About 200 dairy farmers and supporters gathered to celebrate the opening of the cutting-edge research and demonstration farm near Invercargill.
Dairy contributes $750 million to the Southland economy and makes up 20 percent of jobs in the region, according to a report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.
Southland and South Otago farmers and businesses have invested $1.25 million in the hub through the Southern Dairy Development Trust, and principal shareholders DairyNZ and AgResearch have invested $5 million each.
Conversion of the 349-hectare property began in November last year and the hub is now in operation, and research underway.
Southern Dairy Hub chair Maurice Hardie says the opening is an important milestone for the region, and New Zealand.
“Carrying out research in the southern region’s climate and soil types will be invaluable. We’re excited that research is now underway to drive better farming practices, environmental initiatives and increased efficiency on farm.”
The first research trial is comparing the feed regimes of cows on fodder beet with those on kale.
Research to validate DairyNZ’s Forage Value Index (FVI), a ranking system for ryegrass cultivars, has also started. The study will compare the performance of high and low FVI ranked perennial ryegrass cultivars under realistic dairy farm management conditions. The pastures have been sown and measurements will begin in spring.
DairyNZ chief executive, Dr Tim Mackle, says Southland and Otago are very important regions for dairying.
“DairyNZ is investing in the Hub to help dairy farmers and communities identify the best options for profitable, competitive, and sustainable dairying. The future is all about fixing real challenges with real solutions, and that’s where the science at the Southern Dairy Hub is crucial.”
AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson says the Hub will be part of a network of high quality new science facilities across New Zealand that support the land-based industries. AgResearch is also investing in new joint facilities with partners in Lincoln and Palmerston North, while maintaining its important presence at its Invermay campus near Mosgiel.
“We looked at the map and saw a gap in our capability in the deep south, and the huge benefits that permanent, purpose-built research facilities in southern conditions could provide. Working alongside local farmers also makes good sense so that the scientists are doing research that is relevant to the local needs.”
“With the challenge of growing the value of New Zealand’s agricultural exports, while preserving and enhancing the environments we farm in, there has never been a greater need to invest in quality science. That’s what we will see here at the Southern Dairy Hub, and other new facilities.”
The next phase of development at the Hub is an agri-business centre to provide facilities for training, education, and farmer events, as well as office spaces. A sponsor is being sought.
For more information on the Southern Dairy Hub visit: www.southerndairyhub.co.nz.
Southern Dairy Hub Q&As
What is the Southern Dairy Hub? A research and demonstration farm that will allow farmer-led and local issues to be researched on southern soils, in southern conditions.
How did it come about? It was established in response to Southland and Otago farmers wanting dairy challenges in the region to be addressed through local research and demonstration.
Where is it located? Makarewa, just north of Invercargill.
How big is the hub, and why does it need to be so large? 349ha. It is important the research is of sufficient scale to deliver robust results relevant to local farmers and provides for both wintering on farm and replacements to be carried.
When did conversion begin? November last year.
Is research underway? Yes, the first research trials are comparing the feed regimes of cows on fodder beet with those on kale. Research to validate DairyNZ’s Forage Value Index, a ranking system for ryegrass cultivars, is also due to begin this spring.
How many cows will be on farm? For the 2017/18 season 640 cows split into four different herds (one used as a control) to enable comparative research trials.
When did the farm become operational? The hub effectively became a working farm from 1 June, and calving is due to start 15 July.
How much did it cost to establish? At this stage to set-up the hub and purchase stock it has cost approximately $19.5 million.
Who funded the hub? The principal shareholders, DairyNZ and AgResearch, each invested $5 million, while through the Southern Dairy Development Trust (SDDT) local farmers and businesses added a further $1.25 million. Manageable debt has funded the balance.
What research will the hub focus on? The hub will compare and test new farm system options particularly around wintering, and nitrogen leaching levels across different forages and supplementary feeds.
Who determines the research topics? A research advisory committee made up of southern farmers and principal partner representatives. The committee assesses proposals to ensure objectivity, relevance, and applicability for southern farmers.
Will the hub involve the community? Yes, open days and education days will be held at the hub to inform the community about the research happening at the hub.
027 749 7857
External Communications Manager
021 832 351 / 03 321 8612