the fact they aren’t their usual self. They might be normally meticulous and tidy people, but become a little slovenly or are snapping at people when they don’t usually. There are people who just hide away and you don’t hear from them, so it’s just being aware of that.” In the Grey Valley, dairy farmer Colin van der Geest says the season has been hard on cows and people who were sick of trudging around in wet weather gear. Another Grey Valley farmer, Warren Smith

Tips for farmers: • Revise feed budget for remainder of this season and act now to fill gaps. • Keep your banker in the loop. • Consider reducing stock numbers. • Consider 24-hour grazings and different milking regimes to reduce stock density. • Plan off-farm winter grazing options now. • Keep an eye on mental health of staff and neighbours and yourself. • Plan for the worst and hope it’s better than that. has lived on the coast for more than 50 years and says he has never experienced a season as bad as this one. “We’ve been chasing out tails for feed since May so we have a much bigger budget for supplements and have bought

Another cold, grey day on the West Coast at a monitor farm field day.

in balage and more PK (palm kernel).” He owns two dairy units that milk a total of 635 cows and says the cost of extra supplements this year will be about $60,000 net. He usually makes about 800 tonnes of silage and five paddocks of hay and has it sorted by the beginning of February, but the weather squashed that plan. He is optimistic the weather will improve through autumn and in midFebruary got the chance to get some supplement made. “We’re lucky it’s happened this year and not last year because there wouldn’t have been any money around for extra feed. The other option, depending on how autumn is we can reassess our stock numbers, but I think everyone is counting on a good autumn. If we get a good autumn it won’t be a total disaster.” The Grey Valley has suffered less than some areas on the West Coast though and further north in Karamea the wet weather has delivered numerous floods through the season as well as halved pasture production. South at Whataroa, the relentless rain has added more than a metre to the annual rainfall figure and some farmers have had to cope with six metres of rain for a 12-month period.


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Dairy Exporter | | March 2017





Back to the FUTURE OF DAIRY Jackie Harrigan Imagine yourself in 25 years time – it’s 2042 and water quality is better than in 2017 and improving, dairy farming is a profitable business and still a major part of the New Zealand economy. Russ Tillman was the closing speaker at the Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre annual conference at Massey University and took delegates on a flight of fancy – or could it have been a peek into a totally plausible and attractive future? The future looks very different to the present, Massey emeritus professor Tillman postulated – saying most of the world’s proteins are manufactured in biotechnology facilities and no animals are required. In 2042, dairy farmers receive strong financial incentives to minimise the impact on their farm environment – not subsidies, but premiums around NZ’s quality brand from the market segment that pays extra for their products – maybe because they are grass-based proteins, because of their animal welfare record or because of their minimal greenhouse gas footprint. So that’s the future – how did the industry get there? Change came in a gradual evolution, Tillman theorised – starting with the introduction of a carbon tax in 2018 to encourage low greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters. Tillman touched on how the tax 16 

would work, saying all dairy farmers paid a carbon tax to the government depending on the amount of gas emitted, then were awarded a tax refund paid back as an amount per kilogram of milksolids (MS). “The scheme rewards farmers who produce milk with a low C footprint, at the expense of those with a larger C footprint – and sets up a competition between the farmers with the difference in tax liability encouraging farmers to reduce emissions of carbon where this can be done easily and at little cost,” Tillman said. Importantly, Tillman said the price is set low so that low GHG producers were likely to receive a tax refund of $10,000 and the highest emitters might have a net liability of $30,000. Enough of a differential to encourage behaviour change however, Tillman said. The success of the carbon tax initiative in enhancing NZ’s reputation abroad encouraged the Government to develop a wider “environmental brand”. But Tillman warned, for the brand to have marketplace credibility it had to be backed by real action. “We had to be world leading and have more than just lip service paid to it like the current ‘clean, green’ image.”

Star rating components: • GHG footprint (measured per kg MS) • Nitrate leaching footprint (per kg MS) • Environmental infrastructure and management • Animal welfare • Milk safety and quality “Farmers might be awarded half a star or a whole star for each component – or no star – and their star rating will directly affect their payout. Below two star status over the five categories and farmers will struggle to get a contract to have their milk picked up. “Losing half a star might cut their payout by 45cents/kg MS and in the same way as the carbon tax, farmers will be competing with each other for star rating – so the bar is always being lifted,” he said. Tillman said the system would be closely controlled and audited and because there is a strong financial incentive, farmers will see it as an investment rather than a cost. “Expenditure on environmental performance is an investment in the brand rather than a compliance cost,” Tillman explained.

REGULATION AND COMPLIANCE FIVE-STAR FARMERS The way forward was to pair the carbon tax framework with a star rating system that rates farmers with stars relating to separate components of the farming system and farmers are paid based on how many stars they have.

Using a carrot rather than a stick greatly reduced the need to regulate dairy farms to ensure good environmental performance, Tillman said. In 2017 the regulation from regional councils was becoming increasingly contested.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

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The approach taken by many regulatory bodies of imposing limits for example on the leaching of nitrate meant limits tended to become targets. “Farms that were originally leaching less nitrate than the limit imposed by the regional councils regarded this as an opportunity to intensify production until the limit (or target) was reached, and there was no incentive for farmers already complying with the limit to slow down by further reducing N leaching.” Tillman said the unconstructive atmosphere of regional councils trying to regulate farmers into limiting N leaching and environmentalists becoming increasingly strident about advocating limiting cow numbers as the only way of halting the decline in water quality has been overcome by 2042. “By 2042, environmental advocates accept that a profitable dairying sector benefits the country as a whole and there are no dairy farmers who think poor water quality is a good thing. “ In Tillman’s scenario, central and local governments realised that a limits-based approach was hurting rather than helping environmental outcomes, once they saw the positive effects of the carbon tax and star rating system on farmers behaviour, so they abandoned the idea of applying arbitrary minimum standards on water quality and replaced it with striving to return water quality “as close as practicably possible to the original pristine state”. While he said regional councils were at first reluctant to move away from regulating nutrient losses on a per-hectare basis, thinking they would lose control of increased discharges into waterways, their concerns proved groundless. “Farmers found it difficult to increase production without increasing production costs and their nitrate leaching footprint – which resulted in a reduction in the payout price.”


Summary: 2017 to 2042 • Astute environmental branding increases financial returns, passed on to farmers meeting environmental standards. • Less need to trade-off environmental performance and profit. • Continual improvement of forages, cow performance, development of hybrid grazing systems bring improved environmental performance and profitability. • Competition between farmers the best way to bring ongoing small improvements. • Simplified environmental regulation. • Central and local government moved to “set directions, not targets”. • Government and industry leaders moved forward together to bring about change. “The financial pressure has meant that N leaching from dairy farms in 2042 is now less than half of what it was in 2017 – a much better result than could have been achieved by trying to enforce regulatory nitrate leaching limits.”

‘The scheme rewards farmers who produce milk with a low C footprint, at the expense of those with a larger C footprint – and sets up a competition between the farmers with the difference in tax liability encouraging farmers to reduce emissions of carbon where this can be done easily and at little cost.’ DAIRY FUNDAMENTALS The fundamentals of dairying have not changed between 2017 and 2042 but Tillman said change has come in the increased use of technologies to enhance the quality brand. “The financial incentives have encouraged farmers to reduce costs and concentrate on environmental efficiency,

putting the emphasis on profit and not production.” By 2042, with changes to the tax system and the overseas investment rule, returns from dairying come from the farming operation – not capital gains.” A focus on continual improvement will help farmers maintain their competitive edge in the marketplace, Tillman said. He saw a hybrid grazing system, featuring cows getting 80% of their nutrition from pasture in the paddock and the remainder a supplementary feed eaten in a covered yard. Supplementary feeds will be chosen to reduce the overall GHG footprint and improve the farm’s star rating – and very few supplements might come from overseas. Methane emitted from covered yards and manure storage areas will be collected and used. “The ratio of time in the paddock to time in the covered yard will vary between seasons and different regions in the country.” Cows would be milked by robotic milkers and cow production, health and welfare closely monitored by sensors and data-collection units. Pasture would also change, Tillman predicted. Advances in precision drilling and fertiliser application would allow the use of a wide range of forages, capable of reducing both methane emissions and nitrogen excretion, yet still producing and persisting well. Cows would be bred to be more efficient – emitting less methane and excreting less nitrogen as well. Small gains across many fronts would add up, Tillman concluded. “Each of these initiatives increasing by a few percentage points can add up to big differences in environmental gains.” “Plus providing financial incentives for environmentally efficient production has compressed the traditional normal distribution in farmer performance – the laggards have upped their performance to reap added rewards, and the one and two-star farmers have simply gone out of business.” While Tillman foresaw teething problems with both the carbon tax and star rating system implementation, he praised government and industry leaders for having the tenacity to proceed.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

PASTURE March 2017

Setting up new pasture for a long & productive life

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Perennial pasture sown this autumn has the genetic potential to grow more than 150 t DM/ha during its lifetime. That’s why pasture remains the number one feed for New Zealand farmers. If you want to realise this potential, however, good establishment is a must. Robust pastures take longer to get going than most people realise. A key goal? Plenty of big, healthy ryegrass plants, 20-30 tillers in size. For those in potentially dry areas, this gives new plants every chance of weathering a possible dry summer in 2017/18, then settling down to a productive future. First grazing: The most important grazing is the first one. New pasture should be nipped off as soon as plants do not pull out of the ground. This promotes tillering and growth. If you delay this grazing, you can slow establishment and reduce overall yield by up to 1 t DM/ha in the first year. Early grazing also benefits clover, allowing light to reach it. Graze lightly, if possible using young stock. Avoid grazing in wet conditions. Aim to nip off the top 2-3 cm of new plants.

Weed control: Weeds reduce DM yield and palatability of new grass, but most are easily controlled at seedling stage. Close monitoring is critical. Apply appropriate herbicide as advised. Fertiliser: Make sure base soil fertility is correct, then apply small regular amounts of nitrogen to boost growth, e.g. 25-30 kg N/ha. First spring/summer: New pastures grow fast and need frequent grazing next spring to stay leafy and tillering. Keep pastures relatively short, below 3200 kg DM/ha, to help ryegrass plants tiller and prevent shading of clover. Do not make hay or heavy silage crops in the first season (this will shade clover plants). In summer dry areas, be gentle on new pastures during dry conditions. Do not over graze them.

If you’d like to learn more about how to achieve a 52% return on investment from your new pastures, it’s as easy as hopping online and visiting our website at www. Fill out the simple order form and we’ll send you your own free copy of 'Every Seed Counts’ to help organise and prepare your autumn pasture renewal programme for the most profitable outcome. While you’re at the website, you can also take advantage of our other digital resources, including videos, images and management advice as well as contact details for members of the Agriseeds technical team in your region. Order your free copy at

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

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NZ well placed to ride out trade disruptions Susan Kilsby New Zealand’s dairy markets are well placed to ride out any disruptions that may occur due to the wave of nationalism sweeping the world. Trump being elected to lead the United States and Britain turning its back on Europe are the leading examples of powerful countries turning their back on world markets to focus on protecting themselves, But what does this mean for NZ’s dairy industry which is highly exposed to international markets? We export 95% of the milk we produce – in the form of milk powders, butter, cheese and other dairy ingredients and consumer goods. Our trade negotiators have pushed for decades to free up global trade and gain better market access for our dairy produce. A NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) report commissioned by the Dairy Companies Association of NZ (DCANZ) shows the trade deals NZ currently has negotiated are worth $2.3 billion annually to our dairy industry. If all remaining tariffs on our dairy exports were eliminated that would add a further $1.3b to export returns – assuming no change in production volumes. NZ exports dairy products to about 160 different markets. This means we are not heavily exposed to any one particular market. Even 25 years ago our dairy products were being shipped to more than 100 different markets. In 1990 our largest dairy market was the United Kingdom which accounted for 9% of our total dairy exports. Last year the UK

US remains a highly protected market for dairy products. If President Donald Trump tightens border regulations it could significantly disrupt global markets. 20 

ranked 65th in terms of our dairy export markets. Less than 2500 tonnes of NZ dairy produce was exported to the UK in 2016. The volume of Chinese exports to the US means shipping A century ago we were in the other direction is very cheap. totally reliant on this market to buy all our dairy produce primarily in the form of non-fat dry milk but now we would survive – a product similar to skim milk powder – without any access. and cheese. NZ’s exposure to the US is a little greater. Last year Mexico accounted for about a The US buys about 4% of the third of the dairy products exported from dairy produce exported from NZ. the US. The US dairy industry has greater This makes it our fifth-largest market for exposure to Mexico than NZ has to China. dairy produce but when measured on a China only accounts for about 20% of NZ’s return basis it’s our second-most valuable dairy exports. market behind China. Most of the dairy Just as China relies heavily on NZ products exported to the US tend to to supply it with whole milk powder, be worth more than products exported Mexico sources 76% of dairy products elsewhere. from the US. Last year NZ supplied about The US remains a highly protected 12% of Mexico’s dairy imports and 7% market for dairy products and has very was sourced from Europe. NZ mainly limited concessions for NZ. So returns supplies Mexico with anhydrous milkfat from this market need to be high to (AMF), casein and small quantities of compensate for the high entry tariffs. milk powders. Should relationships break down between the US and Mexico this may provide greater opportunities for NZ Just as China relies heavily and European dairy exporters to supply on NZ to supply it with Mexico. whole milk powder, Mexico China remains the world’s largest sources 76% of dairy products market and this in unlikely to change from the US. Last year NZ any time soon. Only a small amount of dairy product is exported from the US to supplied about 12% of China. While relationships between the Mexico’s dairy imports. US and China appear cordial for now it seems unlikely US dairy exports to China will grow substantially. President Trump appears mostly concerned with slapping Whey and casein-based products higher taxes on the vast quantities of account for most of the produce the Chinese-made consumer goods shipped to US buys from NZ as the tariffs on some the US. of these are not as great as other dairy One by-product of China-US trade is products. NZ butter is subject to a tariff of that shipping from the US to China is about US$1500/t. very cheap with many empty ships If Trump decides to tighten border available. This has made it economically regulations it could significantly disrupt viable for dairy farms in China to buy global dairy markets but the impact on NZ alfalfa hay from the US. It is difficult to will mainly be indirect. There is a small source high-quality hay within China and possibility NZ would have to find other the cost of moving hay within China is markets for the product we export to the very high. US – but given we have 160 other markets Should high tariffs on Chinese-made this would be possible but not desirable. products entering the US result in lower The greater risk and most likely volumes being shipped then this may disruption to the global markets will be make is more expensive for Chinese farms if relationships between the US and its to import hay. More expensive feed will neighbours sour. make the economics of producing milk in Aided by the North American Free Trade China even more challenging than they Agreement (NAFTA) a large amount of US already are. dairy produce flows into Mexico. This is Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


work. breakfast. Work. Lunch. Work. Dinner. Work. Sleep. It’s time to get your nitrogen working as hard as you do. SustaiN works harder to increase nitrogen uptake, resulting in maximum pasture growth and better returns. Make the upgrade to SustaiN. Call Ballance on 0800 222 090 or visit to learn more. Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



Kieran and Leonie – clear goals and a plan to get there.

GRASS – KEEPING IT SIMPLE Anne Lee @Cantabannelee


airy grazing guru Arthur Bryant’s mantras echo clearly around pastures in the Fairlie basin. It’s there, in the valleys that form the gateway to the South Island’s high country, that Kieran and Leonie Guiney farm more than 1300 hectares and milk close to 2900 cows. They’re fervent followers of Bryant’s grass-based principles putting them firmly at the centre of their simple, low-input system – a system they credit a large part of their business progress to. That’s because those principles allow their dairying business to produce free cash – cash that can build equity and service debt.

‘We didn’t buy our farms to make capital gain, farming is the way we create cashflow.’ Granted, in a record low-payout season such as 2015-16 any cash produced was but a trickle, but with farm working expenses typically at $3.30/kg milksolids (MS), they’re able to ride out the lows comfortably. “We didn’t make much money last season but we didn’t make a loss either 22 

and in years when the payout’s better – it’s pure pleasure on the high,” Leonie says. Their progress has been rapid and significant. In 2005-06 they were sharemilking 680 cows and were runners up to the national Sharemilker of the Year title. A little over 10 years later they now own two dairy farms in their own right – one irrigated and one dryland and a 400ha support block They’re also in a 50-50 equity partnership in two farms – one dryland and one irrigated – with one of their original sharemilking owners Ron Smith. The two dryland dairy farms spectacularly run up the sloping foothills of the basin with their green pastures standing out against the majestic backdrop of the weathered, shingle-scree-scarred mountain range of Fox’s Peak. Venturing outside conventional dairying areas has helped in their journey to achieving their business purpose – that their business exists to realise financial and time freedom. They set a vision and plan back in 2002 with one of the keys to the plan that they make investments that could give a return on assets (ROA) 3% greater than the current interest rate, using a medium-term average milk price in their calculations. When they bought their first farm interest rates were 9% so they needed to get a 12% ROA. The initial cost of the investment is just one side of the equation and a nonnegotiable of Kieran and Leonie’s business philosophy is that it must make a return.

FARM FACTS Shamrock Fern Dairies Bought 2005 added to in 2010 Owners: Kieran and Leonie Guiney 255ha, 840 cows, irrigated Wimborne bought 2007 Owners: 50-50 equity partnership Guineys and Ron Smith 240ha 800 cows, irrigated Hillcrest Dairy bought 2008 Owners: Kieran and Leonie Guiney 170ha , 580 cows, dryland Greenburn 2007 converted Owners: 50-50 equity partnership Guineys and Ron Smith 232ha, 550 cows, dryland Highland downs 2013 Owners: Kieran and Leonie Guiney 400ha, support land

“We didn’t buy our farms to make capital gain, farming is the way we create cashflow,” Leonie says. They also won’t take on extra debt for business cashflow. Cash is king – king when it comes to the numbers and finances and for them, achieving that means grass is king out on the farm. Pasture comes first and stocking rate, rotation length and milking frequency are all tools used to keep supplements to a minimum.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Shamrock Fern Dairies • 2016-17 season forecasts • Owners: Kieran and Leonie Guiney • Farm working Expenses: $3.52/kg MS • Operating expenses $4233/ha • Operating profit: $3727/ha • Production: 1280kg MS/ha • Farm Dairy: 45-aside herringbone Profit not production is the outcome they’re looking for. So set are they on this approach that each of the farm’s managers know they have just 300kg drymatter (DM)/cow of supplements to use each season and that’s the same for both the dryland and irrigated farms. Each farm, though, has 100 tonnes DM of silage on hand as an emergency feed in case of snow but that’s strictly for emergencies. “We won’t let guys get out of bed to make milk that’s going to make a loss for us,” Kieran says. That’s not what any business should be about.

‘If growth is behind target the average cover will be behind target, so then it’s a matter of adjusting something - like culling empties earlier.’ Critical to making their system work is setting key pasture cover targets for specific times of the year. The starting point is “magic day” or ‘balance date” – the point in spring when feed demand and supply are the same. For Shamrock Fern Dairies, managed by Will Greene, that’s 2050kg DM/ha and happens about October 10. From there it’s a matter of working backwards to work out the cover needed

Three of the Guineys’ farm managers Will Greene, Danny Mitchell, Matt Greenwood – achieving targets means monitoring and acting on the information at planned start of calving taking into account the calving rate, stocking rate and typical growth rates. All the farms stick closely to the spring rotation planner allocating a set area based on the number of cows calved and days since calving. Will says target cover at planned start of calving works out to be 2600kg DM/ha and because they can usually rely on an average of 5kg DM/ha/day growth over the winter they need to ensure average farm cover is at 2300kg DM/ha by June 1. Working backwards again from that they know by April 1 they need an average cover of 2500kg DM. That’s based on average growth rates through that period, supplement available and expected demand from the cows. Leonie has a feed budget developed on a spreadsheet which managers fill in and set up at the team seasonal management meeting. It’s an essential but simple tool for planning, taking just an hour to work through. It’s also a quick and simple tool to use to check actual covers against targets as they go through late summer and autumn and on into winter. The feed budget itself sets out the hectares available for grazing, the date and

Understanding the principles for controlling cover – some of the farm team from left, Will Greene (from England), Diew Jones (Wales), Nicola Blowey (England), Danny Mitchell, Matt Greenwood, Leonie and Kieran.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Shamrock Fern Dairies Budgeted costs 2016-17($/kg MS) Wages: $0.70 Fertiliser (including Nitrogen): $0.58 Supplements: $0.30 Young stock and dry stock grazing: $0.48 Winter cow grazing: $0.11 Animal health $0.18 Breeding and herd improvement $0.24 Irrigation: $0.16

then the feed demand for each weekly period. The number of cows onfarm – number in milk and number dry – are accounted for along with their daily per cow demand as kg DM/cow/day to give a total feed demand per hectare. On the supply side the growth in kg DM/ha/day is put in based on typical growth rates. Then there are the supplements – allocated in each week when the budget is drawn up and input on a kg DM/ha/day basis so demand and supply match up. At the bottom, the spreadsheet calculates the pasture cover for each week and that’s what’s closely monitored each week after the farm walk to ensure the actual is where it should be. Leonie says it’s the team’s understanding of the principles behind managing covers that makes the process so effective because it’s what they do to balance the feed budget that matters – how they act on their monitored information. “If growth is behind target the average cover will be behind target, so then it’s a matter of adjusting something - like culling empties earlier.” That way they manage demand, they can adjust intakes or they can take action to adjust feed supply such as applying strategic nitrogen. “You might not be able to control your growth rate, but you can be in control of your pasture cover. The 300kg DM limit of supplement really creates discipline too when it comes to monitoring and looking at the type of 23

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Kieran and Leonie Guiney – lowcost, low-input system a winner.

tactics they can use to reach targets. “Simply putting in more supplements without looking at how that affects the whole feed budget isn’t an option. “That’s the danger when production is the only focus, when that’s what everyone is looking at. “Of course we’re mindful of production but it’s not the driver of every decision – profit is.” Shamrock Fern is 255ha in total and although added to over time was an existing farm when Kieran and Leonie bought it in 2005. About 30ha of a block bought in 2010 is dryland with 15ha of that used for winter crop. Will says they are exposed to water restrictions on occasion and this season that’s been the case. The weather, too, has been fickle with January temperatures in particular fluctuating from close to a frost to 30C plus. In late January growth rates had dropped to just 20kg DM/ha/day but instead of breaking out the precious supplement Will looked at the other tools in the toolbox, holding the cows back, restricting pasture intakes slightly. He was already thinking about next season and the pasture cover targets just a few months out that needed to be hit. He also wanted to wait until growth rates improved again so that when supplement was added in, it could do its real job of building covers. “Timing is important if you want to get the most out of supplement,” Leonie says. “The most economic use of it is in autumn not spring. In spring you’re just likely to see substitution away from highquality pasture whereas in the autumn it makes more economic sense to use it to grow more grass.” But timing in late summer and autumn is also important. With its best economic use to build covers and manage pastures supplement

Will Greene and DairyNZ consulting officer Caleb Strowger – sharing the principals of managing covers in a low-cost, low-input system.

demands and minimise the time they’re off the paddock. Will says two weeks after pregnancy scanning results are known empty cows are in the feed budget to go. Cows are independently conditionscored three times a season and lighter cows will be dried off to ensure they reach their condition-score targets for calving. If autumn growth is ahead of budget they’ll keep culls on longer but those “Of course we’re mindful decisions are made based on the feed of production but it’s budget and careful monitoring of covers. not the driver of every Last season, at a $3.90 milk price, Leonie says it didn’t make economic sense to put decision – profit is.” in any supplement but they still had to get covers up so reduced demand instead, culling empties early then systematically pick up you’re much better off waiting drying off to make the feed budget work. to use it then. It’s the same reason we One season, drought meant the whole use the little supplement we do earlier in herd was dried off in March. the autumn rather than waiting till soil The tactics used on the irrigated farms temperatures have dropped and there’s a are just as relevant on the unirrigated risk of frost,” Leonie says. properties where summer can be dry but “We can get very good autumn growth autumns typically good. here and when the supplement is used Matt and Vanessa Greenwood are well (in terms of timing) you can get a contract milkers on the two dryland farms great response,” Kieran says. – the170ha Hillcrest dairy and 232ha By allowing the covers to build through Greenburn. March by using supplement to extend the Matt says they too are aiming for a round those growth rates are maximised dryoff cover of 2300kg DM/ha. and quality isn’t impeded because ryegrass “We put supplement in earlier rather isn’t trying to run to seed. than later to get the best response. We’ve Rain in the last week of January saw got 120kg DM/cow available for autumn them put on 50kg of nitrogen too as and if we put that in March, April, May another tool to get pasture growing when we’ll only push our average cover to the response would be good. 2200kg DM by June 1. If we put it in By mid-February Will was then able to February and March we’ll get to 2300kg put 4kg DM/cow of silage in and carry on DM/ha extending the round out to 40 days. “Utilisation over February and March is The aim was to then drop silage to 3kg also better – the ground is drier and we’d DM/cow/day in late February, then replace get closer to 90% utilisation compared it with palm kernel through March. with about 70% later – so there are gains He also put the second herd of younger, to be made there too,” Matt says. lighter cows on once-a-day milking. For Kieran and Leonie the farm system They had been grazed on the original must stand on its own and create the block closer to the farm dairy throughout cashflow they need. Changes will and the season as a way to reduce energy have been made when Working out your cover at balance date situations arise that alter The average cover at balance date is the return equation – Rotation length days x stocking rate x intake + grazing residual such as increased grazing 2 costs. should be used when pasture growth is good, Leonie says. That gives you your best bang for your buck. So for Will reaching for the supplement wasn’t his first reaction when growth rates slowed and feed got tight in early February. “If you think it’s going to rain or the conditions improve so that growth rates


Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



“You have to be monitoring all the time to know where you’re at and be prepared to act based on real numbers and good analysis,” Leonie says. After looking at the economics closely two seasons ago, cows are now mostly wintered on. Leonie says it meant a drop in production from 1500kg MS/ha to 1350kg MS/ha but they made the call after looking at the effect on earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) per hectare. “At $4.50/kg MS it was close to breakeven between what we were earning from grass in terms of milk production and the cost of grazing. At that milk price it’s about 30c/kg DM and that was close to the cost of grazing,” she says. They use fodder beet and, although she says they’re still learning with the highenergy crop in terms of maximising yields, the economics are there. “The system also gives us certainty in our costs,” Kieran says. They haven’t over capitalised the three conversions they’ve done over the past 10 years, putting in a simple herringbone dairy for any farm under 600 cows. The dryland farms were bought just as the global financial crisis hit and milk price dropped. They delayed the full conversion for a season and sold off a house on one of the blocks which they were later able to buy back and sold off a separate gully. They converted a woolshed to a house, recycled old fences and initially put one trough in each paddock where they now have two. They bought budget cows that were in-calf to high BW bulls, milked them the next season and then sold most of them for similar money to what they’d paid with the bonus of gaining a good quality replacement. “When you have a plan to get to the goals you set, you stick to that plan and monitor what you’re doing you – it works.” 

