The recent outbreak of Mycoplasma bovis in South Canterbury has come as a shock to all dairy farmers. It is a disease that most New Zealand farmers had never heard of.
Regardless of whether or not the current outbreak can be contained, and the disease then eradicated, the ongoing risks from Mycoplasma bovis are going to have a big effect on the New Zealand dairy industry. Continue reading
A key and consistent message over many years from DairyNZ to its 12,000 farmer members has been the importance of optimising the use of grass. Aligned to this, has been an ongoing negativity to non-pasture supplementation.
I know of no-one who disputes the ongoing importance of grass to the New Zealand dairy industry. However, there are many who would argue – and I am one of them – that DairyNZ has become blinkered to the opportunities that can arise from ‘pasture-plus’ dairy systems.
Ironically, despite the DairyNZ focus, there has been a steady drift by farmers to increasing use of supplement since the turn of the century, typically by matching stocking rate to peak pasture production and then feeding supplements in the shoulder seasons. Continue reading
The attached article NZH_Agribusiness_July2017_4 was commissioned by The New Zealand Herald and published 20 July 2017 within their annual Agribusiness Supplement.
The NZ Herald is the main Auckland newspaper. Accordingly, the article was written for a largely urban audience. Continue reading
Here in New Zealand, we live the notion that milk from grass-fed cows is superior to milk from cows fed other rations. Supposedly it is better for health. And supposedly the cows are happier if they can dance around in the sunshine doing what comes naturally. And supposedly it makes us more cost-efficient than our international competitors.
There is an element of truth to all of the above notions. But more often than not there is lots of myth intertwined with truth. Here, I want to tease out what is truth, what is myth, what depends on specific context, and some things that are still unknown. Continue reading
There was a time, long ago, when the New Zealand dairy industry was built around production of butter and cheese. In contrast, over time, and particularly the last 20 years, the New Zealand industry has become focused on large-scale spray drying of milk to produce commodity whole-milk powder.
The reason why New Zealand has become so focused on production of whole-milk powder is easy to explain. For most of the last 20 years, and given New Zealand’s focus on increasing production, together with seasonal production with its high peak-processing demand, then whole-milk powder is where the easy money lay. Continue reading
In early June, I made a quick trip to Taranaki to talk to the Rural Business Network, which is a mix of farmers and rural professionals. For me, the trip brought back many memories.
As a South Islander for much of my life, it was wonderful to see the lush green grass growing nicely even in winter, and to be reminded of the benefits of free-draining volcanic soils. And then to look up to snowclad Mt Taranaki, which was the very first mountain of any significance that I climbed while still a schoolboy.
Dairy and Mt Taranaki
In late May, I was in Holland with colleagues from Calder Stewart as part of a self-education project on hybrid dairy systems. These systems involve 12-month production of milk from the combination of grazing and off-paddock systems.
One of the first lessons we learned is that many Dutch cows graze below sea level. The north-western half of Holland is almost totally below sea level apart from artificial man-made structures called polders. In these regions, the pastures lie three to five metres below sea level. There is an English saying that God made the earth, but the Dutch made Holland. Continue reading