Day 1: Introductions to New Zealand dairy

The tour group has arrived in New Zealand safe and sound after an early morning start. We touched down in Christchurch and headed straight to the Dairy NZ office in Lincoln.

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There we got a run down of the New Zealand dairy industry, hearing from Virginia Serra regional leader for the Canterbury/north Otago regions.

Surprisingly key issues in NZ are quite similar to those we face in Australia, although water quality and quantity is at the top of the list. Environmental concerns seems to be a major constrictor to growth here in NZ. The industry is facing similar issues with people availability and capability, and the ageing population.

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The growth in the South Island has been phenomenal over the last decade with the South Island now producing 40 percent of New Zealand’s milk and this share continues to grow. This has come largely from conversions from sheep farms. The water availability and cheap land were large contributing factors to this growth.

In NZ average herd size is 402 cows (although much larger in the South Island), average farm size is 141 hectares, and three cows per hectare is the average stocking rate.

It was interesting to hear that production costs have increased significantly since 2007-08 with farm systems becoming more input dependent. The worrying side to this is the current milk price volatility (dropped from $8.40 to $4.70 in the last year) and dry seasonal conditions.

Looking forward to getting out on farm in the next couple of days and the demo farm tomorrow.

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