Wednesday, 24 May 2017 14:55

Top dairy woman says industry must ponder its future

Written by  Pam Tipa
Jessie Chan-Dorman. Jessie Chan-Dorman.

A major issue facing the dairy industry is “how much to grow,” says the 2017 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year, Jessie Chan-Dorman.

“What is a sustainable growth aspiration for our industry? [We need to] actually put a stake in the ground about what sustainable growth looks like,” Chan-Dorman told Rural News.

“That conversation [is needed] not just among ourselves but – like it or not – with all the wider parties, the New Zealand public, who have an interest in where the dairy industry is heading.

“We talk about markets and, yes, we need to assure our markets that our products are safe and grown in an environmentally friendly and animal welfare friendly way. That’s true.

“But our bigger challenge at the moment is at home with the NZ public – having an open conversation about what our aspirations are and how we can get there for the good of the whole of NZ.”

Chan-Dorman, a Fonterra shareholders’ councillor, won the coveted Dairy Woman of the Year title earlier this month. She is director of Ashburton Trading Society and is a Fonterra shareholder representing farms in Rakaia. She is also on the Holstein Friesian NZ external affairs committee and a member of the Institute of Directors and New Zealand Asian Leaders.

She has always been broadly in the agriculture sector, but started in desk jobs. She grew up in Palmerston North and graduated in applied science (now called ag science) Massey University, majoring in ruminant nutrition.

Her first job out of school was at the Fonterra research institute (formerly Dairy Research Institute). Declining a suggestion to study food technology she instead chose the animal and biology side of agriculture.

After graduating she worked at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and spent about 10 years in Wellington in desk jobs related to the ag sector such as policy or looking after R&D programmes. Her first job there was in biosecurity with imports and exports of live animals.

She was the chair of the first-ever Wellington Young Farmers Club, there meeting her husband Hayden. They took a sharemilking job in Canterbury eight years ago, introducing her to actually living on a farm. They now lease that 420ha dairy farm in Dorie, near Rakaia, mid Canterbury.

They are both hands-on, running the farm business together, with just under 1000 pedigree Holstein Friesian cows, with split calving and winter milking.

“It is a good challenge for us.”

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