Bobby Square Kieran and Leonie Guiney are testament to what you can achieve when you have sound financial acumen, set goals, are prepared to work hard and can follow through with a plan. Their family, with their four children aged from 11 to 16, is at the heart of their business vision and purpose so it’s not really surprising that they’re passing on their business nous to the next generation. Over the years their children have been able to rear bobby calves to build their own savings. “They’d get up early so they could get over to the bobby pen in the morning before school and pick out the ones they wanted – the biggest ones usually,” Kieran says. They had their own end of a shed and they’d rear them until they were 100kg and sell them. It was hard work and needed them to be committed to looking after the young animals every day. Some days it was cold and raining. Last year, though, Kieran and Leonie talked to them about pooling their resources and using the money to go the next step. Together with them they’ve invested in commercial properties in nearby Fairlie township. The properties included the Fairlie Bakery – famous in the South for its pies – as well as several other adjacent buildings, some tenanted by retail stores and some used for storage. They’ve expanded the bakery building for the tenants and during school holidays and weekends all of the children helped their father build a stone wall, topped with a copper cap. It’s part of an outdoor seating area so the ever-increasing clientele of the area can relax outside under cover. There are plans to rejuvenate and rebuild other shops around the covered area to what is aptly named Bobby Square. “We wanted them to understand more about what money can do rather than leaving it in their savings accounts,” Leonie says. It’s teaching them about the power of investment, managing incomes and rents and general financial literacy. The townsfolk and visitors to the town – a gateway to the Mackenzie Country – also like it. It’s putting back into the community, being part of the local area and at the same time teaching invaluable life lessons.


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Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


Dealing with drought in Northland


Graeme Peter Northland dairy farmers have a challenging road ahead given the drought conditions. It’s really important to keep costs within this financial year and to make decisions now that protect next season. While the region has received some rain, this can only go so far in undoing months of damage to pasture and winter crops, but there are some things you can do to contain the impact onfarm. Right now, it’s important to keep monitoring the situation and regularly re-assess feed supply and cow condition. Maximising production this season should not come at the expense of body condition score at calving, which will have a greater impact on next season’s production and herd reproduction performance. Remember, mixed age cows should have a condition score of 5 at calving, and first and second-time calvers targeting 5.5. Farming in Northland provides another

difficulty with diverse pasture species requiring different management strategies. Focus should be on holding a longer rotation to allow ryegrass pasture to recover, while focus on kikuyu pastures should be on maintaining quality as it begins to take off and achieving good post-grazing residuals. Often the best support can be talking to your neighbours and just hearing what others are doing – particularly those who have been through it before. So, I asked Northland dairy farmer Roger Hutchings what was his advice for others in his situation. Roger is no stranger to drought. He has lived in the region his whole life and learnt a lot from the drought in 2009. “We used that experience to make some timely decisions this time around,” he said. Roger, who has a 349-hectare farm (270ha effective) in Okaihau near Kerikeri, said his advice to other farmers was to always be prepared and have a plan to help minimise the effects as much as possible. “We put strategies in place quite early on. We culled cows early to reduce numbers (from 700) to 640 cows. We went on once-a-day milking from January 10 and started feeding quite a bit of maize silage, pasture silage and palm kernel – to slow our grazing rotation down. The idea

was to try and not graze those paddocks so that when it did rain they weren’t too short and were quicker to recover.” But Roger warns the rain doesn’t mean farmers are in the clear. “The key now is we still have to keep feeding out until the grass actually grows and there’s enough to meet the cows’ demand. If you don’t they’ll lose a lot of liveweight,” he said. “It’s very easy to underfeed cows after rain as the paddocks may look green but the grass is very short. After rain you actually lose drymatter. It really takes two to three weeks before there’s any substantial grass there.” A handy tool to help farmers work out how much they can pay for supplementary feed. The supplementary feed price calculator is available on the DairyNZ website. Recovering from a drought can be more difficult than farming through a drought, strict attention to rotation length to allow ryegrass pasture to recover and focusing on accurately feeding cows is essential. It will vary depending on your farm and situation. For more information about recovering from a drought visit • Graeme Peter is a consulting officer for DairyNZ in Northland.

“The longest conversation I’ve had with a client? 15 years.” Shaun Crofskey, Westpac Senior Agribusiness Manager, Te Awamutu

Westpac Agribusiness bankers know farming. They know seasons and they know cycles. They know that what can be down one day can be up the next. It’s why the relationship they have with their farmers is so important. And if you want to talk to one you can – anytime, day or night. We’re backing farming and we’re backing farmers.

To find your local Agribusiness banker, visit Dairy Exporter |

| March 2017



Peter Allen and Lawrence Field: learning in the boardroom should be a priority.

Continuous improvement: how not to die Nick Allen

Boards need to adapt and improve if they are to survive in the dairy industry. Peter Allen and Lawrence Field believe this spirit of adaptation and openness to change must begin at the top, with the board. While preparing to talk on the topic at the DairyNZ Rural Governance Programme in Dunedin, Allen and Field discussed why board adaptation and continuous improvement are so important. Allen, a governance advisor from Business Torque Systems, started with the basics: “Continuous improvement in the boardroom is a deliberate focus that looks for ways to do things better. Boards need to do this if they are to sustain and improve their effectiveness and performance.” “It’s exciting stuff,” experienced facilitator and company director Field said. “It is all about the stuff we do every day, only looking for ways to do it better or more efficiently.” “Increased efficiency means shorter meetings and better performance means you might have the capacity to take over another farm.” But knowing how to change and where to improve is the trick. Field suggested directors start by reviewing a significant decision they have made in the last year. Considering the outcome –good or bad – they can ask if they’d make the same decision and what they would do better. 28 

Next Field recommends boards look at what happened inside the boardroom when the decision was made. Was there any bullying and was everyone heard? Is there a skill shortage among directors – do they know what they are doing? Allen believes skill shortages are a big challenge to dairy-farm boards. Most boards, not just those in the dairy industry, lack skills in some area, particularly when it comes to big-picture decision-making.

‘Most people don’t realise that it’s a really productive use of time to review how effective the meeting has been. Once people realise this and you get it right, everything falls into place.’

They may make great managers, but many directors don’t know how to act as directors. “Farmers are comfortable with practical stuff and management. But that’s the problem. They are more comfortable talking about how many troughs to install, than they are talking about long-term strategy,” Feild said.

Allen explained how he recently had a director tell him: “We don’t know the questions to ask and we don’t know how to engage consultants to help us.” That’s why improvement can be so hard to achieve. That’s also why Allen and Field believe it’s important to look back over boardroom decisions and behaviour. It’s only by focusing on how to do things better in the boardroom that cumulative changes will take place and efficiency increase. Field, a board member, told of a recent experience. The board reviewed a decision they had made and found some people were hesitant to contribute to the meetings. “We tended to hear from the two or three noisy people.” Once they identified this, the board decided to work on it. This brought about a major change, Field said. “We actually got a bigger contribution from more of the board members. “Most people don’t realise that it’s a really productive use of time to review how effective the meeting has been,” he said. “Once people realise this and you get it right, everything falls into place.” The second way directors of dairy farms can implement continuous improvement is by adding a learning item to the meeting agenda. The board should identify two or three skills that need strengthening or a boardroom practice they could do better. The learning item is all about bringing the skills needed to improve these areas. Allen’s been in board meetings where this has happened. “The result is riveting.” Directors should make learning in the boardroom a priority, Allen said. Asked what learning topics he recommended for dairy boardrooms, he said “current governance issues”. “For example, boards might want to learn about creating a company purpose and strategy. Or they might want to learn how to make decisions that align with their purpose or even just get up to speed on health and safety obligations. The practices of the board are important to discuss, as is the role of a chairperson.” Allen enjoys the learning item in a board meeting. “It’s the best part. You see a growing commitment to doing better. There’s a momentum and a sense of progress. Even the most stubborn begin to change.” Allen and Field are confident boards can overcome some skill shortages through this learning focus. They also believe commitment to continuous improvement is what will provide boardrooms with the strength they need to keep going. 

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



While Bill Aubrey has kept the technology in his cow shed to a minimum, he is embracing the data-crunching power of newly launched Agrigate to provide in-depth analysis of what the cows are up to and how his dairy farming business is tracking. “Intentionally simplistic” is how he describes the system in the 30-aside herringbone dairy on his South Waikato farm. But while the hardware is simple in the shed, owners of the 22-year family farm make up for it in software and devices – with a couple of iPads between Aubrey and his father-in-law, a PC in the farm office and smart phones out on the farm all synchronised to sing from the same song sheet. Bill says he has been using MINDA and all its subpackages for a number of years to track the cows – their numbers, age, health and production, and to record and access cycling, mating, calving and tagging records daily on the farm. “I am constantly looking up animals as we have a very strong interest in animal development through focused breeding in our closed herd.” “We don’t buy in any animals – and only keep the best of our homebred ones.” With a BW/PW record of 95/114 Bill is taking no chances with his herd and their productivity. Such is his interest and passion for genetics, Bill spent years manually matching individually selected bulls to mate each cow in his herd. That was until an LIC rep approached him about using the Customate system and completely automated the process so he could mate his best 200 cows to five of the best bulls. Handing over the ability to make the important decisions didn’t faze him as 30 


Farm-wide data on demand


Near Tirau, South Waikato • Over 300 cows, 96 ha • Production: • 2014/15: 147,000 kg MS (490 kg MS/cow) • 2015/16: 137,000 kg MS • Target: 2016/17 137,000 kg MS (460 kg MS/cow) • System 3 farm, heavily grassbased, grass and maize silage, • In-shed feeding pellets he says all the information was readily available and the matings were presented back to him for checking. “It was pretty much exactly what we would’ve done.” That flowed on to being asked to participate in the development of

Agrigate, a new data aggregation and benchmarking package, as a pilot farmer and Bill says he could see the advantages straight away. While he is used to looking at figures and trying to use them to make timely business decisions, having them all incorporated into the one dashboard and being able to make benchmarking comparisons is invaluable. The Aubreys’ System 3 farm relies heavily on the cows being fully fed with the right mix of nutrients to meet their 460kg MS/cow seasonal target. “We are making decisions on a daily basis to keep the cows fully fed and producing milk, and the more information we have at our fingertips the better our decision-making.” Last January Bill says they were a bit slow in their feed decision-making after a drop in production and suffered the consequences as the cows’ drop in postflush production was exacerbated by a drop in feed quality. “We should’ve made a decision at day four but because we didn’t have the information we didn’t react until day eight (post-drop), and waited too long to adjust the feed levels – and we never made up the drop over the season. “This year we have reacted faster – we can change the composition of the feed to make up for protein drop in the pasture” and Bill says while the rest of the country is behind in milk solids production they have maintained production. “The whole country is 6% behind this season in milk solids production and the Waikato down by 7% but we have kept our production going – just through making faster decisions”. “We need to be close to our animals

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017




• Milk production data • Milk quality data • Herd data • Animal records • Pasture data • Local weather forecasts • Benchmarking of above with previous seasons, other areas, national and regional averages. • Fertiliser data and Financial data (phase 2)


The concept behind aggregating useful data into one place for farmers has been around for many years but it has taken a few attempts to get it right, LIC chief executive and Agrigate chairman Wayne McNee says. After 18 months of prototyping, McNee says the product that has been launched is not the final form – regular updates will improve it. The Agrigate dashboard gives a live daily snapshot of what is happening on the farm, which can then be compared to historical data and used to make timely animal and feed decisions. The dashboard takes herd and pasture information from MINDA and Land & Feed and aggregates it with Fonterra milk supply metrics and Met Service weather data. “Having all the data in one place and working in real time makes it easier to make comparisons, see trends and make better management decisions,” Mc Nee says. “A key outcome will be enabling farmers to make the most efficient use of their resources.” Existing data from partner organisations is pulled together and used to assess the interaction between different on-farm factors such as weather conditions, animal health, milk production, pasture cover, allowing farmers to track what each effect factor has on the others so they can plan accordingly. LIC and Fonterra Farm Source established the Agrigate company and are cornerstone data providers, along with Met Service. Agrigate is in discussion with other potential data providers, and high on the agenda is incorporating fertiliser and financial data. “We want to add as many data partners as possible in the future – right across the sector.” The product is free to Fonterra Farm Source and LIC shareholders up until 31 July 2017 then will be charged on a subscription basis with a monthly cost. Additions could be predictive modelling tools which allow farmers to test scenarios and run sensitivity analyses. “We want to get the product out far and wide and ask farmers: what do you need and what do you want to see?” McNee says. McNee says the goal is to have as many farmers using it as possible and they expect to attract thousands of farmers and reach a break even point within three years.


and to see daily results to make the right decisions. “Key data points allow us to make complicated decisions quickly.” The key data points the Aubreys need are the daily litres of milk production, (shown by Agrigate from the Fonterra feed) along with kg MS and somatic cell count and other health-related information. Beyond that the metrics are automatically translated into benchmarks of kg MS/cow and per hectare and the benchmarking facility allows him to compare performance between seasons, months and comparable farms in different parts of the country. In the development stage Aubrey says he suggested adding pasture information into the dashboard so based on the weekly pasture measurements collected from his tow-behind pasture meter, he can see the amount of drymatter in each of his 50 paddocks and make daily rotation decisions. “It’s fabulous from a management point of view to have real information to make the decisions.” The next phase will be fertiliser application information, adding records of what has been applied where. Aubrey also looks forward to the addition of financial metrics so he can automate the job of analysing costs and results from adding various supplementary feeds into his farming system. “At the moment I spreadsheet all that information and work it out manually as well as calculating the costs of animal health treatments in terms of product cost per application and the opportunity cost of withholding periods for milk. “It really is exciting to be able to automate all that and have it at our fingertips. “A system like this will be a quantum leap for some – and a lot of the leap will be in personal pride – having the technology to take the brain-work out of the equations will mean that if farmers decide to use it, it gives them the power to make those decisions.”

• Easier to see comparisons from data all in one place • Save time, improve information quality and accessibility • Identify trends, make better management decisions • Find underperforming areas • Maximise profitability. • Adding value to farmers business with dashboard format


The Agrigate dashboard is developed to be simple to use and intuitive, but technical support is available from online chat backup and a free-phone line. Both LIC and Fonterra Farm Source field teams are also trained to help farmers with the product, with Agrigate product champions within their ranks to support any farmer requests.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



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Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


Making link with dairy Sheryl Brown @sherylbrownnz DairyNZ has a goal to get New Zealanders thinking about and appreciating dairy farmers when they’re drinking their latté or eating their apple crumble and icecream at night. Achieving an interconnection between the dairy industry and the food people love to eat is one of the key common factors that can help improve the relationship between farmers and the urban population. Strategy and investment leader for sustainability Rick Pridmore along with new senior communications and engagement leader Lee Cowan will be speaking with farmers to discuss ideas on how they can remind people of their daily links with dairy farmers. The sign of success will be a country that is proud of dairy farmers, Cowan said. In the last decade the industry had focused on working with local and central government in the sustainability space and had made huge progress, Pridmore said. “Five years ago we started to make big changes and have got decision-makers to realise the changes we’ve done. We are ahead of what the government is starting to put in as legislation.” However, during that same period a bigger divide has been created with many members of the community holding a strong disapproval of the dairy industry. The general public had seen reports on poor river quality attributed to “dirty dairying” and animal welfare issues and held some contempt for the industry.

“What we haven’t done is take the public with us,” Pridmore said. The industry was in good shape and farmers were performing credibly behind the farm gate, and it was time to champion the industry to the general public, he said. “We are in a position that what we say is what you’re going to see. “One of the big challenges is a lot of opinions have become so ingrained and people have stopped listening.” The industry had to reconnect with urban people on what they cared about and how dairy farmers contribute to their lives.

‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people that were buying their produce and drinking their coffee were thinking about the farmer who worked hard to make that.’ There were a lot of common links between dairy farmers, dairy products and the urban population. The first obvious link was food. New Zealanders ate a lot of dairy products and a lot of foods where dairy was a key ingredient, Pridmore said. Getting people to connect with dairy farmers when they were consuming those products was a good place to start repairing the public’s opinion of dairying. People needed to be reminded how

New Zealanders embrace new artisanal products, but do they think about how they come from dairy farmers?

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Rick Pridmore: Working towards a country that is proud of its dairy farmers. many food products they bought included dairy ingredients and how a lot of their nutrition comes from dairy, Pridmore said. “Dairy is not just milk. People sometimes haven’t thought about all the products that milk goes into.” New Zealanders were enjoying a lot of dairy products, including new niche products coming on to the market. Every farmers market had new cheese and icecream stalls and popular coffee vans where people were excited about those products, but not necessarily linking those products with dairy farms. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people that were buying their produce and drinking their coffee were thinking about the farmer who worked hard to make that,” Cowan said. Another strong link was that all of these dairy products were made locally in the regions, by farmers who were part of the community. “We need to have greater links with the food products we make in our regions so the public are more proud of what their region produces.” Pridmore said. It was time to start celebrating what the NZ dairy industry was about, how cows were grass-fed producing one of the most nutritious products in peoples’ diets. A lot of top farmers were passionate about what they’re doing, who wanted to be able to share what they did with the public, Pridmore said. It was important the stories came from dairy farmers not just as industry body to build more trust and a closer relationship with the public. “We need to find those common bonds and use those as the basis to start a new conversation about dairy.” 33

BUSINESS │ SOUTHERN HUB Water pipe to the troughs being laid.

Hub project on target Karen Trebilcock @KT_at_Exporter

response to Southland and Otago farmers wanting dairy challenges in the region to be addressed through local research and demonstration. The 349-hectare former Alliance Group The Southern Dairy Hub near Invercargill Makarewa processing facility’s sheep and will be ready for its first 640 cows arriving beef farm and a neighbouring privately at the end of May. owned 80ha block was bought on The hub has been established in November 1, 2016, with winter crops of fodder beet and kale planted soon after. Two cuts of silage and balage were made before the grass was sprayed out in late January for resowing. Building of the De Laval 60-bail rotary and the 15-cow onesided herringbone platform plus vet race and crush are progressing as is staff Kia hiwa rā! housing. Ngāi Tahu Farming’s Dairy operation currently consists of Working around seven dairy farms on 1,800 hectares of irrigated pasture the builders are at Te Whenua Hou (Eyrewell), half an hour north of trucks, diggers and Christchurch. graders finishing the farm tracks and Multiple opportunities exist for individuals who are committed to advancing sustainable dairy farming installing water and practices; who are adaptable to change, enjoy the farming effluent pipe and lifestyle and have a knowledge and respect for Māori placing troughs. cultural values and customs. The Invercargill city water line runs What Ngāi Tahu Farming can offer successful applicants: through the farm • Top quality infrastructure and housing; and has been fenced • Farm systems which utilise best practice technologies off to avoid damage and target top 20% performance; to it. Regrassing will • 5 days on, 2 days off roster, 6 on 2 off roster during include two highcalving and mating; ranking and two • Great opportunities for learning and career progression; low-ranking Forage • Personal development program with a supportive team Value Index (FVI) environment; cultivars sown on • Competitive remuneration including health and life 96ha to validate the insurance.

Love Dairy?

indexed performance of the grasses in the south. Performance will be measured through pasture cover assessment data and paddock scoring. Non-FVI paddocks will be sown in a single ryegrass cultivar plus two clovers. The farm will then be fenced into 104 paddocks (2.9ha each) with a 300ha effective milking platform. It will run the cows and young stock year-round with the aim in year two to have four 200-cow herds milking, each demonstrating different farming practices. With two of the farm’s boundaries the Makarewa River, Environment Southland is advising on riparian planting and there will be opportunities to research their effectiveness. A hub manager, farm manager, three farm staff and a part time research assistant will be employed with another staff member added when cow numbers reach 800. Southland Dairy Hub chairman and Winton dairy farmer Maurice Hardie said the hub had been more than four years in the planning and was made possible when DairyNZ and AgResearch agreed to each invest $5 million into the project with Southern dairy farmers and related businesses digging deep in low payout years to contribute an extra $1.3m. Profits made at the Southland Demonstration Farm at Wallacetown, run from 2007 until the lease ended in May last year, have also been added as well as some stock and plant, he said. Stage one of the conversion is so far running slightly under budget. Further work will include the building of offices, laboratories and meeting rooms but until then the former Alliance Group’s large shearing shed will be used and the covered sheep yards converted into calf pens. The hub’s Research Advisory Committee has been established and is chaired by DairyNZ’s strategy and investment leader Dr Bruce Thorrold, of Hamilton, and includes two Southland dairy farmers Dean Alexander, of Winton, and Adam McCall, of Kelso. AgResearch scientists Ross Monaghan, of Dunedin, and Robyn Dynes, of Christchurch, as well as DairyNZ scientist Dawn Dalley, of Christchurch, make up the balance of the research advisory committee which will make recommendations for research and oversee all of the hub’s research projects.

To find out more about current opportunities or to register your interest for the upcoming season, please visit our careers website Nau mai, haere mai, tauti mai!

find out more at 34 

Dairy Exporter version

Winter crop is in ready for the cows which arrive in autumn.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

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Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



Budgeting – is it on your Key principles for autumn to-do list? creating a budget Carolyn Bushell Creating a budget is just as important as milking the cows. Financial planning is a key part of running a farm and, if ignored, can increase risk levels significantly. Without a budget and the ability to monitor cash flow, your losses can balloon when milk prices are low and cash surpluses can’t be used to your advantage when prices rise.

So, don’t leave it too late to sort out your budget for the coming season. Make it a priority on your to-do list this autumn.

The milk price downturn created stress for many farming families. Those who put time into budgeting at the start of the season were likely to have used it to get through the most difficult period. They considered which costs were essential and contributing to the potential profitability of the business and which costs could be cut. Now the milk price is looking more positive, these same farmers will be 36 

running leaner businesses and allocating cash surpluses to the highest-returning areas. As the milk price increases, it’s timely to capture this surplus and invest in areas offering the best return. By budgeting and monitoring your cashflow, you’ll know how much money will be available to pay down debt, fix tracks, apply fertiliser and so on. Without a budget, it’s far too easy to make rash decisions about how to spend cash surpluses. So, don’t leave it too late to sort out your budget for the coming season. Make it a priority on your to-do list this autumn. Creating a budget doesn’t have to be hard. DairyNZ has a range of budget templates available online to help make the process easier. You can print these off and work through them by hand or download and use the spreadsheet version. Other, more comprehensive, financial management tools to consider include Cash Manager Rural or Xero. Farm management consultants, bankers and accountants can also help if you’re still learning but, ultimately, you are best-placed to take ownership of your finances. There are also free budget workshops being held across the country to help upskill farmers who are new to farm budgeting. The Dairy Women’s Network Build Your Budget: Take Control workshops, funded by DairyNZ, run through how to create an annual farm cash budget and monthly cashflow budget and provide an opportunity to learn from others at a similar stage in their career to you. If you’re interested in attending, visit dwn. to see if there’s one near you and to register. 

