Work is underway to convert a site - at Makarewa, just north of Invercargill - from a sheep and beef farm into a working dairy farm and research centre.
The Southern Dairy Hub will allow farmer-led and local issues to be researched on southern soils, in southern conditions. It will deliver innovative, industry-led agricultural research and education opportunities.
Conversion work kicked off last November and is due for completion in May this year. The facility will include a farm dairy, research office, storage facilities, barns, and staff housing. Farm roads and races, fencing and an effluent system are also being built.
The Hub’s principal shareholders are DairyNZ and AgResearch, which have each invested $5 million, while local farmers and businesses have added $1.25 million through the Southern Dairy Development Trust.
Hub chair Maurice Hardie says dairying is a significant industry in Southland and Otago, with the forecast for milk production in the current season to be worth about $1.9 billion gross.
“With dairying playing such a major role in the region’s economy, it’s essential that dairy challenges and opportunities be addressed through local research and demonstration,” he says.
“The journey to bring about the Hub began four years ago when, with the support of DairyNZ, local farmers brought together a group of like-minded people to firstly build a business case, then secure investment. We then purchased suitable land, which was settled on November 1 last year.”
DairyNZ’s strategy and investment leader Dr Bruce Thorrold says the Hub is a key project for DairyNZ and southern region farmers will gain great value from it.
“Research will compare and test new theories and innovation, including environmental management, wintering options and effluent,” he says.
“Farm systems will also be compared and current programmes, such as the Forage Value Index, will be tested and validated in local conditions to produce local data.”
Dr Thorrold chairs the Hub’s research advisory committee, which consists of two AgResearch scientists, two DairyNZ scientists (including Dr Thorrold) and two southern farmers.
The 349-hectare farm will be operational in the new season. It will be self-contained for wintering and young stock, allowing for research across the whole system.
It’s designed to run up to four 200-cow herds, with one used as the control to demonstrate top commercial performance, and 640 cows to be milked in the coming 2017-2018 season.
An agri-business centre will also be built in the future (once funding is gained), providing offices and facilities for training, education, and extension activities.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy March 2017