Home' NZ Dairy Farmer : September 2013 Contents The Dairyman September 2013 43
TRADITIONAL dairy farms, as we
know them (100 per cent pasture-
based and 100 per cent outside), may
soon be a thing of the past. Then again,
it is unlikely we will see a 100 per cent
replacement to housed cows systems.
What is likely to happen is that we will
see some farms staying as they are or
maybe a bit more extensive, fewer cows
per hectare and/or once-a-day milking.
Another level of farms, particularly
those in sensitive catchments, may be
going hybrid --- ''best of grass, outside
when you can, inside when you have
to'' --- and within this system, create solid
efficiencies and gains.
And third level of farms where we will
see lactating cows being predominantly off
pasture, and being fed well (likely robot
milked). Under this model, the environ-
ment is controlled; the latter likely in feed
rich areas like Canterbury and North
What is driving this change? Are we not
tinkering with what some regard as ''our
competitive advantage'' and destroy the
Well, what was our competitive advan-
tage may be a bit compromised by the
fact that the environment has been left out
of the competitive loop. In other words,
if you do not consider the environment
and keep doing what we have done and
pretend it will never change may be a bit
like having your head in the sand.
What else is happening in the (back-
ground ) though is the following:
Freshwater --- National reforms in
freshwater management, and what this
could mean for some catchments, will
inevitably drive a change in how we do
things. Freshwater quality is under the
loop, not just in New Zealand, but glob-
ally. The EU's proposed policy on fresh-
A glimpse at dairy farms of the future
water is far-reaching, and by its proposed
standards, we are only just starting to
Nitrogen leaching standards --- No
one likes hearing this but work around
10-20kg N per hectare could provide a
good reality check and measure of where
your potential ''land liability'' is. All land is
not equal. And securing your business on
a sustainable platform must be good for
all involved, right? The sooner you start
thinking about this the easier the road
ahead will be.
Growth strategy --- The Government's
growth strategy involves dairy increasing
its production ... say if we double dairy
income from $17 billion to 34b, we will
see a big difference in our balance of pay-
ments, living standards and overall wealth
creation. Seeding funds for irrigation
projects will result in more land being ir-
rigated. Irrigated land in general needs to
be paid for by sophisticated, efficient farm
systems. These are driven by innovation,
technology and educated support busi-
nesses, banks, owners and management.
New farms will be created on the basis
of good practice, sustainable criteria on
water quality and N standards.
A growing educated world population
is hungry for clean food with a trace-
able sustainable footprint (credibility is
everything these days as we have seen
over and over again in the past few years).
And science confirms urinating cows are
a major source of N leaching, so looks of
clean green cows on pasture cannot be
supported by the same level of science.
Limitations on resources, particularly
cheap labour, will drive more investment
in technology and systems (like milk
robots), creating more efficient farms with
fewer people, better animal wellbeing and
greater sustainable outputs.
Better understanding of what key
drivers and key risks are within the total
dairy business environment and the
science behind these will allow farmers to
confidently grow production sustainably.
In the end, dairy farmers are producers
of plant protein and energy which need
converting to animal protein; we can do
this in various ways. One thing is for sure,
it needs to be done sustainably.
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at the Stradbrook robotic milking facility.
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