Tuesday, 13 August 2019 11:55

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Tracy Brown's tweet which set off the conversation. Tracy Brown's tweet which set off the conversation.

Differences are publicly emerging between farmer leaders and DairyNZ over support for the Government’s policies on sustainability.

A lively exchange on Twitter last week underscores differing views on tackling climate change. The exchange at times got personal.

It started when Tracy Brown, chair of DairyNZ’s Dairy Environment Leaders Forum, tweeted a Ministry for Environment proposal on climate change -- on farmers not being charged on the interim for emissions but at the farm level from 2025.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis replied that it wasn’t farmers’ job to promote Government policy to farmers.

“I want the right triggers and policy outcomes that promote a win-win for climate, environment, cows, farmers and Govt. incentivise good outcomes!” he said.

He also questioned whether dairy farmers will pay twice -- for milk and meat.

“We don’t want another 94:6 levy,” he said, referring to the splitting of costs between dairy and beef farmers for eradicating Mycoplasma bovis. 

Some dairy farmers remain unhappy with the deal struck by DairyNZ.

Lewis’ reply triggered DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle to join the fray.

“Err Chris, Tracy not selling govt policy. She’s highlighting that there’s an alternative proposal on the table -- one that has Federated Farmers logo on it -- and she’s encouraging farmers to support us taking a lead ourselves rather than sitting back & having it done to us...” Mackle tweeted.

DairyNZ’s social media-savvy general manager farm performance Vanessa Winning also had a go at Lewis.

“Perhaps that is not helped by some of the fearmongering at the mo Chris? Isn’t it our job (us & all industry leadership) to provide solutions instead of just pushing back? Don’t we want to remain the best in the world? Ireland on the path to 30% - our 10% seems much more doable?”

This prompted Feds sharemilkers chair Richard McIntyre to invite Winning to sit through a few farmer-banker meetings. “Might change your view on this,” he tweeted.

This tweet got Winning going…. “Are you serious Richard? I’m an ex. Banker. I’m also aware of what’s happening with the credit situation given my economics background. Control the controllables, stopping fighting everything so your org can actually support the important things -- like the credit situation, focus.”

McIntyre said he wasn’t trying to offend Winning. He’s aware of Winning’s background and said she understands what is happening.

But Winning wasn’t finished.

“You don’t think I talk with farmers every single day? They pay my wages, I work for them. I attend an event most weeks. I listen and I help when I can. But I don’t believe the earth is flat or wear a tinfoil hat. We evolve and no more so than farmers I work with, you included.”

Lewis declined to comment on the Twitter exchange.

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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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