• Take ownership – develop your budget so it reflects your own situation. A budget developed to meet compliance or expectations for someone else simply won’t have the same impact as one based on your business. • As you create your budget, involve everyone who will play a part in seeing the budget come to life. Both the person who creates the budget and the person who is responsible for spending must have input and you’ll also want to get input from your advisory team. • Be conservative with your milk price predictions as many farmers’ forecasts prove inaccurate. • Be thorough when estimating your expenses. Look back over at least three years of accounts to see what your actual expenditure has been on farm working expenses, interest, capital and drawings. • Use the method of zero-based budgeting, which will help you eliminate any costs that are not essential and don’t give a return. Visit the DairyNZ website to learn more about zero-based budgeting. • Test your budget – run different scenarios based on different milk prices. Think about the what-ifs? For example, what impact will changes to the prices of key inputs have on your bottom line? • Keep your budget alive; it’s a living document that needs to be updated. Set aside time to monitor and refresh your budget throughout the season, then carry any changes forward into your everyday decision-making. • Organise a meeting with your wider farm team to talk about your desired financial outcomes for the year. Then keep them updated about how the business is going with sticking to the budget.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

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Moving beyond compliance Peter Schouten with a 10 year old daughter of World Wide Sires bull Amateur. Peter’s passionate about breeding and has a cow-centric approach to farming.

Anne Lee @Cantabannelee There was never any doubt Peter Schouten was going to be a dairy farmer. But even he probably didn’t think he’d be milking 2000 cows on two farms – the second farm a state of the art conversion sporting the latest technology in the farm dairy, the yard, the effluent area and out in the paddock. As a youngster back in Holland Peter would race home on his bike every day from school just to beat his Dad to the afternoon milking. “I’d be so mad if he started before I got there,” the 36-year-old says. The 91-hectare family farm at Zwaagdijk in West Friesland peaked at 135 cows and Peter’s parents knew that if they were to give their two sons Peter and Arjen the best opportunity to be farmers themselves they were going to have to venture to where land was available. “Dad asked us how serious we were about pursuing dairying as a career. I think even then we thought more like 30-yearolds than 15 and 16-year-olds,” he says. Serious they obviously were, because the family made the bold move to New

Zealand where they bought 430ha and leased 70ha of dryland just north of the Waimakariri River in Canterbury. As if setting out to the other side of the world wasn’t enough of a pioneering venture the land they came to was also breaking relatively new territory for this country. They put up a 60-bail rotary dairy, drilled wells and set up centre pivots, milking 780 cows in their first season with the five year plan to milk 920. But by the end of the first season they were milking 1100 cows and two years later 1600.

‘It was three weeks of not sleeping really – there was a lot of work to do to find out if we could convert it.’ They had bought the 70ha leased land and then bought another 170ha across the road from the original block building a second dairy – a 70-bail rotary – nine years ago. During the farm’s expansion Peter went to Lincoln University and worked on other

FARM FACTS Area: 191ha Cows: 1400 spring calving 400 autumn calving Farm Dairy: 60-bail rotary with DeLaval automation Irrigation: Three pivots properties but he couldn’t stay away for long and went contract milking with his brother on the home farm. They worked their way to where they owned cows but instead of going 50-50 sharemilking they set up a variation of a lower-order sharemilking arrangement and leased their cows back to their parents so they could rapidly build equity. Seven years ago they were able to split the farm in two with each brother taking on one unit. Each unit was valued with timing in their favour as it was a low-payout year but it was still a big stretch financially. “I was geared up to the eyeballs and had to have my parents go guarantor for the loan,” Peter recalls. But the next season the pendulum swung the other way and the payout hit $7/kg milksolids (MS). At the same time Peter had been able to

Greenwash flows down the feedpad into the sump drain.



Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

lift production from the average 500,000kg MS to 620,000kg MS using supplements mostly grown on the family-owned support land and his leased 258ha support block. He uses barley, fed in the farm dairy and barley whole-crop silage and produces 500kg MS/cow. Just 20 months ago he became aware of a rare dryland block for sale in nearby Swannanoa but timing wasn’t so great with just three weeks before the tender closed. “It was three weeks of not sleeping really – there was a lot of work to do to find out if we could convert it.” The property is in a regional council red zone for both nutrient loss and water abstraction but Peter was able to enterprise the farm with his existing property. By making changes to his home farm irrigation system – adding soil moisture meters and including a feed pad on the proposed farm he was able to achieve a nutrient loss consent. That’s despite the new conversion having a previous nitrogen loss based on Overseer of 4kg N/ha/year. He was able to surrender a proportion of his water take on the home farm and put down a new well on the proposed farm to give him enough water to fully irrigate the new block. Peter says he wanted to future-proof the new farm. “I told Rural Building Solutions (the conversion project managers) that I wanted to take this to the next level,” he says. He wanted the best solutions for herd management, effluent management, feed management and irrigation using automation and the latest technologies to make the operation highly efficient, reduce labour and ensure it went beyond compliance. The aim is to run the farm in conjunction with the home farm milking spring and autumn-calving cows through the new farm dairy and sharing equipment where possible. The two farms are 6km from corner to corner. Peter will have 1400 spring-calving cows and 400 autumn-calvers with about 200 carry-overs. Effluent sump with stirrer.

The newly installed 60-bail rotary dairy sports the latest DeLaval automation technology. All cows will be dry on the home farm on June 1 with early calvers dried off for 8-10 weeks before spring calving on that farm. Later-calving cows, autumn-calvers and carryovers will be run on the new conversion. The new farm is surrounded by lifestyle blocks and several of the residents weren’t happy about a dairy farm springing up in the dryland adjacent to them. Peter says he’s sited the farm dairy right in the middle of the farm and invested in new technologies to minimise any impacts on his neighbours. The most obvious are the giant effluent storage bags by Technipharm which can completely enclose up to 4000 cubic metres (m3) or 4 million litres of effluent in two separate bags – one with 1000m3 storage and the other 3000m3. There’s no smell, no crusting, no windblown material ending up in the storage and no safety issues with people accidently falling in the pond or having to get into a pond to fix stirrers or pumps. Technipharm group chief executive Harmen Heesen says one of the major advantages of the ECOBAG system is its ability to reduce the amount of storage space required. “Because it’s covered there’s no need to take account for rainfall in your storage calculation. “In Peter’s case he would have been looking at a 7000 m3 open pond system so we’ve been able to significantly reduce the area needed. All of the storage he has in the ECOBAGs is fully effective effluent storage,” he says.

 olids are not S fare separated on a slope screen separator.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

For Peter’s setup it cost close to $200,000 for the bags and Harmen says the range in price is usually between $30-$70/m3. The bags sit in an engineer-designed embankment and where needed a protective geotech cloth is installed to protect the thick nylon PVC material the bags are made of. Harmen says the material is welded in a controlled environment as a “total system” and each bag is made to the specific size required. The bags are fully internationally certified and because the bunker is not an open effluent pond there’s no need to comply with engineering notes 21. Peter has a large xxx??m x???m concrete feed pad adjacent to the farm dairy with effluent from the pad, farm dairy yard and farm dairy running to a concreted channel and into a sump via a drain dam door that regulates the flow into the sump from a sand wedge. A Houle Agi Pump vertical dairy manure pump agitates the effluent in the sump and a propeller knife chops any larger fibrous material before pumping it to a Houle slope screen Peter has installed in a concrete solids bunker next to the ECOBAGs. The slope screen has no moving parts with the screen angled so that when the effluent is applied at the top of the screen it slides slowly down it, allowing the liquid to drain through the screen while the solids slide onto the concrete bunker. The liquid has suspended solids of less than 1mm. That liquid is gravity fed into the ECOBAGS before it’s pumped via a 40litre/ second pump from a pipe located at the The liquid effluent is pumped into the Eco bags.


The ECOBAGs give completely enclosed storage and are linked to the flood wash system to allow recycling of green water reducing water usage.

but when the effluent’s separated not much gas is produced, Harmen says. If it’s not separated the gas can be captured and used to heat water in the farm dairy. He says some farmers have been using a variation on the ECOBAG called the FlexiBAG as back-up storage. It can sit in the shed and be quickly set up if needed. “We’ve had people who are moving to winter milk who don’t want to have to build new ponds and they can use this system as an add-on to what they already have.” The liquid effluent is connected to a greenwash, floodwash system for the yard and feedpad that’s built on a 1% slope. A 120 litres/second pump pushes the liquid to the top of the yard and feed pad with Houle EFF IRY LUEN automated flush A D valves that open in sequence to optimise the pressure and Insightful I Practical I Assurance flow of effluent AR E down and across the RA NT OF FITN area. It saves time and water. Peter’s yard also sports energy-efficiency technology with a wireless backing and top-gate setup that’s solar-powered. It’s been developed by Canterburybased Engineering Solutions and has Voluntary, independent assessment two 200amp hour batteries that can of a farms effluent infrastructure and store enough energy practices. to power the gate for three-four days. On a sunny day the solar panels pump 8-9amps into the battery per hour but even on a dull day the batteries are being topped up. At 18m wide it’s wider than a

bottom of the bags to greenwash the yards and then out to pasture through Peter’s centre pivots. Rather than going through a separate line the liquid effluent is injected into the pivot. The pivots have IQ variable-rate technology installed so have been programmed to turn off over lanes, gateways and water troughs. In the future Peter may use the technology to apply water and effluent on a precision basis. In Peter’s situation effluent goes into the first bag and can then be pumped into the second bag as additional storage is needed or if there’s a need to dilute the effluent which can become thicker as it gets recycled through the yard floodwash. Gas produced in the bag can escape back out through the pipe from the separator




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standard rectangular yard and is split into two separate lift systems on the backing gate. Both the top and backing gates can be operated from within the farm dairy with controls at the cups-on and off positions or it can be controlled manually in the yard. Because the control system is wireless there’s no chance of stray voltage bothering cows. Inside the dairy the technology is also state of the art with a new DeLaval body condition scoring camera soon to be installed. It will work in with the DeLaval DelPro herd management system and Peter will use it to actively manage and monitor cow health and production with the automated in-shed feeding system linked to it. Combined with the information from the milk meters on yield, flow, conductivity and blood he’s able to put in specific thresholds so cows can be drafted for an animal health check or feed levels adjusted. He can access the system remotely or at the farm dairy making it a better fit with his busy lifestyle. The control panels at each bail show the cow’s number and allow for drafting from that point too. Peter loves the data and numbers and says the information is all there these days to create a highly productive and efficient farm operation as long as you use it. In going to the “next level” he says he wanted to ensure every technology he installed had an efficiency or productivity payback as well as a sustainability angle. The snap milk chilling system with glycol and heat recovery technology is one example. The milk goes into the vat at 5C thanks to the snap-chilling process with the heat recovery allowing water to be pre-heated to 40-50C before it goes into the hot water cylinder. Peter wanted to have a system that would easily comply with new milk chilling regulations and give some payback in energy savings. Automation to save staff time and create fail-safe systems has also been a focus and the vat wash and auto teat spray mixing systems are examples of that. The auto wash system mixes chemicals and washes and can be preset to specific schedules. Peter’s system is impressive and while he’s not sharing the total price tag he says just as importantly the bank is comfortable with it. He says he needs $5.25/kg MS to cover operating costs, debt repayment, drawings and tax. He’s hoping the farm is also a bit of a showcase so city folk and lifestylers can see the lengths dairy farmers go to in order to meet the wider community’s expectations. 

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

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ichael Shearer is an ideal candidate for DairyNZ’s Tiller Talk programme because the thing he likes best about dairying, even more than the cows, is pasture performance and calculating the numbers. Getting the best out of the soils and pasture has been a tough challenge on the 160-hectare farm near Nelson where he and wife, Cheryl, are sharemilking with their 415-cow herd. Flats with partial irrigation rise to reasonably steep hills and until they arrived a couple of years ago there was no pasturerenewal programme in place. Last year he planted 14ha in chicory as a summer crop which was then sown with a diploid-tetraploid perennial ryegrass (PRG) mix on irrigated paddocks and a spreading-diploid PRG mix on dryland paddocks. This year 25ha – 15% of the entire farm and 30% of the flats – went into chicory on irrigated paddocks which will be followed by the hybrid ryegrass (RG). The plan is to regrass the flat land every three years, with chicory followed by hybrid RG, to try and get the most out of the irrigated land and compensate for the poorer hill pasture. The flat land could be seen as the low-hanging fruit – where the greatest, most-reliable returns could be achieved.

Sharemilker Michael Shearer is regrassing 15% of the farm this year, using chicory as a summer crop before planting in pasture.


Michael keeps great pasture records and all of his decisions are based on data – solid facts on what paddocks were growing, what they grow once renewed and the costs involved. Until now, the herd has been eating 9.9 tonnes of drymatter (DM)/ha of pasture a year and Michael estimates the new pastures are adding between three and four tonnes to those paddocks compared with older grass of similar contour. It will also be significantly higher in metabolisable energy (ME). “And it’s way easier to manage – the cows eat it. It’s hard to keep nailing residuals with the old grass, but the new grass they munch down. I’ve also noticed through winter (with half the cows wintered on the farm) that the new grass grows twice as much as the old grass – growing about 50kg DM/ha a day.” To spray and direct-drill the chicory, spray off in autumn and drill new grass cost Michael about $1000/ha and he says buying in three tonnes of supplement with similar ME would cost close to or more than that. The summer crop alone put an extra 4t DM/ha into the system and if valued at 30c/kg DM adds up to $1200/ha. The new pasture following the crop adds another 4t DM/ha of extra grass for the next 12 months, giving the renewal exercise additional feed worth $2200/ha in just 18 months. Regrassing 15% of the farm, especially when it is nearly a third of the flats, puts pressure on feed through autumn, so he staggers it over several weeks and begins early. “We’re irrigated so we can spray the chicory in February and put it into hybrid RG and then do another lot early in March and the last in mid-March, so we don’t have too much out of the round at once. Hybrid RG is pretty aggressive and gets going fairly quickly. The problem if you go later is you don’t get a good grazing before winter.” On the established pasture, Michael is a great believer in Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

SPONSORED CONTENT longer rounds so from late December he operates a 40-day round through to midApril and then pushes it out to 50-55 days until the end of the season. “The theory is the more you leave it to get to that three-leaf stage the more production you will get out of it. It depends on what cover you want at dry off and you need a round that is going to set you up where you need to be at the end of the season.” His target at drying off on May 31 is between 2250 and 2300kg DM/ha which gives him confidence to reach his calving target of 2500kg DM/ha. Getting the pasture cover right going into winter is more important than production at the end of the season, he says. While Michael still uses the platemeter to measure pasture growth in winter and early spring, he trusts his own visual assessment more these days. “The platemeter doesn’t work for the hills at all and the cows would hate me if I did it all with a platemeter. When the grass hardens the platemeter tells me there’s more grass there than there actually is. I still use it a few times in autumn, winter and early spring to check my eye is right.” He carries out a farm walk/drive each week through most of the season and twice a week through the peak growth when it “can change real quick”. Once winter arrives, the main goal is to avoid making mud as much as possible and if it does get wet, he sacrifices a paddock tagged for chicory to get the cows off other pasture. Half of the cows remain on the farm and feed on grass and silage, following a 180-200-day round, depending on growth. In a mild winter with good growth, keeping half of the herd on the farm ensures he can control cover so it does not get out of control going into spring. Michael says regrassing is often neglected on farms run by sharemilkers because they are looking at short-term profits. “They’re often only there for a few years so don’t think they get the full benefit from it. But both parties would get their money back within a year, so it should be in the contract that a certain amount of pasture has to be regrassed each year.” They have a typical sharemilking agreement where they pay for the work to regrass, which in their case was contractors, while the farm owner pays for the products including spray and seed. For both parties, Michael says the benefits far outweigh the costs. Similarly, sharemilkers usually pay to make supplements from surplus feed, so choose to buy in supplements which is a shared cost with the farm owner. It isn’t an efficient way of farming, Michael says, because they tend to overstock the farm to eat all the grass at the peak and then have to buy in supplements on the shoulders of the season to make up for it. “Regrassing makes sense because the more grass you can grow onfarm, the cheaper your production should be.”

Michael examines a regrassed paddock for its stage of growth.

KEY TO THIS AUTUMN’S PASTURE MANAGEMENT IS HITTING YOUR PASTURE COVER TARGET AT DRYING OFF TO SET UP NEXT SPRING. Feed budgeting is essential to determine pasture cover targets for April through to calving to base drying off decisions on. Successful autumn management is about making the most of the early autumn growth to build pasture covers that can be carried forward. If you are short of feed, an application of N (eg: 20-40 kg N/ha) across a large part of your farm can be a circuit-breaker to get your covers up. Reduce autumn pasture demand by culling low producing cows and strategic use of supplements (eg: 3-4 kg DM silage/cow). Using supplements allows build up of cover rapidly and gain of body condition score (BCS). MONITOR, MONITOR, MONITOR • Walk the farm weekly and monitor average pasture cover vs target • Monitor BCS from March onwards • Focus on the cows that are below the BCS target: feed supplements or dry off to achieve BCS and farm cover targets. CALCULATE REQUIRED AVERAGE PASTURE COVERS Example: target average pasture covers from autumn to balance date on a farm in the top of South Island, with half of the cows wintered on, and winter growth rates of 8-12 kg DM/day. • Pasture cover needed at balance date: 2200kg DM/ha – see pasture cover • Pasture cover needed at start of calving: 2500kg DM/ha • Pasture cover needed at drying off (May 31): 2250-2300kg DM/ha • Make a plan. Drying off at the right time and pasture cover, based on BCS, calving dates and expected pasture growth will ensure you are on the right track for a successful calving. • Tools and support: To help you with your autumn management, a good place to start is dairynz. Here you will find information to help you make a plan for the season including links to the new Autumn Rotation Planner and Monthly Feed budget.

WANT TO IMPROVE PROFIT THROUGH BETTER PASTURE USE? Join the Tiller Talk movement as a participant farmer, or follow the progress of the regional key farmers online – visit to find out more. Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


SYSTEMS │ BOBBY CALVES The welfare of calves is important to safeguard the international reputation of NZ’s red meat sector.

Bobby calf regulation practicality Sheryl Brown @sherylbrownnz Compiling paper work for farmers and the practicality of the new bobby calf feeding requirements are the two prickly items left to iron out under the new bobby calf regulations, Federated Farmers dairy industry group chairman Andrew Hoggard says.Seven new enforced regulations for the care and processing of bobby calves come into effect this year. While many of the regulations have existed as minimal standards in the industry, two of the major changes include loading facilities onfarm and slaughter obligations for meat processors. Federated Farmers is working closely with industry partners and Primary Industries Ministry on the enforcement of these new regulations and the practicality of them, Hoggard said. The industry had to be practical and not enforce expectations on the masses where it wasn’t required, he said. One example was the potential of extra workload put on farmers feeding calves at different times. Meat processors are responsible for ensuring bobby calves are slaughtered within 24 hours of their last feed. The industry recommended farmers feed calves no more than two hours before pick up, but the responsibility ultimately sat with the processors. Processors would be required to communicate with dairy farmers and transporting companies to monitor when the calves were last fed onfarm. To allow farmers to manage onfarm routines it was expected pick-up times would remain the same for the duration of the season. Changing a farmer’s routine for feeding bobby calves could be an irritant, Hoggard said. Most farmers fed their calves after milking when the milk was warm and it worked in with their day during the busiest period. If farmers were going to be asked to go 44 

back to the calf sheds and heat the milk again at 10am or midday to feed calves to fit in with their truck pick up time, it could become a nuisance and potentially unnecessary if those calves were to be slaughtered well within the 24-hour period. Many farmers lived reasonably close to a meat processor, for example, and it meant their calves would be dropped off and slaughtered within a 12-hour window. “In my situation, our processor is 15 minutes away and everything is slaughtered before 5pm.”

PHONE APP VS PAPER WAR The additional paperwork expected of farmers to work in with this new regulation was also a concern, Hoggard said. Farmers would be required to complete a declaration for each consignment of calves picked up this season.Hoggard was pushing for the industry to use technology to have a moreefficient system in the future. If farmers were able to use a phone app to tick when calves were ready to be picked up, had been tagged and fed, it would take about as long as it did to put the flag up at the gate, he said. It would also prevent lost paperwork at the farm gate, on the truck or at the processors. “Get into the 21st century, it should be an app.”

Changing a farmer’s routine for feeding bobby calves could be an irritant, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard says.

The industry was designing a phone app for aspects of the requirements, but this would not be available for the coming season. The requirement to feed calves no more than two hours before collection was a requirement of the regulations, but the primary onus was on AFFCO to process or feed the calves within 24 hours following their last feed, AFFCO general manager Andy Leonard said. “There have been a number of changes to the bobby calf animal welfare regulations to ensure an appropriate level of animal welfare is provided to young calves. In order to achieve this various aspects of calf husbandry need to be recorded and calves will need to be assessed in order to ensure there is no welfare risk and calves are adequately prepared for transport and yarding, whether this be for farm-to-farm transport, saleyards or processing plants, including pet food operations.” Animal welfare was taking a much higher profile in virtually all export markets and specifically with their customers, Leonard said. “We need to be able to show New Zealand has a defensible and high standard of animal welfare in all facets of our production cycle, farming, transport and processing, and this is part of that overall national strategy.” The welfare of calves was important to safeguard the international reputation of NZ’s red meat sector, Alliance Group general manager processing Kerry Stevens said. “We are supportive of the changes and the timing, which has allowed farmers, transport operators and processors to make the business changes necessary to comply with them.” Alliance was in communication with their farmers about the new regulations and was planning a series of forums for transport operators and livestock representatives to ensure they were up-tospeed with the changes to support farmers, Stevens said.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Silver Fern Farms would be requesting farmers to feed their bobby calves before 8am every day to fit in with the new slaughter regulations. Silver Fern Farms head of sustainability and communications Justin Courtney said the company was committed to ensuring calves were processed within the 24 hour feed-toprocessing regulation timeframe. “A user-friendly docket system will track the time from last feed through collection, transport and arrival at plants. It lets us schedule processing and gives assurance around how we meet the regulation with our nation-wide collection service.” Farmers will have a simple docket to fill out, as will transporters and our people at plant. “Being able to demonstrate that our supply chain is responsible, with checks through our processes and back to the farm is important. It gives everyone peace of mind that we’re all doing the right thing and treating our animals with care, which Silver Fern Farms is absolutely committed to.”

RAMPING-UP LOADOUT REQUIREMENT One of the biggest changes facing farmers was building raised loading facilities to accommodate the new regulation that calves must be able to walk on and off a transporter. Farmers were concerned about costs, but they needed to keep it simple, Hoggard said. There were numerous kitsets coming on to the market that were overly complicated and costly, he said. Farmers should thinking about facilities they already had and how they could alter them to meet the new regulations and minimise double handling. Alternatively most farmers should have the skills with a hammer to be able to build something suitable that didn’t cost a lot of money, he said. “Don’t get upset about it, think about smart solutions.” The most important thing was for all farmers to get it right and treat bobby calves with excellent management and meet all animal welfare standards.

Farmers who didn’t meet these new regulations or had poor onfarm management of bobby calves had the potential to impacting heavily on the industry, he said. “We can’t have bad examples being in the media where people don’t give a rats about their calves.”

REGULATIONS TAKING EFFECT IN 2017 February 1, 2017: Calves must be fed at least once in the 24 hours before slaughter (a reduction from he current 30 hours). August 1, 2017: Suitable shelter must be provided for young calves before and during transport and at points of sale or slaughter. August 1, 2017: Loading and unloading ramps provided and used when young calves are transported for sale and slaughter. The facilities must be designed so a calf is able to walk on or off the transport.

Loading facilities

Accessible for the truck and trailer to reverse up to • Access should be free draining and constructed with a level hardstanding surface. • Track width should be no less than 4m wide. • Height clearance of 4.3m for any overhead obstructions e.g. trees, water lines and electric fence wires; and • 6m for powerlines. Loading calves directly under powerlines should be avoided. • Locate the loading facility at or near the bobby calf rearing pen and allow sufficient turnaround for a truck and trailer unit (25m). • Consider other traffic flow – if you are positioning or accessing the holding facility via the tanker track, design • loading so that both trucks can pass or at least travel in the same direction. • Maintain clear access, avoid holding stock in the access way or having gates across the roadway that require opening and shutting. • Ensure that all bridges/culverts are safe, fit for purpose and that truck weight loadings are within the structure’s design loading specifications. • Secure dogs and use a sign on the gateway to alert drivers if there is the possibility of children being in the area. The Code of Practice for design and operation of farm dairies

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

(NZCP1) has no stipulations about loading facilities and proximity of the farm dairy, however if calves are housed prior to collection – housing must not be within 20m of the farm dairy.

Calves should be able to walk on to the truck Holding and loading facilities should be designed and constructed so calves are able to walk directly from the loading facility onto the truck. Health and safety regulations mean that it is no longer acceptable for transporters to repeatedly lift calves from the ground to truck deck height. Raised loading facilities will also help to improve the wellbeing of calves being transported. For loading facilities specifications and more information on bobby calf regulations visit www.dairynz/



Spare the plough

Allister Holmes – decreasing cultivation has an environmental benefit.

