DairyNZ was established when farmers voted to merge Dairy InSight and Dexcel, the two industry-good organisations that replaced the Dairy Board when Fonterra was established in 2001. The building blocks from these two organisations – dairy farm systems, scientific research and extension – have enabled our industry to remain the most internationally competitive producer of milk and milk products.
Over the last decade, three areas of significance have emerged for the dairy sector.
As dairying has provided the best returns from much of New Zealand’s arable and pastoral land, it has created some challenges in the environmental space. Some of these challenges have arisen as a result of sector growth – from intensification of dairying and its expansion into non-traditional dairy land – and some from improved awareness and knowledge of water quality and climate change.
As a result, DairyNZ now employs one of the best groups of water quality scientists in New Zealand and has become highly proactive through research, development and implementation of systems on-farm. DairyNZ also works with regional councils to meet regulatory requirements and to keep farmers informed on how plan changes will affect their businesses.
Understanding farm economics
New Zealand’s dairy sector has realised the importance of understanding on-farm economics and now has a world-leading team of economists specialising in this area. Governments need to understand the economic implications of legislative and regulatory changes, and the dairy sector is now able to provide well-informed comment. Our sector represents around a third of this country’s merchandise exports and, accordingly, is a key driver of Kiwi living standards.
Education and extension
DairyNZ has taken a leading role to ensure that agriculture and food production – New Zealand’s competitive advantage – become a core part of our education system. From Rosie the Cow’s teaching materials for primary schools to working with Primary ITO and creating university and agricultural hubs around the country, DairyNZ has been actively involved.
Our farmers should feel proud of the leadership provided by DairyNZ, in conjunction with our milk processors and marketers. The milk we produce continues to meet the high international standards required in an increasingly interconnected world of ‘value add’ foodstuffs, social media, e-commerce and globalisation.
Full credit to the DairyNZ team ably led by Tim Mackle and his senior management team, and the DairyNZ Board that’s well led by Michael Spaans. Congratulations on your first decade.
Cooperation, research, innovation and talent are some of the keys to the future of dairying, writes DairyNZ chair Michael Spaans
As a sector, our priorities have always been to look after our environment, while ensuring our farms are profitable today and into the future. We are also increasing our focus on gaining community acceptance – something that is highly topical.
Dairy’s Industry Strategy, which is being refreshed and launched later this month, has been developed with our partners Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand and the Dairy Women’s Network. The strategy is crucial to provide a future-focused view for the long-term success of dairy farming.
Today, nearly everything DairyNZ does involves other stakeholders and partners, including scientists, researchers, the Government, educators, regional councils and processors. Put simply, the dairy sector and DairyNZ cannot function alone; we need to continue engaging at a political, policy, business and, perhaps most importantly, community level. We have some big aspirations as a sector, and I do not underestimate the job ahead of us.
An evolving industry
Farmers will not only look to their own farms, but increasingly look to their processors to extract more value from the marketplace. We have already seen an impressive evolution onfarm as many farmers embrace technology and science to drive better efficiencies and environmental outcomes. We are a highly adaptive sector – something we should all be proud of.
DairyNZ, as custodians of the Industry Strategy, will continue to push for progress, technology and innovative solutions. This year we are looking at new approaches to reducing nitrate leaching, which is one of several key research projects. Fodder beet and plantain are emerging as good feed options to reduce nitrogen (N) loss. The potential to select cows with lower urinary N output has been raised and research planning is underway to test this hypothesis. We are also investing in producing hybrid ryegrasses that will support greater feed efficiency on-farm.
Future challenges and opportunities
Some of our future challenges will be the same as those we face now – community acceptance, improved efficiency, more productive pastures and animals, and retaining our global competitive advantage. Bigger challenges will include customers’ growing expectations of farm practices; the accelerating changes in technology and what that means for farmers; and the rise of meat and dairy alternatives with less environmental impact. It’s exciting to consider where we might be in the future, and the cutting-edge innovation and science that will help us get there.
The New Zealand dairy sector is truly united and with DairyNZ’s continued primary focus on the success of dairy farmers, we believe we have the best competitive advantage.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy November 2017