In the lead up to the levy vote in May 2020, our directors and senior managers met with dairy farmers to discuss your big issues and provide an update on what is happening within DairyNZ and in your region.
The 500 farmers who attended 33 meetings nationwide provided valuable feedback which will be used to help prioritise DairyNZ's work in the future.
Questions and answers
Below is a summary of some of the more common questions and answers from those meetings.
How will dairy continue to be profitable and viable? How do we meet the demands of public, government and consumers?
While profitability is still a major driver, we also need to demonstrate that our sector recognises the changing demands of our consumers, our community and the government.
We’re actually in pretty good shape. New Zealand dairy farming is one of the most profitable, lowest cost producers – if we focus on our key competitive advantage of growing good grass. As a pasture-based system, we are also one of the lowest greenhouse gas emitters of dairy sectors in the world.
We are leading in animal care and getting better year on year – we have improved our antibiotic use, pain relief and animal husbandry. We still have work to do with bobby calves and reducing ‘waste’ in the system, but we are working on these.
Farmers have invested significantly in on-farm changes to improve our environment – through fencing, riparian strips, planting and stock exclusion. There is a lot more work also underway – for example, to reduce nitrogen losses. In comparison to some other sectors, we know what our impacts are and how to mitigate them.
At DairyNZ we’re always looking forward and considering what to do to support farmers and develop practical solutions to be used on farm.
We have significant projects underway to provide on-farm options to reduce nitrogen losses and improve water quality, and we are starting a significant new project to provide farmers with options to meet water quality standards and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while remaining profitable.
We are also working on how to measure and more precisely manage inputs, improve winter cropping, test the science behind low nitrogen cows, improve our understanding of wetland/riparian management and trial new milking options (3 in 2 milking). Another project is testing DairyNZ's Forage Value Index (FVI) under realistic farm management conditions. We built the FVI system to give guidance to plant breeders and independent information to farmers. Right now, we’re testing the accuracy of FVI in a farmlet experiment. The rate of gain in plant breeding (measured by FVI) is going to be enhanced by new technologies that were still in development 10 years ago.
We’ve made great progress on our dairy footprint – Pastoral21 has shown that by reducing N surplus and using off-pasture infrastructure at key times, we reduced N leaching by 30-40% in all regions of New Zealand. Recent work in the Forages for Reduce Nitrate Leaching research has given us more options with plantain, fodder beet and cover crops reducing N loss while maintaining an outdoor grazing system. Research into winter cropping also proved that a bundle of good management practises can reduce sediment loss by up to 80%.
How do you decide which projects to fund?
The Dairy Tomorrow strategy guides our investments, with the DairyNZ board overseeing funding decisions. Farmers and stakeholders helped us develop Dairy Tomorrow and they also help guide our investments through regional plan engagement, project reference groups and levy meetings.
Our investment strategy delivers on our Dairy Tomorrow commitments and it’s approved by our Board.
Our team works with providers to identify projects which will deliver the strategy outcomes. We look for opportunities to access other funding to deliver better value to farmers, which often means we co-invest. Robust auditing is in place to monitor investments.
An independent economic evaluation was completed on around half of DairyNZ’s investments in key areas over the past five years. This found that these investments were having a real impact on farmers by helping increase profits, reduce costs, reduce deaths and injuries, and provide better efficiencies. There were also anticipated future benefits from lower tariffs and taxes.
We also regularly receive ideas for new projects and we consider how well these will deliver on the strategy outcomes farmers want, when compared to other projects.
What is DairyNZ doing to share all the good work that’s taking place on farms?
We are constantly sharing the great work taking place on farm. It underpins much of our story-telling to media, how we respond to enquiries and how we profile farmers in general. We have created a website for media, so they can easily access a range of positive stories – check out www.dairynznewslink.co.nz.