Sheryl Brown @sherylbrownnz The environmental impact of cropping is under the microscope and cultivation techniques could be a key part to more sustainable practice as well as profitability, research and extension team leader at Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) Allister Holmes says. “For example, no-tillage or strip-tillage cultivation reduces the risk of sediment going into waterways. If you plough and cultivate up to the edge of drains, some soil will enter the waterway and if it rains you get more sediment runoff. With no tillage you highly reduce soil disturbance. With strip-tillage you get a bit of both, but you get a catch zone of uncultivated soil in the paddocks adjacent to where the soil was cultivated.” There were many benefits from decreasing cultivation, including reduced crop establishment costs, retention of soil moisture, improved soil structure, less soil organic matter (carbon) loss, reduced soil erosion and the limiting of soil compaction. However, despite these known benefits, there had been limited uptake by farmers in NZ. Traditionally a lot of people thought no-tillage was ugly, but there was no money in cultivating a seed bed just to be pretty, Holmes said. Many farmers also used cultivation to fix contour or pugging in paddocks. Farmers had to factor in that there might be a benefit to putting cows on to a forage crop, but if it was wet and they made a mess there would be a cost. Cultivated soil (right) has less carbon, organic matter and structure than planting with no-tillage.


“It’s a quantum change, it’s a shift in mindset. It’s about what fits your system. I can understand no-tillage being a big jump for farmers, but with strip-tillage you get a combination of both worlds.” Areas such as Waikato where the soils were so resilient and tolerant meant farmers and growers had been able to get away with a lot of cultivation. But there was a cost every time a paddock was cultivated. Soils lost carbon, organic matter and structure. When farmers had decided to try no cultivation they often had got poor results, due to poor understanding and technology, but the technology and understanding was now getting better. The benefits of no-tillage wouldn’t become apparent in just a year either and farmers would need to be persistent. Any paddocks that had been cultivated in the past would have some form of compaction, which would begin to be alleviated after a few years of no-tillage or strip-tillage. The soil would have a more-porous structure, even at depth, after a few seasons which would help deep-root plants establish. If farmers went down the path of notillage or strip-tillage they had to ensure they had chemical weed and slug control. “Yes you rely on the herbicide spray, but you’re not disturbing the soil and creating a soil bed for weeds to take over.”

Table 1: Yield vs. cost Yield (t/ ha at 14% DM)

Cost of cultivation & Planting ($/ha)

Full cultivation



Strip till



Direct drill



Table 2: Soil physical properties Bulk densi- Soil carbon ty (kg/l) (kg/m2) Full cultivation



Strip till



Direct drill



Adjacent pasture



The best way for farmers to see what was happening to their soil was to go and look at it more regularly, Holmes said. “I always say the best thing to put on your paddock is your feet. “Soil is essential. It’s what we grow our crops in and sometimes we take it for granted.” The Visual Soil Assessment Field Guide was a great tool to use, he said. To find the guide visit CULTIVATION TRIAL A FAR long-term trial compared the effect of conventional-tillage, strip-tillage and direct-drilling on the establishment and subsequent crop performance and profitability of maize, and looked at the long-term effects on soil conditions. The trial started in 2008 and had seven years of data before having to change location after the Waikato Expressway was developed through some of the FAR land at the Northern Crop Research Site (NCRS) between Hamilton and Cambridge. The seven years of data showed no significant difference in yield between cultivation and no cultivation, but significantly reduced cost of crop establishment. (See Table 1). The trial was re-established in a new location at NCRS and was now in its third season.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

BUSINESS │ OVERSEAS Cows on a compost bed in a Brazilian dairy farm barn.

Dairying in Brazil – A Kiwi vet visits Neal Chesterton Who would want to be a cow in Brazil? You would be a bit different to the typical Kiwi cow, most likely a mixture of Indian (Gir, Girolando or Guzerat) and European breeds (Holstein and Jersey). And you would have many environmental and disease challenges Kiwi cows never see. The average cow production is about a third of what a New Zealand cow produces. However, your milk is in demand in a country that consumes most of its production and is the world’s fourthlargest dairy producer. I recently spent a month travelling in Brazil and met some of these cows in the central and southern areas. The more there was of Indian breeding in the cow the bigger and floppier the ears were. I even saw some water buffalo dairy herds and, here and there, a familiar kiwi cross – LIC has had a positive influence in some parts. Every farmer had his own preference of breed. One of the 15 dairy farms we visited made most of its income from embryo transplants and semen. The improved genetics in Brazil are now being exported back to India where they originally came from. Most of his cows were pets and they certainly had lots of people to look after them – around 300 milking cows had at least 20 staff visible that day. This was typical on many farms. Some staff work only in the milking parlour so have a whole day to milk anywhere from 50 to 300 cows often through a six-bail herringbone shed. I visited a range of styles of farming from all-grass to totally indoors. There are Kiwi farmers in Brazil doing well, and it was great to see Kiwi efficiency and milking techniques. The Kiwis have had to adapt to new challenges and especially the tropical

diseases. The diseases that continue to give problems are still TB and brucellosis and those connected with hotter weather such as tick-borne diseases and digital dermatitis. Heat stress is a huge challenge. With temperatures often well into the 30s and high humidity the cows need to be cooled with sprinklers and housed under fans going 24/7.

Compost well managed is great but needs to be looked after “like a baby” – kept turned twice every day with a rotary hoe, dried with fans and regularly topped up to keep the compost bed alive. We saw cows at pasture being cooled under the sprinklers of a central-pivot irrigator. Being hot and often dry has other problems as well. The types of grasses Kiwi farmers recognise don’t grow well at all so other varieties are needed. Crops

grow really well so many farmers choose to house their cows and feed them crops and silage. Most of the farms we visited in the southern part of Brazil had cows indoors with various types of bedding. The housing is based on North American designs, predominantly free-stall or, a more recent trend, “compost barns”. We visited some barns with a large composting area, usually of sawdust, for cows to lie on. Compost well managed is great but needs to be looked after “like a baby” – kept turned twice every day with a rotary hoe, dried with fans and regularly topped up to keep the compost bed alive. One farm in a coffee-growing area, used coffee bean husks instead of sawdust. I was really in Brazil to learn about lameness there. I was initially travelling with QCONZ to see what sort of training and awareness was needed by farmers. The biggest challenge in the area of lameness on all farms is digital dermatitis which spreads very easily in dirty foot conditions. Because in Brazil’s vets are mostly involved with nutrition and genetics, lameness is a new area for many. There is generally a lack of knowledge and experience among vets and farmers around lameness. While there I was able to attend the first Brazil conference on lameness where I spoke about the challenges we have in NZ as vets and as advisers to farmers. The challenges in Brazil are much the same, but in Brazil they have only just begun to work on them. As usual wherever I go overseas and look at the lameness problems, I become more and more convinced digital dermatitis is the main disease to avoid – everything in Brazil was made so much worse by secondary infection with digital dermatitis bacteria. I came back even more determined to continue working to keep digital dermatitis at bay in NZ. Foot note – Brazilian farmers are so hospitable, just like Kiwi farmers – but they had an extra advantage in November when we visited – delicious, ripe mangoes straight from the tree.

Cows await milking.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



Taking a GeneMark tissue sample.

KNOWING THEIR MOTHER SHERYL BROWN DNA technology is an industry gamechanger and is giving some dairy farmers the edge when it comes to improving their herd genetics and lifting farm gate returns. The New Zealand dairy industry has been world leading in this space, with LIC developing a Breeding Worth (BW) index that helps to identify animals with the genetics to breed profitable and efficient replacements. BW has helped farmers to make better breeding decisions and generate replacements year upon year that surpass their predecessors, in turn helping to deliver farmers a better bottom line. However, mis-mothering and human error when it comes to matching and tagging animals means there is always the potential for a farmer’s top genetics to walk out the farm gate. Unless farmers are camping in the calving paddock and tagging every calf as soon as it is born, there is always a chance cows and calves are incorrectly matched and tagged. With larger operations and an increase in the number of staff working on dairy farms, it further elevates the risk of mistakes at calving. LIC’s own conducted case studies from 2010-2012 found on average one in four calves (25%) born were mis-mothered, mis-tagged or misrecorded. In these cases, the range of mismothering was between 16.7% and 40%. LIC’s GeneMark product helps reduce the guesswork by using DNA parentage verification 48 

technology to assist in matching calves to dams and sires. With GeneMark Whole Herd a small tissue sample is taken from all the potential dams, as well as all the keeper calves, and using G3 DNA profiling the two are matched to establish the correct parentage. The same test can also confirm the correct sire, and for convenience LIC hold DNA samples for all their AB sires as well as some from other AB companies. Samples for any natural mating sires used need to be provided along with the calf and dam samples. Since introducing the DNA technology to farmers in 2009, more than 1000 farmers now use the GeneMark Whole Herd Parent Verification option, which gives them a DNA profile on all of their animals. “We have had extreme examples where the degree of mis-identification has been as high as 87% in a relatively large herd, but in general once the herd size is 500 or more the issue exacerbates as it is very hard to keep track of the parents,” LIC Biological Systems general manager Geoff Corbett says. “The interesting thing in many situations is that both the sire and dam are incorrect.” The level of mis-identification in the cow population has the effect of limiting genetic progress, or breeding from the wrong cows and keeping inferior replacements.

“If you are unsure of what you have got, but only find out when that animal enters the milking herd, you may also have additional cost in sourcing replacement animals,” Corbett says. GeneMark parentage verification allows the farmer choice, especially if he or she has surplus heifers but more importantly they are able to keep the very best replacements by ranking on BW. The risk of inbreeding also increases with mis-identification which can reduce fertility, animal health, milk solids (MS) production and longevity. If offspring are incorrectly recorded, this increases the likelihood of mating replacements to their father, or sires who are closely related such as a son of the replacement’s father. An American study showed a reduction in total annual production of 1.7kg MS for each 1% increase in inbreeding – a significant hit to the farmer’s bottom line. Accurate parentage verification can give farmers a value advantage in the vat, but also when selling cows. Buyers can be confident they’re purchasing a GeneMark parentagetested animal and be confident in the BW and parentage records and probable performance, Corbett says. “While it varies from location to location, some farmers can earn a premium for DNA-tested animals at sale. “A trend that we are seeing is that farmers wanting to buy a line of stock are looking for DNA-verified animals even if their own herd is not DNAverified.” LIC has seen rapid growth and uptake of the DNA technology which they expect to continue, Corbett says. The most common feedback from farmers was that it saved time and stress over calving and being able to have accurate records was well worth the investment. In addition to farmers getting their whole herd tested, many thousands of other farmers use the service to DNA verify a few individual animals, or just test for A2, he says. A number of farmers wanting to move to an A2 herd have made use of the service as A2-testing can be done at the same time. GeneMark Whole Herd clients can also test for BVD on the same tissue samples, provided the calves are a minimum of 35 days old at the time of sampling.

For more information visit genemark or talk to your LIC rep.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



Correct identification. Check. Better genetic gain. Check. Better returns. Cheque. Approximately one in four* calves born are mis-mothered, mis-tagged or mis-recorded. And with it costing around $1,600 to rear a calf through to first lactation, that’s a lot of money and potential genetic gain on the line if you get it wrong. GeneMark® parentage testing helps you to accurately match calves to the correct dam and sire, so you can ensure you’re not just rearing the best calves but you’re also getting the best returns. Cheque. To find out more talk to your LIC rep or visit Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

*Based on five case studies conducted by LIC from 2010-2012


Make reducing your break-even milk price a priority this autumn In only two seasons the average dairy farm has managed to reduce their break-even milk price by more than $1.20 – with average savings of over $180,000 p/a.

A FRESH LOOK Do you wonder how you compare with some of our industry’s top operators? Or how they removed waste from their business to ensure long-term success?

TIME TO RESET Autumn is the perfect opportunity to take the time to really understand your business, and set up your farm and goals for the coming season.

So join us, and learn more from your peers by attending a DairyNZ Autumn Reset event or visit for live case studies and practical tips.

Let’s take a fresh look


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52 Tracing back to the basics 54 On the watch for IBR 56 What is the cost of mastitis? 58 Subclinical ketosis: to treat or not to treat? 60 Lepto: a dynamic disease 62 Accounting for calf losses 63 Ticked off at theileria 65 Time to tackle Johne’s disease

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mastitis subclin ic

Overcoming challenges

mastitis • subclinical ketosis • leptospirosis • abortion • bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhino

SPECIAL REPORT │ TRACE ELEMENTS Krispin – many farmers may be over-supplementing trace elements.

Tracing back to the basics Sheryl Brown @sherylbrownnz

Trace elements should be simplified and kept in three categories; deficient, sufficient or toxic. It’s at that basic level, farmers should be trying to establish which category their cows or young stock fall into and should supplement accordingly. While there was sound evidence having sufficient levels of trace elements contributes to good cow health and performance, there was a lot of conflicting data about the response to increased levels of these trace elements in a cow’s system, Te

Awamutu VetEnt veterinarian Krispin Kannan said. Words such as optimum levels and production response reference ranges create debate and could cause confusion. A lot was still unknown about what increased levels could do to further advance animal performance results. Many farmers, however, were still not testing their cows to find out the basics of whether their cows have deficient or sufficient levels of the key trace elements and as such could often be over-supplementing their herd, he said. Farmers had a lot of supplementation options when it came to trace elements, from putting it on with fertiliser, feeding palm kernel, adding

YOUNG STOCK While on many dairy farms there could be an overkill of supplementation for trace elements, young stock can still get neglected. The majority of farmers were not testing their young stock for trace elements, Te Awamutu veterinarian Krispin Kannan said. Many farmers give their calves a shot of selenium and B12 every few months and then leave it at that. Nutrition and animal health were the two key factors in rearing a well-grown fertile heifer for the herd and keeping sufficient trace elements was important in those early two years. “We encourage our farmers to weigh young stock monthly and test their trace element status to them to help make decisions on supplementation. “It sounds simple, but if you monitor, weigh and test you can make decisions based on that information.”


mineral mixes into feed, mixing minerals into water systems, drenching cows or giving booster injections. “To be honest, sometimes all of these things are going in on one farm,” Kannan said. There was a strong argument to be made that many farmers could find themselves over-supplementing and stripping back could save money. “From our point of view we want to assist farmers in the choices they’re making for supplement trace elements onfarm.” The big three trace elements are cobalt, copper and selenium. In a consistent farm operation, where farmers had experience on the property, it could become easier to predict what trace element supplementation a herd needed every year, but any system changes could still impact a cow’s trace element levels. In the last two years for example with the financial pressure of a low milk price, many farmers have had to cut costs and change their typical operations, he said. Changes such as switching to a new feed company, sending young stock to a new grazing property, or switching to other mineral products could all have an impact on trace element levels, Kannan said. There were always new products coming on to the market and it was

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

COPPER Copper is required for growth and production, animal health and immunity, reproduction and calf viability. High intake of molybdenum, sulphur and iron, which often occurs in pasturebased diets, especially in winter and spring, reduces copper uptake by the animal. Options: Copper sulphate orally, copper bullet, copper capsule (needles), copper injection (not recommended for cows during the breeding season), commercial copper sources, copper sulphate fertiliser (not recommended in secondary deficiencies). COBALT Cobalt is required for production of Vitamin B12, energy metabolism in the rumen and in the cow, fibre digestion and immunity. High manganese in soil reduces cobalt uptake by the plant. Therefore, as pasture is generally high in manganese it is usually low in cobalt. The primary reason for supplementing cows with cobalt is to ensure adequate vitamin B12 is produced by the rumen micro-organisms; however, there are other advantages reported for cobalt, such as enhancing digestion of fibrous feeds. The current recommendation is to supplement cows with eight to 10 micrograms of cobalt/day. This is equivalent to 40 to 50mg cobalt sulphate/cow per day or 5g cobalt sulphate per 100 cows. Options: Cobalt sulphate orally. Commercial cobalt sources, cobalt sulphate fertiliser, strategic use of B12 injections. Can be added to spring fertiliser.

difficult for vets to comment on them directly. Testing cows for their trace element level before and after using a new product could be a good idea to see what effect it had or didn’t have, he said. As long as the mineral was getting into your cow to an acceptable level to prevent deficiency and not reach toxicity, that was all he could hope for in a product. “My advice to farmers is to test to see if their animals have the reserves they need to get through the season and if they are deficient, then work out an accurate supplementation programme.” The best time to blood-test for selenium and cobalt was in spring, pre-mating. Autumn was the best time to test cows for copper reserves to ensure they had enough to get them through winter and then calving. The best way to test copper reserves was via a liver biopsy, a practice many farmers were hesitant to use, but the risks involved were low, Krispin said. It was better to take the small risk and test animals than have cows deficient in copper or be oversupplementing cows at an unnecessary cost. The other option was to test empty

cows before they left the farm if farmers were still unsure about liver biopsy testing. Many farmers might roll their eyes that a vet was encouraging them to pay for a blood test or a liver biopsy, but many were blindly supplementing their cows at a more expensive cost. “If you test annually it might be a cost, but you could argue that it could be a saving if you don’t need to supplement. “I know it’s a vet saying it – and I can see the barriers to not wanting to test from the farmer’s side. But it’s bugger all if you find out your copper levels are fine.” Vets typically need to blood-test a selection of three to five cows of a herd for selenium levels and seven or eight for copper levels. In an ideal world farmers would be testing for trace elements every year, but just like an annual check up at the dentist or doctor, if people were healthy they won’t go. In simple systems where there were no big changes farmers could afford to test less regularly, he said. “Every herd is getting some sort of supplementation, but where the levels are in the cows is anyone’s guess.” • See Young Country: Aiding animal health, P76

SELENIUM Selenium is required for disease resistance, placental shedding, milk production, reproduction, calf viability and immunity. There are regions that will have high selenium levels in pasture, particularly if they have been fertilised with selenium fertiliser. In such areas supplementation should be avoided. The actual requirement for selenium is difficult to predict, because many of its functions are in conjunction with vitamin E, which is available in very large quantities in fresh forages. The general feeling globally is that by supplying 3-5mg/day of supplemental selenium, cow requirements will be met. Options: Oral or injection products, commercial selenium sources, and slow release injections. Can be added to fertiliser. Source DairyNZ trace element supplementation

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


• bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhinotracheitis • trace element deficiency • mastitis • subclin

Trace Elements

mastitis • subclinical ketosis • leptospirosis • abortion • bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhino


On the watch for IBR Anne Lee @Cantabannelee

Its symptoms in cattle are similar to the common cold but it can be deadly and having it in the herd will put an end to any heifer travel plans to China. Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) is a virus from the bovine herpes family and while most animals can ward off the virus without exhibiting any obvious symptoms for some it can be serious. Selwyn-Rakaia Vet Services veterinarian Donald Arthur says until a few months ago he would have said it was pretty rare to see clinical signs due to IBR. But since early November, when he was called out to take a look at three two-year-old heifers at the Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF), he’s heard of several other cases. Arthur says all three heifers had very high temperatures of 40-41C. Normal body temperature for dairy cattle is 38.5C. All had a nasal discharge, weepy eyes and all three were coughing, he says. Their milk production was also down – likely to be because their appetite had been affected. While he suspected IBR and it’s understood about 60% of the national dairy herd has been exposed to the virus, the rarity of clinical cases meant he wasn’t prepared to make a definitive diagnosis on the spot and rule out other possibilities.

‘It can be latent in an animal but then a bit of stress comes on – say over the peak milk period, especially in those first lactation animals – and it will start shedding virus.’ Donald says he treated them with an anti-inflammatory and the animals were drenched for lungworm. But within a day or two there were up to 10 more animals with clinical signs. One died and when he carried out a post-mortem he found it had bacterial pneumonia. Two pathologists also took a look at the lung and while they agreed it was bacterial pneumonia, they were also of the opinion it was possibly a secondary 54 

infection resulting from an underlying viral infection. Arthur says the animals were treated with penicillin to fight the bacterial infections and eventually the others recovered and new cases stopped appearing. LUDF keeps detailed herd records and during this season they’ve been even more comprehensive due to a sub-clinical ketosis study which has meant regular blood sampling of the whole herd. Arthur was able to go back to the frozen samples and check the IBR antibody levels before and after the animals became unwell. They showed the levels had increased after early October. Intensive herd testing, also carried out as part of the sub-clinical ketosis investigation, showed the animals in the small herd – made up of younger and lighter animals – had a noticeable dip in production in early October. “All of these factors – the clinical signs, the antibody levels and the milk production drop – they all point to IBR,” he says. The timing of the infection had the management team worried these animals could also have been at risk reproductively with mating just getting underway at the time. But pregnancy test results show the two and three-year-olds did a lot better than the mixed-age cows in the other herd which hadn’t shown any signs of clinical infection, though in-calf performance dropped in both herds. The two-year-olds had a final empty rate of 7% after 10 weeks mating while the three-year-olds’ empty rate is at 12%. Disappointingly for LUDF the mixedaged cows averaged 17% empty. Arthur says as is typical of a herpes virus IBR can be present in many animals but they won’t show clinical symptoms. “It can be latent in an animal but then a bit of stress comes on – say over the peak milk period, especially in those first lactation animals – and it will start shedding virus. “Naïve animals will then be exposed to it and if they’re under any stress they can show clinical symptoms.” Vaccines are available to protect animals against the virus but over recent years few people have taken that option. “Back 30 years ago it was quite

The clinical signs, the antibody levels and the milk production drop all point to IBR, vet Donald Arthur says.

common to vaccinate against it but the Chinese won’t allow any animals in that test positive for IBR antibodies so a lot of people stopped. “If they want to be involved in the export heifer market or have it as an option they can’t use the vaccine.” LUDF doesn’t participate in that market and has started a vaccination programme. Arthur says farmers need to be aware of the disease and the options open to them for prevention taking into account the effect it could have on other opportunities such as the export heifer trade. “It may be a more common problem clinically than we thought.” He’d spoken to one vet who had diagnosed another form of the disease IBR vulvovaginitis just before Christmas in a group of two-year-old heifers. In that case the only clinical symptom was a purulent vaginal discharge. “They won’t necessarily be coughing,’ he says. Other forms of the disease include conjunctivitis in the eye where the animal doesn’t show tracheal symptoms such as coughing. Arthur says the forms of IBR present in New Zealand are milder than those found overseas where it has been known to cause abortions. “The labs actively look-out for that and it hasn’t been found here,” he says.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

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• bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhinotracheitis • trace element deficiency • mastitis • subclin


mastitis • subclinical ketosis • leptospirosis • abortion • bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhino


What is the cost of mastitis? Ian Hodge

Mastitis is a costly disease. There is value in achieving better mastitis control –closing the gap – by reducing high somatic cell counts, reducing clinical cases and culling fewer cows. For example if we use the DairyNZ Smart SAMM Mastitis Gap Calculator (which can be found at https://www. we can make the following calculations: If we take a herd of 500 cows, improving the herd somatic cell count average from 200,000 to 150,000, the clinical case rate from 15% to 10%, maintain production at 352,000kg milksolids (MS) and assume a payout of $6, the potential gain in net profit is around $56/cow or $28,000 for the season. This calculation can be broken down into the potential added value of less sub-clinical mastitis ($19,000), of less clinical mastitis ($3000) and of culling fewer cows ($6000). The cost of treatment for a typical single-quarter clinical mastitis infection can be more difficult to determine. If we assume we use three intramammary antibiotic doses (cost about $20), the cost of labour to treat the cow for three days is $20 (one hour), the cost of the milk discard (four days) is $52, and the cost of the reduced production for that cow, as a result of the infection, is $70, which is a 25% reduction in production over a seven-day treatment and withhold period. Total cost $162. This is a best-case scenario. In fact clinical mastitis doesn’t always respond in such a perfect way and the real cost could be as much as $200/ case. In our 500-cow herd example a 10% incidence of calving-associated mastitis during the first two calving months clinical mastitis could cost $10,000 (this includes drugs, labour, discarded milk, reduced production and poor cure rates). Reducing the incidence (number of new cases over time) of mastitis during the spring calving period depends on good dry-period mastitis management. At dry-off some cows will be infected and dry-period antibiotic therapy will resolve a good proportion of these existing intra-mammary infections. It will also reduce the risk of these cows developing mastitis at calving as long as other mastitis prevention practices are addressed. Uninfected cows at dry-off 56 

Pure Milk NZ consultant and VetEnt veterinarian Ian Hodge testing milking machine function and risk analysis for mastitis.

can have their teat canals sealed with teat sealants only which can reduce the risk of new mastitis infections for up to 100 days after calving. EFFECT OF DRY-PERIOD MASTITIS CONTROL In the two tables below we can see the effect of dry-period mastitis control practices on clinical case rate during

calving. The first farm decided not to use dry-cow therapy. This farm milks 850 cows and has treated about 97 cases in the first two months of the calving period (11%). This has a cost of about (97 x $200) = $19,400 or $23/cow. The second farm used a well designed dry period management programme including heifer teat sealants. In this case we have 31 mastitis

Table 1. Mastitis case count on Farm 1 (no dry-cow therapy)

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Reducing the incidence (number of new cases over time) of mastitis during the spring calving period depends on good dry-period mastitis management.

