China's Covid lockdowns are impacting on New Zealand agriculture, according to Rabobank.
The agritech and herd improvement company says the current outbreak has hit right at the busiest and most important time of the year on farm.
However chief executive Wayne McNee says the demand for dairy doesn’t stop, and farmers particularly those in the North Island, have shown resilience during this critical time.
The dairy farming spring mating season runs from September through to December. This is when most of the country’s farmers utilise LIC’s services to get their cows in-calf to high quality genetics. The farmer owned co-operative is responsible for siring about 75% of the national herd.
During mating season, LIC collects, processes and despatches thousands of straws for artificial insemination (AI) each day, while also testing for animal health, milk quality and DNA parentage.
On its busiest day, 31 October, the co-operative despatched 115,000 straws to artificial breeding (AB) technicians around the country.
“September through to Christmas is a hugely important time for delivering genetic improvement on-farm. Farmers need to get their cows in-calf and the majority of them rely on LIC to do that job, so it’s really critical we continue to deliver to farmers,” says McNee.
“We are fortunate that many of our services are deemed essential – but that also comes with a big responsibility to keep farmers and our staff safe.”
LIC’s workforce almost triples to 2,000 people nationwide to deliver its AB, herd testing and diagnostic services, with most of its seasonal staff working in its facilities and labs in Hamilton.
Prior to the August lockdown, LIC had already planned to be operating very differently with staff wearing PPE in laboratories to mitigate the risk of Covid-19.
Under Alert Level 4, LIC quickly implemented heightened safety protocols for all areas. With the co-op’s head office and main laboratories then located within the Waikato Level 3 boundary, all non-essential staff continued to work from home.
“Our staff have been great at adapting to working in a different way during their busiest operational period,” McNee says.
LIC staff are also being encouraged and supported to get vaccinated and those who are fully vaccinated by 10 December will be paid a $150 bonus.
LIC says it was well equipped to pivot the business and protect its services for farmers after implementing health and safety measures against Mycoplasma bovis since 2018.