Tuesday, 23 June 2020 09:31

The challenges ahead for dairy

Written by  Peter Burke
Milk payout this season will be under stress, says MPI. Milk payout this season will be under stress, says MPI.

A Ministry of Primary Industries report says the 2020-21 season payout won’t be as high as last season.

It says Covid-19 has impacted the dairy sector around logistics and supply channel disruptions.

However, it notes that despite the recent fall in commodity prices, dairy companies had contracted a high proportion of milk from last season at good prices and this helped. 

But the outlook for the coming season is not good with markets signalling a 14% fall in farm gate prices. 

It says the current range sits between $5.60 and $6.50/kgMS which will be close to, and in some cases below, break-even levels of profitability.

“It has the potential to undermine the financial viability of some marginal and highly indebted farm businesses,” says the report.

The report flags the potential of the drought and shortage of feed as being a factor, but points to concerns around protectionist and subsidised dairying in the US and the European Union. 

It notes that if there is a flood of subsided dairy products on the global market this could add to the volatility and weakening of the dairy market which will impact on New Zealand.

Overall the report is stating what one might expect in the Covid-19 environment. Uncertainty in many areas and questions being asked about whether some trends, such as consumer preferences, will remain once life returns to whatever normal there will be in the future.

The report flags uncertainty and challenges ahead, mostly related to Covid-19.

The good news is that in the past year to the end of June, revenue from primary exports will be up by $1.7 billion on the previous year, helped significantly by dairy exports which were up $512 million from the start of March. 

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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