What does your team do and why?
Our technicians and scientists operate a group of laboratories at two sites in Hamilton – Newstead’s main office and its nearby Lye Farm. The data we collect and the analysis we do is the foundation for DairyNZ’s research and its research with partner organisations like AgResearch and Fonterra.
Tell us something interesting about your team.
In much of our work, we use unique procedures developed right here by DairyNZ, and our team has created quite a few novel approaches that are now available commercially. One unusual one-off task (fully-funded by Hamilton Zoo) saw us analysing rhino milk! Interestingly enough, it was very high in lactose but low in fat – not what we expected.
What research do you do and how is it used?
At Newstead we have a lab for DairyNZ research farms to analyse and prepare milk samples for sending out to sub-contracted labs. Our milk composition calibrations have been developed by DairyNZ, and allow us to factor in a much greater range of things affecting the milk’s composition, e.g. variables like breed of cows, days in milk, stage of lactation, feed type/ volume eaten and region. These calibrations are important in providing accurate milk composition, data for research.
We also have a biochemistry and immunology lab focusing on feed intake, fertility, nutrition, mastitis and animal welfare. Lye Farm’s labs research pasture, plants and soil and carry out work on bacteriology and mastitis research.
What do people think of your work?
DairyNZ’s research work is well-respected within the science world and our sector. However, when our work comes up in conversation elsewhere, reactions range from interest to disgust, as we’re often elbow-deep in faeces and urine samples. Apparently, rumen-sampling is particularly hard to ‘stomach’: it produces extremely strong-smelling stuff which soaks into the skin. I don’t advise a supermarket visit on the way home after that – although it does tend to clear a path, making queue jumping much easier.
What’s something your team is proud of achieving in the past 12 months?
Lately we’ve been researching the percentage of plantain in cows’ diets and its relation to the amount of nitrogen (N) produced in cows’ urine. The aim is to reduce urine N so less enters the soil. This work included analysing 7500 litres of urine and 9500 kilograms of faeces, all of which had to be subsampled twice (with some being freeze-dried), plus looking at the urea content in the milk.
Overall, we’re just proud to be producing high-integrity, reliable, evidence-based work. We’re always asking ourselves, ‘What’s the benefit of this to New Zealand farmers?’, and we’re always looking for environmental benefits too – that’s very satisfying.
How can farmers get in touch with your team?
Talk to your consulting officer, or see dairynz.co.nz/contacts
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy September 2018