The management of springer mobs is important. Accurate pregnancy testing means you will have cows drafted into springer groups at the correct time. This will minimise the likelihood of metabolic diseases and provide the chance to bring springers in before they calve to feed them and teat-spray them. You can check for mastitis and udder oedema at this time. Heifer teat sealing means mastitis before calving will practically be eliminated and the risk of heifer mastitis

Table 2. Mastitis case count on Farm 2 (heifer teat sealant)

will be significantly reduced for up to 100 days (table 2). Cows should be milked within 12 hours of calving. Collecting calves twice daily is highly recommended. Colostrum cows can be teat-sprayed before they are milked (note this applies to colostrum cows only and as long as colostrum is only being fed to replacement calves and colostrum cows are milked last). Pre-milking teat disinfection of colostrum cows will reduce the bacterial load on teats and reduce the mastitis risk. Colostrum cows should be completely milked out twice daily, checked daily for signs of mastitis and be rapid mastitis-tested (RMT’d) before they are released into the main milking herd. Suspicious RMT cows can be closely monitored. Milking all cows out completely twice

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

daily, minimising the risk of teat end damage (by avoiding over-milking, having an appropriate vacuum and using appropriate milking liners), using the correct cluster removal techniques and using a concentrated teat spray that is applied to all four sides of all four teats at every milking are all very important aspects to consider. Having a milk quality review and planning meeting with your veterinarian, as the season comes to a close, is also very important. • Ian Hodge is a veterinarian and founding consultant of PureMilk Mastitis Consultancy and is technical services manager at VetEnt, Ashburton. He is also a member of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists in dairy cattle medicine.


• bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhinotracheitis • trace element deficiency • mastitis • subclin

cases in the two main calving months in an 892 cow herd (3.5% clinical case rate). This has a cost of about (31 x $200) = $6200 or $7/cow. Herd testing enables rational dry period treatment decisions. Not all cows require antibiotics at dry off and some require stronger or longeracting antibiotics than others. Many uninfected cows will need only teat sealants. Some untreatable cows will need to be culled. Cows should not be left untreated (with either antibiotics or teat sealants).

mastitis • subclinical ketosis • leptospirosis • abortion • bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhino


DairyNZ senior research technician Anna Clements takes a cow’s blood sample at the Lincoln University Dairy Farm.

Subclinical ketosis –

to treat or not to treat John Roche and Claire Phyn

Ketosis is a clinical disease that can occur for many reasons: cows being too fat at calving; cows being fed too much before calving and not enough after calving; or, in some cases, cows being fed poor quality silage. Cows with ketosis have high levels of compounds called ketone bodies in their blood and it is commonly defined as cows that have more than 3.0 millimole/litre (mmol/L) of betahydroxybutyrate (BHB) in blood. What is talked about more now overseas is what is called hyperketonaemia, when blood BHB concentration is greater than 1.2mmol/L. This has become more commonly known as subclinical ketosis. But this term can be misleading, because the reference to ketosis implies it is a disease that requires attention; we do not know that it necessarily is in the NZ context. The belief that we need to address hyperketonaemia is fuelled by • research in NZ that has shown poorer reproduction and uterine health in cows that have high BHB in blood in early lactation. 58 

• research overseas that has shown that reproduction and uterine health can be improved by reducing BHB in blood in early lactation. However, it is very important to know that NZ cows will have higher BHB in blood than cows in North America, simply because of their diet and it does not always mean they are sick.

The incidence of hyperketonaemia on all farms was very high – 65-80% of cows tested positive for hyperketonaemia at least once over the testing period. Because we feed pasture, one of the acids the cow produces in her rumen is converted to BHB in blood. Furthermore, one of the acids that a cow being fed grain produces in her rumen reduces the amount of BHB in blood. Therefore, a cow being fed grain will have lower blood BHB than cows being fed pasture alone.

This has led some people to believe that if grain is fed, it will reduce BHB and improve six-week in-calf rate. However, in a NZ experiment two years ago, feeding grain reduced BHB in blood, but six-week in calf rate declined. This is not a simple problem and there will not be a simple one-sizefits-all solution. Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) along with two other farms (DairyNZ’s Scott Farm and the Taranaki Agricultural Research Station) in the North Island were enrolled during Spring 2016 in a very large and intensive hyperketonaemia experiment involving more than 1000 cows. The two objectives were: • to see how many cows had hyperketonaemia in early lactation • if we treated cows with a nutritional product to reduce hyperketonaemia – eg, with monopropylene glycol (MPG) drench – would we improve health indices, milk production and reproduction. The experiment involved treating half the cows that were hyperketonaemic with MPG drench and not treating the other half. Cows with BHB levels of 3 mmol/L or greater were all treated with a proprietary ketosis treatment drench twice daily for three days with veterinary treatment sought if clinical symptoms of ill-health were obvious. The results are starting to roll in and they indicate that the incidence of hyperketonaemia on all farms was very high – 65-80% of cows tested positive for hyperketonaemia at least once over the testing period and 4-13% of animals developed clinical ketosis. This large incidence on all farms was surprising. However, there were marked differences between farms in the timing of hyperketonaemia post-calving. LUDF had the greatest number of cows with hyperketonaemia, especially in the first week of lactation. Considering the very difficult spring in the North Island and the excellent spring in Canterbury, we expected that hyperketonaemia would have been worse in the North Island. Preliminary results show cows identified as hyperketonaemic were higher producers and had a greater liveweight and body condition score at calving. Drenching with MPG reduced the blood BHB concentration and helped shorten the duration that cows were clinically hyperketonaemic >3 mmol/L. Statistical analyses are being undertaken and the effects on milk production and reproduction will be known by May. • John Roche is DairyNZ principal scientist and Claire Phyn is a DairyNZ senior scientist.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


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| March 2017


• bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhinotracheitis • trace element deficiency • mastitis • subclin

Take the guesswork out of heat detection

mastitis • subclinical ketosis • leptospirosis • abortion • bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhino


Take home messages: • Vaccinate all your herd • Use personal protective gear to avoid urine splashes • Avoid smoking, drinking, eating in the farm dairy • If you get splashed, wash off with water, dry it off then wash with soap • Cover all cuts and abrasions • Effluent irrigators – avoid splashes, wash off thoroughly • Effective rodent control to avoid infection through rodent urine – seek advice on baiting and trapping, vermin-proof buildings and feed stores • Pay attention to avoiding exposures not in the milking shed: effluent spraying, assisting calving, home kill, hunting • Be aware and share your awareness: remember others can be exposed when not working, such as children playing in puddles. If you have a flulike illness seek medical help early and raise the suspicion of lepto with your doctor – “hey doc, might this be lepto?”

Leptospirosis is a complex disease, which will keep evolving and challenging animals and humans.

Lepto: a dynamic disease Jackie Harrigan

The lepto threat is not over yet. While the dairy industry has reached good vaccination rates, senior leptospirosis researcher at Massey University Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biological Sciences (IVABS) Dr Julie CollinsEmerson says farmers need to keep the threat in the front of their minds. The leptospirosis group recently surveyed 200 dairy herds sampling 20 cows within each herd to collect data about the vaccination history of the herd and to test with blood serology and urine-testing for any of the different strains present. The study was the first to explore the effect of long-term vaccination in a nationally representative sample of herds. While the research findings were new and provisional, the standout messages for farmers were that a comprehensive vaccination programme is very effective at controlling lepto from strains that are currently covered by the vaccines (Hardjobovis, Pomona and sometimes Copenhageni) and this was applicable for all vaccines on the market. However, 60 

other strains were becoming more common and the existing strains were undergoing dynamic changes and evolving to fit new niches. “Lepto is a very dynamic disease – vaccination for one strain can leave the door open to other strains.”

‘Calves need to be vaccinated before they are sent out to grazing, because they could pick up the infection and later vaccination on return to the milking platform will not kill established infection.’

“We know that Leptospira is evolving and genetic analysis of the L hardjobovis isolates in New Zealand suggests it is slightly different to those in the database from isolates overseas. We are trying to understand the adaptations the strain is making

in relation to the host and to the environment.” Increasing cases of human lepto infection were arising from the Ballum strain – and Collins Emerson says this was one with no vaccine available. “We have a PhD student investigating the incidence of this strain – out on farms catching wildlife and picking up Ballum in them. “But it is a long process and very expensive process to get something like that incorporated into a vaccine – and depends on whether there is a financial incentive to develop it.” However, the next message for farmers might be rodent control awareness and vigilance to minimise the areas mice urinate and shed Ballum lepto DNA, to be picked up by livestock or humans. Collins-Emerson also urged farmers to ensure the vaccination was being done correctly and at the right time. “Calves need to be vaccinated before they are sent out to grazing, because they could pick up the infection and later vaccination on return to the milking platform will not kill established infection,” she said. “Contrary to common belief, maternal antibodies decrease fast after birth so calves can be vaccinated as early as six weeks effectively.” While NZ farmers have reached high levels of 90%+ of dairy herds vaccinated against lepto, Collins-

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Dr Julie Collins-Emerson – Taking simple measures to keep yourself safe from leptospirosis on the farm is important even if the herd has been vaccinated.

treatment, sufferers can get a relapse possibly from leptospira sequestered in the spinal fluid or an immune response afterwards like a chronic fatigue syndrome.” “Last year three staff members from an unvaccinated Manawatu farm came down with lepto, two recovered and one hasn’t and may never actually work again.” “Patients can get recurring cycles and while some fully recover, others don’t.” Work is ongoing within the group seeking to understand the lepto threat onfarm and also from overseas, CollinsEmerson said. “New Zealand is unusual in that there are only two native land mammals – just the bats – so all pathogenic strains of

lepto in the country have come in on introduced species. While we have a restricted number of strains here now, we need to make sure that new strains are not imported inadvertently from overseas.” Further research within the group is in early stages of sampling the environment, around troughs and yards and in sheds where rodents have been living. “We need to be aware that in the environment the lepto infection can survive for a length of time under the right conditions. “Climate change is also going to affect some farming practice and there will be inevitable changes to epidemiology of the disease.”

Leptospirosis is a globally important disease and in New Zealand it disproportionately burdens rural communities and Maori, costing the economy around $36 million a year. People are infected through direct or indirect contact with animal urine. Domestic animal vaccination has been practised since the late 1970s, predominantly in dairy cattle and pigs, and animal vaccination programmes have been considered a cornerstone in the prevention of human disease. The recent study of Leptospira vaccine use and efficacy in NZ dairy herds is the first to explore the effect of long-term vaccination in a nationally representative sample of herds. Preliminary results indicate animal vaccination programmes continue to be an effective measure to prevent shedding in NZ dairy cattle and thus reduce exposure to humans. The results also reinforce the importance of a multi-faceted approach to the disease. Two hundred dairy herds were randomly selected throughout the country and 20 milking cows sampled from each herd between December 2015 and March 2016. Of the cows sampled, 97.7% had no evidence of lepto in their urine (they were nonshedders), these cows came from 73.5% of herds. The 90 cows (2.3%) with evidence of lepto in urine (shedders) came from 53 herds. Most of these herds had only one cow shedding lepto among the 20 cows sampled but 10 herds had between two and six cows shedding. Shedding was predominately associated with a positive blood test to a serovar of lepto not currently controlled by vaccines (serovar Tarassovi). This reinforces that vaccination is effective in controlling lepto for the strains in the vaccine (Hardjobovis, Pomona, and the less-common strain, Copenhageni). Hardjobovis and Pomona are the most common serovars in NZ livestock and in human notified cases. Shedding was not associated with antibodies to these vaccine-serovars, suggesting vaccination against these serovars is regarded as being effective. Antibodies to non-vaccine serovars Ballum and Tarassovi were detected in 3.4% and 17.1% of cows. Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

The 10th International Leptospirosis Society conference is being held in Palmerston North from November 17-December 1, 2017. Called Science for people – translating theory into practical solutions, the conference encompasses the latest in lepto research and three-day workshops providing training and hands-on experience in the microbiology, epidemiology and genomics of lepto research. The programme will be designed to appeal to farmers, researchers, health care professionals and scientists. More:


• bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhinotracheitis • trace element deficiency • mastitis • subclin

Emerson said the disease was still appearing, likely through exposure to incompletely vaccinated animals or exposure to other strains of lepto not covered by vaccination. “There has been a spike in human cases Northland and Waikato; both dairying areas. In Northland this has been predominantly attributed to Leptospira borgpetersenii sv Ballum and this has also been identified in Waikato.” In 2015, 63 cases of leptospirosis in humans were notified, up from 56 cases in 2014. Fifty of the 63 cases reported high-risk occupations, 72% were farmers or farm workers, 18% worked in the meat processing industry and 10% worked in an occupation involving contact with animals or their environment (eg: hunter and trapper). Of the 13 cases without a high-risk occupation, 11 reported either animal or outdoor exposures including to lakes, rivers or streams. The difficult thing with host-adapted strains of lepto like Hardjobovis, is that unless there is an outbreak in humans from a farm the disease can go undetected and untreated in the cow population at a subclinical level with no noticeable effects on cow health and production. “It’s like a hidden type of disease – which makes it really hard to find and there is a lack of economic driver to reduce subclinical levels,” CollinsEmerson says. However the effects on humans can be very debilitating, she says. “Even after treatment with antibiotic

mastitis • subclinical ketosis • leptospirosis • abortion • bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhino


Accounting for calf losses Cheyenne Stein @CheyStein2

Many farmers heave a sigh of relief after pregnancy testing and begin the long wait for calving. But farmers must stay vigilant and be on the lookout for abortions. There are a number of different types of abortion in cows. Although not a desirable outcome, abortions are inevitable and occur in about 4-5% of a herd, Massey University associate professor in production and animal health Richard Laven says. The difficulty with diagnosing why cattle abort is that quite often the abortion storms aren’t as big as they might be as with say sheep, so you have fewer samples to test from which means the likelihood of getting a diagnosis is reduced. “You’re lucky if you get a diagnosis in 40-50% of cases but the key thing is speak to your vet, get a good plan in place and try as much as possible to collect the foetus for testing in the lab. If you can’t get them into the lab then organise with the vet to come out and take the best samples.” If a diagnosis is determined, there often isn’t much that can be done to prevent further abortions in that season. Having good biosecurity measures in place is a good starting point for reducing the risk of abortions as well as not introducing new cattle into the pregnant mob. “If you have something like neospora, the cows were likely infected a long time ago and that’s just a waiting game to see if those infected cows will abort or not. For listeria and fungal ones you can identify the bad feed that’s causing it and stop feeding but it won’t mean that no more cows will abort as they’ve already ingested the feed, you’re still at the mercy of their exposure.” As a rule of thumb, once abortion percentage goes above 1%, particularly if all abortions are occurring over a small period of time, then it’s time to call the vet in and do some investigating Laven says. “Natural abortions” occur normally and for no apparent reason, usually at a low rate in the herd. “It’s probably due to an incompatibility between the cow and foetus or could be just chance that the system didn’t work. It seems to be


a natural part of the process and not something we know a whole lot about.” Because there are little to no signs of it or definitive causes, managing natural abortions is difficult. Thankfully there doesn’t appear to be a linkage between natural abortions and difficulties getting in calf or abortion the following year, Laven says. But they do need to be watched carefully. “Cows that abort normally need to be looked after and checked for uterine and reproductive infections.” Abortions, of any type, will cause lower milk production. When a foetus is aborted before its time in-utero the mammary glands aren’t fully developed so milk production will be decreased. A reduced fertility is also expected but Laven says that’s not to say they aren’t worth milking or getting back in calf. FUNGAL ABORTIONS Mycotic abortions (caused by fungi) are quite common. They are caused by fungi like Mortierella wolfii, a species of fungi that live in the soil, on decaying leaves and on other organic material and more importantly mouldy hay and silage. “If you have mould on your silage it doesn’t work just scraping the top layer

off. It’s like saying if you cut the top off a mushroom you get rid of it. There are still fungal roots and toxins through it all.” Abortions from fungal causes generally occur in late pregnancy. Retained foetal membranes are common and some aborted foetuses exhibit skin lesions similar to ringworm. Some cows that suffer fungal abortions die shortly afterwards due to fungi travelling to the lungs and causing severe pneumonia. “People talk about the fungal ones always getting sick. Some can get systemic illnesses, particularly respiratory disease, we’ve even had one with a brain infection, but there’s a lot of cows out there that abort and don’t get sick after a fungal abortion. It’s a case-by-case basis. “If you can avoid it, don’t feed dodgy silage to pregnant animals. If you need to feed it give it to lower stock classes. You can still get some problems but they will be less of a cost to your system than losing calves. Ideally, if you have mouldy silage, chuck it out.” Proper harvesting and storage of hay and silage is important to ensure good fermentation and reduction in pH to kill bacteria.

Vertical transmission to offspring

Maturation and breeding of congenitally infected heifer

Horizontal transmission from infected dog to cow.

Life cycle of neospora caninum

Definitive host

Infected carcase or placenta ingested by dog

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

• Expect a percentage of abortions. • Look at overall cow health. Is the cow sick? Does she present healthy? • If abortions are occurring within a confined time period, call the vet. • Where possible get the aborted foetus into the vet for testing. • Keep an eye out for uterine and reproductive infections. • Don’t feed poor-quality and mouldy feed to pregnant cows. • Don’t introduce new cows into the pregnant mob. NEOSPORA CANINUM Neospora caninum is a protozoan organism that is a major cause of abortion in cattle. Cattle become infected from food or water that has been contaminated by dog faeces. Dogs are the critical host for the organism. Once a cow has consumed contaminated feed or water the organism multiplies in the cow’s body and is transported through the bloodstream to the uterus where it can cause damage to the foetus and the placenta. Cow’s don’t generally present as sick and don’t necessarily always abort their calves but their chances of aborting are increased. If an infected cow gives birth the calf will be infected also and may go on to mature and have abortions herself or pass on the infection to her offspring. “Most problems with neospora are from cows born infected vertically from their mother rather than being

infected with the disease later on in life.” For this reason, it is highly advised that replacements are not produced from cows known to be infected with neospora to avoid a persistence of the infection in the herd. However those cows can still be kept in the milking herd. For obvious other reasons controlling stray dogs may help but ultimately, Laven says, preventing Neospora infection by controlling dogs is a mug’s game. BOVINE VIRAL DIARRHOEA (BVD) BVD commonly causes diarrhoea and weight loss in cattle and can cause reproductive losses in breeding cattle. Depending on age there can be a variety of outcomes from failure to conceive, early embryonic loss through to abortion and still born calves. Abortions caused by BVD usually occur in early pregnancy. Vaccinations are available to help control this disease.

BACTERIAL Abortions caused by bacteria such as listeria and salmonella are also common. Unlike neospora or natural abortions, cows who have bacterial abortions often abort as part of being sick. Listeria monocytogenes lives in the soil with cattle either accidentally eating soil or through eating poorly made silage. The bacteria don’t survive a proper ensiling process when the pH drops rapidly, but if this doesn’t happen the feed can contain the listeria bacteria. It can cause placentitis and foetal septicaemia. Abortions are usually sporadic. Abortion from salmonella can happen sporadically, but abortion storms can also occur. Contaminated feed or, in the South Island, contact with infected sheep, are the most common sources of salmonella. The disease is characterised by an acute inflammation of the intestines and severe dysentery followed by abortion. 

Ticked off at theileria Dairy farmers in the upper South Island are being warned to be on the lookout for anaemia caused by Theileria Orientalis Ikeda, the “tick disease”, in their herds. With many more cases seen over the last year in Golden Bay, more are expected there, as well as in Nelson, Murchison, Marlborough, West Coast and north Canterbury. The disease is most-commonly seen when cows are calving and is seen in both spring-calving and autumn calving herds. The impact can be minimised by identifying anaemic animals early

so specific care can be provided and by keeping animals in good health and condition so they are more resilient to infection. While the relatively low numbers of dairy cows in Golden Bay means the overall impact of a theileria outbreak might be low, individual farms are still at risk of large-scale outbreaks. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has stopped collecting data about the spread of theileria, but at the end of 2014 there were 1268 cases recorded, mainly in the North Island

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Nita Harding – northern South Island farmers warned to be on alert.

and mainly in dairy herds. At that stage three cases were reported in the north of the South Island, but it wasn’t confirmed whether theileria, spread by ticks, had become established in those


• bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhinotracheitis • trace element deficiency • mastitis • subclin

Key points

mastitis • subclinical ketosis • leptospirosis • abortion • bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhino

SPECIAL REPORT │ THEILERIA areas or simply moved in with cattle coming from other dairying regions. Initially MPI was collecting data on the incidence of the disease to monitor its spread. As it has become more common and with greater awareness among farmers and veterinarians this surveillance has stopped. More detailed analysis did continue in the South Island before also being halted. The theory is that tick numbers build over spring and summer then disappear as winter arrives, however they remain on the ground and are inactive at that time. Ticks are known to be well established in Golden Bay.

‘It’s quite possible we will see more cases in the next few years as it takes time for the infection to spread in the local tick population.’

Theileria Ikeda, was first detected in late 2012 in Northland. It has since spread to other areas in the North Island where there are ticks, which as larva or nymphs ingest the theileria parasite from an infected animal and then transmit it to the next animal they feed on. Nita Harding, DairyNZ’s technical policy adviser – veterinary, said one case reported in 2014 was on a West Coast farm and was believed to have been brought to the herd from cows which had been grazed in Canterbury. In another case in Canterbury it was thought to have been introduced by cows which came into the herd from the North Island. “A lot more cases have been seen in Golden Bay recently and there are expected to be more,” she said. “We have known that ticks are there but it has taken two to three years for the numbers of infected ticks to build up to the point where we are seeing significant levels of infection in the herds.” There were also ticks on the West Coast, in Nelson and Marlborough and some areas of north Canterbury where there had been cases of one or two sick animals in herds. “Mostly the ticks are present in small numbers or intermittently and we haven’t heard of any disasters. “It’s quite possible we will see more cases in the next few years as it takes time for the infection to spread in the local tick population,” she said. 64 

“If farmers are concerned they should speak to their vet sooner rather than later.” Theileria can’t establish if there are no ticks but the insects can gain a foothold over one or two seasons, causing self-limiting outbreaks in an area. DairyNZ was concentrating on getting the message out to northern South Island farmers, in conjunction with local vets, through field days and discussion groups that the disease could turn up on their farm. They were being warned to be alert for animals which were off-colour or showed a drop in milk production. They were also being given tips about good stockmanship and management for infected animals such as moving them to once-a-day milking, milking every second day or putting them into a separate mob. These cows could also be kept close to the dairy and provided with plenty of easily consumed feed. Just one tick is all that’s needed for transmission and low tick burdens on cattle can still spread the disease. It’s impossible to eliminate the risk of ticks by treating cattle although co-ordinated grazing management might lower it. Other factors may well come into play such as a moist or damp underlying

base to pastures or soils in some areas and vegetation cover. Harding said the spread pattern for theileria was quite different to that in Australia so there was still a lot to learn. Cases are still occurring in the North Island although animals seem to develop a resistance over time and numbers of animals affected per herd are lower than previously. Weather doesn’t seem to be a factor but it could be that with recent low payouts farmers have tried to reduce animal health expenses by not calling in their vet as frequently as previously so the full extent of the problem isn’t realised. “We’re not aware of any breed susceptibility but theileria is more likely to occur where the animal is compromised in some other way, such as having another infection or health condition,” she said. “Spring is when farmers are more likely to notice it in their herds because there are a lot of physiological changes with calving, and risk of metabolic disease. It’s also a really busy time of year for farmers but they should be keeping an eye on their stock.” If DairyNZ received feedback from farmers that more research into the disease was needed they would look into it.

The dos and don’ts An adult tick

The DairyNZ website warns that theileriosis can which can carry theileria. sometimes be fatal to cows although there are no human health or food safety risks associated. Cows during calving and calves from two to three months old are at most risk from infection. If farmers suspect theileria in their herd they should contact their vet for advice. Signs are a pale or yellow, rather than healthy pink, vulva and yellow whites of the eyes. Cows may be lethargic, lag behind the rest of the herd, not respond as expected to treatment for conditions such as milk fever. They may be off their food, appear hollow sided and show a sudden decrease in milk production. Those severely affected may suddenly die especially in late pregnancy or early lactation. Infected animals should be kept well fed with easy-to-eat, high-quality feed and given plenty of water. Stress and movement should be minimised. Blood transfusions are an option for valuable, severely anaemic animals. A drug treatment is available but needs to be specifically brought in from overseas by the prescribing vet. There are long withholding periods for meat and milk with this drug and bobby calves mustn’t be fed milk from treated cows during that period. Farmers should check the health of new animals and quarantine them for at least seven days, to check them for ticks and treat as necessary. A tick control product may be useful during spring and autumn, susceptible paddocks could be grazed with other non-bovine species if available, and only healthy animals should leave the farm. Drenching is also a good time to check for ticks and to slot any tick management needed into an animal health programme. • More information is available in DairyNZ fact sheets on theileria available from

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

At their research lab at Invermay near Dunedin are (from left) University of Otago’s Disease Research Limited (DRL) Director Professor Frank Griffin, senior researcher Dr Rory O’Brien and lab manager Simon Liggett.

