We had a leisurely start to our first full day in New Zealand. The conversations had over breakfast set us up for a great day of curiosity and learning. It is absolutely amazing to be involved with a group of young people who are so passionate about our industry and who have such a deep understanding of some of the major challenges facing our industry.
First stop on the agenda was Rakaia Island. Here we spoke to Dave Turner about he and his brother Doug’s 5000 cow operation. He was so open about the businesses’ journey to the position it is in now, as well as what the future looks like for them. Establishing in 1980 share farming with just 30 cows, Dave and Doug now own 3800 ha over two sites and employ 60 people. Dave’s story was absolutely inspirational. Dave also spoke to us about sucession planning, diversification, and risk management to protect the future of their business. It was also very interesting to see how proactive Rakaia Island is being getting all of the cousins very involved in the decison making process of the business.
After a quick farm tour, we made our way to the Lincoln University research farm. Over lunch, we spoke with Natalia Benquet who is part of the extension team at Dairy NZ. In her role, the main goal is to improve engagement from farmers with current research, policy changes and other critical information which affects the dairy industry in New Zealand. Within her role, Natalia also works closely with Lincoln University to undergo trials in relation to current issues. On the farm we saw trials related to 100% pasture based systems, pre grazing mowing, and effluent management. Of particular interest was the environmental research being conducted as a result of the governement regulating that on farm environmental impact needs to be reduced by 30% by the year 2022. Specifically, their contamination of waterways through leaching and runoff of nutrients. This is an area which I believe Australia can really look to New Zealand and start being proactive in our approach to understanding our environmental footprint.
This afternoon, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Juliette, Renee and David from the dairy processor Synlait. The four product markets that Synlait manufacture for are ingredients, infant formula, everyday dairy, and adult nutrition. Their vision is to be ‘the worlds most trusted and innovative dairy company.’
The most interesting part of this visit was learning about their milk line which promotes industry best practice, ‘lead with pride.’ Milk produced under this name gets paid an incentive to follow strict guidelines. Farmers are required to document EVERYTHING from soil moisture, to handling of livestock precedures, to staff rosters. Strict staff training for specific roles is also essential to be accredited with ‘lead with pride.’ This was really interesting for us to see that there are companies out there who are rewarding farmers for putting best practice at the forefront of their thinking. After a short factory tour it was time for tea and an early night ready for another big day ahead of us.