DairyNZ’s The Vision is Clear movement launched in 2018 to inspire all Kiwis to get involved in looking after New Zealand’s rivers, streams, lakes and beaches. It shares the great work underway on dairy farms and in communities to improve waterways. Over 300,000 people have visited The Vision is Clear online hub in the first year and there have been over 5 million video views (including on social media).
And the movement is having an impact, with survey results showing the public are becoming more aware of the work dairy farmers are doing to improve water quality and the environment, and more people now agree it’s everyone’s responsibility to look after our waterways.
Finally, we couldn’t do this without great stories to share and authentic story-tellers. Our Dairy Environment Leaders play a key role in sharing with their local communities the on-farm work going on to protect our environment. DairyNZ has also produced guides (on social media, story-telling and how to tell a story with a great photo) to help farmers share their stories and these are available for all farmers. Farmers are also really stepping up on social media.
What are you doing to help attract people into dairy and to help farmers develop their skills?
We introduce kids to dairy early, as a career option. Over the past year, more than 40,000 children learnt about dairying through DairyNZ's Education Programme which saw 1000 educational kits distributed to teachers and 800 schools visited. With the help of DairyNZ’s transport subsidy, more than 5300 children also visited one of 60 host dairy farms.
We are also working with farmers to create great working environments on-farm, which will be attractive to people looking at dairy as a career option. This project brings researchers, experts and farmers together to design great dairy workplaces suited to 2030 and beyond. We are also actively working with farmers and the government to represent dairy farmers’ views on immigration policy and on changes to vocational training.
We offer a wide variety of training to farmers and farm staff. We are working on a primary sector skills system to deliver future-focused training to meet the needs of farmers and their team.
How is biosecurity funded?
TB and biosecurity control makes up around 24% of your levy.
Farmers must contribute towards TB control under government regulations. DairyNZ is looking at ways to streamline the way the TB control is paid, so it’s more transparent. It’s currently done in two ways – through the DairyNZ levy and through a levy on beef and dairy cattle at the meat processing plants.
There is also a separate Biosecurity Response Levy, introduced in September. This goes to MPI to fund the dairy share of the Mycoplasma bovis response. The levy is administered by dairy supply companies and shows as a ‘Biosecurity Response Levy’ on milk statements.
If DairyNZ didn’t exist, dairy farmers would still have to pay this biosecurity levy but would have less say over how it is spent.
With the government putting forward so many new policies, what is DairyNZ doing to support farmers? Are you doing enough to fight for farmers?
We are proud of how we are working together with farmers to provide dairy with a strong voice. This draws on credible science and analysis to clearly show the government how proposed changes would affect farms and communities.
One example is the recent Essential Freshwater consultation where we fought hard to represent our farmers. Our scientists, economists and policy team developed a strong submission modelling the farm level and economic impacts of the proposals. We had record turnout of over 2100 farmers and rural professionals at the 40 events we hosted or presented at.
Farmers put in the hard yards attending meetings and making submissions, despite it being a busy time of year. The government has received 18,000 submissions – many of these from dairy farmers. We’re already hearing there will be changes to government’s proposals.
Together with our primary sector partners, we have successfully put forward a different framework for farmers to the Emissions Trading Scheme (He waka eke noa). DairyNZ, Fonterra and the government have also undertaken work to trial emission reduction options on several farms in New Zealand, and to upskill rural professionals in emission mitigation and offsetting options.
We also fought on behalf of farmers on tax changes. Many farmers and DairyNZ made strong submissions on this and we saw the government decide not to introduce new capital gains and environmental taxes, which was a major win for farmers.
DairyNZ works hard to build relationships with the government across many areas. This gives us good opportunities to have input as new policies are developed and presenting farmers’ views.
Our team continues to work to achieve sensible and achievable rules in regional council plans. With the implementation of Essential Freshwater planned to occur through changes to regional plans, this work will become even more important over the next five years.
If you couldn’t get to these meetings or attended but still have some burning issues/questions/ideas/feedback for us, use the form below.