It was a great day for Fonterra at this year’s virtual 2020 NZ Cheese Awards.
The label ‘role model’ tends to be applied liberally in New Zealand, often to sports people whose achievements seem to merit this status.
Some go feral, turning their sponsors’ dreams into nightmares.
But that’s unlikely to afflict a standout winner in this year’s NZ Dairy Industry Awards. These brought to light a Taranaki dairy farming family whose legacy will surely endure. The title of ‘role model’ applies to them in spades.
Damian and Jane Roper, who live and farm at Alton, are quiet, thinking, hard working, modest individuals with ambitious goals they are now realising. And they don’t plan to stop any time soon.
The Ropers won the 2019 Fonterra Responsible Dairying Awards, receiving the newly created John Wilson Memorial Trophy. This was presented by Belinda Wilson, wife of the late John Wilson, a former Fonterra chairman who championed sustainable farming.
Ropers’ 148ha dairy farm is in every sense of the word a model farm. They live and give real meaning to the word sustainability. They are not rabid greenies, just ordinary smart individuals who show that achieving high environmental standards does not conflict with running a profitable farming business.
They have cut their cow numbers by about a fifth yet their profitability has increased by nearly 30% and the amount of milk solids produced per cow each year has gone from 400kgMS to 585kgMS.
What does that say? It says too many cows in NZ are either underfed or unable to perform as they ought.
Too often farmers blindly skite about the number of cows and the milk solids they produce but seldom disclose their true profit.
How many farmers say they can’t do things about the environment because of the cost? You won’t hear this from Damian and Jane Roper. They say doing what they have done is not expensive and the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Actions will always speak louder than words. Stories like the Ropers’ should be up in lights and the industry organisations should throw serious cash at promoting such role models.