Time to tackle Johne’s disease Karen Trebilcock @KT_at_Exporter

New Zealand deer farmers have successfully managed Johne’s in their herds and now it’s time for dairy farmers to do the same. University of Otago’s Disease Research Limited (DRL) director, Professor Frank Griffin, said it appeared about 60% of dairy herds were infected and with milk production and reproduction affected, it made good financial sense for farmers to find out the status of their cows.With much of NZ’s Johne’s research done in deer, it was still early days finding out which tests worked best for the dairy industry. “We have a blood test that we developed for deer, and there is also a milk test available and a new test based on bacterial shedding. Nobody has demonstrated at this stage whether blood or milk-based testing is most effective. “We want to do some parallel testing to find the best testing strategy.” Griffin called Johne’s “the invisible disease”. “It won’t be obvious to many farmers that they have a problem as many infected animals do not show physical signs of disease. But they will have a higher death rate than they should have and there will be cows that are obviously not well and are scouring and losing condition and there will be cows that suddenly drop milk production by 10 to 15%.” Studies of pregnant deer with Johne’s showed they had a 30% loss

of embryos. The disease is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), which occurs naturally. “We will never get rid of Johne’s, like we can with TB, so it’s about managing the disease to minimise its impact and making sure the cows which have it, and are super-shedders of MAP, don’t cause more cows in the herd to become infected.” The super-shedders release millions of MAP in both their dung and their milk, including colostrum. Farm practices of irrigating effluent on to paddocks and pooling colostrum for calves help spread the bacteria so all cattle on a farm can become exposed. There was also a possible human health risk from MAP in milk. The bacteria can survive pasteurisation and even if dead may still provoke an allergic immune response when digested. Some European milk producers asked farmers to identify their herds’ Johne’s status and to cull cows which were badly infected, Griffin said. “In the UK, the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group which supplies supermarket chains has indicated that every supplier is now required to have a Johne’s control programme and that producers who don’t engage will be removed from their supplier pool as they are seen to devalue the whole process. Currently all milk sold by Tesco in the UK originates from Johne’s tested herds.” “In the future they may be an economic advantage for New Zealand milk suppliers if they are able to verify

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

the status of Johne’s in our herds,” Griffin said. “Or it may simply become mandated from a food safety and consumer perspective to minimise the amount of MAP bacteria contaminating the food chain. “We could lead the world in applying management strategies and proving the health status of our cows. Having the phrase ‘healthy herds’ attached to our milk will no doubt add value.” Farmers who thought they might have a problem should either bloodtest or milk-test their animals, he said. “In Europe they blood-test the worstperforming 30 animals in the herd so farmers could do that, or they could bulk milk-test and you will find the exposure the herd has had,” he said. “We’re saying don’t cull them straight away but don’t use their colostrum, don’t keep their calves as replacements and don’t mate them. At the end of their lactation cull them and at least you will get the meat value.” However, a year of testing will not solve the problem as animals younger than two years will not show signs of the disease. “Test the two-year-olds each year before they go into the herd and any replacements you also buy in and after three years you should be on top of it. “You have put a fire break into your system. “But you also have to have good management systems in place to identify the cows, identify their calves and to stop further contamination from the bacteria. “Young calves are the mostsusceptible group and preventing transmission from cows to calves is the critical step to prevent intergenerational spread of disease. “However, farmers who are currently culling animals which are underperforming and which are not getting in calf each year, will already be going some way to managing Johne’s without even realising it.” DRL has been working with five herds in Canterbury and on the West Coast which had significant problems. “Our message to farmers is that reducing Johne’s in your herd is doable and the cost of testing is easily justified, if it’s done right.” There is a vaccine for Johne’s but it has limited efficacy and it interferes with the current TB test in cattle and deer herds.


• bovine viral diarrhoea • listeriosis • neospora • nfectious • bovine rhinotracheitis • trace element deficiency • mastitis • subclin




Penny Smart started her leadership journey 10 years ago.

No negatives in the automatic ‘YES’ Glenys Christian

Dairy farmers who think they don’t have enough time to get involved in local industry initiatives could look to the roles Penny Smart has taken on and thoroughly enjoyed. She is chair of the Northland Dairy Development Trust (NDDT) and was recently elected to the Northland Regional Council. She’s an alumni of the Agri Womens Development Escalator Programme, in 2016 completed the Kelloggs Rural Leadership course, attended last year’s Environmental Leaders Forum in Wellington, and the property she farms with husband Hal Harding between Dargaville and Te Kopuru is a Kaipara Harbour Integrated Management Group flagship site. “People tend to think a role off-farm is not for them because they want to be on their farm doing things not sitting down for a day,” she said.


“But I encourage farmers and especially females to get involved. They need to change an automatic ‘no’ into an automatic ‘yes’ or an, ‘I’ll think about how it could work’.” Hal is the fourth generation of Hardings on the farm where kauri gum was dug until the early 1900s. Three brothers were sent north from Waipukurau where the family had originally settled and it took them 10 years to sign a sale and purchase agreement with local Maori for the original 7000 hectare property, which was then covered in scrub. From then on there was always a dairy farm, with milking shorthorns the breed of choice to start with, but much of the land which rises from flats to steeper slopes was used to run sheep and beef cattle. Penny, who came from a dairy farming background, married Hal in 1985, and between 1996 and 2006 they were able to buy out surrounding land from Hal’s three brothers to make up the 500ha the farm is today. Initially the couple grew export squash, cropping up to 90ha at one stage.

Location; Te Kopuru, just south of Dargaville Farm size: 517ha, dairy platform 350 ha, with 140ha adjoining lease block Owners: Aoroa Farms, Penny Smart and Hal Harding Herd: 750 Friesian-cross, split calving, 50% autumn and 50% spring Production: 2015-16, 300,000 kilograms of milksolids (MS), 2016-17 forecast, 260,000kg MS Supplements; 4.5 hectares of maize silage, 800 tonnes of grass silage, 400 big bales of hay, up to 30t a month of palm kernel,5ha turnips, 20ha chicory Dairy: 54-bail rotary with ACRs. “But returns were very up and down,” Penny said. Also challenging was kumara-growing with them planting up to 35ha each year. “That was big in those days,” she said. In 2003 they decided to look more seriously at enlarging their dairy operation, putting a lower-order sharemilker on 150ha. “We were dipping our toes in the water and that went OK,” she said. In 2005 the big decision was made to build a new 54-bail rotary in the middle of the farm to replace the 36-aside herringbone and to boost cow numbers to 850 over that season. They bought in stock from around the area with one third of the new herd calving in the autumn and the remaining two thirds in spring. That has since changed to a 50:50 calving split. They always have one herd of around 200 milked once-a-day, made up mainly of heifers. They graze paddocks further away from the dairy with the furthest distance they walk to be milked around 2.5 kilometres.

They haven’t tried fodder beet, being put off by the fact it would need a large amount of chemical spray to keep insect pests under control that would be to the detriment of the soil biology. With recent low payouts and dry summers they dropped cow numbers back to 750 to reduce their stocking rate. “It was a particularly tricky couple of years,” Penny said. The intention now is to stick with the

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

750 cows, only culling on age and health issues such as mastitis. They use LIC Premier Sires and have switched to some a2 semen reasoning that it provides a future option. In 2006 they built two 60x20-metre Herd Homes right next to the dairy with each able to hold 200 cows which allows them to run a DairyNZ System 3 operation. On average they’ll feed out up to 30 tonnes of palm kernel a month, mixed with grass and maize silage.

Lime goes on in both solid and liquid forms and they get annual herbage and soil tests carried out to check on progress as part of their constant monitoring of soil and plant health. While they used to grow up to 30ha of maize silage that was reduced this season to 4.5ha because of their lower stocking rate and the ability to harvest a large amount of grass silage off the milking platform last spring. They trialled growing oats on the land that came out of the maize this season. Feeding out around 5ha of turnips starts in mid-January but over recent years they have boosted the area of chicory they grow to 20ha, with the aim eventually to get to 10% of the farm. They haven’t tried fodder beet, being put off by the fact it would need a large amount of chemical spray to keep insect pests under control that would be to the detriment of the soil biology. The wet spring last year gave them a helping hand allowing them to harvest 800t of grass silage, compared with their usual 350t.

Northland Dairy Development Trust chair Penny Smart and husband, Hal Harding, on their Dargaville farm. “It was amazing how much more grass we had,” Penny said. They also make 400 big bales of hay mainly from their adjoining lease block of 140ha. “Sometimes the cows will be grazed there or else we’ll put them in the Herd Home and feed them there.” Rather than looking to a total pasture renewal programme they concentrate on sowing a variety of different herbal leys on their flats with chicory, clover, annual ryegrass and plantain working well. On their hill country they undersow around 200ha of kikuyu-dominant pastures with annual ryegrass, buoyed by NDDT research work showing that if the kikuyu is managed well it is able to perform on Northland farms. When it comes to fertiliser they use a mineral and biological mix sprayed from their own sprayer with the help of a local contractor. Trace elements are applied in this way as well as liquid fish fertiliser. “We also put on magnesium, sulphate of ammonia and nitrogen at the right time of

year,” Hal said. Total nitrogen applied rarely gets above 120kg/ha. “It’s not one set thing but it’s based on enhancing soil life.” Lime goes on in both solid and liquid forms and they get annual herbage and soil tests carried out to check on progress as part of their constant monitoring of soil and plant health. Effluent from the dairy’s three-pond system is applied to 30ha through sprinklers which are shifted around the area and effluent from the Herd Homes is applied two to three times a season using local contractors. Their property is one of the flagship sites for the Kaipara Harbour Integrated Management Group, set up in 2005. The aim is to reverse the 654,000ha harbour’s degradation by contributing to better understanding of best-practice resource use. The flagship sites are being used to demonstrate sustainable and integrated practices that mitigate sediment, nutrient

Penny Smart and Hal Harding’s herd is 50% spring and 50% autumn-calving. Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


and faecal contamination of the Kaipara. This has been carried out through “paddock-to-harbour” themed workshops on their farm focusing on practical methods other farmers can use.

They’re acutely aware of the constraints that going fully organic would mean, as without being able to use some sprays weeds could be a problem and they wouldn’t be able to stop kikuyu from their hills spreading on to the flats.

When it comes to environmental improvements onfarm both Penny and Hal said they would like to do more. But already there’s been a great deal of fencing and planting on the three separate pieces of swamp on the farm which total around 50ha. This season the plan is to extend planting on the farm boundaries as well creating more shelterbelts and

Penny Smart enjoyed her Kelloggs project, although she found out through her investigation that converting to organics has constraints with their kikuyu pastures which make it difficult and not something the family is likely to do in the short term. bush corridors for birdlife. They will use pittosporum, grown and planted by Dargaville Intermediate pupils. They also use cabbage trees, flax and manuka plants, putting plenty of sawdust around their roots on planting and releasing them from kikuyu, the main weed problem, when they’re large enough.

Community approach Penny Smart started on her leadership journey 10 years ago which led to her becoming the independent chair of the Northland Dairy Development Trust (NDDT) in 2014. The chair at that time, Titoki farmer, Richard Booth, was standing down and approached her about becoming his replacement. “They’re great people to work with and very passionate about helping dairy farmers,” she said. “We want to take our lead from farmers and need their attendance and input at our annual conference and quarterly field days.” A lot of the trust’s work, such as the bought-in feed trial and kikuyu research, carried out at the Northland Agricultural Research Farm (NARF) just north of Dargaville has national implications. And with the recent launch of the Extension 350 programme the aim is to influence 350 farmers to help improve their profitability. “It’s a great initiative and well-supported by DairyNZ and MPI,” Penny said. She believes a community approach is needed when it comes to getting environmental messages out to farmers. Along with her role on the Northland Regional Council and participation at the recent Dairy Environment Leaders Forum in Wellington there is much that can be achieved. “Every region has its challenges and they’re all different,” she said. “It’s great to see some young ones joining. They can use technology like Facebook to keep people up to date with how to do things. We’ve got to keep up the already good work that goes on in Northland around getting people involved.” She believes that if you get water quality right everything else will be in place, including control of erosion, sedimentation, weeds and pests. “Use water quality as your goal and work out the challenges,” she said. In her new role as a Northland regional councillor she has a lot to take into consideration regarding the environment, and believes there’s a lot of benefit in Northlanders considering the philosophy of Maori environmental care. “You have to have a long term view,” she said. There needs to be a sustainable balance between regulation and collaboration.” “Words are great but planning and action counts. A lot of people are on board with this and certainly young people are. Everything is changing so much faster now.” Hal is strong in his view that dairy farmers are good custodians of the land. He believes everything starts at the soil and that the vast majority of farmers would agree that profit should not come at the expense of the environment.


“You’ve got to restrict planting to what you can do effectively,” Penny said. “It’s another job for the Harding boys this winter.” Their sons Matthew, 24, and Astley, 21, have recently returned to work on the farm, with their older sister, Anna, having just started a cadetship with the local Lifestyler newspaper in Dargaville. This has led to them mulling a number of ideas about what might happen on the farm in the future. The subject of Penny’s Kelloggs project, which she completed last June, was whether to switch to organic milk production, a step up from already following biological farming principles. “Unfortunately it is even more difficult to ring-fence drought years,” she said. The ripple effect of, for example, the early summer drought in the area would be a scary scenario. They’re acutely aware of the constraints that going fully organic would mean, as without being able to use some sprays weeds could be a problem and they wouldn’t be able to stop kikuyu from their hills spreading on to the flats. “With it now being a family decision organics is looking somewhat less likely in the short term,” she said. But she rates her Kelloggs experience highly, saying she met and learnt from a diverse group of good people, participants and presenters with whom she made great connections. They are keen on setting up onfarm accommodation as a possible diversification option. Hal’s keen to show off the Kiwi farming lifestyle at close quarters and Penny believes this could form part of an opportunity for a number of groups promoting Dargaville and all it has to offer to work more closely together.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

JOIN JAMIE MACKAY EVERY WEEKDAY FROM 12 – 1PM for an informative and entertaining agri-business hour, with a generous side-serving of news, sport and politics.



Cow-3PO: The robot age of farming

Cups come off individually to avoid under or over milking.

Switching off the 5am alarm is the dream of many dairy farmers. The Gemmells tell Cheyenne Stein how they have future-proofed their farm with the installation of their robotic milking shed.


or someone who is self-confessed computer-phobic installing a robotic milking shed doesn’t seem the best idea. But for Greg Gemmell and his wife Amy it’s been an idea they are glad they made and not just because they got to turn off the alarm. Greg and Amy are sharemilkers on a farm owned by Amy’s parents, Brian and Margaret Schnell. Until last season the dairy had been home to a herringbone but after what they say was a bit of a joke about robots, they took the plunge and installed milking robots in its place. The couple, along with Amy’s parents each contributed to the costs of the installation. The three Lely robots in the shed, which can each milk about 80 cows up to three times a day in a 24-hour period, cost about $260,000 each, inclusive of all the automatic gates and software. The estimated running cost sits at about $6000 a year which covers consumables and servicing, says Steve Bromley, director and working manager for Bromley Dairy and Pumps who service the robotic system

for the Gemmells. The first service is done after 20,000 milkings, then again at various intervals, just like a car, to ensure the system is running efficiently. “We wanted to gain a bit of work-life balance as well as future-proofing the business. The herringbone needed an upgrade anyway and we figured if we could make it work on a low pay-out then it was worth a stab,” Amy says. From start to finish it took 60 days for the dairy to be retrofitted for the robots. The Schnells and Gemmells did much of the groundwork themselves which saved money. “It was a big gamble. We are still very much new to this and still figuring it all out. I haven’t had much time for computers so it has been a big thing for me to trust technology and stop thinking if I push a button I will break it.” If issues do arise with the system, Lely are there to help with an on-call technician. “I will never turn up to a yard full of cows that aren’t being milked. There will always be an alert to tell me as soon as

there’s a problem. To date we haven’t had many, only after the earthquake, the system doesn’t like glitches in power, all we had to do was restart everything,” Greg says. Although they are still in their first year they are happy with the results so far but say that every day is a learning curve and the massive amount of technology doesn’t mean they can stop being good farmers. “You still have to be a good farmer. The computer system is pretty good at picking up things like when a cow is in heat, but you still need to be double checking for false heats and managing the pasture and animal health,” Greg says.

‘We wanted to gain a bit of work-life balance as well as future-proofing the business. The herringbone needed an upgrade anyway and we figured if we could make it work on a low pay-out then it was worth a stab.’ FITBITS FOR COWS

Greg and Amy Gemmell.


As part of the robotic milking system, cows are fitted with a collar which has multiple functions, a sort of Fitbit for cows. Acting

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Farm owners: Brian and Margaret Schnell Sharemilkers: Greg and Amy Gemmell Location: Bunnythorpe, Manawatu Cows: 230 Friesians (split-calving 75% spring 25% autumn) Production: 2015/16 390kg MS/cow also as a visual identifier, the responder attached to the collar communicates with the milking robot for things such as robot acceptance. If a cow tries to enter the pre-milk area, which guides her into a robot, sooner than her allocated hours after her previous milking, the gates will open for her to enter the post-milking area and then back out to pasture, so she won’t have acceptance into the robot at that time. The collars also collect information such as steps taken, rumination and heart rate. This information is sent back to the system’s computer to store. A picture of her normal activity is created and deviations are picked up through algorithms to determine key events going on in a cow such as heat. Ruminations are picked up via sound waves. A cow normally has 400 ruminations in a 24 hour period. When a cow is coming into heat, the number of ruminations decreases and the steps she takes in a day will often increase. These changes are picked up and shown as a report. She will also be automatically diverted off to a draft area if this option is set up. The system is more sophisticated than just reporting, though. Greg is able to track how far through a heat a cow is by looking on his computer and a progression bar will tell him when the optimum time for insemination is. “The system is pretty good but you still

Collars collect and record information from steps taken through to ruminations.

have to be a switched-on farmer. Some days the system could say you need to put 40-50 up for insemination, but in reality they might not all be in heat. Flies might have annoyed them or a stray dog in the paddock has got them moving. There are a number of factors that could trigger the algorithm so you still have to be able to detect heat and double check otherwise it can end up costly.” A new add-on to their system will hopefully mean a trouble free calving this year. The add-on, which is able to detect when a cow is in distress, works through an antenna on the roof of the dairy. When a cow comes within the 500-metre range the data picked up from her collar is compared to that of her peers. If her data is drastically different to her peers, an alert via a phone app will be sent to let Greg know there’s something not right with the cow. The timing couldn’t be more perfect with heifers in calf to low-birthweight, pedigree Hereford bulls coming on now.

You can choose which alarms you want through the night to avoid an alarm going off because the detergent needs filling, for example.

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Greg will keep this calving mob within range in case any issues arise from the slightly larger calves. Greg held his spring heifers over to calve in autumn for more maturity to help with calving but also so they would be larger when training in the robot to fill out the box and to kick-start their new autumn herd.

ANIMAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS One of the biggest selling points of robotic milkers is the benefits in animal health. With the robots continually sending information into the computer at every milking, seemingly very little will go unnoticed. “One thing we have noticed is that when there are a lot of people around cell count can be elevated. When there’s noone around, it’s very different and that’s something we hadn’t really picked up on before,” Greg says. “A cow isn’t meant to be moving fast, getting pushed into the shed or even pushed along by the herd at a pace she isn’t comfortable with and getting stressed. Now that they can walk in when they please we are finding lameness isn’t an issue.” When somatic cell count spikes or mastitis is recognised the Gemmells have found they aren’t as quick to treat with antibiotics. Pre-robot days, as soon as he saw clotting Greg says he would rush in and treat it, but they have learnt over time that given a few days, most cows come right on their own. Now they wait a few days, use homeopathic sprays and allow the cows to come in when they want to be milked. “They generally come right within a few days and instead of their milk being diverted to the calf milk area for weeks after antibiotics it’s only for a few days.” By January most years they would have treated up to 50 cows already, but this year they have only had to treat three, and 71

looking back they say they possibly rushed into that. “Having that information at every milking makes us feel more comfortable with not rushing into treatment because we can see them getting better.”

‘You still have to be a good farmer. The computer system is pretty good at picking up things like when a cow is in heat, but you still need to be double checking for false heats and managing the pasture and animal health.’ Effluent, or lack of it, has also been a big advantage. The cows are leaving more effluent in the paddocks rather than the shed meaning built up soil fertility in the pasture and less cleaning to do in the shed, saving water and time. “We are using a biological fertiliser system without urea and also think this has been helpful with cow health stemming from the soil and pasture health.”

COW BEHAVIOUR AND TRAINING The dairy is open 24 hours a day for cows to wander in and out of at liberty but even six months down the road, the cows still maintain their herd mentality which the Gemmells say it will take a year or two for them to lose. “With the robotic milking they can be an individual cow, but they are still trying to act as a herd. You get one cow wander up to the dairy and there’s usually a group behind her. It takes them a while to figure

Greg says the computer system is “probably about as hard as using TradeMe.”

out they can come up anytime.” The first time cows go through the system is labour-intensive and the scene looked like the country version of a rugby scrum, similar to teaching cows to walk on to a rotary. “We had to make up training gates for them and drive them into a robot box like a rugby scrum. It took three people – one to console her, one programming the co-ordinates to set cups to teats and one helping push her in,” Greg says. Once in the robot there are a number of pre-milking treatments like teat brushing to get rid of bacteria and stimulate milk let down. These were turned off the first time cows entered the robot and were gradually switched on to acclimatise them. As with most animals, once they saw the food, the cows were more than willing to walk into the robot. The voluntary milking system means cows can come and go as they please. Peak milking times have moved from 5am and 3pm, to 7am

and 4pm with many coming through the middle of the night for a third milking. “I reckon the cows are telling us they didn’t want to be woken up at 5am, just like we didn’t want to get up that early,” Greg jokes. The herd is not strictly twice-a-day or once-a-day, they have a mix of once, twice and three-times-a-day milkers. If a cow is light in condition they can plug in her collar number and set up the programme to only accept her for milking once a day. Nearly a year into their new venture the Gemmells are pleased with the results and are confident they made the right decision. Despite all the positives, Greg says he does sometimes feel guilty for his 7.30am sleep-ins. • Footnote: The Gemmells have had a number of visitors and tours through their robotic farm. • To arrange a tour email them at

Voluntary milking has made for some relaxed cows at the Gemmells’. 72 

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Taking bulls by the horns Anne Hardie Increasing scrutiny of disbudding young dairy stock or dehorning adult cattle, plus the cost factor, led to CRV Ambreed’s research into polled genetics which will be available to farmers this year. Speaking at a West Coast field day, Research and development manager, Phil Beatson, said 40% of Germany’s cattle semen was sourced from bulls with polled genes largely due to the animal welfare issue of disbudding and dehorning, with the Netherlands increasingly using polled bulls as well. If dehorning was made illegal in Europe – which has been suggested – New Zealand could follow suit and the industry needed to have the genetics available to move toward polled cattle, he said.

‘You need to breed bulls with two copies of the gene (homozygous) so it’s dominant and all the progeny is polled. But also with the traditional traits.’

Costs of disbudding was another reason to look at polled animals and Beatson said the animal welfare aspect meant it was quite possible veterinarians would be required to carry out all disbudding in NZ some time down the track rather than farmers carrying out the procedure. The company has been developing its polled genetics for more than a decade with the aim of achieving polled progeny that were also high indexing. It is aiming at breeding polled animals with a breeding worth of 220 or more. “You need to breed bulls with two copies of the gene (homozygous) so it’s dominant and all the progeny is polled. But also with the traditional traits.” When a bull has only one copy of the polled gene – heterozygous – their progeny only has a 50% chance of being polled.

This year the company has bulls with homozygous polled genes that will have semen available for sale, which meant when bred to horned cows, all the progeny would be polled and so no disbudding would be needed. Another animal welfare issue being tackled by genetics is facial eczema and Beatson said there has been more interest from farmers in sourcing facial-eczema – tolerant genetics after a bad outbreak last year, particularly in the North Island. “It’s a pretty serious animal welfare and farmer welfare issue. Farmers get pretty depressed pretty quickly when stock have facial eczema and genetics provides a good long-term answer.” Last year’s bad FE outbreak caused a tripling of orders for straws of semen from FE-tolerant bulls with tens of thousands of straws sold, and CRV Ambreed’s Peter van Elzakker expects demand to increase again in 2017. One of the reasons dairy farmers have not worked hard on facial eczema genetics in the past in their herds, Beatson said, was probably because they had treatments to control it, but he suggested they should be taking a longer-term view of management. “We think it’s something farmers should be more proactive about. It takes a while to build it in, but once it’s there it’s there genetically.” Van Elzakker said the daughters of CRV Ambreed’s FE-tolerant bulls were 25-30% less reactive to challenge from the disease

Phil Beatson, CRV Ambreed.

