NZ to pick the brains of its dairy farmers

Nathan Guy
Nathan Guy

The New Zealand government is set to pick the brains of the country’s top dairy farmers in an effort to help those struggling with the low dairy payout. Source: Stuff NZ

A $175,000 study into low cost, high performing farm systems was announced by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy at a dairy forum near Morrinsville on 5 April.

About 20 to 30 innovative farmers have been identified for the study, which will take place over the next nine to 12 months.

The NZ$175,000 has been allocated for an independent provider to make a detailed analysis on the high performing farms successfully operating at NZ$4/kg of milk solids.

The latest forecast price from Fonterra of NZ$3.90/kg MS was well below the NZ$5.20/kg MS most farmers needed to break even financially.

“We need to understand how to perform,” Mr Guy said.

There would be no aid package for farmers, who needed to become more innovative in these tough times, he said.

The focus would be on low input systems, in particular, how to grow more grass more efficiently.

“There’s a whole lot of things that farmers can’t control. What we can do is refocus inside the farm gate,” Mr Guy said.
The information gained from the study would then be shared with farmers through field days.

The funds were part of the NZ$800,000 in last year’s budget put towards the MPI Farming Systems Change program, which looks at ways to boost the performance of farms by learning from the strongest performers.

The forum brought together about 100 farmers and dairy industry representatives, including the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, Rural Support trusts and the New Zealand Bankers Association, who launched a new brochure outlining various support options available for farmers.

The brochure, called Readying the dairy sector for future growth, combining efforts to support farmers, includes information about workshops, financial support and case studies.

The event, which focussed on the outlook for the wider dairy sector and rural support, was held at the Sing family farm in Motumaoho.

Martin Sing said he had seen several downturns in dairy farming during more than 40 years in the industry.

His advice to farmers was to seek help when they needed it and for farmers to do their own budgets.

“I suspect this is not going to be a quick recovery,” he said. “The fact of the matter is the world doesn’t owe us a living, so we’ve just got to make a living with what we’ve got.”