Wednesday, 26 August 2015 14:00

Precious grass

Written by 

The dairy industry’s ongoing volatility coupled with a cold wet winter in many parts of the country has highlighted the real value of New Zealand’s pasture based system.

This has always been a hallmark of this country and our scientists and plant breeders have done a tremendous job developing new varieties of grass and management systems to get the maximum benefit from these.

But it could be argued that dairy farmers have been a bit complacent about their pastures as relatively comfortable payouts  have led farmers down the track of so-called supplements. 

DairyNZ’s one-on-one assessment of how farmers are managing their pastures shows only 30% have got it right and the rest are off track or terribly off track.

While some farmers can look at a paddock and accurately estimate how much feed they have, many can’t. 

The dairy industry after this downturn will be very different and the difference between profitable and unprofitable farming will come down to a series of small gains in cost saving and production. Hard data will make that difference as successful farmers have shown for years.

But the pack has to catch up with the leaders and take advantage of technology in all its forms. There will need to a strong focus on profitability and less on boasting about production. There may be fewer cows in the dairy industry but milk production may not drop. Look no further than the sheep industry which could frankly teach dairy farmers a thing or two about efficiency.

Professor Hamish Gow, Massey University, is right when he says the dairy industry has been living on borrowed time with its expectations and cost models. Saying goodbye to some of the euphoria around dairy will be good and hopefully a much stronger industry will emerge.

The best recent example is the kiwifruit industry. Vine-killing disease Psa was in some ways the best thing that happened to that sector because it got orchardists to look really hard at their businesses and be more hands-on and profit focused. 

This downturn (not crisis) in the dairy may be a blessing in disguise.

The AB’s loss in Sydney was not a disaster, it was a motivation to do better and they did. That hopefully will win the World Cup.  


More like this

Tiller Talk promotes pasture

Northland ‘Tiller Talk’ farmers Don and Kirsten Watson took a leap into farm ownership in 2017-18, moving to South Head (Kaipara Harbour Edge). 

Contractor lands zoo feed deal

Manawatu agricultural contractor Mike Hancock is helping to feed some of the world’s most stunning and endangered animals.

Rain watch on the Coast

A few minutes can make all the difference to saving or losing a paddock to pugging on a West Coast dairy farm. 


» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Toxic loan?

More questions are being asked about the Government’s contentious $10 million loan to Westland.

Moo love on the net

Cows and bulls searching for ‘moo love’ now have a mobile app to help their breeders.


» Connect with Dairy News