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The dairy industry will have to move to polled bulls if dehorning is outlawed in Europe and New Zealand follows. than the average bull and the 2017 bull team was the best yet. “The number of bulls with ‘high’ or ‘very high’ tolerance to FE has jumped from 18 in 2016 to 25 this year, and the number of bulls with daughter proofs in the team has jumped from eight to 12.” Importantly, he said the bulls making the bull team were also high-indexing for all-round traits with an average Breeding Worth of 156, compared with the NZ herd average of 67BW. “These CRV Ambreed bulls have high protein, fertility and type so there is little trade-off in index for farmers who are looking to breed cows with a superior tolerance to facial eczema.” Semen from bulls with increased FE tolerance has been offered since 2011, after the discovery of techniques for identifying those animals and 17% of CRV Ambreed’s 150-strong bull catalogue now has increased tolerance, across the Jersey, Friesian and Crossbred categories. Te Awamutu vet and FE researcher Emma Cuttance firmly believes genetics are key to a long-term solution. “My message to farmers is to get on board with genetics and do it properly. Don’t just choose one or two bulls with tolerance to facial eczema – you have to do this properly to see the gains and realise that this is important future-proofing for the farm.” “I suspect the country won’t always be able to rely on zinc treatments as a solution as zinc supply is at times volatile and the problem is already spreading down the country across the South Island,” she said. Beatson agreed saying genetic improvement offered a safe and environmentally sound and economic solution, meaning farmers could use less zinc and be confident they were breeding long-term solutions for their farms. “For every three cows out of 100 in a herd with clinical FE, about 70% of the herd could have subclinical symptoms. “You won’t necessarily see the disease in cows with subclinical symptoms, but it will be damaging the liver and negatively impacting milk production.” 73

ENVIRONMENT Words by Cheyenne Stein Photos by Johnny Houston Megan Hands is hoping to inspire more young people to get involved in their local communities.

Leading by example L

ike many young girls, Megan Hands dreamt of being a vet. Today she’s a farm environmental auditor at Irrigo Centre helping farmers come to grips with environmental policies. Megan grew up on her parents’ dairy farm in Shannon and it was during the early days of the Horizons One Plan that she revised her career path. “When I was younger there were some resource management battles going on in Opiki near our farm and my dad started to get involved with that and that’s when I started to take an interest in the resource management side of agriculture.” After finishing school Megan headed off to Lincoln University to study environmental management and planning, which she says was a very deliberate choice. “I looked at both Lincoln and Massey and decided that at the time, Lincoln offered a much easier pathway to study both environmental management and agriculture together. I saw a gap in the market for this expertise and a truckload of legislation on its way to be negotiated.” During the last year of her degree Megan was offered an internship with Landpro in central Otago which then transformed into a fulltime job offer. “I crammed my last year of university into one semester and went back to work. I felt


quite lucky to have a dream job before I even graduated.” Her resource management consultancy role saw her first day spent in a helicopter inspecting high country stations. Megan was involved in consenting effluent and irrigation systems through to dairy conversion consents and farm environment plans. “That was around the time the new dairy conversion rules began to take effect so it was an interesting time to be involved.” Megan then made the move back Canterbury to take up the role of catchment engagement leader for DairyNZ. She worked closely with farmers to get engagement with environmental policy and helping to answer questions about the rules and what farmers needed to do. Before long she was snapped up by her current employers, Irrigo, which meant she could spend more time on the ground with farmers onfarm and work with them in the implementation of environmental policy. “In my day-to-day role now it’s very much handled out onfarm doing farm environment plan audits three days a week and working through management practise standards. This process requires auditing against good management standards, measuring if they are where they need to be and, if not, working out what they need to do and the consequences if they aren’t meeting the targets.” Megan says there are certainly challenges ahead for many farmers on the environment

and it will be a process to go through, but by and large farmers are doing the right thing. They are just in the new age of having to prove it to the public and regulators. It is a process, she says, and is difficult when someone tells you that you have to change what you’ve been doing or have to justify what you have been doing. “I know what it’s like. Our own family farm is affected by stringent rules in the One Plan but the most part I think it’s just a process and some people take longer to move through that process than others.” The most important thing for farmers to do is engage early. “Working in the farm environmental space can be scary. The water quality issues we are facing in some areas are complex and challenging. There are some times where farmers feel that they are hard-done-by in the plan-change process but if they engage early on as to what’s going on in the council and the rules it makes the process a lot easier.” The national policy on fresh water management has been around for quite some time and Megan says for regions that are yet to have a plan change, they need to be prepared for that to come their way and be prepared to make some changes. “This is probably the hardest thing for farmers. They may have to make some changes to their farm systems and prove things which ultimately means keeping

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‘I CRAMMED MY LAST YEAR OF UNIVERSITY INTO ONE SEMESTER AND WENT BACK TO WORK. I FELT QUITE LUCKY TO HAVE A DREAM JOB BEFORE I EVEN GRADUATED.’ records, but that’s not a bad thing. They can use those records to make good management decisions and improve their farm efficiency.” With so much focus in this area of agriculture at the moment Megan says there is a massive shortage of people with both farm systems expertise and environmental expertise. “We are screaming out for good people that understand both sides of the coin.” Megan isn’t just passionate about farming and environment. Leadership plays a key role in her career aspirations and she is hoping to use all three of her passions to be an advocate for New Zealand farming. “I have always been interested in leadership and governance. We are world leaders in farming whether we put our hands up and say we are or not. I think we certainly are and we need to tell that story a lot more effectively both internationally and within our own nation.” Her passion for leadership and governance is what led her to go for a spot on her local Malvern community board. She was elected to the board last year and wants to do her part to ensure her community thrives and encourages other young people to get involved. “For me I think of the Dr Suess quote a lot ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’ I think it’s really important to get involved particularly in rural communities.” Megan comes from a family that hasn’t been afraid to get involved. Her dad was very involved in the water action group many years ago along with Federated Farmers and rugby and her mum with the dairy industry awards. She says it’s been a great experience seeing the hard-working volunteers who work tirelessly to make sure the community has good spaces and facilities available to them, which for small rural communities is important for keeping everyone connected. If a fulltime job and working on the community board wasn’t enough to fill her time, Megan also has had some preparing to do for the regional finals for Young Farmer of the Year. Despite being busy with work Megan says she entered to set an example for other women in her club. “I’m constantly telling the other girls in the organisation to give it a go. There have only ever been three women in the grand finals and I think that’s a really poor representation

of the industry. So I entered because I can’t tell others to get involved if I didn’t step up myself and do it.” And it must have worked. Women outnumbered men 14 to nine at the Christchurch district finals this year with two, Megan and Ellish Norrie, qualifying for the regional finals. “There is some research out there that says guys only need 20% confidence before they will give something a go and girls need about 80%. So I think we all need to encourage each other to give it a go. There are women in my own Young Farmers Club who have far greater ability onfarm than I do, they just need to be encouraged to give it a go.” Megan knows she has a lot of hard work

ahead of her in preparation for the regional final in early March but has plenty of farming friends to call on for some words of wisdom. Her days spent relief milking will no doubt help as well. “I miss farming a lot, I miss the cows. My preference would be to be farming myself but I have rheumatoid arthritis so that’s not really a long-term career I can do. My body wouldn’t cope with being on the farm all day every day. Doing this means I can keep my hand in and have some cow time.” Working around her lifestyle block is the next best thing to having a farm. Megan, with her partner Simon bought their little block last year and she says it was a compromise between the two. “Simon’s a city lad and I’m a rural girl at heart. Rural communities offer something that is far superior to urban communities. That community spirit that’s alive and well in our rural areas is something to be immensely proud of and something I want to raise a family in.”

Megan is passionate about working with farmers to understand the changing environmental policies.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017



VETERINARIAN Words by Sheryl Brown

Aiding animal health Krispin Kannan – working with dairy farmers to help them make the best animal health decisions for their businesses.


uilding close relationships with farmers and helping them make cost-effective decisions that will benefit their business is an enormous part of the the role and something Te Awamutu veterinarian Krispin Kannan really loves. “It’s a balancing act for animal health, whether treating an individual cow or a whole herd. “We need to consider not only the economic impact of our decisions but also the emotional cost to the farmers.” Animal health is a science and farmers have a lot of complex decisions to make every day from fertiliser and feed supplements through to vaccines and drenches, that all play a part in their herd’s health. Advising farmers and helping them make the most practical, cost-effective decisions for their individual farm situation is a great challenge, Krispin says. The dairy industry is under an increasing public microscope to deliver better animal welfare practices and a more sustainable business while remaining a profitable business, he says. The public sometimes forget the passion and empathy farmers have for animals, and they could often receive tough criticism.


Every decision has to have the farm’s bottom line in mind, but a healthy cow equates to a profitable cow so farmers are driven by good animal health and animal welfare practices in order to be successful. To give farmers advice so they can achieve the balance is part of being a vet, he says. Krispin emigrated from India to Rotorua as a seven-year-old. His mother was a practising veterinarian in India, but was unable to practice in New Zealand without several years’ more study, which wasn’t a viable option with three young boys to raise. Her love of working with animals was something she passed on to her children and ever since he can remember Krispin was determined to work as a vet. “There has been no other path I’ve wanted to take.” Working outdoors was also part of the pull towards the career. Going to school in Rotorua he spent a lot of time on friends’ farms and helping with docking lambs and shearing which only further ignited his passion. After high school he headed to Massey University to study veterinary science, one of the most competitive degrees with a strict selection process after the first semester. Krispin missed the cut when he tried in his

first year, but spent the next year studying and working in Hawke’s Bay before going back to university and being successful. His first job was working for VetEnt at Te Awamutu, where he is now in his sixth year of fulltime work. At 30, it’s a job that continues to throw curve balls which keeps the job interesting. As a vet he is involved in herd health planning for his clients, individual cow medicine and surgery, and working with his clients to maximise animal health and productivity in their business. On a bigger scale, the New Zealand Veterinary Association has set a goal that NZ will not need antibiotics for the maintenance of animal health and wellness. That goal is to combat the global issue of antimicrobial resistance and this will have a huge impact on the dairy industry and animal health practitioners in NZ, he says. “The way I see it is that there is always a challenge, the landscape is forever changing.” Krispin’s goal is to always progress and move forward in life rather than getting comfortable in the same place. “I’m always looking for challenges that will continue to excite me in the job I’m doing. It could be the challenge of a tricky case, a whole-herd investigation or further study.” Last year he set off on a gap year with his wife Laura, who teaches fabric and technology at Cambridge High School. He was able to do vet locum work in the United Kingdom during their trip which was a great experience and enabled him to gain skills that were transferable back home. He has just signed up to study a Master of Business Administration at Waikato University which he will start part-time in March. He admits it’s a left-field move. “I want to add another string to my bow to give me more options in the future. I love working in the animal health space and always will, and the business side of it goes hand-in-hand. The MBA will give me an understanding you don’t get from a vet science degree.” PB

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

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The February Country-Wide! A tale or two to tell. Manawatu’s retired manager Gordon Jones chronicles his 40-year farming career.

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Keeping your (milk) cool Tim McVeagh


ew Primary Industries Ministry (MPI) requirements for milk cooling on all dairy farms come into force from June 1, 2018. “Raw milk must: • be cooled to 10C or below within four hours of the commencement of milking; and • be cooled to 6C or below within the sooner of: • six hours from the commencement of milking, or • two hours from the completion of milking; and


• be held at or below 6C without freezing until collection or the next milking; and • not exceed 10C during subsequent milkings.” In robotic milking systems or where milking takes six hours or longer, the milk must enter the bulk tank at 6C or below. It is unclear what proportion of farms already meet these requirements, but it appears there will be a rush on milking machine and refrigeration technicians to upgrade primary cooling and install secondary cooling systems to meet the new standards.

Brian Underwood milks 270 cows through an 18 aside herringbone dairy in the Manawatu. His town water could be 25C, with milk going into the vat close to this. Running the cooling tower installed by McDougalls of Palmerston North for four hours over night, the cooling water goes into the single pass cooler at 11-12C, and the milk goes into the vat at about 13C. “Generally now, the milk temperature in the vat is around 7C at the end of milking. It cost $18,000 up and running and does a brilliant job of pre-chilling”, Underwood says.

WHAT SHOULD FARMERS DO? Farmers should start by checking their primary cooling and making any improvements needed to optimise this, as this is already in place and with low running costs. Once the primary cooling is running efficiently, the need for a secondary cooling system can be assessed. “A lot of farmers would get extremely close to meeting the new regs if they just did their primary cooling properly. That is critical and will save them so much power,” Brett McDougall of McDougalls Rural Service and Supplies says. If the milk temperature at the cooler outlet is within 2C of the water inlet

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

temperature at peak flow, (with the milk pump running), the primary cooling system is working well. If the temperature difference is more than this, there are several areas where improvements may be made. These include increasing the water flow rate, adding plates to the cooler, removing build-up of contaminants, ensuring the water gets to the precooler at the lowest possible temperature and minimising downstream water plumbing restrictions like teat-washing hoses. Fitting an intelligent milk pump controller will produce an even flow of milk rather than the “all or none” characteristics of many controllers.

IS SECONDARY COOLING NEEDED? Checking milk temperatures once the primary cooling is optimised will determine if the new standards can be met and whether secondary cooling is needed. Some companies selling secondary cooling systems offer a milk temperature audit over several milkings. Others make heat load calculations based on peak herd size, litres of milk per cow, milking time, once/twice a day milking and primary cooling performance; and recommend actions. Anticipated increases in any of these parameters should be catered for. Where milk temperatures are close to the new requirements, increasing the vat refrigeration may be enough.

Jim Miller of Millbridge Consultancy has extensive experience in the field of dairy industry energy. He conducts energy audits for dairy farms, providing independent energy audits and recommendations on milk cooling systems for the most energyefficient and cost-effective outcome. This he can do by phone, analysing the information supplied by the farmer. A few hundred dollars spent on impartial advice on an investment which may be $50,000 or more makes good sense. “Every farm is unique, so each has to work out how much extra cooling is needed and then look first at what can be done without spending a lot of capital, seek out the things that will save energy and free up cooling capacity at the same time. “Primary cooling and cooling water storage are critical. For example, water in a black plastic storage tank may rise 4C in a day, which may be just enough to prevent them getting over the line. And then vat insulation can gain about 10% in the cooling rate in the vat,” Miller says. “The new standards in theory require 3540% more cooling capacity than the old standards but for a variety of reasons most farmers have some excess cooling capacity and perhaps 40% of farms will be already compliant and another 25-30% will be close to compliant. “Farmers who are closer to that 40%

really need to look at secondary cooling like an ice bank, glycol or chilled water system.”

SECONDARY COOLING SYSTEMS Many companies provide secondary cooling systems – cooling towers, ice banks, glycol systems and chilled water storage systems. Each produces a cold liquid coolant which is sent through a double pass cooler, or a second single pass cooler. It is often an opportune time to replace an aging cooler with a new double pass unit. In addition to the four categories, calf milk or additional vats have been used in conjunction with the vat refrigeration unit to produce and store chilled water. Electricity retailers have different pricing structures with some seasonal variations. Cooling Towers Technology: A large volume of water (stored for primary or secondary cooling) is passed through a cooling tower at night, bringing it down to close to the night time low temperature. The cooling tower is usually mounted on top of the water tank. Water passes down the cooling tower and air is drawn up by a fan. Advantages: • Very effective at cooling water in low humidity and colder regions. • Lower over night power rates might apply. • Simple and low maintenance. • Single-phase power only needed. • May be installed in conjunction with an ice bank, glycol system, or chilled water storage system. Disadvantages: • Will only bring the water temperature down to ambient temperature or a little below. • Where water is continually recycled, some water treatment may be required. • More suitable for smaller reductions in cooling temperatures. Ice Banks: Technology: Ice, (up to two tonnes in some units), is produced over night on the coils inside an insulated plastic tank. Water circulated around the ice is chilled to almost freezing and then pumped through Stewart Dairylands’ herringbone dairy was monitored independently after a Snapchill unit was moved from a decommissioned dairy. “They calculated that they were saving about $100 a week with the Snapchill installed, milking 400 cows in two hours twice a day,” Snapchill general manager Dale Stone says. “With a capital investment of about $45k, it will pay for itself in under eight years. Without the Snapchill, the milk temperature going into the vat was 15-16C, with the Snapchill, around 6C. And plenty of hot water from the heat recovery unit.”

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


the secondary cooler and returned to be chilled by the ice again. Water exits the cooler at 5-6C and milk can hit the vat at as low as 4- 6C. Advantages: • A low water storage volume is needed. • Lower overnight power rates may apply. • A heat-recovery system can be run concurrently to provide hot water. • Single-phase versions are available. • More cost-effective than a glycol system in areas with high capacity charges, as they have lower peak power demand. Disadvantages: Careful monitoring is needed. The sensor which controls the ice thickness must be working as the unit becomes inefficient if the optimum thickness of ice is exceeded. Comments: Snapchill, is a trademarked product name for an ice bank system on the New Zealand market. And “Snap chilling” is a generic term which applies to rapid chilling of products like milk and vegetables. Glycol Systems Technology: A refrigeration unit cools a food grade glycol/water mixture on demand, (during milking) and this is pumped through a double pass cooler. Advantages: • More compact than chilled-water systems. Single-phase versions are available. • A heat-recovery system can be run concurrently to provide hot water. • Can be sized to cool the milk to less than 6C before it enters the vat or to a higher temperature leaving the vat refrigeration to complete the job. 80 

• The same unit can be connected to the vat pad to provide the maintenance cooling. Disadvantages: • High capital expense as the unit must chill the glycol very quickly. • Lower night power tariffs do not apply as the unit is run during milking. • A good power supply is needed to run this during milking as the refrigeration unit adds to the power load during milking. • There is a much higher power demand during milking, so where the farm is on peak charging, the power costs can be greater than systems which run overnight. • Glycol must be food grade and leaking through split cooler plates must be avoided. • The glycol solution can evaporate or leak out and must be replaced with a solution of the same strength. Comments: Varicool, by Coolsense is a recent innovation based on a glycol system, with a sophisticated controller to optimise efficiency and heat recovery. The one unit chills glycol both for the plate cooler, and for the vat. Chilled water storage systems Technology: A large volume of water is chilled to about 7C between milkings by a refrigeration unit and stored in an insulated tank. Milk enters the vat at about 9-10C. Advantages: • Some farmers see starting milking with chilled water ready to use, rather than it being made on demand during milking, as an advantage. • Some of the power requirement is at night when off-peak charges may

Sean Olsen milks 750 Friesian cross cows through a 60 bail rotary at Opiki in the Manawatu. Previously, milk was entering the vat at about 20C. Following an assessment by Tru-Test, a ProCool Glycol system was installed, comprising a 15hp glycol refrigeration unit, insulated water tank and a second plate cooler. Milk now enters the vat at 5-6C, grades are a thing of the past, and the vat chiller isn’t working overtime.

apply and when there is less chance of overloading power supply. • A heat recovery system can be run concurrently to provide hot water. Disadvantages: • A large volume, (two to three times the milk volume) of water must be stored. • For bigger farms, (400 cows +) about 25,000 litres of chilled water needs to be stored if the unit is not to run during milking. So, smaller water storage is sometimes used and the unit is run during milking. And the last word from Jim Miller: “In my experience, with a good refrigeration unit on the vat, most farmers who can get their milk into the vat at 16C or lower should be able to meet the new standards. Those who need extra cooling capacity should think about just how much extra cooling to provide, as most vat refrigeration setups will be able chill the milk from 10-12C to 4C quite quickly and a smaller secondary cooling system might be the wiser choice. The optimum system and size will depend on a number of factors including electricity tariffs and the state of the existing refrigeration plant”.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


Demo farms: good to great Ron Pellow


emonstration farms have played, and continue to play, a key role in leading onfarm performance across New Zealand. They can be a powerful means of showing what can occur, not just what could be. Successful demonstration farms are similar to the story of teaching a person how to fish – they can eat for a lifetime, rather than just giving them a fish – and food for a day. Good demonstration farms have to be profitable, but they also need to be able to take risk, which also means having the financial backing and reputational credibility to accommodate an unsuccessful outcome. They also need to lead from the front, take action with possible issues and continually disclose success and failure. Good industry performance can lead to greater performance when these farms tackle future challenges and show pathways to greater success – demo farms cannot look at issues in isolation – they have to incorporate changes within a whole farm, profitable business context. Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF), for example, has tackled a number of industry changes such as choosing to farm without the use of inductions, 10 years ahead of the industry and voluntarily meeting future nutrient reduction targets. These changes were incorporated into the farm’s operation, while its success was continually judged against a range of other farms, many of which retained a wider range of available choices. Over the past three seasons, the farm has shown high levels of milk production per cow and per hectare can be achieved (at low cost) – from a largely pasture-only

diet – levels of performance not previously thought feasible. Constant disclosure of management and performance over time provides evidence and then confidence, to other farmers to also change onfarm practice, and if demonstrated well, lead to adoption of higher performing outcomes without the learning curve expenses. As in any organisation though, a clear sense of purpose is important for successful demonstration farms. Knowing what the boundaries are, what to do and not to do, enable these farms to achieve greater value for the industry. Good demonstration farms typically focus on demonstration only, as other possible outcomes (teaching, research, training) can detract from achieving highly efficient and profitable performance.

NZ dairy farmers are fortunate to have a wide range of demonstration and research facilities, spread geographically across the country.

The newly formed Southern Dairy Hub (SDH) provides an example of bringing together the best of demonstration and local farmlet research (see page 34). Its partners; AgResearch, DairyNZ and Southern Dairy farmers (via the Southern Dairy Development Trust) are creating an 800-cow, 350-hectare self-contained research and demonstration farm that will provide ongoing demonstration plus bring research capability and outcomes to the southern region. SDH is being converted this autumn from a drystock property into a commercially focused research and demonstration farm. Initial trial work will include cultivar evaluation and winter

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

crop research. While able to run up to four, 200-cow herds, it will always maintain a fully commercial herd to provide a benchmark for the research and a valuable demonstration data set for the wider farm community. The prime purpose of demonstration farms is to show other farmers what can be achieved, so all demonstration farms need strong farmer engagement and support. Industry support is important, adding critical capability and resource, but farmer drive is necessary. A large part of the development and success of most regional demonstration farms (and often research facilities as well) is the result of passionate farmers committing voluntary time to establish the business case and drive the structure and outcomes of great regional facilities. NZ dairy farmers are fortunate to have a wide range of demonstration and research facilities, spread geographically across the country. They exist because of farmer drive and passion, and with continued farmer drive and engagement, coupled with industry support, will show how good practice can become great performance – demonstrating the combination of management, technology and systems that lift profitability and continually enhance sustainability. As farmers, we are the recipients of demonstration farm outcomes, and therefore they are ours to drive, ours to engage with and ours to use to push good into great.  Ron Pellow is the executive director of the South Island Dairying Development Centre (SIDDC), a partnership between Lincoln University, DairyNZ, Ravensdown, LIC, Plant & Food Research, AgResearch and SIDE (the South Island Dairy Event). SIDDC operates the Lincoln University Dairy Farm on behalf of Lincoln University, supports the demonstration farm activity in Southland and contributed to the former West Coast Demo farm. Ron will be writing on a regular basis in our ongoing Research Wrap column.




Effluent increases the pH of pastures.

Karen Trebilcock @KT_at_Exporter


f you’ve looked at a fertiliser company website, or listened in on a discussion group talking about fertiliser don’t feel bad if you’re confused. N, P, K – what do all these mean and why does your pasture need them? N is nitrogen which is the stuff that makes up almost 80% of the air we breathe. It’s a gas but when it gets oxygen atoms added it becomes nitrites (two oxygen atoms) and nitrates (three oxygen atoms) and combined with hydrogen atoms it becomes ammonia (three hydrogen atoms). Then there is urea which is ammonia combined with carbon dioxide but with a hydrogen atom left behind somewhere. Maybe it’s best not to worry about the chemistry. All you need to know is that when someone is talking about urea, they’re actually talking about nitrogen, or N as it’s also known because that is nitrogen’s chemical symbol on the periodic table, that thing we all learnt about in science at school. If someone says they have put 100 units of N on their farm that means they have spread the equivalent of about 200kg of urea/ha (urea contains 46% nitrogen). Phosphorus, also known as P because that’s its symbol on the periodic table, unlike nitrogen, is hardly ever found just as phosphorus. That’s because it’s highly reactive and, even better, it’s also pyrophoric which is a reasonably cool chemistry term meaning self-igniting. You never knew that about super did you? Super, which is what farmers call it, is superphosphate which is phosphorus which lots of oxygen atoms attached to it which makes it non-pyrophoric somehow and is combined with sulphur because


Fertiliser stored at a depot. sulphur is great for grass growth and has a happy relationship with phosphorus (as in it’s non-explosive). And just when you thought you were getting the hang of all this (and maybe side-tracked by things that may or may not go boom in your fertiliser bin) there is potassium which is known as K. They figured out potassium back about 1800 when they found it in potash (vegetation which they burnt in a pot – pot ash) but decided it would be cool, just to confuse us all in the 21st century, to name it on the periodic table after the neoLatin name Kalium, the symbol P having been taken by phosphorus about 150 years earlier. Potassium in its elemental form is an alkali (where the word Kalium comes from) metal which means it likes to get together with oxygen to form salts such as potassium oxide. If it is not hanging around with a few oxygen atoms, you guessed it, it’s reasonably unstable. And while we are on the subject of things that go boom remember nitrogen, the most stable, common element in the NPK group? Well urea is what Timothy McVeigh used to bomb the Federal Building in Oklahoma in 1995 killing 168 people. Hopefully by now you will have a new

respect for fertilisers and when you are told not to mix them with something don’t do it. Listen to your fertiliser rep. So why are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium the big three in fertiliser and how did we figure it out? Again, forget the chemistry. In their elemental form, NPK are not great for keeping anything alive but hundreds of years ago, even thousands, we figured out that by adding humus, guano (seabird excrement) and wood ash to our fields it made things grow. And guess what – humus, guano and wood ash mostly contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Today nitrogen can be applied as urea, DAP (diammonium phosphate) or in a multitude of different forms all with brand names made up by your fertiliser company. Urea and DAP are highly dissolvable becoming ammonium when it rains. Ammonium (a liquid with four hydrogen atoms) is used by the plant for growth but if it doesn’t rain, urea and DAP turn into ammonia (a gas with three hydrogen atoms) which plants can’t use and it’s lost to the atmosphere which means you’ve spent a whole lot of money and not done a lot for your grass growth. Because of this, fertiliser companies also sell nitrogen fertilisers which are coated

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

With the right fertiliser, this is what your grass should look like.

with urease inhibitors (urease is a soil enzyme which is involved with all of those hydrogen atoms getting added) which makes the N more likely to stay in the soil instead of being lost to the atmosphere. It will cost more but is probably worth it if rain isn’t in the forecast. Nitrogen is the cheapest way to produce something for your stock to eat. It will usually grow grass cheaper than you can buy in feed but, and it’s a big but, nitrogen is the biggest contaminant to waterways from farming. Because it’s so water-soluble it moves through soils quickly, especially when soil temperatures are below 5C and grass is not actively growing and taking it up. Waterways with high nitrogen concentrations have high algae growth and lots of dead fish in them. Nitrogen is a useful farming tool but always use it with caution. Phosphorus is applied as superphosphate, serpentine super (which has magnesium), DAP or a variety of other branded products. It’s important for plants because it’s needed for photosynthesis (how plants use energy from the sun and carbon dioxide from the air to grow). It comes from guano and mineral deposits around the world which is becoming a small problem as the seabird population is not growing as fast as the human population and we’ve almost mined all of the rock. In New Zealand, phosphorus levels in soils have been determined since the 1970s by the Olsen P test which is simply a measurement of how much P is in the soil. The test doesn’t work so well in extremely high or low pH soils so your fertiliser rep when doing soil tests may not use it. Unfarmed land in NZ can have Olsen P levels of 5 to7 and dry stock farms can typically have levels between 15 and 20. Dairy farms tend to have higher Olsen P levels because phosphorus is expensive

and dairy farming usually makes more money than sheep and beef. Applying phosphorous fertilisers to soils with low Olsen Ps will shift the levels much higher than applying it to soils with high Olsen Ps so don’t put it on if you don’t have to. Phosphorus is another baddy when it comes to waterways. RPR is reactive phosphate rock which is a slow-release phosphorous fertiliser and so favoured by organic farming systems. Potassium is applied as potash super, potassium chloride (also known as muriate of potash) or branded products. It’s used by plants for growth and particularly for flowering and maturing. Calcium, Ca on the periodic table, has to be mentioned here as it is needed to keep soils at the correct pH which is 5.8 to 6. A high pH (alkaline) soil or a low pH (acidic) soil stops plants absorbing fertilisers because the processes in the soil, very simply, don’t work as well. Lime, which is calcium with some oxygen and hydrogen atoms added, increases pH. Different fertilisers also affect pH. Nitrogen lowers it and RPR, as well as dairy effluent, raises it. Soil testing by your fertiliser rep, or independently, will show what and how much fertiliser needs to be applied to your farm. Some people also recommend foliage testing, especially for particular nutrients. Lately there has been an emphasis on soil testing each paddock, instead of just taking a few samples across the farm. This will target the amount of fertiliser needed paddock by paddock and will be beneficial if the property has been farmed for some time and silage made in the same paddock every year or different crops grown. Soil types across a farm also have an effect of whether nutrients are used by plants or are lost to waterways. As well, keep an eye on your grasses, especially your clovers, as they are good indicators of how healthy your soils are. Low-fertility soils grow clovers with small leaves, brown top and fescue will dominate pastures on acidic soils. Besides NPK and Ca, lots of other elements are required by plants such as sulphur (S) and magnesium (Mg) and trace elements such as boron (B), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), selenium (Se) and molybdenum (Mo). Specific fertiliser mixes target some of these such as mixes for swedes and turnips which have boron. All of these fertilisers (apart from RPR) can be called chemical fertilisers which is a term that has had lots of bad press. There is research on both sides but in the end you have to figure out a farming system that works for you. Whatever you do, remember you have to put something in to get something out, you can’t make something out of nothing

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


Diammonium phosphate which is known as DAP.

Ballance Agri-nutrients’ SustaiN which is nitrogen fertiliser with the granules coated with an urease inhibitor.


Potassium chloride, also known as muriate of potash, can be grey, white, pink or red depending on its origin.

and although sunshine and water (mostly) come for free to make your grass grow, every day the milk tanker leaves your farm, or the stock truck, they are taking away nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. You have to put it back somehow. 83

DairySolutions Protect the life of your farm assets Finding the time to maintain your property while running a productive farm can be quite a challenge, especially given the wide economic, social and regulatory considerations farming communities also have to meet. However leaving your buildings unmaintained in the face of constant use, weather and time can eventually result in expensive repair or replacement costs. This is where the use of protective coatings can come into play as they do just that, they protect your assets. All surfaces – be they farm buildings, heritage homesteads, silos or signage – can benefit from the preservation protective coatings

offer against harsh weather elements, corrosion and UV degradation. However, as every surface and situation is different, professional assessment is essential to accurately address the exact protection and maintenance needs of your farm to ensure maximised asset durability and lifespan. When looking at your options, particularly in regards to contractors to complete work, make sure they involve you in this assessment process. Look for someone that will discuss all your options with you – including budget – to ensure their specialist advice is able to provide you with simple, yet affordable, solutions for long term durability as well as

aesthetic appeal. Programmed understands that while such coatings can result in significantly lower maintenance costs over time, the initial implementation costs can be expensive. That’s why we’ve developed maintenance programmes with flexible work and repayment options that can even help you avoid large upfront costs. So if protecting and prolonging the life of your farm’s assets is important to you, make maintenance smarter, not harder with a quick chat. More? or 0800 620 911

Dairy volatility presents tax opportunity With the release of the 2017 National Standard Cost (NSC) values for livestock, advisory firm Crowe Horwath says ongoing volatility in the dairy cattle market presents both opportunity and risk in the tax structures for New Zealand’s farmers. Tony Marshall, tax advisory partner in the company’s Dunedin office, also says the gap between the two livestock valuation schemes used for taxation purposes is set to diverge once more after coming to its closest point last year.

“By using standard nationwide averages for the cost of production of an animal, farmers are spared the effort of running a complex calculation on their own, resulting in a considerable compliance cost saving,” Marshall says. The two livestock valuation methods most commonly used are NSC and the Herd Scheme (HS). Valued under HS, Marshall says, movements in livestock value are non-taxable, whereas movements in value under the NSC method are

taxable, either as income or a deduction. Marshall says market shifts mean opportunities for tax optimisation will continue to change. “There is no one-size-fits-all. It is best to discuss individual needs with your tax advisor for the optimal structure for your farm.” More? Tony Marshall, Partner – Agribusiness Specialist, Crowe Horwath, 03-477 5790

SUPPLEMENTARY FEED Maxammon Maize and Maxammon Maize blends • Palm Kernel & blends Barley, Wheat, Maize & Soybean Meal (forward contracts available).

Custom made Dairy Mineral Pellets To join our Palm Kernel Pricing Text Service. Please text your name and area to 027 214 9761 Palm Kernel Pricing Text Service

Intergrain NZ LTD 84 


Call Susanna at Intergrain NZ 0800 244 744

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

Enhancing your soil’s natural capital Very few soil problems are intrinsic – most are due to the depletion or absence of diverse communities of soil microbes. First, soil function is strongly influenced by its structure. In order for soil to be well structured, it must be living. Life in the soil provides the glues and gums that enable soil particles to stick together into pea-sized lumps called aggregates. Well-structured soils with high levels of biological activity are more productive with fewer inputs, less prone to erosion and compaction and function more effectively as bio-filters. Vigorous root systems and relationships with beneficial soil biology are essential for maximising the ability of crop and pasture plants to obtain nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium, magnesium and a wide variety of trace elements including copper, cobalt, zinc, selenium, boron and molybdenum. Many of these elements are essential for animal health as well as plant resistance to pests and diseases. They also confer resilience to climatic extremes such as drought, waterlogging and frost. Plant

function is enhanced when these nutrients are obtained via natural microbial pathways rather than applied in synthetic form. The single biggest onfarm factor to ensure healthy waterways is to have healthy soil. As rules tighten around environmental factors including compromised waterways, farmers need viable onfarm options. One option leading the pack is biostimulants. These are naturally derived farm inputs that are effective in low concentrations and focus on the health and function of the soil. The biostimulant industry worldwide is growing at 12% a year – this growth is driven by a number of factors including science, consumer demand and environmental constraints. One such biostimulant producer

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

encountering significant growth is AgriSea New Zealand Seaweed. AgriSea is an awardwinning family company and is NZ’s leader in biological farm inputs since 1996. Manufacturing both liquid and solid biostimulants, AgriSea have a range of products that can fit into any farm or fertiliser system.   More? Call 0800 SEAWEED.


PROPERTY │ CANTERBURY The farm is irrigated by two RotaRainers and a rain gun.

Ticking the boxes at Leeston A ll the environmental boxes are ticked for consent to farm on a 100-hectare dairy farm near Christchurch that is for sale at $4.875 million. Five kilometres from Leeston, the entirely flat farm has a 23-aside herringbone dairy milking 355 cows which produced 164,563kg milksolids (MS) last season and has extremely reliable irrigation. During development, it was designed for a family to operate easily so they can spend more time with stock and other jobs. One of its biggest assets though, Paul Cunneen from Property Brokers says, is that it “ticks all the boxes” that Environment Canterbury requires to apply for a consent to farm. “Environment Canterbury says it has met all the requirements and the beauty of that is the consents will be in place going forward and you can just get on with the job of farming instead of screeds of paperwork. It takes away any concerns and provides some certainty.” He describes it as a good small farm close to Leeston with town services close by and very tidy to boot. A 21ha lease block is likely to be transferable to a new owner, he says. Reliable irrigation is a real asset to the farm as well; drawing off three reliable bores and fully irrigating the farm via two RotoRainers as well as a rain gun and hose that operate on a 12-day rotation. Between the three bores, the farm can draw 50.4 litres/second with a plentiful annual volume limit of 720,000 cubic metres. In the past two seasons irrigation power costs have been between $27,575 and $33,070 which Cunneen says is inexpensive compared to a number of irrigation schemes. Twenty-two paddocks subdivide the farm, with a central race developed in 2013 capped with lime rock and providing a walk no longer than 1km to the dairy. This is well-maintained and has a Read milking system as well as a rectangular yard for about 380 cows. Effluent from the dairy is well-set-up to take advantage of the nutrients discharged, passing through a wedge before fluids are pumped to a holding tank with 30-days’ storage before being spread by travelling irrigator over 38ha. It results in a nitrogen loading rate of around 56kg N/ha/year, well below the 200kg consented. The consent allows for 400 cows to be milked twice a day through the dairy. An extensive range of shedding provides all the farm’s needs and includes an eight-bay calf shed, hayshed and implement shed. Added to that are three houses ranging from the main home with four bedrooms in landscaped grounds to a three to four-bedroom weatherboard home and an older three-bedroom cottage that is rented. To view the farm visit ID AR53816. For further information contact Paul Cunneen on 03 308 8209 or 027 432 3382.


Infrastructure includes a rectangular yard for 380 cows.

An extensive range of shedding provides all the farm’s needs and includes an eight-bay calf shed, hayshed and implement shed.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

PROPERTY │ NORTHLAND The property is subdivided into 83 paddocks with troughs in each and good limestone internal races connecting them.

Dairy paired with beef unit Running a Northland dairy unit alongside a beef unit has provided flexibility for an operation which has been milking 400 cows, with both units now for sale by negotiation. The 260-hectare dairy unit and 278ha beef unit lie 28km north-east of Whangarei and have been leased in recent times to a farmer who achieved 153,500kg milksolids (MS) last year from 142 effective dairy grazing hectares on the dairy unit plus some land on the beef unit. Stewart Ruddell from Bayleys says both units have been well managed by a good operator and a strong fertiliser history is reflected in the soil tests. “Both units work very well together,” he says. “As a dairy farmer myself, I can see the advantages of having a mixed farming operation like dairy and beef. As in any province, dry conditions do occur from time to time so there is that option to lighten up on the beef farm and use a bit more of that land to extend your dairy grazing platform. “There’s a lot of flexibility in that sort of operation and I think these units are going to become more common in the future in Northland. You can also source beef stock from your own dairy herd.” The dairy unit was farmed as a bull beef unit until its conversion in 1985 and flows over easy-to-rolling contour with some steeper hill and valleys.

The effective area is 192ha, with 142ha used for dairy grazing. Altogether it is subdivided into 83 paddocks with troughs in each and good limestone internal races connecting them and leading to the dairy. The 20-aside herringbone sits near a concrete feed pad for 250 cows, a calving pad and a calf-rearing shed capable of holding 160 calves. The farm also has two implement sheds, a haybarn and palm kernel bin. A stunning home with four large bedrooms was built in 1992 and encompasses an area of 342 square metres, with the bonus of living close

The 20-aside herringbone sits near a concrete feed pad for 250 cows, a calving pad and a calf-rearing shed capable of holding 160 calves. Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

to the popular bays and beaches along Northland’s east coast. Over the fence is the beef unit with a mix of contour that takes it from alluvial flats to higher grazing country. It features a great water source and multiple dwellings, plus the necessary infrastructure to support the beef operation. A strong fertiliser history means the property is consistently productive. Both properties are for sale by negotiation and can be viewed at For further information contact Stewart Ruddell on 09 470 0960 or 027 273 6860.

The dairy unit flows over easy-to-rolling contour with some steeper hill and valleys. 87


The homestead is an impressive two-storied, three-bedroom home.

Sheltered life

IN A FORDELL VALLEY A 400-cow self-contained dairy farm for sale in a gentle valley near Wanganui has the productive attributes of its Taranaki counterparts a little to the north, yet the expectation of better buying. The 129-hectare farm sits in a private valley at Fordell; an area Dean File from Bayleys says is more associated with sheep and beef than dairy, yet has a microclimate that suits dairy production very well. It has been a key factor behind the farm’s solid production which has a threeyear average of 173,271kg milksolids, as well as wintering all the cows and young stock, growing crops and making about 60,000kg DM of grass silage each year. “It’s in quite a unique location in a valley that is generally out of the wind and grows grass. Because it’s quite close to Taranaki, it has some of the attributes production wise that matches Taranaki dairy farms, but the expectation is it will be better buying with farms around the area generally selling between $33,000 and $35,000/ha. “As well as good production, the farm has had continual and significant investment in its infrastructure, including a rotary built in 2015 that is fully automated for one milker.” The well-laid-out farm flows over flat to rolling contour with some steeper hill country and its fertile soils are predominantly Karapoti sandy loam, Ohakea silt loam and Hunterville silt loam. File says the mix of contour works 88 

well for grazing the herd and young stock throughout the year, while good raceways and tracks radiate from the dairy to provide access to all the paddocks. That dairy is an impressive 40-bail rotary complete with the Tru-Test MilkHub automated system which makes it a simple process to manage the 400-cow herd at milking. The rectangular yard with top gate can hold 450 cows easily and has a number of drafting options from the automatic drafting gates. Effluent is stored in a certified clay-lined pond with the capacity for more than 90 days and is spread via travelling irrigator over 45.2ha. This has a consent for 440 cows until 2029. Most of the support buildings are near the dairy, including the implement and

hay storage, calf-rearing facilities and a palm kernel shed capable of storing 50 tonnes that has a sliding roof. Water for the farm, dairy and houses is sourced from two artesian bores, with a pump only required to supply the hill areas. That support area on the hills is split into nine main paddocks, while the milking platform is split into 25 main paddocks. Various trees scattered around the farm provide livestock shelter and are aesthetically pleasing. The owners have also planted significant areas of native trees in selected areas and 5ha is planted in pines. The farm is operated by the owners and a farm manager plus a further assistant and staff are happy to continue working on the property for a new owner. The policy

The 40-bail rotary comes complete with the Tru-Test MilkHub automated system.

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

The well-laid-out farm flows over flat to rolling contour with some steeper hill country. has been to milk up to 440 cows which begin calving from July 14 for the heifers and continue through to the end of May without irrigation. Turnips are grown as a summer crop and fodder beet for winter which has resulted in a good pasturerenewal programme with quality grass species. “Impressive crops of maize, fodder beet and turnips have been successfully grown on the farm,” File says. While the farm makes a good chunk of its own silage, it also buys in about 80,000kg drymatter (DM) and in the past has averaged 193,000kg DM of palm kernel, though that is dropping to about 153,000kg DM this season. The crossbred herd is under contract to Livestock Improvement Corporation

for the use of sire-proving Jersey bulls for six weeks and then followed by shortgestation bulls. Four homes spread around the property provide more than adequate accommodation for the owners and staff, which is why the owners are willing to retain one. “If someone didn’t want all four houses, the owners are prepared to retain one of them, so there’s an opportunity to negotiate that.” The homestead is an impressive twostoried, three-bedroom home that is well laid out and complemented by an outdoor area that includes extensive decks, an allweather tennis court, swimming pool and extensive gardens. A second home is a four-bedroom homestay with the capacity to sleep up

to 10 people, while the third is a fourbedroom manager’s house and the fourth is a three-bedroom staff house. Two adjoining leases of 14ha and 4ha are available to new owners with a formal agreement for the first of $14,000 a year and an informal agreement for the latter of $2140 a year. Offers on the farm close on March 23, if not sold earlier, with the option of purchasing livestock, shares and machinery. There’s also the opportunity of buying part of the property, subject to the sale of the remaining titles - the property has 17 titles. To view the property visit www.bayleys. and for more information contact Dean File on 021 544 364 or Andrew Bonnor on 027 941 7630.

Do you want your farm SOLD? With over 35 years collective experience in dairy farm sales in New Zealand and Australia, Les and Tim could have the solution for the sale of your dairy farm!




Licenced Agent REAA 2008

• What about my herd and stock? • What has been sold lately? • What will it cost me?

0274 420 582

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Your Farm Sales Specialist


• What is my farm worth? • How should I sell it? • Are there any buyers out there?


0274 495 547

Licenced Agent REAA 2008 Trading as By The Lake Realty Limited

Want a farm? Google “NZ Farms” 89


Scale and opportunity AT CLIFDEN A well-converted 202-hectare Southland dairy farm for sale with the potential of adjoining lease land has the scale and opportunity to be self contained. The Clifden property has a target to produce 310,000kg milksolids (MS) this season from 720 cows, make balage and then winter all the stock on the farm and lease land. To achieve that goal, an estimated 250 tonnes of palm kernel and dried distiller grains (DDG) mix will be bought in. Last season it achieved 287,386kg MS from 820 cows with lower inputs. Most of the farm flows over flat-to-easy rolling country, with some steeper sidlings on the western boundary and is split into 30 paddocks with good internal lane access between those paddocks and the 50-bail rotary dairy. It was built in 2009 at the time the farm was converted to dairying and boasts Milfos plant, automatic cup removers, retention bars, in-shed feeding, auto wash, a new chiller unit and a second vat. Leading into the dairy is a 500-cow rectangular yard with a large concrete side yard for drafting. Heading out of the dairy, effluent goes

The property has a target to produce 310,000kg milksolids this season from 720 cows.

The 50-bail rotary dairy was built in 2009 at the time the farm was converted to dairying. through a stone trap to a clay-lined pond before being pumped to paddocks via underground hydrants and spread from a Cobra Gun. Covered yards on the farm have been converted to calf-rearing facilities and support buildings also encompass a workshop, four-bay shed and haybarn. A silage pad beside the dairy has a concrete base. Quality water from a bore is pumped to tanks at the dairy and then reticulated by ring main to two toughs in every paddock. A well-presented three-bedroom brick and roughcast home with recent renovations is the farm’s homestead, while a three-bedroom brick home and a new

self-contained two-bedroom unit provide further accommodation. Adjoining the farm is a 132ha lease block used for milking and supplements. The transfer of the lease will be at the discretion of the lessor. A second lease block of 16ha on the western boundary is also used for milking. John Hay from Southern Wide Real Estate describes it as a very good farm with excellent facilities and potential for further production growth. The farm is for sale at $7.33 million and can be viewed at www.southernwide. ref SWI1772. For further information contact John Hay on 03 218 2795 or 0274 350 138.

Covered yards on the farm have been converted to calf-rearing facilities and support buildings also encompass a workshop, four-bay shed and haybarn. 90 

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017

March Events Take a fresh look … This autumn, take the time to really understand your business, and set up your farm and goals to ensure long-term success. A series of events in the next few months will help you review your business and set a plan. Visit

Discussion Groups Interested in farm systems, reproduction, progression, pasture management, budgeting, people management, or milking smarter? We hold a range of different discussion groups on specialist areas of interest as well as other topical field days and road shows around the country. Find out what’s on near you at or phone your local consulting officer.

What dairy industry events are happening near you? Now there is one place where you can find out what’s on near you! Explore upcoming dairy industry events in your area and keep up to date with the latest learning and networking opportunities. Visit

Change of Address If you’ve shifted farm or changed your supply company, make sure you’ll still receive your copy of Inside Dairy – visit and let us know your new details.

Consulting Officers – Contact Details Northland Regional Leader

Chris Neill

027 499 9021

Far North

Graeme Peter

027 807 9686

Lower Northland

Mark Forsyth

021 242 5719

Whangarei West

Corey Thorn

027 886 0221

Regional Leader

Phil Irvine

027 483 9820

South Auckland

Jamie Haultain

027 486 4344

Hamilton North

Phil Irvine

027 483 9820


Brigitte Ravera

027 807 9685


Phil Irvine

027 483 9820

Hauraki Plains/Coromandel

Annabelle Smart

021 242 2127

Regional Leader

Wade Bell

027 285 9273

Te Awamutu

Stephen Canton

027 475 0918


Michael Booth

027 513 7201

South Waikato

Kirsty Dickins

027 483 2205

Regional Leader

Sharon Morrell

0274 922 907

Western Bay of Plenty

Colin Grainger-Allen

021 225 8345

Central Bay of Plenty

Kevin McKinley

027 288 8238

Central Plateau

Wilma Foster

021 246 2147


Sharon Morrell

0274 922 907

Regional Leader

Katrina Knowles

021 831 944

South Taranaki

Erin Hutchinson

021 246 5663

Central Taranaki

Sarah Payne

027 704 5562

Coastal Taranaki

Michelle Taylor

021 276 5832

North Taranaki

Lauren McEldowney

027 593 4122

Regional Leader

James Muwunganirwa

027 499 9020

Horowhenua/Wanganui/South Taranaki/Southern and Coastal Manawatu

Scott Cameron

027 702 3760


James Muwunganirwa

027 499 9020

Hawkes Bay

Gray Beagley

021 286 4346

Central/Northern Manawatu/Rangitikei

Julie Morris

021 222 9023

North Waikato

South Waikato

Bay of Plenty


Lower North Island

Farmer Information Service – 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 324 7969) Answers to your dairy farming questions are just a phone call away. We can also help you with: • Event information • Industry contacts • Ordering publications and resources.

Top of South Island/Westland Regional Leader

Wade Bell

027 285 9273


Mark Shadwick

021 287 7057

West Coast

Ross Bishop

021 277 2894

Regional Leader

Virginia Serra

021 932 515


Virginia Serra

021 932 515

North Canterbury

Virginia Serra

021 932 515

Mid Canterbury

Stuart Moorhouse

027 513 7200

Central Canterbury

Natalia Benquet

021 287 7059

South Canterbury

Caleb Strowger

027 593 4124

North Otago

Trevor Gee

021 227 6476

Regional Leader

Richard Kyte

021 246 3166

South/West Otago

Guy Michaels

021 615 051

North West/Central Southland

Nicole E Hammond

021 240 8529

North East/Eastern Southland

Liam Carey

027 474 3258

Western Southland

Teresa Anderson

027 702 2219

Southern/Coastal Southland

Nathan Nelson

021 225 6931

Canterbury/North Otago

Southland/South Otago

Dairy Exporter | | March 2017


The most comprehensive Dairy Livestock network in New Zealand.

PGG Wrightson has more than 100 specialist dairy representatives, involved in trading 150,000+ head of dairy livestock annually. We focus on adding value and developing strong relationships with our clients. Our dairy team can facilitate all of your livestock needs: completing herds; surplus cows; weaners, yearling or incalf replacement heifers; in-milk cows; pedigree dairy stock; bobby and feeder calves; cull and boner cows; and service bulls. With a nationwide network, we broker sales on-farm and via private treaty as well as at auction. We offer quality advice in all aspects of livestock selling and purchasing, with a clear understanding of animal evaluation records combined with the practical aspects of dairy farming.

Contact your local PGG Wrightson Dairy Livestock representative today for more information.


Freephone 0800 2466 5463

Helping grow the country

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Dairy Exporter March 2017  
Dairy Exporter March 2017